This Evil Force Can Be Seen Moving Through Time– III: The Spirit of the Lie

Summary: Human beings often have a flawed relationship to the truth, but we can see that some forces create a greater rift between reality and people’s beliefs than others.

This is certainly true of the political right in our times when, I would assert, the great majority of the major beliefs that have been inculcated in the minds of the followers of today’s Republican Party are false. (See for example, my op/ed piece, “Would You Want to Know?”) And it was true of the spirit of the South that led to the Civil War, and that soon after the defeat re-established a kind of cultural and political hegemony over the region. One example of this “Spirit of the Lie” was mentioned earlier: the Southern dogma to deny for generations the truth that the real “Cause” for which the South fought was slavery, not some noble “Lost Cause.” (See “The South Still Lies about the Civil War” by Tracy Thompson.) But that falsehood should be seen as but part of the pattern of dishonesty that surrounds this evil force.

never lie

Twisting Words to Mean Their Opposites Let’s look at some of the other elements of that larger pattern of dishonesty, and at how that pattern is being recapitulated by the force that’s taken over the Republican Party in our times. Here are words from Abraham Lincoln while he was president:

We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name, liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names: liberty and tyranny. The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty…

Southern slaveholders (the wolves in Lincoln’s fable) insisted that liberty required that those in a dominant position (over slaves), be allowed to maintain their domination, and to advance their own interests at the expense of the interests of those whom they had subdued. Liberty, as it is pushed by Republicans now, has the same kind of meaning. Republicans fight for the right of people of wealth and power to do whatever they want. Even as Republicans claim liberty from law, they support a kind of liberty that enables these special interests to buy the power to make the laws. In the name of “liberty,” the Republicans are helping their corporate partners gain control of the political system. “Free speech” means the right of the wealthiest to write a check to buy disproportionate control over the American government. Building upon previous perverse rulings that declare money to be a form of speech, the Republican Supreme Court gave us the Citizens United decision, declaring corporations to be persons with the right to liberty, and thereby expanding the ability of moneyed interests to buy our government at the very time that inequalities of wealth are greater than they’ve been in living memory. This is the liberty of the wolf in Lincoln’s fable. The wolves of our time express the same dishonest and unjust spirit. Violating the Religious Values They Claim to Uphold The defenders of slavery saw themselves as the defenders of Christian values. But as Lincoln observed, “although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.” Do unto others as you would have others do unto you – the principal Christian ethic – evidently did not apply. The brokenness of this hypocrisy is a manifestation of a general pattern of brokenness. The slaveholding class suffered from what Genevese described in his book Fatal Self-Deception. They showed a capacity to hold simultaneously completely contradictory beliefs, such as: that the slaves were happy, but also were a constant threat the revolt; that the slaves loved their masters, but that the masters were in danger of having their throats cut while they slept; etc. Holding stark contradictions in one’s mind, without evident awareness of their incompatibility, is a clear sign of an inner brokenness. Likewise with the Republican Party of today, which represents itself as the bastion of Christian values. Yet as I asked in my piece, “What Kind of Christianity is This?” this is the party that:

  • Supports the rich and mighty, while preying upon the very sorts of people — the poor and vulnerable – that Jesus sought out and comforted.
  • Advocates the most punitive policies, whereas Jesus taught forgiveness and compassion
  • Makes a big show of religiosity, whereas Jesus taught that such showiness was the opposite of the true piety he advocated
  • Makes conflict, not cooperation, their modus operandi, whereas Jesus had a message of peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

The last of which brings us to another quite essential component of this re-emergent, destructive spirit: it is a Spirit of War. Then and now.

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19 Comments

  1. This is one of your best ever, Dr. Schmookler (Andy).

    Just to point something I said here once before, not to detract, there are some Democrats involved in this, not only just the majority of Republicans.

    Thank you!

    Larry

  2. Some people -usually contra Christian-have this peculiar need to denigrate the Spirit or Spiritual nature(true American) of much of the South who felt compelled to enter the war only after Lincoln’s first . . his provocation at Charleston but then actually by his actual call for troops to engage in war against our fellow Americans.

    It was actually that Spirit that enabled these Southern Americans to rise again in Spirit despite the devastation of aggressive war in our own homeland.

    It is probably worth noting that many of those same denigrators are among those who also are pro anti-Christian anti Biblical morality.

    This is not an attack nor an accusation but just an observation that can be verified by any honest observer. I remain open to correction by facts but pretty sure such facts do not exist.

  3. David R,

    I’ve visited many parts of the U.S., but never lived anywhere but in the Northeast. I’ve never gotten much into the history of the Civil War, either. I’ve known one or two serious students of it, but it’s really not something we ever talk much about in this neighborhood. That is not to say that my unfamiliarity with it is good, it just is. I am just not that familiar with what the South went through except from some movies and some novels. Please forgive me.

