So did you see the recently reported Joe Biden quote? I’ve seen it shared on Facebook several times. Here’s what he said: “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith.” Yeah—that’ll work some red-blooded American Evangelicals into a lather. Talk about pandering to his audience and playing politics with religion!
I do not pretend to know the why behind his words. But I am interested in what he actually said. Are you? Here is his more complete statement: “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith. I wish we talked about all the great confessional faiths. It’s one of the great confessional faiths” (emphasis added). Friends, whatever may or may not have been Mr. Biden’s political motivation in these words, to repost his first sentence without his second is misleading at best. We may disagree about whether Islam (or any religion) should be taught in public schools, but let’s face it: what Mr. Biden actually said in context is not as offensive as was reported. What was reported smells of dishonesty; an egregious manipulation (by subtraction) of words that is tantamount to false witness. Yet I have no doubt that millions have read (and believed) the false report; with many thousands sharing it. We should know that this is believing and bearing false witness.
Yesterday I saw a picture, supposedly of President Trump embracing sex-offender Jeffery Epstein and playfully kissing him on the head; the innuendo being that he was weirdly and wickedly cozy with that notoriously sinful man. The thing is that the picture was photo-shopped, super-imposing Eptstein’s face and body over that of President Trump’s young daughter. Any objective person would find the original picture to be a fairly heart-warming picture of a dad with his daughter. But someone lied about and slandered the President. Whoever photo-shopped that picture and posted it bore false witness. And whoever believed and shared it did, too.
In the past couple of days, I have read a quote attributed to Senator Kamala Harris, and another attributed to President Donald Trump; quotes which, if accurate were egregiously offensive. Both statements would understandably stir up fear and hatred in their opponents. If Ms. Harris or Mr. Trump really said what each is reported to have said, then those who oppose them have reason to be afraid of them. And, as is to be expected in today’s world, these quotes were assumed to be true by many in each politician’s fan base, and dutifully posted to make the other look scary and evil.
Let me say it: I am not a fan of either of these leaders, but I found both quotes to be so offensive and unsettling that I had to fact-check them. And having done so, I discovered them both to be fake news. There is no record of either statement being spoken by either person. Rather, someone who wanted to instill fear and loathing in Ms. Harris’s enemies and someone else who wanted to instill fear and loathing in Mr. Trump’s enemies posted them. And who knows how many thousands of people gullibly and sinfully believed them; and then culpably shared them. Let me be blunt: whoever created, posted, and shared the fake news bore false witness. And those who believed it were complicit.
Beware of pictures, and alleged tweets and quotes attributed to others. Pictures and quotes lie. And yet, I see Christians of every political stripe re-post Facebook reports every day that I know originate from dishonest partisans and haters; claims and quotes that even the slightest effort at review would prove to be falsely reported, or taken out of context, or exaggerated, or simply misinformed. If I were to take the time each day to watch-dog false or exaggerated statements intended to monger fear and hatred, it would be a full time job.
Christians: we are to have no part in any of this. None. Slander and evil-reports are no less sinful when shared on Facebook than when shared in a courtroom or at the water cooler. In some ways they are worse, for they are false witness with a global megaphone. This is a moral scourge; a vile blight on our culture that we believers must utterly and relentlessly reject.
I am making no comment about any of these public figures. I am not taking sides. I am simply saying that they all are being constantly lied about and misrepresented—and way too many of us are complicit in the deception. Let us be warned: God didn’t make not bearing false witness one of the top ten commandments of all time on a whim (Exodus 20:16). He did it because he absolutely loathes lying—especially lying and unsubstantiated rumors and innuendos that soil and slander the reputation of others, and lead to division and discord.
Proverbs 6:16-19—“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
Read that again and tremble.
The mark of true integrity is not that we watch-dog and reject all the negative things that are said about our friends; but that we do the same, even for our enemies.