The Readings for the Feast of the Holy Innocents:
Si dixerimus quoniam societatem habemus cum eo, et in tenebris ambulamus, mentimur, et veritatem non facimus.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.
I’m reading (or listening to, rather) Archbishop Chaput’s Strangers in a Strange Land and I’ll do a full review when I’m done, but tonight, just before writing this… there’s a portion of the book where the Author discusses M. Scott Peck’s The People of the Lie. Without getting too deep into the chapter, Peck’s point (or, rather, my take on Chaput’s take on Peck’s point) is that as we become used to telling lies, and lies to cover lies, and lies to justify lies, and lies to get by, and lies to get ahead, and lies to just get through the day, we become inured to this constant stream of lies. All parts of our culture are based on it and we cave in. We lose touch with the concept of truth, with reality, we just keep going deeper into lies.
The Holy Innocents are the result of a culture of lies.
Herod was known for his tantrums, his extravagances, and his insanity. It’s said that when he died he left orders to have pious elders killed so that people would at least seem to be in mourning for him.
Why did no one say stop when he gave the order to slaughter the babies of Bethlehem? Everyone was too tied up in their power games, in keeping clear of the king’s sword, in staying out of prison, that they decided – long before the Bethlehem orders came through – to just go along with it all. Sooner or later he’d be gone and one could live one’s life in peace. Right. Even the Magi got caught at first, giving out too many bits of info because they thought Herod was a pious Jew. Yes, killing the babies was bad, but Herod didn’t hold all the swords alone.
Why did no one stop Hitler? This question was Reagan’s bogeyman. Reagan imagined a nation of “Good Germans” who were only misled by the Madman. But everyone wasn’t misled: the Madman was elected, freely, three times before he became a dictator. People knew what they were doing. Yes, killing Gypsies, Gays, Jews, Communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, and women who slept with any of these… all bad. But Hitler had more than a little help.
The icon above gets used as a symbol for the problem of Abortion in our country, and in the west in general. But abortion is only the capital sin, right? It’s not the root. A lot ot little sins lead up to it: unrestrained sexual passion, attempting to justify some or another form of illicit sexual activity, selfishness, greed, laziness, lust. What about institutionalized poverty, people saying you should get an abortion, what about experts, family members, and even counselors pushing the mother this way? Why ever ignore all that and focus on the thing at the end of this chain? Yes, killing the baby is bad, but the bad started a long time before.
Peck says our biggest lie that we tell to ourselves, over and over, is “I’m doing the right thing here” even when we know it’s a lie. I’ve wrestled with this from the time I was 12 and Mom told me to pretend to be 10 so I could get an half-priced ticket on an airline. It’s right to oney Mom, right? I wrestled with it working in retail when people would walk up to me and, to my face, tell a lie and ask for money back. One lady called from LA and said her friends all got free service on our site and she wanted it too. I said we don’t have free service. And she said, “Are you calling my friends liars? They are sitting here with me.” And I said, “Yes”. She hung up. We are an amazing people.
We have a liar for a president – although he’s not the first, he certainly is very blatant about it. We have politicians who lie and we insist that “my side” is telling the truth but the other side is always lying. We have Catholics and Orthodox who can’t tolerate a bad thing being said about their right wing politics so they brand everyone else as sexual and political deviants – including their own religious leaders. We have gobbledygook spouted as gospel truth by clergy and professional websites.
We have a culture of lies. When we lie, it may not hurt, it may not bother anyone: but our soul dies a little. Teacher says every time I tell a lie a baby dies. And, quite possibly, Rachel will weep at the end for our actions too.