    My simple, or maybe not so simple, concept is that all this time “we” have been struggling over whether or not those of African descent are or are not really people. There has been some change from “no, they’re not” to “yes, they are.” When those of African descent were not people then of course there was not as much problem holding in mind being a Christian and the concept of slavery being ok or even a good thing, both at the same time. The change in perception from “not people” to “people” caused the problem. No?

    Larry

  4. By the way, I never met a person of African descent until I was in college. There weren’t any around, except for three weeks in 7th grade when there were some migrant workers in class and I could not understand one word they spoke, and we never took a trip to New York City when I was a kid. So while I’ve had a couple of black friends, I’m not sure that I see most of them as people, really. Just to confuse you. lol Larry

  5. Rcihard H. Randall

    Andy-this is one of the most succinct-and finest pieces of yours that I have read.
    As for Biblical morality, it is not of ‘whole cloth’. The only comments I have here regarding it 1)There are aspects of it which seem true and universal, regarding ethics, then as now. 2)There are stories, issues and ‘moral beliefs’ which are morally wrong and unacceptable by today’s universal standards. 3)There are human documents, some perhaps inspired by God and the on-going creation-which are actually morally superior in some aspects to biblical ethics.
    An example for me would be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (1947)by the United Nations,in the aftermath of World War II, FDR’s Four Freedoms work, various speeches and actions of Lincoln, e.g. the Emancipation Proclamation, his Second Inaugural Address, etc.
    Other works/principles from other Religious/Philosophical/ Political ethics from other cultures and times should be considered. Part of the beauty and truth of these come from their intuitive rightness as morally sound, and their universal application.
    An Episcopal Army chaplain once said to a group I was in, “In the end, we are responsible for our moral beliefs and actions.” My great teacher of Existentialist thought (as well as other classes) Forrest Wood Jr., said the same. I think they were both right.
    Regarding the hypocrisy of the current GOP and Republican members of the Supreme Court, my dad, and honest-to- God Montana cowboy, and WWII vet, said of such people,
    ‘They don’t really know if Jesus was crucified, or hooked by a bull.’
    One needn’t look far at all to see that this is so. How does a man of God work to harm the poor, the injured, the hungry, the mentally/physically ill? How can such a man be a racist, and claim to love God?
    The GOP is working hard to do all of this, in order to decrease ‘the tax burden’ on the poor wealthy. Tax burden my yankee ass! The world would be better if it took most of Jesus’ ethical pronouncements to heart: it is a bitter irony that those who talk most about His life and death, apparently care nothing for his ethics, (often referred to as the social gospel.)
    There is beauty and truth in the world’s wisdom traditions. I think there is yet hope and value in their study and selective use.

  6. I was unaware that the G O P professes Christianity. ? ?

    They do ?

    Possibly a true Christian could be in Politics today; I do not know if so; maybe.

    However a Christian cannot knowingly lie even imagining to bring about imagined ‘good’.

    Politicians represent CONSTITUENCIES; is how they get into office in the first place. I would say Christians(of a conservative persuasion) form maybe one constituency among others.

    If the Republican Party candidates seem to represent the values of this constituency more so that the other party, why those who do vote will probably vote Republican even though not everything Republicans
    as a party are perceived as good.

    Actually some of ‘us’ are so offended since the lying, pre-emptive war’ administration of GWB began to show itself that we are divided as even mong families.

    There are so many, or say, a number of issues, various, even among religious conservatives, that the voting is hardly representative of anything more for sure than against the so called new morality and openly professed new social liberalism of Barack Obama and his constituency as well.

    Many cannot for the new Republicans at all.

    For Barack Obama himself, I wish him well. He has been guided into this position to gain the power of government for the Democrats using his appeal for the likes of you ‘progressives’ but he had a mis-conception of the potential for co-operation from his fellow man for his type of leadership and is in a
    really difficult spot surrounded by manipulators and who knows what.
    I personally am for Mr. Obama, the person, and wish him well. The policies coming out of Washington ‘we’ , the public, may have yet learn really from whence they come.

    From whence comes Mr. Schmookler ?

    • “From whence comes Mr. Schmookler ?”

      What are you asking about me, David R? What is it about me, and where I’m coming from, that you still don’t know after all these years?

      I thought that I make myself pretty transparent.

  7. Hello, David R, thank you for your excellent post.

    “I was unaware that the G O P professes Christianity. ? ?”

    Both parties profess Christianity. They just have very different things in mind. It is a religious dispute with both economic and social components. According to a recent authoritative report, the main or only focus of about half of evangelical conservative Christian Republicans has to do with their thoughts on economic policies. The other half have their main or only focus on sex and laws related to sex.

    “However a Christian cannot knowingly lie even imagining to bring about imagined ‘good’.”

    Amen, David R, Amen. And knowing when to keep one’s mouth shut and figuring out a way to do it without lying is doable.

