Like most of us, I suppose, I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of all the candidates running for president of the United States. Well, not exactly all.
When you look at a ballot in the polling place you will always find many more people running for just about any major office, kind of off-the-wall candidates who somehow managed to pay a fee and get a petition signed, or some combination of qualifying requirements, and there they are, the Ralph Naders of the world on the presidential ballot.
Ok, I realize I just stepped back in time and Ralph Nader may be unfamiliar. Look him up on Wikipedia. My twenty-four old son says he will vote for Ralph Nader this year. I may join him if Ralph is still with us. What I’m curious about is where my professional jet pilot son—right smack in the middle of the millennials’ generation–found out about Ralph Nader?!
Now, back to the title of this little piece. What is the big problem? It is knowing and then telling the truth.
That sounds simple, doesn’t it? You are probably thinking, “well I don’t need to read any further, that’s so simple,” and furthermore that the author of this column—me—is really getting more and more simpleminded.
But I will take that thought as a compliment. Simple is sometimes a whole lot better than complex. I’m not George Wills, but, then again, George’s prose, syntax and composition needs some good editing.
Let me throw in a bit of Scripture to get the juices flowing. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (NIV, John 8: 32)
You can chew on that one for a long time, for it has both spiritual and natural meanings. It basically says if you recognize the truth of Jesus Christ, he will then set you free from sin, and a lot of other things. I don’t want pastors and ministers jumping all over me.
But it also–as other Scripture–addresses the truth. When Pontius Pilate was hounded by the Jewish leaders to crucify Jesus because he represented a threat to the Roman Empire, Pilate throw his hands up in disgust at the Jews and their petty quarrels, and asked “What is truth?”
The Jews claimed Jesus was committing treason to the Roman Emperor with his claims of being a “king,” while Pilate interrogated Jesus and found him innocent of such preposterous charges.
But Pilate caved in to the loud, angry, and threatening mob of Jews, and had Jesus crucified, knowing he was innocent.
Now, returning to contemporary politicians running for the presidency of this country, they are all guilty of lying, some grossly and with little conscience, simply lying blatantly to advance their fortunes, others perhaps less directly, hiding an old fact or behavior with a clever or little lie.
What’s the problem with this, you may say? We all lie a little now and then, and occasionally will tell a whopper. Anyhow who hasn’t lied is lying.
But, the expectation is that you will lie less and less as you grow up and learn the poison of the lie. William Shakespeare wrote “the quality of mercy is not strained,” in another context that edified the virtue of mercy, “It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
Lies are at the other end of the moral spectrum of mercy as defined in Scripture, and here I am approaching the moral of this story about lies and what they mean.
Politicians today do more than lie on a grand scale. They cheat, they bully, they have “haughty eyes,…hearts that devise wicked schemes, [they] bear false witness, [and are people] who stir up conflict in the community.” (Psalms 6:16)
Some of you are going to object to too much Scripture today, and that’s your right. But let me suggest that the fundamental principles and moral codes by which we behave as a civil society are contained in Scripture.
We can add other elements to the fundamental ones, for example, elaborate on how our government should work, address the gaps between immense wealth and the rest of us, and a host of other issues that easily come to mind.
But the principles by which we make decisions wisely, and consistently with God’s will, are found in only one place, in Scripture. It is there that we learn prudence, balance, integrity, truth, the love of others, honesty, and humility to name just a few that we admire in a leader or our leaders.
To lead, one must first serve. Find me a candidate for office—any office—who embodies that virtue (try Mark 9:35 for starters) and s/he will rise to the top of my list.
Published as “Candidates Unfamiliar With Truth” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday March 20, 2016.