We Lost the Surprise Somewhere

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

I remember watching Mayberry RFD and related shows most of my childhood. Poor ignorant Gomer Pyle who worked as an auto mechanic was a notable character. But I can still recall my shock when I found out that Jim Nabors, who played Gomer, could sing -- not casually, but with a full rich baritone voice suitable for an opera singer. It was such a disconnect to hear this cultured voice coming from a man I had seen as a loveable fool for so many years.

I was thinking of this in a Bible study the other night. The verse we read was: "Excellent speech is not becoming to a fool, much less lying lips to a prince" (Proverbs 17:7). You just would not expect a fool to stand up and deliver a soliloquy in the voice of a Shakespearean actor. It is so out of character that your mind rejects the very thought. This leads us to the second half, it should be just as out of character of a leader of people to lie.

Now some of you are probably snorting. Our world is filled with lying politicians! Finding an honest one is so hard that people assume that it is just a character mark of the trade. We expect our leaders to lie to us and then we grumble about it because they do. But perhaps we get lying leaders simply because we expect it.

It wasn't always this way. Children were told tales of George Washington who was so honest that even as a child he would not tell a lie about chopping down a cherry tree. Abraham Lincoln was nicknamed "Honest Abe." One of the reasons attributed to George Bush, Sr.'s failure to get re-elected is because he promised no new taxes, but then compromised and signed some into law anyway. I remember the hubbub that arose when someone pointed out that Bill Clinton was telling lies. At first, the response was "How dare you accuse the president of lying!" But as the evidence mounted, the response shifted to "Everyone lies, especially politicians." The newspapers printed stories of past leaders who had told lies with the conclusion that our current politicians are keeping up the tradition.

But the truth is that lying leaders is no more an accepted thought than smart-sounding fools. If we don't trust those who lead, can we really follow?

Sadly, this situation won't be corrected until people once again find it disconcerting to even consider that a nation's leader would lie. And we can demand from our leaders what we don't demand from ourselves.

"The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment" (Proverbs 12:19).

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