The False Witness Scourge

by Timothy Shorey
July 23, 2020

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.

 

15 Comments

  1. JAMES LYLES

    Brother Tim,

    Once again, your words have pierced me and challenged me to think more like Jesus, even while I brace myself against the tsunami of lies that are surely rising as the 2020 General Election nears.

    Lord Jesus, help me and my brothers and sisters to have hearts of discernment and integrity as we read and post about this world. Give us a hunger and thirst for truth and not half truths in our own camps and in the opposition.

    Amen

    Reply
    • Timothy Shorey

      May astonishing grace wipe this scourge away from us all in the church today. we cannot stop the world from being the world, but we can stop ourselves from being the world! Grace my friend.

      Reply
  2. John Roberts

    Thanks Tim for the challenge, I know I needed it.
    One additional thought, who’s fact checking the fact checkers, I’ve seen firsthand issues with snopes and other fact checkers in the area of cancer treatments and vaccines. They too, have an axe to grind.

    Reply
    • Timothy Shorey

      A valid question John–and one more layer of concern in a culture that majors in mis-and dis-information.

      Reply
  3. joseph gannon

    thank you for this Willie, very moving and so very necessary at this time!

    Reply
  4. Cheri Petraitis

    Thanks for that! Certainly need discernment.

    Reply
  5. Tammy Alfieri

    Thank you for the correction and a reminder of how the Lord hates this.

    Reply
    • Timothy Shorey

      It’s an easy trap for us all to fall into, Tammy. How grateful I am for the Lord’s conviction and then his amazing transforming forgiveness!

      Reply
  6. Stevie Parris

    yes yes and yes

    Reply
  7. Alice

    Excellent message! Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Bonney Scott

    Thank you Reverend Shorey! The Holy Spirit must be trying to reach Christians with this message right now, because one of our elders at Faith Reformed Baptist Church just preached last Sunday’s message on the exact same subject of lying and based it on the passage from Proverbs 6:16 that you mentioned above. Thank you so much. Bonney Scott

    Reply
    • Timothy Shorey

      You are welcome Bonney. May the Lord give us grace to heed his voice.

      Reply
  9. Nathan A

    TIm, Fantastic thoughts and exhortation. I offer this comment that I hope is received as constructive criticism. I find that interjecting your personal comment about what you think about two of these political figures (“I am not a fan of either of these leaders”) is unnecessary, distracting, and at worst contradictory. Later in the article you say “I am making no comment about any of these public figures” but in fact you have. I get the point that you are highlighting examples of false witness against two political leaders which represent extremes at either end of the spectrum. Your larger message would be more clear and ‘clean’ by excluding this comment about not being a fan of either, especially given that I think pastors are called to carefully refrain from endorsing or renouncing political candidates. I’m open to your thoughts and feedback.

    Reply
    • Timothy Shorey

      Thanks Nathan. Appreciate your encouragement. As for your point, there may be a bit of apparent (or real) contradiction in those two comments, though I think I see a nuance in there that may render them non-contradictory. Still you raise a good and difficult point, and I will keep an eye on such nuances to make them clearer in the future. As to the the role of pastors in all of this (biblically, that is), it sure is a hard course to navigate. I do see lots of biblical examples of our Savior and the apostles and prophets roundly rebuking national leaders. And I do suspect that we all might make exceptions to your second to last sentence; or not? Not likening any current candidate to him, but if Hitler were a candidate would it be appropriate for a pastor to denounce and renounce him? Some fine lines for sure in these present hard and evil times.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Hi Tim, In the grand scheme of things, yes, my first point is minor. For the latter point, I fully agree with you that this issue of endorsing/renouncing political candidates is difficult to navigate. As I wrote my first response I paused on my choice of word “renounce”. Perhaps there’s a better word. I fully agree that there are instances where pastors and all believers (as you wisely point out) are called to rebuke, denounce, renounce leaders. I would argue that this includes the realm being discussed here, lying, among other things. Honestly, I don’t envy pastors like you who have to navigate this tricky balance. Bless you in your endeavors!

        Reply

Submit a Comment

Award-Winning Children’s Book
An ABC Prayer has received award-winning attention. See book page for this and other commendations.
An ABC Prayer has received award-winning attention. See book page for this and other commendations.