For those old enough to remember, there was once a TV game show in America entitled, “To Tell the Truth.” A celebrity panel was tasked with guessing which of 3 contestants was the real “so and so” who had achieved such and such claim to fame in this world. Each contestant would claim to be this person, answering questions about his or her identity as convincingly as possible. Prize money depended upon persuading the panelists to choose one of two imposters.
My childhood dentist once appeared on that show. Dr. Ward Newcomb. His claim to fame? He patented false teeth for horses. And when time came for the panelists to guess which of three contestants was “the real Dr. Ward Newcomb,” the man standing was not the one 3 of 4 panelists had actually guessed. We patients of his watching at home, perhaps even a few horses among us, cheered as the good dentist pulled off his persuasive deceit. His clever ruse brought him some prize money to return home with. My family and I were as excited as if we had won the money ourselves.
These days I can’t help comparing that old TV game show with a far more serious situation found within our American homes and communities. Only the stakes are far higher in today’s situation. Today’s panel consists of Americans choosing what to believe as they take in the claims of different media news broadcasts, advertisements and such. And there’s a lot of money to be made by those who can tell the truth, or NOT, most convincingly.
Know what I’m saying?
Ari Rabin-Havt, in his book, “Lies, Inc.” writes of how America’s burgeoning Public Relations and political propaganda machinery was built out of the Tobacco industry’s lessons of deceit during the 20th century. So successful, and so profitable, were the Big Tobacco PR efforts to deceive the American public that cigarettes were safe due to filter tips and the like that other corporations took notice. By the end of the 20th century, an entire Public Relations industry was born of this power to lie persuasively to the American people. For profit, of course.
By now you’ve probably caught on to how this contemporary game of “To Tell the Truth” is played. Big corporations hire Public Relations firms to craft a message that is able to lie most persuasively. Early in the PR consultation, corporations are advised to hire scientists who would be willing to dispute the findings of other scientists. Whether it involves claims of tobacco’s nicotine being addictive and causing cancer, or something today more related to claims of man-made global warming, Lies, Inc. requires someone claiming with authority that their science is true and the other scientists have it all wrong.
As with the old game show, prize money (in this case corporate profit) depends upon persuading contestants, in our case consumers and even political voters, that the liars are telling the truth. And people at home, minus any horses this time, are happily watching as if they, too, were winning some prize alongside the best liars.
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The tragedy in today’s world is that people, millions of people, are suffering and dying as a result of folks’ cheering for and even voting for those in authority who can best speak lies to the people with fear. And in the realm of world religion, the same happens when folks believe those in authority who are imposters. Imposters of the real Jesus, for example.
Speaking of the real Jesus, here’s one way to know which one he is in today’s, or any other day’s world. He’s the one who is speaking the most truth to the most power with the most love. All in a counter-cultural response to those, like the religious and political authorities of his own day, spoke the most lies to the most people with the most fear.
We could use the real Jesus in our world today.
The one who has a BS antenna a mile long and who, when seeing the common people harmed by the lies of the powerful, refuses to stay silent or to be “not so political” or to avoid controversy or to even refrain from calling the liars in authority out in public. In no uncertain terms. As in John 8:44-45 (CEV): “Your father is the devil. You are his children, and you want to do what your father wants. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has never stood for the truth, because there’s no truth in him. Whenever that liar speaks, he speaks according to his own nature, because he’s a liar and the father of liars. Because I speak the truth, you don’t believe me.”
Waiting for that same Jesus to stand up and speak truth to power with love in today’s world?
To tell the truth, that would be you. And me. We are the feet and legs and voice of Jesus today. It’s time for the real Jesus, for us, to stand up. Because this game is not just for a little bit of prize money to be won on a Tuesday night game show for network television. This is about a counter-cultural movement the real Jesus brings to earth with high stakes of life and death hanging in the balance.
Next to Jesus and his truth in today’s world of Lies, Inc., everything else is of no greater claim than patenting false teeth for horses.