Lies, Damned Lies, and a Spirit of Confusion

“He is a liar and the father of lies,” said Jesus of Satan (John 8:44). They who are committed to holiness must be committed to clarity of intention and speech: “Let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil” (Matthew 5:37).

The lie is the distinguishing feature of evil, because of its self-devouring commitment to what is not: it is an inner vacuity. Shakespeare’s villain Parolles identifies himself as a “corrupter of words,” and the sardonic Porter in Macbeth remarks wryly upon the liar who equivocates his way down the primrose path to perdition.

Orwell’s dystopian regime in 1984 rests upon a ground floor of terror and violence, but its bedrock foundation is the lie: witness the hero Winston Smith’s work at the “Ministry of Truth,” sending precious archival materials down the “memory hole,” where they will be lost forever. It is why Dante situates fraud below violence in the Inferno’s decrepit descent into non-being and idiocy; so we find the giant Nimrod, builder of the heaven-aspiring Tower of Babel, sputtering gibberish, and the consummate liar Satan uttering not a single word, but telling the same old lie again and again with every flap of his bat-like wings, “I rise by my own power.”

The result is, literally, confusion—pouring together, a disorderly mélange, a chaos. I believe, in our day, that we see this linguistic and moral confusion in almost everything that is uttered about the subjects that have us most perplexed: man and woman; marriage and children.

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