Or, you know, LIES
Before about two years ago, most of us had never heard the term “fake news” before. Most of us (ok, I) believed that the news we were hearing was true, but told in ways that caused us to look more favorably on one group of people or the other. In my opinion, “fake news” isn’t so much fake – I mean, what’s being talked about is really true – as it is filled with half-truths.
Now sometimes, half-truths aren’t meant to be misleading. They’re more the product of someone’s misunderstanding and we’ve accepted them over the years. “We live with half-truths — of varying kinds and sizes. A year is not always 365 days. A billable hour is not necessarily 60 minutes. Pluto isn’t precisely a planet.
“Having finished our [not footlong footlong Subway] sandwich, we offer a list of 12 misleading notions we accept in everyday life:
“A two-by-four at a retail lumberyard is not 2 inches by 4 inches.
“Peanuts are not really nuts, but legumes.
“A hydrogen bond is not a true bond, but a type of electromagnetic attraction.
“The American buffalo is not a buffalo, but a bison.
“A koala bear is not a bear; it’s a marsupial.
“A starfish isn’t a fish; it’s an echinoderm.
“A palm tree is not a tree, but a form of grass.
“A penny is worth more than a penny, costing more than two cents to make.
“‘Swollen glands’ are not actually glands; they are a series of lymph nodes.
“A mountain goat is not really a goat.
“Pink is not exactly a color.”
Half-truths are things (in the way I want to talk about today) told specifically to mislead or to skew understanding – and they’ve been around since the world began (or even longer). “As if the blatant lie Satan told Eve (‘You will not surely die’) wasn’t enough, Satan also used a deceptive half-truth about the fruit of the wrong tree to further entice Eve: ‘For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5). Satan mixed truth with a lie with expert cunning.
“Eve’s eyes were opened, but her experience of knowing good and evil was far from being like God. It opened the door for humanity to choose Satan’s way of thinking, not God’s way. Satan basically told her enough of the truth to hook her, and left out enough of the lie to make it seem like a ‘win-win’ choice.”
We are surrounded by half-truths all the time … maybe some don’t seem so malicious, but Satan uses all of them to paint himself in a more positive light and to lead us to question the goodness of God.
In his book, Half Truths, Adam Hamilton talks about some of the best known and possibly, most insidious of the half-truths that Christians say and hear almost every day.
“‘Everything happens for a reason,’
“‘God helps those who help themselves,’
“‘God won’t give you more than you can handle,’
“‘God said it, I believe it, that settles it,’ and
“‘Love the sinner, hate the sin.’”
“Whhhaaattt???” I can hear you saying, “I have said those things! Heard those things! And I was sincere. I wasn’t trying to mislead or lie to anybody.”
And I believe you, because I’ve said and heard those things too. But I think, sometimes, maybe it’s just me, we repeat things we’ve heard other people say without thinking the statement through completely. In fact, the particular statements quoted here are used almost exclusively as throw-away phrases we say when we can’t think of anything better to say in difficult situations, right?
But with the help of Dr. Jim Lewis, who wrote this article, let’s look at the fallacies in these statements.
“To say ‘Everything happens for a reason’ implies that God is the reason. Since God is responsible for creating the universe, there may be some ill-defined truth to this statement. However, the idea that God is responsible for natural disasters and mass murders seems absurd and incompatible with a loving God … [Hamilton] argues convincingly that God can bring good out of evil but does not cause the evil. … One quote circulating on Facebook summarizes man’s contribution to the conundrum: ‘Everything happens for a reason, but sometimes the reason is that you are stupid and make bad decisions.’ …
“‘God helps those who help themselves’ was popularized in Poor Richard’s Almanac. However, the phrase receives only vague Biblical support in Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians to work so that they can eat. Prayer alone is often insufficient when not combined with work, as any college student or job hunter will attest. However, God expects us to help the poor, and God extends His grace to help those who cannot help themselves and are simply unable to rise above their despair.
“‘God won’t give you more than you can handle’ makes a great case for not becoming a stronger Christian. This bromide is based loosely on I Corinthians 10:13 which says, ‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’ The emphasis is on sin, not life’s disasters. Also God doesn’t ‘give’ us the adversity in our lives. However, He will help us handle what comes our way.
“You have not read Leviticus if you believe ‘God said it, I believe it, that settles it.’ … Hamilton argues that everyone including Jesus interprets scripture and does not accept every word at face value. Otherwise, according to the New Testament, all women attending church must wear hats, daughters must not braid their hair, and no one can have a savings account. Slavery would still exist. …
“The statement ‘Love the sinner and hate the sin’ may have originated with St. Augustine who gave advice to nuns that included ‘love mankind and hate sins.’ This attitude, however, can bring harm to the sinner. Jesus told us to love our neighbor and to love our enemies. It is self-righteous and judgmental to look upon those around you as sinners and not neighbors. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ reminds us to examine our own sins, not those of others. The late Billy Graham said, ‘It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict; it is God’s job to judge, and it is our job to love.’ …
“The egregious half truths above can lead to a rejection of the Gospel or to a world-view that is sub-Christian. Expressed in the wrong setting, they can be hurtful to others. We need to gently challenge half truths when we hear them especially from other Christians.”
