This is addressed to my friends who profess Christian faith but persist in telling or retelling political lies.
It’s only February and I’ve already had it. It’s nine more months — nine agonizingly long months — until the election.
A book popularly known as the Holy Bible (stop me if I’m going too fast for you) includes a famous passage known as the Ten Commandments. (Are you still with me? I can slow down.) One of them forbids bearing false witness. (I know, I know. The Bible is just so unrealistic sometimes, but bear with me.)
Just as Christ elevated the rigor of the commandment against adultery, so too has the commandment against bearing false witness been elevated for Christians:
Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
– of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
– of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279
– of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
John Calvin taught that the commandment against false witness prohibits all calumnies (gossip and slander) and false accusations which might injure our neighbor’s good name, and any falsehood which might impair his fortune. Christians must assert only the truth with pure motives for the maintenance of our neighbor’s good name and estate.
Martin Luther … described the commandment against false witness to prohibit the public judgment and reproof of his neighbor. One can indeed see and hear the neighbor sin, but one has no command to report it to others. If one judges and passes sentence, one falls into a sin which is greater than his (except for judges, parents, and preachers.)
Matthew Henry taught that the prohibition against false witness concerns our own and our neighbor’s good name. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” forbids: … “slandering, backbiting, tale-bearing, aggravating what is done amiss and making it worse than it is ….”
Wikipedia on Reformation and Post-Reformation views of the commandment against false witness.
A powerful statement from my own Reformed past:
Q. What is the aim of the ninth commandment?
A. That I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing.
Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are the very devices the devil uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense wrath. I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it. And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 112, citing Psalm 15; Proverbs 19:5; Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37; Romans. 1:28-32; Leviticus. 19:11-12; Proverbs 12:22; 13:5; John 8:44; Revelation 21:8; 1 Corinthians 13:6 (and, yes, you can say that as “one Corinthians” or “first Corinthians”); Ephesians 4:25; 1 Peter 3:8-9; 4:8. This is a catechism of continental Calvinists.
False witness, then, is everything which cannot be properly proved.
Question 83: What is required in the ninth commandment?
Answer: The ninth commandment requires that we maintain and promote truth between persons and that we preserve the good name of our neighbor and ourselves.
Question 145: What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; … raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports….
Westminster Larger Catechism. This is a Catechism of Presbyterian Calvinists.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
There are no exceptions for politics.
There are no exceptions for social media.
There are no exceptions for passing along lying mêmes.
So could we cool it with the harshly partisan lies? Please? Pretty please?
I know that if we stop lying, it sort of feels like unilateral disarmament, since apostates, never-Christians and others often seem to have no hesitancy about lying about us and our preferred candidates. But there’s no exception for “they lied, too.”
I have in mind, frankly, mostly the sharing of lying mêmes. Folks, some of those have been around so long they’ve got tenure, but they’re still lies and you can look them up pretty readily. My go-to site is Snopes, but there are others, too.
Don’t make me hate politics more than I do already, okay?
Of course, you may give me one or both barrels if you catch me doing this.
UPDATE: I have added “Bleg” to the title.
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)