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The Big Lie

The Son of Man by Rene Magritte used in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair

The first Big Lie may have taken place in a Garden. Theologians have long debated the nature of that lie; was it only a “half truth”? When “Eve” took that bite of the “forbidden fruit” she did not die–at least not at first. Maybe the knowledge that she gained from that bite was the knowledge of her own mortality as well as the mortality of everyone she loved.

If the first Big Lie was a “half truth” it was an example of what the rabbis called “geneivat da’at” or “stealing knowledge”. “Stealing knowledge” is when you intentionally mislead someone by not being transparent or sharing all pertinent information at your disposal. The lie is not spoken; it is silent. “Push polling” or asking intentionally misleading questions are examples of “geneivat da’at”. (“If you knew that So and So embezzled money at their last job, would you still hire them?” Note, I did not say that they actually embezzled, I just planted a seed of doubt.)

The Big Lie is powerful because it shapes reality. If you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one, one that is wholly preposterous. Passionately repeat it over and over and over. In his 1925 book Mein Kompf Hitler wrote that the people would not believe that anyone would have the audacity to distort the truth “so infamously”. Joseph Goebbels perfected the Big Lie.

Jesus was aware of this kind of propaganda. He knew that we live in a fallen world. He warned his disciples–and those who take him seriously–to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. In other words, know how the world works but do not be corrupted by it. He showed us a different way, his way; the Way to Truth and to Life, real Life that begins Today and extends into Eternity and Beyond.

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