Skip to main content

Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

A mouthful of bluff

Today, even the adults are telling fibs

A mouthful of bluff

(Krieg Barrie)

A friend from Pennsylvania told me the story 25 years ago, but I still remember the depressingly funny details.

He was mostly retired but drove a public school bus to augment his income. Glancing in his rearview mirror, my friend noticed that one of his young passengers was breaking the no-gum-chewing rule designed to keep the buses passably clean. 

My friend reported: “When I asked the boy if he was in fact chewing gum, he said no, so I told him to open his mouth—and behold, a wad big enough to choke a Dalmatian. The boy was clearly thinking things through now, and seemed to be grasping the possibility that telling a lie was maybe going to get him into more trouble than just chewing gum.

“So I decided to mix a little mercy with my discipline. I tore up his ‘ticket,’ and headed a different direction by asking him (in private, of course) whether he knew the Ten Commandments. No, he said—but then, spurred by a streak of optimism, added that he might know some of them. ‘Good,’ I responded. ‘Tell me the ones you know.’

“‘Freedom of the press,’ he stated proudly. Zonked, I asked him to repeat what he’d said. ‘Freedom of the press,’ he pled—and then added, ‘The Bill of Rights.’ And he was not kidding.”

There is, however, something a good bit worse than being lied to by others. That’s the discovery that you’ve been deceiving yourself.

Well. Little liars learn their craft first from their sin nature; check out Adam and Eve. Then they perfect the art by watching all the slick and not-so-slick examples they see around them as they grow up.

So it’s no longer honesty that we exalt as a national virtue. Instead, these days it has become one’s ability to fib his way out of a political quagmire that wins the electoral rewards. Appoint enough special counsel lawyers; schedule enough congressional hearings; fire enough top personnel; bluff your way through enough Washington Post or network TV interviews. Do all that once or twice for practice—and then repeat the process a few times over—and see if you’re any less confused than the poor little eighth-grader on the bus in Pennsylvania.

So have you been tempted to hijack that big school bus, head for Washington, D.C., and load it up with all the bald-faced liars we can find? Let’s run them out of town—once and for all! Let’s drain the swamp of every truth-breaker we can identify. Ready?

Problem is, we’re dealing with several categories of habitual falsifiers. Where in Washington do we start? The temptation is to start with the politicians. Everybody does. But here’s a troubling test: Whom do you trust to stay behind and make things right? Let’s turn the process upside down for a minute and start by assembling a brief list of politicians whose words you consider as good as gold. Jot down even six examples of statesmen whose words you utterly trust. Now do you see how challenging the honesty test really is?

In Category Two are the media who report on Category One. This includes the giant media mainstreamers—with their often well-earned reputation for peddling Fake News—all the way down to the increasingly influential social media whose digital gossip collectively shapes the thinking of millions of Americans. Whether those opinions are accurate is quite another matter. 

(In between, we shouldn’t ignore the plethora of voices coming from amateur reporters, commentators, lobbyists, and other would-be political leaders whose inexperience and failure to fact-check too often keep them from providing an accurate, faithful picture. If you ever think WORLD has gotten off the believability track, we welcome your inquiries! Our editorial team thrives on the transparency of truth-telling.)

Being lied to is never fun. Discovering that you’ve been deceived is a souring experience—and such a discovery on the part of millions may partially explain the unhappy tone so prevalent in today’s culture.

There is, however, something a good bit worse than being lied to by others. That’s the discovery that you’ve been deceiving yourself. You’ve looked in your media mirror, and you see something that suggests you weren’t as careful as you should have been in pursuing the truth. What a good time to stop and ask God’s Spirit to saturate us all with new—and frequent—doses of His eternal truth!