    Larry

    • “Both parties profess Christianity. They just have very different things in mind.”

      I do not believe this accurately captures the situation in America today. Of course, there are Christian believers voting on both sides, but there’s a basic asymmetry here. On the Republican side, there’s a major force that labels itself as Christian, and the Republican Party actively sells itself to a major component of the electorate as the defender of “Christian values.” On the Democratic side, there’s virtually nothing of that sort. As a candidate, one sees the difference clearly: virtually every voter who says he/she is voting for one party because of their allegiance to Christianity is voting Republican.

      I think it’s a con job. But that’s the situation. The Republican Party has ridden to power under the banner of Christianity, and the situation is entirely asymmetrical.

  8. Sorry, that last sentence looks a bit ambiguous now, David R. “Knowing when to keep one’s mouth shut and figuring out a way to do it without lying is doable” was NOT meant as a suggestion for you in any way. It was a generality added as further agreement with what you’d said.

    Larry

  9. from http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12536&cpage=1#comment-546541
    Andy said, “….[V]irtually every voter who says he/she is voting for one party because of their allegiance to Christianity is voting Republican…”

    True or not, I said nothing at all that conflicts with your statement.

    One can give different rationales for one’s behavior and not have it occur to one to mention, “Oh by the way, I’m a Christian just so you know.”

    Larry

  10. The Christian Movement with which I am most familiar these days is the silent-meeting Religious Society of Friends, aka Quakers. I admit we are a social minority, but we are active, and we do get respect. And we are Christians, at least many of us are–none are anti-Christian–and we are doing what we are doing because we are Christians or Christ followers.

    This is just one of the activities we engage in as a group, the national Friends Congressional Lobby (officially “Friends Committee on National Legislation” or “FCNL”, supported financially by varying voluntary group contributions from local Meetings all over the country. There are many local action groups that are at least somewhat coordinated, at least by the sharing of ideas, on other things such as action for the environment, a big one nowadays. There are also peace action committees that do other things besides lobbying Washington. We all listen to each other even though Friends in general are known for being wary of any blind following of leaders.

    Blind followers or not, I know that there are similar things going on with other Christian denominations, though I am not sure how many have their own registered lobbyists.

    I say that we count. Actually that is based on observation, not just wishful thinking on my part.

    I think I recall there being more Friends Meetings and Unitarian/Universalist and United Church of Christ Churches in the North than in the South. I can only wish you were here, David R, you and all your family. I think you might like one of those three at least. 🙂

    Larry

  11. How could I have forgotten? The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is our biggest national and international complex of action committees. I was actually on the board of one of the Middle Atlantic region for two years once upon a time, sent to represent and report back to my local Meeting. It was something to do with a farming project in Appalachia as I recall, though that might not have been the only thing.

    There ARE “true” Christian movements that count, to use your work, David R, movements where people agree that not lying is uppermost, and we/they really really mean it.

    Larry

  12. Well, you’ve just become even more famous, David R. I’ve just talked about you to a bunch of people with whom you are not acquainted, a wide variety of people, trust me on that one! Mainly this was to talk about my own two most recent posts just above this one.
    http://larryatblogspot.blogspot.com/2014/05/sent-51714-my-sort-of-christians.html

    If I said anything about you that you don’t think is true, David R, feel free to speak up, and I will fix it! This is all most interesting to me. There’s an address at the top of that page that you can use to write me privately.

    Thank you, Andy.

    Larry

  13. Back to the main topic, I am going to presume to add, with Andy’s permission of course, that another thing that some of the biggest Republican liars do that I object to is buying and equipping their own militias in foreign countries, not to mention some in our country. I guess that’s even better for some than owning their own football teams.

    Larry

  14. ANDY NOTES:The slaveholding class suffered from what Genevese described in his book Fatal Self-Deception. They showed a capacity to hold simultaneously completely contradictory beliefs, such as: that the slaves were happy, but also were a constant threat the revolt; that the slaves loved their masters, but that the masters were in danger of having their throats cut while they slept; etc.

    Holding stark contradictions in one’s mind, without evident awareness of their incompatibility, is a clear sign of an inner brokenness.

    Holding contradictions in one’s mind without awareness of their incompatibility, on an individual level, is a sign of a personality disorder whose fundamental quality is a lack of clear,stable, identity with integrity (or wholeness). One of the behavioral manifestations of this disorder is called ‘overvaluing’ (or undervaluing) of certain people or beliefs, and shifting values as one’s personal motivations and impulses shift. I expect that people with this personality disorder are especially vulnerable to this ‘sell’ to their self-interest.

  15. Richard H. Randall

    Thanks Gail. I am also interested in the term Andy is asking about. Philosophically, it seems like a case of ‘bad faith.’

  16. Did a little Googling and reading in Amazon’s sample of the Geneveses’ book but didn’t find a specific name I’d expect to find in the DSM-V.

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