False witnessesFebruary 25, 2008
The Christian Century has an excellent editorial entitled "False witnesses." It is about the importance of telling the truth. Here are a few highlights:
Augustine said, "When regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things remain doubtful." Lives are ruined by slander and falsehoods. Communities unravel when malicious gossip is slung around. Nations are led astray when their leaders use half-truths or mistruths to win approval for policies and actions. The Center for Public Integrity recently documented 935 false statements made by top members of the administration on 532 separate occasions in the buildup to and prosecution of the Iraq war.Amen! Some great reminders for us all as each one of us faces temptations to be less than truthful.
The election season offers another context for thinking about false witness. Political candidates frequently portray their opponents in the worst possible light, offering shorthand terms—"in favor of surrender," "backer of amnesty," "socialized medicine"—designed to tarnish another's position, not address reality.
A perennial human tendency is to compare ourselves at our best to others at their worst.
... But the first test of truth telling in conflict is whether what we say about the other person, political position or religious tradition is consistent with how that person, political stance or religious tradition would understand itself. We may not like or agree with another's position; we can still avoid bearing false witness.