Beware the Bait and Switch

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For Sunday, January 25, 2015

 The Travesty of Bait and Switch

David W. Hegg

Few things make me madder than dishonesty. Being able to take someone at their word lies at the very foundation of healthy, productive, and civil society. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, understanding God hates a lying tongue.

As I view the landscape of American society it seems honesty is being replaced by pragmatism. We will say whatever is necessary to accomplish whatever it is we think needs to be accomplished. We have turned the “bait and switch” into a national pastime.

It used to be that half-truths, or untruths, slipped out through carelessness, in times of great stress, anger, or frustration. They were called slip-ups or gaffes, and were most often quickly followed up with humble apologies and cries for forgiveness.

Now we lie on purpose, bold-faced, looking folks straight in the eyes, smiling. Other times we obfuscate, generalize, dodge, hypothesize, or just wink to give a positive impression while maintaining plausible deniability. It seems the goal now is not an open statement of truth, but a carefully crafted, amorphous sound bite that comes wrapped in “truthiness.”

We are all acutely aware of this practice, and we even understand and accept it in the areas of marketing and advertising. We accept hyperbole when it comes to hamburgers and automobiles. But when it comes to the most important things in life – death and taxes – we want the truth, even if those doling it out don’t think we can handle it.

By taxes I mean politics. We’re ramping up to be barraged by those running for the highest offices in our country. The presidential race is shaping up to be the most expensive one to date. And a large chunk of money is going to be spent on advertising intended to get us to believe one candidate has it right.

But the big question is this: Can we believe what they say? Sadly, history is not on their side. At election time we, the voting public, are almost always played as chumps. If I were president, I’d change all the election laws to make candidates use only 1 and 2 syllable words, require them to have their facts and statistics right, make sense, and get paid based on how many promises they kept.

But the worst area today is the one connected with death. That is, the church, where we are supposed to be preparing people to live in light of the fact that we’re all going to die one day and stand before a holy God. He will settle all the accounts, accepting some into eternal life, and consigning others into eternal punishment. We, the church and the clergy, are supposed to be telling you the truth about God, sin, mankind, Jesus, salvation, forgiveness, righteousness, heaven and hell. But for some reason, we’re telling you how to be happy rather than holy, rewarded rather than repentant, confident rather than humbled, and how to enjoy this life at the expense of preparing for the next. And – surprise! – we’re doing it to fill our churches, and our coffers, and launch ourselves into more notoriety. Unfortunately, in diluting the Gospel into a self-help talk, we lying to you about the single most important question you’ll ever ask: Who is God, and how can I be right with him?

The biblical message of Jesus Christ is not the same as the “Jesus as Life-Coach” stuff being promoted far and wide by cute, clever preachers and their entertainment directors. The real message of Jesus Christ humbles us as it reveals our utter sinfulness, calls for sincere repentance, and rescues us from our self-promoting, arrogant, and broken lives. It promises joy in suffering, purpose in life, and the security of being at peace with the Almighty. And the good news is this: the Good News about forgiveness through Jesus Christ is still available in our day … somewhere. Find it, and accept no substitutes.

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For Sunday, January 25, 2015

 

The Travesty of Bait and Switch

David W. Hegg

 

Few things make me madder than dishonesty. Being able to take someone at their word lies at the very foundation of healthy, productive, and civil society. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, understanding God hates a lying tongue.

 

As I view the landscape of American society it seems honesty is being replaced by pragmatism. We will say whatever is necessary to accomplish whatever it is we think needs to be accomplished. We have turned the “bait and switch” into a national pastime.

 

It used to be that half-truths, or untruths, slipped out through carelessness, in times of great stress, anger, or frustration. They were called slip-ups or gaffes, and were most often quickly followed up with humble apologies and cries for forgiveness.

 

Now we lie on purpose, bold-faced, looking folks straight in the eyes, smiling. Other times we obfuscate, generalize, dodge, hypothesize, or just wink to give a positive impression while maintaining plausible deniability. It seems the goal now is not an open statement of truth, but a carefully crafted, amorphous sound bite that comes wrapped in “truthiness.”

We are all acutely aware of this practice, and we even understand and accept it in the areas of marketing and advertising. We accept hyperbole when it comes to hamburgers and automobiles. But when it comes to the most important things in life – death and taxes – we want the truth, even if those doling it out don’t think we can handle it.

By taxes I mean politics. We’re ramping up to be barraged by those running for the highest offices in our country. The presidential race is shaping up to be the most expensive one to date. And a large chunk of money is going to be spent on advertising intended to get us to believe one candidate has it right.

But the big question is this: Can we believe what they say? Sadly, history is not on their side. At election time we, the voting public, are almost always played as chumps. If I were president, I’d change all the election laws to make candidates use only 1 and 2 syllable words, require them to have their facts and statistics right, make sense, and get paid based on how many promises they kept.

But the worst area today is the one connected with death. That is, the church, where we are supposed to be preparing people to live in light of the fact that we’re all going to die one day and stand before a holy God. He will settle all the accounts, accepting some into eternal life, and consigning others into eternal punishment. We, the church and the clergy, are supposed to be telling you the truth about God, sin, mankind, Jesus, salvation, forgiveness, righteousness, heaven and hell. But for some reason, we’re telling you how to be happy rather than holy, rewarded rather than repentant, confident rather than humbled, and how to enjoy this life at the expense of preparing for the next. And – surprise! – we’re doing it to fill our churches, and our coffers, and launch ourselves into more notoriety. Unfortunately, in diluting the Gospel into a self-help talk, we lying to you about the single most important question you’ll ever ask: Who is God, and how can I be right with him?

The biblical message of Jesus Christ is not the same as the “Jesus as Life-Coach” stuff being promoted far and wide by cute, clever preachers and their entertainment directors. The real message of Jesus Christ humbles us as it reveals our utter sinfulness, calls for sincere repentance, and rescues us from our self-promoting, arrogant, and broken lives. It promises joy in suffering, purpose in life, and the security of being at peace with the Almighty. And the good news is this: the Good News about forgiveness through Jesus Christ is still available in our day … somewhere. Find it, and accept no substitutes.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net