Devilish Lies


(Credit: U.S. White House)

Lies—big and small, noble or not—are the way of the world, whether we speak of personal, social, and professional relationships or of advertising, media, and politics. Lying is normal—so it seems—yet still disturbing.

When we testify in court, we swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That is our oath. But as a juror, I find it difficult to determine whether the testifier’s truth telling is stretched, selective, or faked. Truth is not so transparent or objectively known as we’d like to think. Indeed, it is the jury’s job to make a judgment about what is true and what is false.

Among the factors that influence our assessment of a claim to truth, whether in the courtroom, the political arena, or elsewhere, are the credibility of the testifier, the coherence of the story told, common sense, our own experience, and perspective. Seldom, if ever, are we absolutely confident of our judgment, which can leave us feeling uneasy—a little or a lot depending on the circumstances and consequences. (more…)


"The Golden Calf" by Esteban March (1610 - 1668).

“The Golden Calf” by Esteban March (1610 – 1668).

Ebola outbreaks, Islamic State beheadings and crucifixions, Putin’s provocations, school shootings, cop-killing snipers: demons everywhere.

Are we a nation of demoniacs, a people preoccupied with demons? We should hope not.   Demonolatry is an obsession with evil spirits. It entails sacrificial acts of appeasement and atonement. The war state thrives on a diet of monsters, fiends, and devils.

Some say our identity as a Christian nation reduces to pathology. Conservative Christianity can warp the mind, according to Marlene Winell (a human development consultant) and Valerie Tarico (a psychologist). Evangelicals and fundamentalists—those who literalize the Bible—insist on conformity, focus on the spiritual world, and seek salvation. They are inclined toward authoritarianism, a pervasive fear of sin, hell, and heathens, and an expectation of apocalypse. They operate in the subconscious realm of metaphor, symbol, imagery, emotion, and supernaturalism, which short-circuits their capacity for rational analysis. This pathology goes unacknowledged because it is respectable in a land that sees itself as blessed by God and where our currency declares our trust in God. (more…)