Tuesday, May 1, 2012

To be perfectly honest, more or less

How often have you started a comment with the words, “Well, to tell you the truth...” On Facebook, this has been reduced to an acronym favored by pre-teens: tbh (to be honest).

We do this not because we’re inveterate liars – even though that may be the case – but to emphasize the weight and unassailable nature of the insight or wisdom we are about to share.

You can tell it’s a presidential election year because so much of what’s being said as truth really isn’t. It makes no difference what party the person telling the lies is or isn’t part of, everyone’s doing it.

A lot of these lies are couched in semblances of truth. They sound true, but a mere scratch on the surface reveals them to be otherwise. Often someone “innocently” passes on an untruth that someone else started. Then they weakly defend themselves by pointing elsewhere.

All of this is especially sad and harmful when done by Christians. As followers of Christ and believers in the Bible, we should always be truth-tellers, telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

Stretching the "truth" into a lie

Recently, Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher who is challenging incumbent Marcy Kaptur for a U.S. Representative spot, issued a letter claiming President Obama’s parents were communists. This letter even garnered attention from CBN.

Wurzelbacher claims to be a Christian. I assume that he is. When his campaign people were challenged about the communist claim, they pointed to a 2007 article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune. The article profiled President Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

A PolitiFact column in The Plain Dealer reveals, “The article stated that Dunham attended a Washington state high school where a teacher asked students to read ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and the school board chairman told the House Un-American Activities Subcommittee that he had been a communist Party member. A classmate of Dunham’s called her ‘a fellow traveler,’ and claimed ‘We were liberals before we knew what liberals were.’”

Essentially, Wurzelbacher was inferring from these facts that President Obama’s parents were communist. There is absolutely no real proof that this was the case. And claiming that someone who reads or asks others to read “The Communist Manifesto” is a communist is like saying someone who goes to church is a Christian. Or if it’s parked in a garage it’s a car. Or, if you read a book about space exploration you must be an astronaut.

Reading a book is a way to gain knowledge. Many church goers reject God. Garages can also house lawn mowers. And it takes a lot more than reading a book to become an astronaut.

In short, Wurzelbacher’s letter is a lie.

If it sounds true, it must be true, especially if it supports my biased opinion

I really don’t understand why so many people love to get sucked into conspiracies. Yet, even in the face of hard unassailable facts, they will insist there is more to a story, that something evil is afoot.

Recently, the urban myth debunking website Snopes.com has gotten caught up in this foolishness.

An email circulating claims that the site is funded by George Soros (it is not) and that it somehow edits or does not post information that does not support President Obama (it does not).

The email twists questionable facts and the truth to support the writer’s spurious and pointless claims. Diligent researching of the claims will show that they are false and the email is a product of blatant spin.

However, instead of researching the claims, believers blindly forward the email around, wag their fingers at Snopes, and continue to believe lies about President Obama and others. This is nothing less than bearing false witness which is a violation of the ninth commandment.

Proverbs 6:16-19 warns, “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

By the way, the originator of this slanderous email has cloaked themselves in anonymity – usually a clear red flag.

We don't need to obey no stinking laws

I recently received an email from an organization called “Champion the Vote.” It opened with, “Dear Friend, We know that the church today is concerned about the future of our nation. One way you can make a difference is by helping to get Christians registered to vote and educated in the Biblical worldview.”

It was signed simply, “Thanks, Champion the Vote.”

While the cause stated in the opening seems very noble, the email and the website it pointed to gave rise to concerns.

First, the email violated CAN-SPAM laws which were enacted in 2004 and aim to curtail unsolicited and spurious emails.

To be compliant, recipients of your emails must have opted-in, meaning they have chosen to receive your messages. I’d never heard of this organization and did not give them my email address.

The sender must also include full contact information (address, phone, etc,) as well as an easy way to unsubscribe from the email list. None of this was included in the message.

Next, when I went to the website referenced, in the About Us section there was nothing included in the way of names and bios of the people behind the site. There was a reference, but no hyperlink, to another organization. I searched on that organization’s name, found another website, and finally learned of the identities of those involved.

Further, buried in the original site were references to notable individuals, but there was no indication that these individuals endorsed this site and what it was promoting. But including their names lends the implication that this is so.

Finally, as far as contact information on the website, there was an 888 number included, but no address.

It’s sad that an allegedly Christian organization promoting what seems a noble cause would not follow the law when sending emails and then shade their identities.

Flee falsehood, let your yes be yes, shine for Jesus

As Christians wanting to make a positive impact on our world, we must be extra careful to be honest, up front, transparent in our dealings, and to obey the law. This is especially relevant in this presidential election year.

When sharing emails, discussing politics, or drumming up support, here are three simple rules we should observe and put into rigorous practice:
  1. Flee falsehood. Ephesians 4:25 states plainly, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” If you indulge in falsehoods, according to Revelation 22:15, you are in very bad company: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
  2. Stick to the facts and avoid spin. Jesus cautioned in Matthew 5:37 to, “Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Proverbs 23:23 encourages us to, “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.” And Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:14, that at all times we are to, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”
  3. Let your light shine. Be transparent about who you are and your motives. Matthew 5:16 states, “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” There’s too much garbage being spewed by those calling themselves Christians that is making believers a laughingstock to unbelievers.
If what is being passed along is the unvarnished and unspun truth, is motivated by justice and love, and honors God, then the sender will not hesitate to identify themselves, clearly cite their sources, follow the law, and encourage questions.

If you receive an email that doesn’t include the originator’s name, contains information without citing sources, implies a conspiracy, is even slightly hateful in tone or intent, or just sounds bogus, don’t forward it!

If you do forward it, at least do some minimal research to try to ensure what you are forwarding is truthful. Otherwise, you are damaging the Kingdom of God and making all Christians look bad, and putting a stumbling block in the path of those who need to meet the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

When our cause is true, noble, just, honorable, and godly, then we need not spin, stretch, or shadow our message.

If we tell the truth and become known for telling the truth, we will never need to precede any statement with the qualifier, “Well, to tell you the truth....” To do so would be redundant, tbh!

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