Mendacity by William Klein

“There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity… You can smell it.  It smells like death”. Tennessee Williams wrote those words in his famous play “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”. Truth resonates and the words uttered by him have lasted the test of time because they are a testament to truth.

Much is written in scripture about the act of lying.  It is the worst offense one can commit. Jesus has much to say about the issue. In Mark, when he heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, the scribes try to make lies stick.  They accuse him of casting out demons in the name of Satan. Jesus is too smart for them, though.  It is in this passage Mark writes:

“How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand.  His end has come.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin – for they had said he has an unclean spirit”. Mark 3:20-30 NRSV.

Jesus is fearless as he stands up against the scribes.  They are frightened by his power and do not know what to do with him. He undermines the law by healing on the Sabbath.  They lie to protect their own interests and inspire fear in the people so society will rise up against him.  Jesus knows the game and his logic wins the day.

The part of the scribes is indicative of the spin machine in Jesus’ time. There has always been that individual who will turn the truth in the direction that suits his needs. Notwithstanding, to undermine the “son of man” and his pure intention to impart truth is “blasphemy”.

“Whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness” is a strong statement by Jesus.  It qualifies the seriousness of the offense. Lies stay with people.  They become the very fabric of their being. When liars pass along the art of lying to their children, it is hard to recondition them. Unfortunately, these lies will eventually prove to be their undoing.  As a wise friend once told me “Everything outs in life”.

For every action there is a reaction.  Karma is real. An individual who lies to himself is lying to the world.

Discord creates disharmony within. Dishonesty leads to a stifled heart and missed opportunities. An individual who lies undermines the fullness of life, as corruption settles in the subconscious mind and penetrates the domain of the conscience. He creates a chasm of self-deception that leads to lack and limitation. The personal sins of individuals carries over into the institutional sins in our society and perpetuates injustice.

The evils of racism are inherent in our society because racists deny the equal rights of minorities. The inability to recognize that all are made in the “image of God” undermines equality thus undermining shared power and the democratic process in our society. Corruption of the imagination and possibility for the individual leads to an oppressive society. We create a dystopian society that destroys rather than a utopian society that builds.

It is written in scripture that what you do in your small affairs carries over into your big affairs. Jesus talks about false prophets in Matthew 7. Matthew writes:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree bears fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7: 15-20.

Later in the chapter it is noted that all who heard him were “astonished at his doctrine.  For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes”.

Peter echoes the words of psalm 19 when he says to Jesus, “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life”. John 6: 68.

Two thousand years later Jesus words resound because of the wisdom he spoke from his heart. “I am the way, the truth and the life”.  Such is the way of art that is truthful. Its beautiful aroma tends to win out over the stench of mendacity.

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