The animal laws are meant to prevent you from doing what you would do (or might well do) if your neighbor was allowed to do it too. Humans have a bizarre fixation on “fairness” — to the point where they will do bad things as long as everyone else is allowed to do them too.
This is the root evil of all forms of collectivism. In collectivism, there is no measure of right-and-wrong other than what your neighbor is allowed to do. Such laws are often anchored in little more than political machinations, at worst, or mere fleeting fad and fashion, at best.
This is no doubt why Dennis Prager notes that the right is concerned with the big evils (timeless evils such as murder, for instance) while the Left is obsessed with the little evils (such as cigarette smoking or recycling). And these “little evils” come and go, often turning on a dime: One day gay marriage is wrong…the next day it’s a new “civil right.”
The animal gauges right and wrong in the context of what his neighbor is allowed to do. But The Ten Commandments, although certainly of use to man’s lower animal nature, are meant to address man’s spiritual side as well. “Honor thy mother and father.” “Thou shalt not kill.” “Keep the sabbath day holy.”
The words “holy” and “honor,” in particular, are not words you’ll commonly find encoded into civil law. These Ten Commandments are dealing with Big Law. We are not being asked to use paper instead of plastic at the check-out line. We’re being asked to get in line with the most basic laws of the Cosmos.
Ironically, these laws and ideas are being stolen from us, dishonored, and made profane by a modern Western movement (Cultural Marxism, also known as Leftism, Progressivism, socialism, or Communism) which constantly is lying about who we are and where we came from. Thus the ninth commandment is no small thing to consider.
— The Editor
Number 9: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
Eternity Versus the Lie – Thoughts on the Ninth Commandment
There is no question that the sin of bearing false witness, either during a trial or as a tawdry means to blacken the good name of another for personal gain, is reprehensible and counter to the harmony of the City. The fact that this injustice is recognized as a grave affront to God carries with it an even more serious condemnation than mere criminal perjury, since what is false in man’s public square may be hidden, but what reverberates before the all-seeing court of The Most High is of an entirely different character. Indeed, the very subversion or corruption achieved by speaking or affirming “the thing which is not” – either through commission or omission, reveals that naked depravity infecting our nature and our malignant propensity for self interest over what is good and just. Yet despite the gravity of this offense, if the frontiers of the 9th commandment stopped here, we might still escape much of its judgments relatively unscathed.
But like all God’s legislation that scours the recesses of the heart, we are not to be let off so easily. In its most expansive interpretation, the commandment binds our tongues to uttering the truth in all matters. As it is against His nature for God to lie, we who would be like Him and dwell within the light of his countenance must also affect a similar probity. And while holding our tongues hostage to an unwavering sincerity in our human dealings is perhaps more natural for some than for others, the proof of our redemption or damnation is ultimately evidenced in the familiar ease in which we speak true or weave that which is false.
If it is held that our God is the Father of Lights in whom no shadow abides, then conversely, our great adversary is the Father of Lies and has been so from the very beginning. Given this, I should speculate that most of us, due to a natural propensity for self-preservation and a native capacity for: self-deception, pain avoidance, or a driving need to be deemed worthy in the eyes of others, wander in that grey continuum between uttering crystalline truth and delivering the bold faced lie with abandon.
For those at the latter end of that spectrum who lack Heaven’s perspective, man’s cavalier flirtation with the truth can often be justified with a nimble apologetic. Indeed, such men might reason that we are a race of bards who dabble in the colors of fantasy and fiction in an effortless narrative fashion; and as such, humanity is by nature congenially disposed to those who can tease the beauty from an oftentimes colorless and hateful world — even if history and fact are mauled in the process. We may shamelessly tell ourselves that we detest a falsehood that is malevolent in intention — rolling our eyes at the braggart whose aim is clearly self-exultation, while loving any sincere embellishment alloyed with a fact that might lead us to a greater truth down the road. All too frequently, through the quality of human rationalization, we discover how effortlessly we can manipulate words to veil our squalid motives — so that even the blackest of lies can appear praiseworthy if done for the sake of love, country or the “greater good.” Such is the diabolic power of the lie to destroy with a sugared kiss.
Moreover, since the New Philosophy has informed us that there are no longer any objective truths to be found in the world, we walk as a race on a moral balance beam – negotiating the abyss with scientific knowledge and secular explanatory myths that ascribe existential meaning to take the place of truth in modernity’s vacuum. In light of this new paradigm, we require a host of “noble lies:” such as those proposed in Plato’s’ “Myth of the Metals.” Secured through man’s “inventiveness,” it is reasoned that these lies, (whether they are rooted in “religion” or atheistic materialism) will supply society with its necessary cohesion by helping forge an artificial cult of brotherhood where there was once only a war of all against all Brave New Utopians have always believed that their Earthly City can be founded for the sake of “higher ends” – no matter how many eggs were scuttled in the process That fact that the dream erected on the back of the lie invariably fails is proof that some lessons are never to be learned on the human stage.
In the absence of truth, one no longer need speak the truth; and everything under the velvet canopy of night can then be called into question, since every sacred cow has gone to slaughter. If we dare pursue Ariadne’s thread even further into the labyrinth, we may find that even the Commandments themselves have been relegated to the status of just another benevolent fantasy to legislate order to a once stiff-necked and lawless people. By rendering God’s truth as merely another clever fiction, we soon disappear into that maze as the thread becomes ash in our very hands.