Half-truths are so prevalent because they are an excellent way to spread non-truths (or fake news) (or lies) into the minds of humans. Have you ever noticed how much more quickly lies spread than truth? And how much ‘stickier’ a lie is than the truth? That’s because the King of Lies (Satan) makes them that way.
God doesn’t operate in half-truths or fake news. He will always tell the truth. Let’s pray that we will have the discernment to recognize the difference.
Lillianne Winegardner Lopez 2.22.2019
The ultimate challenge with religious distortions is in the picture of God that they portray. What kind of God tortures and burns people for eternity? What kind of God plays fast and loose with the very rules He has made? What kind of God is portrayed by a church that burns people at the stake over doctrinal differences?
In confronting distorted religion, it is very important that we not
fall into the trap of portraying a God who is angry, judgmental, and severe. We are told that when Jesus confronted the Pharisees, “tears were in His voice.”
Ellen G. White
For more than forty years a lighthouse stood on a large peninsula jutting into the Tasman Sea in southern Australia. It stood at a place where it shouldn’t have, luring ignorant ships into the very rocks they were trying to avoid.
The cliffs around Cape St George just south of Jervis Bay were notorious for shipwrecks. So it was decided that a lighthouse was needed for the safe navigation of coastal shipping. In 1857, the Colonial Architect Alexander Dawson began looking for a site suitable for a lighthouse on Cape St George. Unfortunately, Dawson was more interested in the ease of construction rather than providing an efficient navigation aid.
When the Pilots Board went to verify the location Dawson chose they found that the site was not visible from the required approaches. They also found Dawson’s map suffered from “discrepancies so grave that it is impossible to decide whether position(s) marked on the map really exist.” The board also suspected that Dawson chose the site solely because it was situated closer to a quarry he planned to obtain stones from.
Despite the glaring deficiencies and disagreement by a majority of the board, for reasons not known, the chairman of board authorized the construction of the lighthouse. For the next four decades the ill-sited lighthouse was responsible for some two dozen shipwrecks. Eventually in 1899, the lighthouse was replaced by the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse in a much more suitable location on this part of the coast.
Even after decommissioning, the lighthouse continued to cause navigational problems especially on moonlit nights when the golden sandstone tower glowed in the dark. So near the turn of the century, the tower was reduced to rubble to prevent any further disaster.
A local student went to the zoo, and was surprised when he took a closer look at the enclosure for the zebras.
Mahmoud Sarhan was motivated to post what he saw on Facebook, with a photo that appears to support his assertion: the two zebras at the Cairo International Garden municipal park are nothing more than donkeys with black stripes painted on.
The photo eventually went viral, prompting a variety of people to weigh in on the authenticity of the zebras (or the lack thereof). A local news team contacted a veterinarian, who claimed that zebra snouts are usually black, and their stripes are more consistent and uniform compared to the striping on the animal in the photo, which also sported black smudging around the face.
The zoo’s director, Mohamed Sultan, insisted during a radio interview that the zebras were, in fact, real. Similar accusations of donkey-painting were lobbed at a zoo in Gaza in 2009, which blamed their problem on an Israeli blockade that prevented it from purchasing actual zebras. Though similar in physical form, zebras and donkeys are distinctly different species.
Compare two leaders. Leader A lifted an entire nation in a time of despair. He mobilized his people against unimaginable odds with a clear vision and inspiring passion. He launched a movement that has impacted literally everyone alive today. He set in motion an industrial and scientific revolution that produced the first computer, the first jet airplane, began human exploration of space, and unlocked the mystery of nuclear energy. Almost every aspect of the modern world has, in one way or another, been influenced by this man. By the time he died at the age of only 56, everyone on the planet knew his name. Without a doubt, Leader A changed the world.
Leader B lived during the same era. In fact, he died just 21 days before Leader A, but his life was very different. At the height of his influence, Leader B ran a school with just 100 students. He wrote a few books but was not widely regarded. He was beloved by his friends and family and had a reputation for being both intelligent and faithful, but at the time of his death almost no one knew his name, and most considered his life’s work unfulfilled—including Leader B himself.
So given the choice, which leader’s strategies would you rather study? Which leadership conference would you rather attend—the one featuring a keynote address by Leader A or the one with the small workshop in a back hall led by Leader B? If you are inspired by the world changing effectiveness of Leader A, congratulations! You’ve chosen Adolf Hitler. Leader B was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was executed by the Nazis for his relentless opposition to Hitler.
The Wall Street Journal reported a story about how fake news stories and photos can have a powerful impact on shaping our minds and hearts. The story quoted Randi Romo, a female photographer whose photograph at an immigration rally had been manipulated by a Russia-backed account. The fake photo conveyed an anti-immigration message while the original photo clearly conveyed a pro-immigration message. Ms. Romo had a powerful warning for all of us: “We are living in the greatest era of information access. People will watch cat videos endlessly, but they won’t take a minute to ascertain whether what they are being told is true or not.”
