In about two months, U.S. voters will head to the polls (if they don’t first drop their ballot in the mail). So, we are entering the final, busy dash of the campaign. But we are also entering a dangerous time in the campaign.
It’s been long said that a cornered rat is the one most likely to attack. That same principle seems to work with politicians scared they’re losing and believe they cannot win without playing dirty.
We’re entering that dangerous phase. Consider a few moments just from this week of intentional deception efforts that go well beyond simple misstatements or exaggerations:
- House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a man who has continued to rise in power despite his ties to White Supremacist groups, shared an attack video that took comments out of context and even manipulated footage to make a man with ALS appear to say something with his artificial voice that he didn’t say.
- The owner of a destroyed business in Kenosha, Wisconsin, refused to join President Donald Trump for a photo-op outside the ruins, claiming it would be an unhelpful “circus.” Undeterred by reality, Trump appeared with a former owner and inaccurately called the man the owner.
- The Trump campaign posted a deceptively-edited video that featured a clip of Joe Biden saying, “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” as if that’s something Biden actually believes. Instead, Biden actually said: “Trump and Pence are running on this, and I find it fascinating, quote: ‘You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.’ And what’s their proof? The violence we’re seeing in Donald Trump’s America.”
- A liberal viral Facebook post falsely claimed the vigilante shooter in Kenosha who killed two protesters is the son of a sheriff deputy in the city — an easily disproved claim that spreads misinformation and slander.
- The White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications shared an altered video that appears to show Biden being interviewed live on television but apparently falling asleep while the anchors try to wake him and laugh about it. The footage of the anchors is real, but the person on the split screen wasn’t Biden but singer Harry Belafonte.
- Trump retweeted a false claim started by a QAnon conspiracy theorist that the CDC had admitted that only 6% of people listed as dying from coronavirus actually died from the virus. But the fact remains the deadly virus has killed more than 180,000 Americans as government leaders failed to adequately respond.
And all of that’s just from the past week. The next two months could be pretty rough. After all, those deceptive videos racked up millions of views, which could inspire immoral politicians to keep at it just to win. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried a similar unethical move to unsuccessfully save his Democratic presidential hopes earlier this year with a deceptively-edited video to make him look like a good debater when he wasn’t.
While we cannot control the deliberate deceptions and outright lies put forth by politicians, we are responsible for what we share from them. It’s fine to have a disagreement over matters of opinion — like who is the best candidate or if a certain bill is good — but we don’t get to pick our own alternative facts.
Christians are to be people of truth because we follow the One who is the Truth. Our Father isn’t the “father of lies,” so we must not choose that darkness over the call to reflect the light.
When we share lies and deceptive videos on Facebook, we make the world a bit darker. When we prioritize helping our chosen party or candidate over Truth, we take a bit of light from world.
So, before sharing something on social media or in a conversation, double-check if it’s actually true. Look for real news sources, not anonymous blogs or biased websites. If we’re not sure something is true, then being quiet is a good option.
Given the active efforts to deceive people just to win votes, we should go through the rest of this campaign with a healthy position of skepticism. If something seems to wonderfully prove your politics — especially if it makes someone you don’t like seem absolutely horrible or dumb — then be especially suspicious. If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably not true (or good).
Let us also carefully consider our voting decisions as we watch how candidates behave. All candidates of both parties will exaggerate, mislead, and even lie. We should criticize them all when that happens and push them to do better. But when the rare candidate arises who doesn’t even care if they get facts right and who keep spouting lies even after being shown the facts, merely criticizing them isn’t enough. At some point our only option is to reject them and their immoral philosophy that the ends justify the means.
A candidate who will lie about just about anything and everything isn’t to be trusted. They may claim to agree with our politics, but how can we really trust them? If character matters — and I believe it still does — then that must include rejecting the worst offenders of that old commandment not to bear false witness.
The real danger over the next two months is that Christians will tarnish our gospel witness by helping the lies of the darkness. If Christians won’t stand for truth in this campaign, then who will? If we lose our saltiness, then what good are we anyway?