In the economy of civics, “trust” is the only currency that counts. We all know that a flat-out lie is wrong, yet we tolerate “shading” of the truth if it serves our political purposes. It is so easy to pull honest-to-goodness facts out of their context to further our own ends.
Every parent has had this experience. A child is caught eating a snack right before dinner, so you ask, “Why are you spoiling your meal?” The child replies, “Mom said I could.” The child isn’t exactly lying; mom indeed had said the kid could have a snack… three hours earlier.
Scripture is replete with condemnations of lying. Proverbs 12:33 tells us “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”
And let us not forget that most awkward of the Ten Commandments. To be clear: the Ninth Commandment doesn’t say, “Don’t lie,” which is how we try to explain it. True enough, but this explanation misses the mark through simplification.
Instead, God tells us to “not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This covers a lot more waterfront than just “do not tell a lie.” It goes to the heart of what we say, what we communicate, and what we are attempting to make our neighbor hear.
This is where context matters. Facts, when presented out of context, can create a lie.
We see this all the time in politics.
Not long ago we were treated to the spectacle of a Republican lawmaker bragging in a special election about how he was a proponent of a popular GOP reform. In fact, he was responsible for the measure being watered down to the point of being useless. After the bill was gutted, he then voted for it. So when he told his constituents he supported the measure he was telling the truth way outside the context of what he had actually done.
This is why Americans have grown weary of the establishment media. Rather than report facts in their correct context, many legacy reporters and newscasters lie through manipulative editing and careful omission.
Our system of self-governance demands that we tell each other the truth, using facts in context. It isn’t always convenient to the establishment politicians, their apologists in the media, or paymasters in the lobby, but it is critical to the high calling of citizenship.
Let me end with a practical and personal request.
Telling the truth by using facts in context is the expectation I have for all of us at Texas Scorecard. As the Proverb I quoted a moment ago puts it, this is an act we must take on faithfully and daily. Just as in our walk as Christians and in our practical work as citizens, we need you to hold us accountable.