Some Thoughts on Lies, Deceit and Gaslighting

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Russian President Vladimir Putin with Canadian Prime Minister Justian Trudeau at the Paris Peace Forum, Nov. 11, 2018 (Photo: Office of the Russian Presidency)

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, my academic studies centered on international relations, politics and government and I spent a good chunk of my working life using what I learned in those studies to report on political affairs, foreign relations and related topics here in Israel and the wider Middle East. Something that my studies most definitely did not prepare me for was the degree to which lies, deceit and gaslighting are used as tools of statecraft in this part of the world.

In fact, one of the most difficult things about reporting on events in the Middle East is to strike a balance between being obedient to the commands given in several Biblical passages to show the appropriate respect for “kings”(governments) and “all those in positions of authority” and being truthful when those kings and governing authorities were unashamedly and obviously lying through their teeth.

The last couple of weeks have given some examples of this which were startling even for a seasoned veteran of this routine like me, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau very deliberately created (and endlessly repeated) a false narrative about the convoy of truckers who came to Ottawa to protest against his government’s policies for managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whatever one might think about the truckers, they were a group of tax-paying citizens who had every right to protest against their governments’ actions (and failures to act) and Trudeau knew that. He also knew that, as an elected official, he had an obligation to show them a certain amount of respect and treat the situation with a certain degree of decorum.

But instead, he seized on the fact that a small group of white supremacists waving Nazi flags had attached themselves (without  being invited) to the larger group of protesters to characterize the entire protest as a white supremacist event, and thus undeserving of his prime ministerial attention. To say that this was perniciously wicked and evil would be an understatement. But, dear reader, you could probably be forgiven if you’d already forgotten all about that stuff because of some infinitely more wicked and evil behavior by another world leader in the days since then.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his army and air force across the border of his neighboring country of Ukraine two and a half weeks ago in a totally unprovoked attack. That’s bad enough, but the bone shatteringly absurd lies he and his henchman have told to try and justify this unprovoked attack make it even worse.

Putin is perfectly aware of the fact that Ukraine didn’t pose a military/security threat to Russia. He also knows that Ukraine’s government is elected and includes many Jewish people. But he also knows that within Ukrainian society there are elements who subscribe to a Neo-fascist ideology, and (not unlike what Justin Trudeau did) he has pointed to these groups (most of whom are little more than heavily armed street gangs and who certainly aren’t part of the elected government of Ukraine) as forces which threaten Russia’s security and who were, in fact, poised to attack Russia itself, forcing the Russian Army to carry out a pre-emptive attack in self-defense.

These examples of lies, deceit and gaslighting by the political leaders of Canada and Russia are on display for all the world to see, but as horrifying as they are, they are only the most highly visible examples of these phenomena.

Sadly, lies deceit and gaslighting are used shamelessly by many of “those in authority” in order to bully, intimidate, manipulate and use those over whom they have power. It happens in the business world, it happens in the academic world  and it happens (a lot) within families.

It is my sad duty to inform you, gentle reader, that this even happens in Christian circles, including para-church organizations and ministries. The need for expedient solutions to difficult problems often means that questions about what’s true and what’s not, what’s fair and what’s not and even what’s right and what’s wrong are disregarded because those who are in positions of authority and responsibility don’t want to take the time and effort necessary to sort it all out.

In Charismatic circles there is sometimes a compounding evil, when a leader is called out on a blatant lie they’re peddling and instead of admitting that they’re being dishonest that leader indignantly responds that the victim of their deceit is “questioning the discernment” of the leader who is telling a lie. That takes things a step beyond merely abusing the position of authority God has placed them in, which would be bad enough if that’s as far as it went. I am no theological expert, but I think the God described in my Bible would take a particularly dim view of such actions. 

It’s not as bad as attacking a neighboring country and then saying you didn’t, and even if you did, you had every good reason to, but it’s pretty bad. In fact, in some ways it’s worse, because the lies, deceit and gaslighting employed by political leaders like Trudeau and Putin can be explained, if not excused, as being in the toolkit of the head of state in a major world power playing for high stakes in the natural world and not believing in any power higher than themselves.

But can anything excuse such behavior by a leader in a Christian ministry?

Brothers and sisters, please hear me.

If you are a pastor (I know many pastors read these blogs because I hear from them about it) or if you are the leader of a ministry or even just the head of your own household, you need to know that the truth matters to God. 

It matters a whole awful lot. 

He expects those who bear His name to place a higher value on truth than on expediency. If you can’t trust Him to bless your ministry, congregation, family or whatever if you stay faithful to the truth then maybe you should consider the possibility that you’re not the right person to be in that position of authority. If you worry so much about money and/or prestige, influence or “relationships” with Orthodox rabbis, or any other carnal, unsaved person or group, that you’re willing to ignore or even compromise the truth in order to keep those things, then you’re making a big mistake.

Employing lies, deceit and gaslighting as a way of controlling people, gaining temporal advantages or even just avoiding headaches and hassles is not acceptable to Him. As we watch the world descending into a moral abyss in which lies, deceit and gaslighting are becoming more and more commonplace and acceptable as tools for pursuing one’s interests and/or avoid accepting responsibilities, we who claim the name of Jesus Christ can and must distinguish ourselves by eschewing these practices, regardless of the cost. If we use lies, deceit and gaslighting just like those of unbelief, why should anyone want what we have? Why would anyone see any reason to take seriously the Gospel we claim to live by?

That’s just kind of my little public service announcement for the week.

I hope reading this blog blessed your life, and if it convicted you and/or motivated you to repent of your wickedness and turn from your evil ways, so much the better.