Now that we are into the Presidential election, several news sources are “fact checking” the candidates. They use different indicators. The Washington Post awards “Pinocchios” to rate the truthfulness of candidates’ statements: one, two, three and four Pinnochios with one being mostly true and four being “whoppers.”
Politifact, a web site that won a Pulitzer Award for fact checking, rates candidates’ statements as “true,” “mostly true,” “half true,” “mostly false,” and “pants on fire!” Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have both earned “pants on fire!” awards from Politifact.
Most of us don’t need the Washington Post or Politifact to tell us that our politicians are less than truthful. Perhaps our confidence in politicians’ truthfulness began to erode 42 years ago when Richard Nixon looked into the camera and told us that he was no crook. Some politicians are more truthful than others, but they all make misleading, half-truth and, sometimes, completely false statements.
This problem with truthfulness is not confined to our politicians. Our politicians may reflect a problem that permeates our generation.
People lie to one another. Husbands lie to their wives and wives to their husbands. Employers lie to their employees and vice-versa. Novels, sit-coms and movies often portray the humor, drama, pain and tragedy created by the lies people tell. “Why tell the truth when a lie will do?”
When truth no longer prevails and we no longer trust one another, the social fabric is shredded. Relationships are destroyed. Telling the lie destroys families, businesses, careers and nations. Honesty is the root of economic, emotional, psychological and spiritual health.
It is addressed in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16). Proverbs says, “A false witness will not go unpunished and he who tells lies will not escape. ... What is desirable in a man is his kindness. It is better to be a poor man than a liar.” (Proverbs 19:5, 22).
Every individual and every generation must resist the temptation to lie. King David cried out, “I said in my alarm, all men are liars!” (Psalm 116:11). Isaiah confessed, “I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5).
The Bible teaches that there is a better way. “O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend. (Psalm 15:1-3)
Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31-32).
There can be little wonder that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, men known for their honesty, remain the heroes of American history.