Integrated Wisdom

The Sad Truth about Lies.

Rationalizing and justifying so we can believe.

The lie is obsessive, encompassing and consuming in its simplicity. It’s the antithesis of relationship, whether that relationship is one on one or billion on billion. I’ve known people that I counted as friends who literally would lie when the truth would have done them good. They lied about inconsequential things that mattered to no one. I’ve lied. You’ve lied. We all have at one time or another. And I’ve felt diminished in the solace of a falsehood, even when I’ve lied about being late to a meeting.

The philosopher Nietzsche called into question the need for a lie. “That lies should be necessary to life is part and parcel of the terrible and questionable character of existence.” Langston Hughes once said, “Life is a system of half-truths and lies, opportunistic, convenient evasion.”  Sadly, many of us have done that to our lives.

Other writers have tackled the issue. Moses said God spoke on the subject when He suggested that we shouldn’t bear false witness. Edgar Watson Howe wrote in “Ventures in Common Sense” that “Americans detest all lies except lies spoken in public or printed lies.” (I wish I had the time to tell you how true that concept is and how I’ve found its reality through a lifetime career in the media.)  And Adolf Hitler wrote in “Mein Kampf” simply that “The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.” There you have proof of the encompassing personality of a lie — God and Adolf Hitler both spoke of the consuming, obsessive nature of not telling the truth!

Big Lies work Better

I believe several lies told over and over again now are complex, compound truths that have shaped all thought as we know it. And one of the greatest tragedies in all of recorded human history is that these lies have come from, been nourished by, and been promoted in the name of believers.

First, as a population, we’ve come to believe that three distinct entities: Judaism, Semitism and Zionism are synonymous. They aren’t. One is a religious belief. One describes ethnically diverse people indigenous to the Mideast. And one is a political state of mind. Certainly, they aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. It is possible to be a Jew without being Semitic. There are millions of Semites who aren’t Jews. And it’s certainly possible to be a Zionist without being a Semite or a Jew. In fact, some of the most historic Zionist Jews were non-Semitic, ethnic Europeans who were born in the United States. Still, how much blood has been shed over the confusion of these three concepts? We must understand that the repetition of these lies doesn’t make them truth.

In the Fall of 1992, Time Magazine did a brilliant special edition looking forward to the millennial change.  In it was a captivating essay on events of the past 1000 years: “The Millennium of Discovery, how Europe emerges from the Dark Ages and developed a civilization that came to dominate the entire world.”  John Elson’s essay includes this telling observation: “The triumph of the West was in many ways a bloody shame – a story of atrocity and rapine, of arrogance, greed and ecological despoliation, of hubristic contempt for other cultures and intolerance of non-Christian faiths.  

Nonetheless, as Hugh Thomas argues in “A History of the World,” ‘it is obvious that it is Western Europe [and] North America which, since the 15th century at least, for good or evil, [have] provided the world’s dynamism.”  Still, in an age of discovery often illustrated in Columbus’ meandering, we must understand that the European saw enough in other cultures (from Asia to Africa) to seek them out and learn how he could obtain what was common elsewhere.

An observation in the Time essay said the printing press, invented in Germany, contributed to Eurocentric thought because it automatically based the first recorded histories on Eurocentric behavior and values. It also contributed to what I believe is a second grievous lie: the European ethnicity of Jesus. Imagine how history and Christian belief would have changed if the printing press, and the first recorded Bibles, were created in Asia or Egypt, or equatorial Africa, or the plains of North America? What would Jesus look like them? Where would the Middle East be? What would make up the Far East? There’s a greater chance that Jesus looked like Sadaam Hussein than Charlton Heston or Kirk Douglas.

Who is the real Jesus?

Is it important? It is to a young boy or girl who emerges from non-Eurocentric reality and is confronted with the issue of salvation through surrender to someone who looks like an oppressor.

And third, as a population we belive in the concept of individualism and in the marriage of individual wealth building or capitalism, and Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth of Christianity as described in the Book of Acts, especially the fourth and fifth chapters of Acts. Studying the New Testament church you could almost make an argument that massive, oppressive capital building and Christianity are mutually exclusive concepts. The lifestyles of the apostles Peter and John, and, later, Paul, almost make modern capital gains in the name of religion seem pornographic. 

So, are wealth and Godly blessings wrong? Is the accumulation of capital wrong?  Of course not!  But it is wrong to assume God isn’t present in poverty, even persistent poverty, and he’s only present in the midst of consistent, persistent wealth. And it’s just as wrong to assume that the presence of relative, persistent poverty is solely the result of rejecting God’s reality.

Indeed, repetition does not transform a lie into the truth.  However, you can argue this general rule that “when the grain of truth cannot be found, men will swallow great helpings of falsehood,” the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer in “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy.” Perhaps greater helpings of truth will bring some healing to the scars left by the repetition of the above lies.

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