A warning cry that some theologians and apologists have made for more than a decade involves what has been called “Postmodernism.” Theologian Norman Geisler points to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 as the end of Modernism (which he says began with Nietzsche’s “Death of God” movement at the turn of the 20th century) and the beginning of the “Death of Truth.” For many, especially in America, there is no such thing as “absolute truth.” Rather, there’s “your” truth and “my” truth, and the two can both be “true” depending on one’s perspective.This week I saw Postmodernism in all its glory as I served on a U.S. District Court case that involved a U.S. Border Patrol agent who shot an illegal alien accused of throwing a water bottle-sized rock at the agent. After listening to four days of testimony, a group of 12 of us were ushered into a side room to begin deliberations. Nobody wanted to be the jury foreman, so I volunteered because I believed I could help keep the jury organized and on target.
It took us about two hours to make a decision on four of the five counts, which seemed to be pretty clear-cut for most of us. Now we were down to the last felony count, assault on a federal officer. According to the testimony, the defendant and three other aliens were caught in the heavily-polluted Tijuana River by five Border Patrol agents as they were attempting to make their way into the U.S.
At first vote, it was six for guilty, five for not guilty, and one undecided. We pored over the evidence, which included:
- three officers saw the defendant pull a rock out of the thigh-deep water and lift it up to throw it at the officer, who then shot the alien in the arm with his service revolver;
- four people–including one of the aliens–had testified that the defendant put his hands in the water, which he denied ever doing;
- the integrity of the defendant was doubtful, as he lied many times before in previous arrests and contradicted himself more than once on the witness stand.
After a full day of deliberations, we voted again: eight for guilty, three for not guilty, and one undecided. But I knew we were in trouble in ever reaching a unanimous verdict when I had the following exchange with one of the “not guilty” female jurors (Juror 5):
Me: Why are you saying that the defendant is not guilty?Juror 5: Because, from my perspective, he never had the rock.
Me: But three officers saw the rock. The defendant’s hands were definitely in the water, which the alien behind him in the river even admitted. His testimony on the stand showed that he was lying about other facts, and his own lawyer testified in his closing statement that his client had a checkered history and was not a ‘model citizen.’
Juror 5: From your perspective and the perspective of the officers, the defendant had a rock. But from his perspective as well as mine, he did not. The evidence differs depending on your perspective.
Me: Are you even suggesting that truth differs depending on perspective? Is it even possible for the defendant to have a rock and not have a rock at the same moment of time? Wouldn’t this violate the ‘law of non-contradiction’?
Juror 5: As far as I am concerned, your truth is your truth, and my truth is mine.
Immediately, I knew that this first count was history and would have to be thrown out of court (which it eventually was by the judge). There was just no changing this juror’s mind about her perspective on truth, as she even admitted to us that all the evidence in the world wouldn’t change her mind about her feelings.
This scenario reminds me a lot of Mormons who insist that their feelings can be trusted, even if they contradict the facts. More than once I have been in conversation with a Mormon who has admitted, in one way or another, that the information I presented showing Mormonism as contradictory to the Bible sounded true. However, the mantra more than once goes like this: “I’ve prayed about the Book of Mormon and know it’s true.” This is in total disregard of the information that was just presented.
When truth becomes relative in a jury deliberation, it appears that a defendant could both commit a crime and not commit a crime at the same time. In the world of religion, one’s feelings can supersede the known facts. The evidence becomes secondary to the feelings and personal opinions that a person might have. What a scary world this has become!