Saying is Believing
Saying is believing. Did I get that right? Perhaps you’re thinking, He must mean, “Seeing is believing.” Not anymore.
There’s a new flimflam afoot that substitutes rhetoric for reality and causes the inattentive to accept deliberate falsehoods as fact, thus leading them to wrong conclusions and worse decisions. Here’s how it works.
Pronouncements of success, made even before an event takes place, are read and digested as fact regardless of the actual outcome. A classic example is the Million Man March held in Washington, DC, on October 16, 1995. The National Park Service reported a turnout of about 400,000—a significant number, to be sure—but well below the much-heralded figure used in the advance publicity. Yet what sticks as history is the pre-event number: 1 million.
Considering what we’re being subjected to today, the Million Man March was benign. Perhaps a better example comes from Hollywood: It’s the “If you build it, they will come” fantasy in the 1989 film Field of Dreams. In this flick, a farmer, hearing voices, takes them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his corn-field on the ethereal promise that, if he builds it, they will come. The “they” turn out to be the Chicago White Sox team convicted of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds in what came to be known as the Black Sox Scandal. As the farmer watches, Shoeless Joe Jackson and his disgraced teammates meander out of the cornfield, and the fun begins. Before the farce ends, car headlights mark the road to the farm as far as the eye can see. These, one assumes, are the true believers who want a trip into the world of make-believe.
Make-believe is fine in films, but it can create a catastrophe when applied to public policy and social practice. In 2008 Americans were bombarded with the notion that we must have “hope” and “change” in order to build a better future. “Yes we can!” was the mantra. Few, however, bothered to ask, “Can what? What can we do? What do we hope for? What is the substance of the change?”
These issues are now being debated by people on both sides of the political fence, and America’s future is very much up in the air. The matter goes far beyond political tactics; it affects the whole of our worldview in every area. Do words matter? Is it incumbent on us to demand definition before decision? Or do we opt for a “field of dreams” environment, trusting that, if we believe, the bearers of all that is good and noble will emerge from the corn?
Defining the Opiate
The Scriptures define, in exacting terms, the precise process we are enmeshed in. The first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans tells how empires, nations, and societies that once knew and honored God chose to turn away from Him: “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God” (v. 21).
America has been the cradle of freedom and democracy, Bible-born and Christian-led. A country perhaps above all countries of which it can be said, “They knew God.” Today the very mention of His name in public is scorned, derided, or prohibited and, in some cases, even prosecuted.
“Nor were [they] thankful” (v. 21). Ingratitude is the inescapable result of self-delusion. Without God, all that is left is “me.” “Show me the money” becomes the watchword of the generations.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools” (v. 22). Celebrated American lawyer Clarence Darrow (1857–1938) unwittingly exposed the spiritual ignorance and arrogance of Darwinians and assorted atheistic pontificators, exhibiting the gist of Romans 1: “I don’t believe in God,” said Darrow, “because I don’t believe in Mother Goose.”
“[They] exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25). The major earmarks of end-times, godless degeneracy are the demand for change for the sake of change, the worship of the creature, and the rejection of the very thought of a Creator/God. Some people today would even strike from the U.S. Constitution the words endowed by their Creator.
The Cost Factor
Assessing the exorbitant cost of walking away from God would never enter the minds of members of the “now” generation. However, abandoning God inevitably produces the following sordid chronicle contained in the final verses of Romans 1, which are as current as today’s news:
- Rampant, illicit immorality, with homosexuality and lesbianism sanctioned (if not venerated) in segments of society.
- Social anarchy dominated by violence, greed, and injustice; preying on the innocent. Lying becomes an acceptable alternative to truth.
- Manifest hatred of God, His Son, His people, and His Word. And if you believe that the current torrent of persecution sweeping many parts of the world will not arrive in America, just wait a bit longer.
- Breakdown of the family, with children defying authority; disintegration of what Scripture calls “natural affection.” In other words, dysfunctional families become the norm rather than the exception.
- Reveling in the disintegration of orderly society, defying God and loving every minute of it.
When the bizarre tops the normal, we often hear it said, “You can’t make this stuff up.” In this case, God is telling us in advance the history of human rebellion. These forecasts are not the wild rants of religious fanatics but the pattern of things to come, written 2,000 years ago.
Dr. Robert G. Lee, the late pastor of the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, for nearly 40 years, preached what has become one of the most famous sermons in American history. It was titled “Payday Someday.” Speaking about the transgressions of the infamous King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, Dr. Lee said, “Did God mean what He said? Or was He playing a prank on royalty? Did payday come? ‘Payday—Someday’ is written in the constitution of God’s universe. The retributive providence of God is a reality as certainly as the laws of gravitation are a reality.”
Dr. Lee’s take on the subject aligns with Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Nineteenth-century author Robert Louis Stevenson said of sowing and reaping, “Sooner or later in life, we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.”
Ignoring consequences may be in fashion, but consequences have a way of catching up with us.
Saying and Believing—a Perilous Venture
People of my vintage remember well promises made that had no basis whatsoever in fact. For example, this line is famous: “This won’t hurt a bit. You won’t even feel it.” The saying was a bill of goods sold to a child as someone wound a string around a wobbly tooth and made ready to yank it out of the child’s head. It hurt plenty.
That was merely a small excursion into deception. However, the situation is far more serious when unrealistic rhetoric carries life-and-death undertones or places a country’s viability, national policy, foreign policy, military strength, economic stability, social welfare, political integrity, religious freedom, or academic efficiency at risk of collapse or international insignificance.
A case study in political cynicism surfaced in the healthcare debate when the voluminous package was put together behind closed doors and then rushed to a congressional vote. On March 9, 2010, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” The issue here is not who made the remark but, rather, what was said. Should such reckless conduct and disregard for the integrity of our system and the welfare of our people be the pattern for the future?
A potentially mortal weight is being placed today on Israel in the form of a demand that it retreat to a virtually indefensible border to accommodate a hostile Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was taken aback when U.S. President Barack Obama said in May, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
What stuck was the idea that the pre-1967 (meaning the 1949) armistice lines (incorrectly called borders) would mark the starting point toward a final settlement. The sticking point was the “mutually agreed swaps” that were left completely undefined.
Arab territorial claims will be defined by the Palestinian Authority/Hamas union taking the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip with the backing of the UN, thus imposing a Palestinian state with no concessions to Israel and without any recognition of the Jewish state’s right to exist. The endgame, of course, is for the Arabs to take it all eventually; but for the time being, following the late Yasser Arafat’s strategic plan, they will nibble Israel out of existence one bite at a time.
They believe their cause is aided by international sanctions for Israel’s retreat to the pre-1967 lines and justified by statements from the U.S. president and other Western leaders. In other words, the Arabs reason that, because they said it, they have it. And no matter how the subject is spun to mollify objectors, these entrenched opponents of Israel, America, and the West view the proposal not as a starting point, but as a done deal. Why? Because they said it. And it could be, in the short or long term, that Israelis may be forced to pay in blood.
The obvious lesson is this: Don’t believe everything you hear. Rhetoric is not reality. What’s being said may merely be designed to lead the gullible down an undesirable path. Seeing is the better way. And for those in the grandstands staring out at a field of dreams, be assured that your hope and change are not going to come out of a cornfield.