Kevin’s Conversations: Bearing False Witness
Last week I wrote about the Orlando tragedy and our tendency to almost immediately jump in the fray and spout our political arguments while displaying little concern or mourning or grieving for the great death and suffering afflicted upon the victims and their friends and families.
Part of the ensuing discussion revolved around at what point can we say something “political”.
My thoughts were that it takes some discretion.
I can’t speak to the perfect balance of timing and balancing political concern and personal concern in each and every situation because I’m not nearly wise enough to do so. But I believe there are times where there is an obvious lack of discretion, and unfortunately those times are decidedly only growing in our evermore toxically divided culture.
Which brings me to my thoughts for this week on a related subject that shouldn’t take any discretion at all.
Yet, we may be even worse at this one.
That is, when we are making our case, whether political or theological or otherwise, and we misrepresent the opposition.
There should be no discretion needed here. I’m not speaking to when we honestly get mixed up or are unaware about something, but rather when we knowingly misrepresent someone.
When we do this, we bear false witness. Sometimes our misrepresentations may even reach the level of libel or slander. Even if we don’t meet the legal definition of such, our spirit is certainly there.
I believe even to the extent in cases where we’re unsure about something and know we could be wrong and yet don’t bother finding out the facts and just go ahead and make our charges and then end up being wrong, we still bear false witness. Those times when we know there’s a good chance we’re wrong or know that we aren’t very well informed about the subject or know that we have little evidence or justification for our charges, and yet make them anyway.
Coming out of the Orlando tragedy I witnessed what I believed to be many misrepresentations and false witness in the political haranguing. Many of them likely done knowingly, or at least with little regards in trying to find out what is actually true. But this was no surprise as it seems to be par for our current course.
Let me pause to speak to one example. That being of President Obama. I have many disagreements with things he has said and done while in office. Overall, I do not think he has been a good president for our country and too many times it seems to me as if he is more concerned with sticking to a political agenda than he is with doing what is best for the country. (Of course, the same could be said of many politicians.)
With that said and the point of this post not being to argue about the Obama presidency, I don’t know how many times I have seen or heard blatant misrepresentations of President Obama. Whether on social media or other forms of media or even in personal conversation.
Obama is a Muslim.
Obama is a closet homosexual.
Obama is about to take executive action to take all of our guns.
Obama is not going to allow the next election for president.
And so on and so on.
The saddest thing is that almost every time I hear one of these false accusations, at least in regards to Obama, it is coming from a professed Christian. It’s as if anything goes in politics. The “other side” does it so we can, too. All’s fair in love and war. And it ain’t the love part that’s doing the driving.
One more example – the transgender bathroom issue. I previously have spoken my concerns here and other places about the opening up of restrooms and the like and the endangering of women and children because of men (non-transgendered men) who I believe will take advantage of the relaxed rules and will violate the women and children. It is a very big concern I have, and yet why can’t we just stay honest when we’re making our arguments?
For instance, I recently came across a pamphlet proclaiming that some Pennsylvania bills currently in legislation would mandate all public places (schools, government buildings, etc.) to have open restrooms. In fact, the information said it would even extend to private institutions such as Christian schools. However, the truth is that these bills are for the expansion of current Pennsylvania anti-discrimination laws to cover people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There is nothing addressing restrooms or the like in the bills. Now, the real concern is that these bills could then later be used as a basis for requiring open restrooms. However, there is no language in the bills themselves that would instantly require all restrooms be made open to one’s gender identity as one was led to believe by the pamphlet. It intentionally misrepresented the bills to make them appear worse than they really are.
Truthfully, these deceptions and attitudes extend beyond politics. Whether it’s theology or work or anything with which we have a disagreement with another, too many times we will misrepresent the other in order to gain an advantage or win the argument.
Even here on this blog, I see it sometimes. I don’t or can’t always keep up with all the theological debates but it seems to happen most often there. Many times the debates are healthy and robust and much good comes of them. But at the same time there appear to be times where people and positions are knowingly misrepresented. Sometimes the misrepresentation occurs due to misunderstanding or lack of clarity. But other times it seems to be pretty clearly intentional. And I’m not talking about those times when an obvious exaggeration is made to make a point. When everyone understands the exaggeration is not factually accurate but is made to make a point. But when the accusation is made of someone or something that is knowingly not true and yet portrayed to be true, in efforts to make that person or position look worse than they really are and score points for yourself and your position.
Why can’t we stick to what we know to be true and put forth our best honest argument and then let the cards fall where they may?
To trust God’s will be done and understand that it’s not up to us to make sure it happens.
To let our yes be yes and our no be no… and let God take care of the rest.