Believing the Lies
We believe our own lies,
choose our own news,
and perpetuate our own myths.
Terry is the cornerstone lecturer in our interdisciplinary studies department. Recently, I sat for half an hour in Terry’s class as he showed students the importance of Washington’s “Farewell Address.” Comparing some recent history books, Terry explained to his students that George Washington’s warnings are not fully documented.
“You know which warnings are left out?” Terry’s question piqued our interest as he answered his own query, “Those which deal with the importance of religion.” As if that point were not enough, Terry drove it home, “And do you know to which religion Washington referred? That’s right: Christianity.”
- Why would editors eliminate segments of primary source material?
- Why would an author’s words be changed posthumously?
- Why would books 21st century editions ignore historical connections to an author’s foreword?
- Why would any person committed to free inquiry
- twist ideas,
- redefine words,
- take statements out of context,
- or not explain statistics at face value?
We refuse by what we choose.
• “Abridged” editions of Webster’s Dictionary no longer contain an opening Preface by Daniel Webster explaining his conversion to Christianity and its impact on the creation of the first American dictionary. Webster wrote in the Preface to his 1828 edition of the dictionary
In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed.. .No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.
• “Abridged” editions of Robinson Crusoe leave out the plaintive prayers of the shipwrecked man whose voyage was prompted solely by his attempt to live outside his parents’ authority.
• “Abridged” editions of The Wind in the Willows are missing the original chapter seven where we learn about ‘the August Presence’ which rooted the animals in fear. In other editions, this ‘otherness’ takes on demonic proportions, totally missing the author’s unique point.
• “Abridged” statistics used by the Obama administration and other gun control advocates suggest a conclusion which is not supported by the facts. Recently, speeches have included the idea that 40% of weapons are purchased without a background check. Dr. John Lott counters
The true number of guns “sold” without check is closer to 10 percent. More important, the number comes from a 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, early in the Clinton administration. More than three-quarters of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks on February 28, 1994.
We want to perpetuate our own myths.
Benjamin Schwarz, in an Atlantic article entitled “The Real Cuban Missile Crisis” reveals the mythologies perpetuated by the Kennedy administration. It has been generally believed that John F. Kennedy stood against Khrushchev and The Soviet Union averting nuclear holocaust and saving the American republic. Like Robert Kennedy’s Thirteen Days, the statement is at best misleading, at worst, deceiving. Schwarz references Sheldon M. Stern, The Cuban Missile Crisis in American History
The patient spadework of Stern and other scholars has led to further revelations. . . . Stern justifiably excoriates the sycophantic courtier [Arthur] Schlesinger [Jr.], whose histories “repeatedly manipulated and obscured the facts” and whose accounts—“profoundly misleading if not out-and-out deceptive”—were written to serve not scholarship but the Kennedys.
“Inventing The Crusades” shows another myth has been running its course in modern history. Thomas F. Madden reports the notion in a review of Jonathan Riley-Smith’s book The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam.
It is generally thought that Christian attacked Muslims without provocation to seize their lands and forcibly convert them. The Crusaders were Europe’s lacklands and ne’er-do-wells, who marched against the infidels out of blind zealotry and a desire for booty and lang. As such, the Crusades betrayed Christianity itself. They transformed “turn the other cheek” into “kill them all; God will know his own.”
Every word of this is wrong. Historians of the Crusades have long known that it is wrong, but they find it extraordinarily difficult to be heard across a chasm of entrenched preconceptions. For on the other side is, as Riley-Smith puts it “nearly everyone else, from leading churchmen and scholars in other fields to the general public.”
So we continue to write our scholarly books and articles, learning more and more about the Crusades but scarcely able to be heard. And when we are heard, we are dismissed as daft. I once asked Riley-Smith if he believed popular perceptions of the Crusades would ever be changed by modern scholarship. “I have just about given up hope,” he said.
What is the reason why mythologies continue to hold sway in public thinking? Madden concludes “popular writers simply write better stories than the professional historians.”
Alan Jacobs’ comment about stories is important here. Reviewing Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal Jacob’s laments
When people tell me that ‘Story’ does this or that for us, I always want to throw up my hands and cry, ‘Which story?’ Christians have been guiltier than most of this tendency, arguing that people love stories because they are responding to the story God is telling through salvation history. Brian Wicker’s 1975 book The Story-Shaped World sounds good until you ask which story the world is shaped like. It matters, you know.
- What matters is who is telling the story.
- What matters is whose story is being told.
- What matters is how the story is being interpreted.
- What matters is
we believe our own lies, choose our own news, and perpetuate our own myths.
Terry’s teaching is important to counter our own tendency to fashion the world in a way that looks best to our own eyes and our own lies.
If we want to believe a lie, we must first discard the truth.
Dr. Mark Eckel allows God’s Scriptures and God’s Spirit to dispel the lies and declare The Truth at Crossroads Bible College where he serves as Director of Interdisciplinary Studies and Vice President of Academic Affairs.