The accusation of lying – what politics reveals about our need for truth

LiarIn a social climate where a majority of people claim to believe that truth is relative, I find it curious that one of the most effective accusations leveled at a political opponent is that of lying. We have partisan “fact-checkers” who masquerade as neutral agents in an effort to bolster these claims. Both sides accuse the other of lying or of intentional deception.

I am not shocked that politicians lie or embellish the truth; we have several millennia of evidence to substantiate this claim. I am not shocked that opponents would loudly condemn the lying. What shocks me is the ease in which the accusations are leveled and the effectiveness of the accusations in achieving political gains.

If truth is relative, as our secular philosophers would argue, then why get all worked up over a few flip-flops, falsehoods or misrepresentations? Why should it matter that the candidate says whatever he thinks will get him elected? Is this not Darwinism in action? Is this not a legitimate means of political survival?

Yet the fact that accusations of lying do change people’s perception is an indication to me that there is a dichotomy between what people claim to believe and what they really believe. The mantra of current secular religion is that tolerance is the ultimate virtue. No-one has the right to denigrate the truth claims of another. We are told that there is no ultimate right or wrong. In our age, the only time when tolerance is not appropriate is when someone makes an ultimate truth claim.

In this moral and intellectual climate, why then do political groups so loudly denounce lying?

I believe the reason is that we have an innate sense of fairness. We do not have to teach this fairness to children. Without prompting, children loudly protest, “that’s not fair!” My experience has shown that children come wired with that sense of fairness. It’s part of the base package and not an option.

In this election season, when you hear accusations of lying and deception between political opponents, reflect on the innate sense of fairness that you possess. Then ask yourself if that sense of fairness is more than just a preference for a particular idea or ideology.

The Apostle Paul tells us that even those who do not acknowledge God have “the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:15, NASB)

Could it be that the Apostle Paul identified the reason why the accusation of lying is so effective? Is there a standard by which we innately know we should live? Is that standard written on our hearts by God?

These questions are of greater significance than who is put into office in November. The election has temporal consequences but these questions have an impact on eternity.