“Anything is better than lies and deceit” -Tolstoy – Anna Karenina
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”
“When it becomes serious, you have to lie” – Jean Claude Juncker.
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Jesus Christ (John 8:44)
I have been thinking this week a lot about lies and politics. It is a sad picture of modern life that the two are almost seen to be synonymous. I think that is somewhat unfair. We need to be very careful before we accuse others of being liars – I guess that’s why it is considered to be ‘unparliamentary’ language within the House of Commons. But it clearly happens.
When someone makes a mistake or gets something wrong – it is not a lie. To err is human. When someone communicates misinformation, which they believe to be right, that is naivety, ignorance and sometimes delusion – not a lie. But when someone says something which they know to be false – they are a liar. They misrepresent themselves, others and situations, often for their own personal ends. The telling of lies is to destroy truth – and to destroy truth is to destroy, order, love and beauty. Which is why we need to be careful. Sometimes we don’t know when someone is mistaken, deluded or a liar. Take for example President Trump’s claim on the 10th of October –
“Look, we have no soldiers in Syria. We’ve won. We’ve beat ISIS. And we’ve beat them badly and decisively. We have no soldiers.” But the US had 1,000 soldiers in Syria at the time. He could have been mistaken, ignorant or lying…. We don’t know.
Lies are destructive in the home and personal relationships. They are destructive in the Church (witness Paula White’s latest book which is full of lies) . And as we are witnessing in the UK, US, China, the EU, and elsewhere, they are destructive of civic life and politics.
In this latter respect, I experienced a shocking example of this when a Scottish Government minister, openly and brazenly spoke ‘untruths’ in public to me. But before we get on to that let’s look at some examples of why our politicians are considered to be dishonest, deceitful liars – and why the trust between the electorate and those they elect is disintegrating.
Remember this infamous bus –
This was not a direct lie – because it was technically true – we do send £350 million to the EU each week – but the impression given was that if we leave the EU we would have £350 million to fund the NHS. This was a lie – because at least £100 million comes back in rebate. It was not the Leave campaign’s finest hour – and that lie has plagued them ever since.
But there were plenty lies on the other side too.
There have been other examples of politicians lying with apparent impunity this week – the imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland was a result of dishonesty – not least from people like Ian Blackford who profess to believe that devolution means a country should decide its own policy but are happy to make exceptions when it is things that they want imposed on the country. In Blackford’s case it is even worse because he professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ – yet does not follow what He says about protecting the weak and the children. There is nothing that has upset me more than what has happened in Northern Ireland this week. The permission and celebration of the killing of human beings.
But back to the Scottish government minister. I posted this a couple of days ago:
Mike Russell – Scottish Government minister for Europe responded:
Note – the whatabouterry – comparing my calling Parliament dishonest and incompetent with those who abused Rees- Mogg and his child walking home…. I happen to think it is legitimate to call a dishonest and incompetent parliament, dishonest and incompetent. I also knew that Mike had done this many times….So I asked him:
I was quite frankly astonished that Mike was claiming that he had NEVER called a politician dishonest or a group of politicans useless…..so I gave him a chance…
But that is precisely what he said….so I did what he asked me to do…and checked his history…it took me about 30 seconds to come up with these gems. Remember he claimed he has NEVER called another politician dishonest. Firstly his opinion of Gove…
Then the Prime Minister:
Even as I write this beauty has popped up on the timeline of the man who never accuses fellow politicians of dishonesty!
Mike even managed to post a couple of tweets accusing me of being dishonest for quoting him…..He also seeks to defend himself by saying that I am ‘trolling’ for calling out his untruths. Remember that I did not post on his Twitterfeed – he was the one who responded on mine (and continues to do so)….who is the troll?!
You need to take a deep breath at the lack of self awareness and intelligence involved in that last tweet. Yes. truth is at stake. And when a government minister openly and dishonestly is economical with the truth about what he has said, it is serious. Making a mistake…getting something wrong is one thing – (and I tried hard to see how Mike could have misunderstood his own tweet – but just couldn’t get there…maybe I’m wrong and others can see what he was trying to say?). A mistake is easily corrected by an apology or just simply stating ‘that is not what I meant…I misspoke…this is what I was trying to say’. But it appears that apologies or being wrong are foreign to some of our politicians and so our government minister just dug in and continued to attack.
If I as a minister of religion I did that it would be a resigning offence – and a disciplinary one. Of course I am not saying that I have never lied (I know the Psalms, James 3 and my own heart too well), but I cannot in all conscience continue to speak about Christ as the truth, if I am unwilling to recognise what truth actually is, and live a lie. Likewise with a government minister. It tells us a great deal about our society today that a Scottish government minister feels free to speak untruths in public and expects to get away with it (even sadder that some of his ‘followers’ go along with the charge and retweet his lies!).
This is the world we live in….a post-truth world where those in power think they can lie with impunity. You can try to tell truth but as Ray Bradbury pointed out:
““But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.” Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
This world of lies is going to collapse. I thank the Lord for the Truth that is eternal….