Wednesday, March 2, 2016

False witness

Truth and falsehood. Telling the truth and telling a lie. ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.’ We may sidestep some of the other commandments of the Ten, explain them away, say they don’t apply anymore. But not this one. Everyone knows when they’re lying. ‘I was just fibbing,’ we say, or even excuse ourselves with class, calling it ‘a little white lie.’ Well, then, what’s a big black lie?

Long ago I noticed that, when lies are public, when they are perpetrated for ‘a greater cause,’ or for ‘national security,’ or even to ‘protect the innocent,’ the greater they are, the more believable they become. ‘It MUST be true! No one would lie about THAT!’ maybe because we know we couldn’t, or maybe the person making the statement in question is ‘above suspicion’ for social or political or religious status.

We know, if we look back at history, from recent times to ages past, that the biggest liars are the most successful. On that score, any deviant from an established religion is going to be considered a liar. Many ancient cults built on lies (this is distinctly different from myths, by the way) have disappeared. Their lies weren’t big enough, or perhaps bigger lies replaced them. Thus, the religious history of the world.

In Western civilization dominated by a persistent monotheism, the three big ones (religions, I’m not saying the three biggest lies, or maybe I am) seem to be as inside each other as a stack of nesting dolls. To the Jew, Christianity is a lie, because the apostles lied about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. To the Christians, Muhammad lied, because he said that Jesus didn’t die on a cross, but only ascended.

There is a flip side to the success of the biggest lies. Truth also can be successful, but it takes far greater effort. It is almost never the work of just one man, but a composite of many lives. True, it sometimes takes an individual to start it, a catalyst so to speak. But then catalysts can also be liars. The world is full of almost nothing else. Lies catch fire more easily than truths. But only truths never go out.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected, along with all the other beliefs about Him that are stated in the Symbol of Nicæa. I respect the Jews, even if they think my fathers lied, and lied grandly. I find the Jews, by the way, to be the most truthful people on earth—when they’re being honest! As for Muslims, Mormons, Millennialists, and a host of other M and M’s, I have my reservations.

Not about the believers themselves, mind you. But I’m speaking about lies, big ones, and ones that are successful at finding believers. Even Christianity in many of its forms belongs in the ‘M’ group I just mentioned. Though ‘all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved,’ that’s no guarantee there won’t be repercussions in this world and the next, if you happen to be one of those who let loose a big one.

Another thing I have found out is, people can say a lot of true things without speaking the truth. This happens all the time. I know I even do it, though not until I have had more time for reflection. I know this kind of lie when I hear it from pulpit and pedestal, whether it comes out of black mouth or white, red neck or blue blood. For me as a Christian, it proves the words of Jesus, ‘My sheep know my voice.’

Looking back at secular history, almost every government (those that have succeeded) was built on just such a vague mixture of truths and lies as I describe above (they all sound like true things, of course, but they’re not really the truth). Am I going to except the majestic birth of my own republic, these United States? Um, uh-uh. We’ve been just too successful to be built entirely on truth. Let my stoning begin.

True things, yes, can be preached, taught, written, proclaimed, sung about, even forced on you with the ease and impunity of a hidden rape, but only the truth settles on us with secure, confident meekness, providential in action, needless of everything that goes against our free will and our human nature, and though it may take a lifetime to sink in, it proves to be the twin of what our conscience knows is right.

Truth is what we want, what I want, because we know that’s what we’re made of. Truth is being, however and by whomever it has arisen, and it can be recognized by its chief operation, Love. What is true really works. Lies, on the other hand, especially the big ones, don’t work. They have to cover up their failures with more of their kind. Seeming successful, the price for their success is, in fact, failure.

We hear from the preachers that our country (I mean, these United States) is on the brink of disaster because of our deep, unrepenting moral decay. They point to our crimes against humanity in allowing abortion, our outrageous perfidy in permitting ‘gay’ marriage. No, brothers. We are in far greater trouble than that. We’ve lied to the Holy Spirit worse than Annas and Sapphira. What will become of us?

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