Fortunately for the Christian, truth is not merely an inventive fancy. Though the temporal world: saturated in its pride, shoddy advertisements and hollow promises, might appeal to the palate of unredeemed men, such myths and artifices will be utterly consumed as chaff before the Sovereign Will that rules creation. For the Christian, the scriptures make plain the biblical imperative: only what is true – only what is holy is worthy to stand before the Great King. The Enduring City cannot be constructed on a fabrication, and so God will provide us with one. In describing the character of the New Jerusalem: that Eternal City prepared for God’s beloved at the End of Days, John the Revelator writes:
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Lest any ambiguity about mendacity and the Kingdom of God remain unchallenged, the King James translation of Rev. 22:15 dispels all doubt about Heaven’s toleration of liars:
“Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.”
Having been known in my day as a person who could spin a tale with the best of them, this verse always sets my teeth on edge. Most writers have a propensity for exaggeration, but I was always astounded at how easily the lie came to my lips. The fact that I now anguish over this “virtue” is perhaps the beginning of wisdom, as age overtakes me and I consider Lincoln’s admonition that “no man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” He who would command respect must practice the habit of truth telling, be it ever so painful and unglamorous. In the end our integrity before God and our own consciences are all we will ever truly own – and these, friends, are words of sober truth.
— Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.”
So wrote Joseph A. Schumpeter, in a line that is one of Thomas Sowell’s favorite quotations. Not even the devoutly religious are immune from the temptation to lie for a good cause.
I find Mormon ad campaigns to be somewhat misleading in suggesting that they’re just another Protestant denomination, and Islam’s doctrine of taqqiya explicitly permits lying to non-believers. Andrew McCarthy has pointed out that supposedly moderate Islamists will routinely condemn terrorism, but they often do so without mentioning the distinction they draw between terrorism and resistance, and that their idea of resistance includes suicide bombings against civilian targets in Israel.
The Left’s secular religion thrives on deception. In The Grand Jihad, McCarthy persuasively argued that Islam and the Left often cooperate in attacking a common enemy, namely the West’s traditional democratic institutions, but they also sometimes have similar tactics.
(The similarities can be overstated, but then again, in targeting the Pentagon, Bill Ayers beat the 9/11 terrorists by nearly thirty years.)
Deception is the very basis of subversion, that is, Gramsci’s long march through the institutions, through which the Left has gained control of the “commanding heights” of the culture while working against these organizations’ stated beliefs and goals.
Elected officials can and should act on their own principles even in the face of popular opposition, but the consent of the governed must be informed consent, so political candidates must be forthright about their beliefs. One very prominent Leftist surrounded himself with unrepentant domestic terrorists, race-essentialist preachers, and other Marxists, but he presented himself as a post-partisan, post-racial moderate.
(One reason he won is a Leftist press that refused to scrutinize his background but still pretended to engage in unbiased and objective journalism.)
The Ninth Commandment, in its full implications, forbids such a Machiavellian approach to ends and means.
The command only explicitly forbids perjury – a serious act, since false accusations can destroy a man’s life, livelihood, and reputation – but surely the command has a much broader application.
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37 ESV)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches not to take an oath, but this cannot entail a blanket prohibition, as the Mennonites tend to believe. He did not object to the high priest’s command “by the living God” to answer whether He is the Christ (Matt 26:63). Instead, I believe that Christ commends a life of such transparent honesty that an oath is always superfluous: even an honest oath “comes from evil” insofar as it acknowledges our default behavior of lying out of self-interest.
A commitment to honesty doesn’t entail a lack of discretion. The Bible condemns gossip, and before His mission was completed and the Great Commission was given, Jesus told His disciples to keep His identity as the Messiah a secret (Matt 16:20). Jesus even taught that His use of parables was in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 6:9-10, that the crowds would hear but not understand (Mark 4:11-12, cf. Matt 13:10-17).
Still, the Bible clearly teaches that there was no deceit in Jesus’ mouth (I Pet 2:22, citing Isaiah 53:9). Christians must follow Christ’s example.
To resist Schumpeter’s maxim, our ideals must include a rigorous commitment to the truth.
We must treat our neighbors as human beings to be persuaded, not objects to be manipulated.
And, politically and even in our personal lives, we must check our real motivations to avoid the false rationalization seen in that quote doubtfully attributed to J.P. Morgan.
“A man always has two reasons for what he does—a good one, and the real one.”
Less than two weeks after Senate candidate Todd Akin stumbled over an interview question about abortion, Speaker of the House John Boehner rammed a rules change through the 2012 Republican National Convention, undermining the power of the state parties and grassroots. Most right-leaning pundits who called for Akin to resign barely mentioned Boehner’s betrayal of the GOP base, and it was then that I saw most clearly the fraud behind their stated concerns about electability. Winning elections obviously isn’t your first priority when you think moderates must be coddled while the base can be insulted at will.
We must stand apart from the statists even in our own party, not just in our opposition to the goal of progressivism in even its mildest, most managerial form, but in our willingness to be honest about what we believe.
We must be honest, knowing that truth is on our side, and knowing that truth is a powerful weapon indeed against even systematic deception.
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9)
— John R.W. Kirke is a pseudonym of a Christian husband, father, and engineer who has written elsewhere under other names, including “Lawrence” in the comments at National Review Online. He remains deeply moved by the unpublished memoirs of Professor D. Kirke (1888-1949).
See Also: The Tenth Commandment Symposium
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