In April 2016, Harper’s Magazine published a fascinating report about a man named Jay Miscovich, who found what he claimed were hundreds of emeralds from a Spanish shipwreck that went down in 1622. The Florida Keys have long been a hunting ground for sunken treasure. So many vessels were wrecked among the islands and reefs, loaded as they were with billions of dollars’ worth of gold, silver, and jewels being shipped in countless Spanish armadas as they sailed from South America to Spain, that they still attract hundreds of seekers after true treasure. Jay’s samples and claims that he’d found masses of emeralds that were still out there were estimated to be worth a half billion dollars.
With the advice of a partner, lawyers, and jewel experts, millions of investment dollars were collected from private individuals, wall street managers, and a company specifically set up to protect this enormous find. The article paints Jay as a sympathetic character. He is likeable in ways that make you end up rooting for him. Most of those who contributed to his project were individuals or companies who only cared about what monetary value could be gained from owning or selling the priceless jewels for themselves.
In the end, the world discovered that Jay Miscovich’s entire story was manufactured. He made it all up, including deliberately “seeding” the ocean floor with emeralds he’d bought on the market. Exactly as he hoped, his false claims drew the interest of treasure hunters. But down the road as unaccountable discrepancies surfaced, such as the Belgian jewelers finding an epoxy resin on the surface of the emeralds that could only have been added in modern times, and as one by one the investors pulled out, the entire story unraveled. Along with investigations came lawsuits, loss of friendships and family, and a poisonous atmosphere of distrust and anger.
In the book, Influence, Robert Cialdini tells a fascinating story about the owner of a jewelry store who was having trouble moving some of the merchandise. Specifically, she had an overabundance of turquoise and silver Native American jewelry.
The jewelry owner had tried every conventional sales trick to make the jewelry more appealing—placing the pieces in a central display case, asking her sales staff to “push” them and so on. Nothing worked. On her way out of town for a business trip, she scribbled an exasperated note to the store manager directing her to cut the price in half. “Everything in this display case, price x ½,” she wrote. All the jewelry sold. The astonishing part was that the manager misread the scribbled note. She had read the “½” as a “2.” Instead of slashing the original price of the jewelry in half, she had doubled it.
So, how did she manage to sell the unsellable jewelry at double the price? Cialdini explains that people never questioned the true value of the jewelry. They just assumed that an expensive price tag must translate into valuable and good jewelry.
For nearly 30 years, art forger Mark Landis has made headlines for duping dozens of museums into accepting fakes into their collections. Landis admits he has always had a mischievous streak. When contacting museums, he would often use aliases and dress like a Jesuit priest. With his odd demeanor and near encyclopedic knowledge of art history, Landis could easily come across as an eccentric art collector.
His skills with a pencil or paintbrush are undeniable. Often using a magnifying glass, Landis studies a print of an original work and, with meticulous attention to detail, copies exactly what he sees: religious icons, impressionist or modern works. His re-creations in the style of old masters are astonishing—and so are his tools. They include magic markers and pens and Wal-Mart frames … raw materials that proper forgers might not use.
More than 45 museums could not tell the difference between Landis’ copies and original works. Not only were his fakes convincing, but he also knew exactly what to say when he met with museums. As one museum director explains, Landis would imply he had more paintings he might donate “and possible endowments from the family’s estate.” The museum director admits: “He knew right where to hit us. Our soft spot: art and money.”
In an interview with New York Magazine, Lady Gaga said,
What I’ve discovered is that in art, as in music, there’s a lot of truth—and then there’s a lie. The artist is essentially creating his work to make this lie a truth, but then he slides it in amongst all the others. The tiny little lie is the moment I live for, my moment. It’s the moment the audience falls in love.
The following is from a USA Today article detailing the decline of water baptism in many American churches:
There are now baptism-style ceremonies where God is never mentioned by parents seeking to initiate their children into a world of all faiths, says Ema Drouillard of San Francisco, who runs the website Ceremonyway.com.
She conducted such an event for Kirsten and Farnum _______ of Marin County, California, for their baby, Greer, in 1998. “We just wanted a larger spirit to guide our daughter, but we didn’t want to get specific. I wanted all her bases covered,” says Kirsten.
The couple grew up Presbyterian, but now “we just do Christianity L-I-T-E” for Greer, who “believes in angels and fairies, leprechauns and Santa Claus.”
Cathy Lynn Grossman
 Linton Weeks, 12 Half-Truths We Live With, NPR, January 19, 2013, https://www.npr.org/2013/01/19/169709740/12-half-truths-we-live-with
Eddie Foster, Enemies of Honesty: Half-Truths, Life, Hope, and Truth, © 2019 CHURCH OF GOD, A WORLDWIDE ASSOCIATION, INC. https://lifehopeandtruth.com/change/blog/enemies-of-honesty-half-truths/
 Half Truths Some Christians Believe by Dr. Jim Lewis, March 7, 2018, Second Baptist Church, 4680 Walnut Grove, Memphis, TN
 Half Truths Some Christians Believe by Dr. Jim Lewis, March 7, 2018, Second Baptist Church, 4680 Walnut Grove, Memphis, TN