Lately I’ve taken particular notice about an epidemic of religious lying exploding in the Christian community. I’m not referring to sincere but mistaken individuals who unwittingly pass along falsehoods. Oh the stories they tell! This happens, I think, because they put their confidence in some individuals and organizations who when it comes right down to it believe that a twist of the truth to serve God’s will (as they perceive it) is justified. That is, of course, an ethical failure. But worse it winds up being an embarrassment to the Church and the One who said, “I am the truth.” We all need to ask, “Ain’t a lie in Jesus’ name still a lie all the same?”
Need some examples? Here are a few I’ve heard in the last few weeks:
A prominent Baptist pastor warned his national audience that “anyone who opposes gay marriage will (now) be guilty of a civil rights violation.” That is a hyperbolic lie and the pastor[i] who said it should tell the truth. Individual and church freedom is not threatened by the Supreme Court Ruling. Nevertheless many now believe that they may not personally disagree with the law enabling same-sex marriage. Some are even going so far as to incite the fear in local churches that they now must allow marriages that violate their religious consciousness. Of course working in the public sector or government (this is not a religious activity) does not provide cover for those who desire to discriminate.
“The military and in particular the Chaplain Corps of the Navy is persecuting conservative Christian chaplains.” That lie makes the rounds quite frequently and in several differing ways. Usually these can be contained in the complaint, “Chaplains cannot pray, preach, or counsel in Jesus’ name.” Now I know this is entirely a self-serving fabrication because I spent 22 years as a Navy chaplain and currently serve on the Council for Chaplain Endorsement of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Nevertheless I continue to hear and read these kind of statements. There have been several of these kind of tall tales and at least one of them involve a chaplain I personally supervised. One such prominent lie being spread says a certain chaplain was released from the Navy for praying in public ceremonies in “Jesus name.” The actual truth is he was rather gently allowed to exit the USN after deliberately disobeying a direct order not to represent the Navy in uniform at a political rally.[ii] Not surprisingly he has managed to manipulate the lie that he was persecuted out of the Navy for praying in Jesus’ name into a political career. No doubt sincere Christians in Colorado helped put him in office, but his Christian heroism is a complete fabrication.
Oh it seems like I could go on forever, but let me mention one more; End Times Profiteers. These are a seasonal product of a fearful and angry Christian subculture. They claim surely the end must be near. There are the signs they can detect and (for a price) they will share them with you. These may come in the form of conference speeches, best-selling books, television ministries, and even selling “survival food.” I’ll not bother to reference these but only mention that there are many out there with their theories and yes, they are making a fortune scaring people, and in the end they will be proven wrong. As a pastor my frustration is that there are so many who will not learn this lesson but will willingly clamor over the next doomsday prophet and whatever he is hawking.
Lies in Jesus’ name. Not mistakes or misspoken thoughts. Deliberate lies for self-serving reasons. As Christians let us agree to do two things:
First let us be committed to telling the truth. Whether preaching or sharing with a Sunday School class always do your best to be truthful. Even if it does not reinforce your theological or political agenda. Remember Jesus is truth and we should be a reflection of our Lord.
Second, let’s start calling lies what they are. And we need to cease rewarding the ethic that plays fast and loose with the truth even if we think it serves a “good” purpose.
It’s just that simple.
[i] Robert Jeffress, on Fox News as quoted by Piedmont Christian News July Issue page 1.