You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Ex 20:16

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This is the Eighth Commandment.  A cursory read of it suggests that you are not to lie as to your neighbor.  However, it means so very much more.

Its plain language says this: you are not to present yourself to others as a witness for what is false, what is not true.

This is a proposition that is far broader than simply saying you cannot lie about your neighbor.  Rather it is saying that you cannot convey untruth in any form to your neighbor, to your community.  Indeed, it says that you have an affirmative duty to speak truth.

We may not, plainly speaking, misrepresent the truth in our relationship with others.  We are, in this instruction, expected to uphold the vocation of truth-teller because we profess our devotion to a God who is Truth and wills our witness to truth.  To fall short of being truthful is to deny God, reject God.

This affirmative duty is a fundamental building block to a good society, to human relations and to a relationship with God.

If you wonder why we are awash in corruption, you have your cause in the failure to apply this Commandment to life, to daily life.  Further, you can see in rampant corruption the central role that lying plays.

Untruth is the bedrock of corruption.

Remember the word the press used to gloss over untruth in the Clinton era?  It was “spinning.”  We talked about “spinning” as if it was an acceptable and clever “art-form.”  Ironically, the press was lying about lying by calling it something that it was not.  It was not “spinning;” it was promoting what was not true and making the practice acceptable.  Such conduct deconstructs civil society and undermines human wellbeing.

Recently the press has fumbled around with the present inability for some in Washington to correctly name terrorism as it appears.  We are unable as to this matter to say simply: a failure to speak truth is presenting what is false.  But more to the point, we are far from understanding the fundamental tenets of the Judeo-Christian tradition and its articulation in religion and the foundation of civic society and we manifest this failure by not demanding truth in public discourse.  This is shameful and fundamentally destructive.

It was said to the men of old, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.”

Mt 5:33

Look around each day and ask yourself: is this person telling me what is true?  Or are they shading the truth in a way that presents what is false?  Ask this of politicians and those who make or discuss the news and public affairs and especially of those special-pleading “advocates” who wish to conform you to their desires?

Are you listening to truth tellers?  You had best ask this vital question.

Shalom.

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