Vail Daily column: It’s simple: don’t lie |

Vail Daily column: It’s simple: don’t lie

Jack Van Ens

"Young Christians who speak dishonestly sink into shifting sand of telling white lies, fudging on facts and winking at half-truths," my boyhood preacher warned. Half-truths are pernicious because they are somewhat right but don't tell the whole story. My boyhood pastor drilled into us the ninth command Jews, Muslims and Christians are expected to obey, "You shall not bare false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16).

Simply stated: don't lie.

Did Jesus tell some whoppers, however, in the Sermon on the Mount? Using hyperbole, he instructed believers who lusted to gouge out eyes and amputate hands. "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out" and "if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away" (Matthew 5:29-30). I envied lefties who were spared Jesus' remedy for lust.

Later, I learned Jesus spoke metaphorically and expressed striking moral imperatives to rid minds of racy thoughts. He didn't expect hearers to lop off hands or gouge out eyes, as happened to blind King Lear.

Does Donald Trump, like the Roman officials, skew facts and misstate what happens because his brain is fixated on hyperbole? He consumes conspiracy theories and creates them. Adoring extravagant language, we get a president who believes what he already believes, even if it’s false.

Didn't Roman persecutors blunder after the first Palm Sunday because they confused hyperbole with facts? They heard a palm-branch waving, frenzied crowd shout at Jesus who entered Jerusalem riding a donkey, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Luke 19:38).

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This donkey rider is an insurrectionist, said the Romans and must be crucified. They bungled understanding Jesus' body language. In biblical culture, riding a donkey signified mounting a campaign for peace, not for political power-grabbing. Jesus' crucifiers didn't catch this metaphor's meaning about riding donkey, which made them appear as dumb asses.

Does Donald Trump, like the Roman officials, skew facts and misstate what happens because his brain is fixated on hyperbole? He consumes conspiracy theories and creates them. Adoring extravagant language, we get a president who believes what he already believes, even if it's false. The president seldom filters what's on his mind, letting it flow into a bilge of deceit. What remains is chaff composed of lies he gains from channel surfing before recklessly tweeting early morning falsehoods.

Trump's mind works as if it were a dull scythe hacking in the underbrush of what's untrue.

He contrived a conspiracy theory that our nation's first black president was born in Kenya and lacked an American birth certificate, which disqualified Obama's presidency. Then he fabricated another conspiracy theory that President Obama wire-tapped Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, since discredited as nonsense.

In both instances, Trump didn't apologize. Instead, he promised to release a trove of secret information that proved his lies weren't lies. Citizens wait for secret caches of information vindicating Trump to surface. Nothing is revealed.

The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board has had enough of Trump's baloney. Editors worry that he lacks credibility among world leaders caused by "his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.

"The latest example is Mr. Trump's refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet … that he had 'found out' [Barack] 'Obama had my wires tapped' in Trump Tower prior to the victory on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence" ("A President's Credibility," March 22, 2017, p. A-18).

President Trump is into sales big-time, lacing superlative lingo with promises to sell the number-one product — himself. Who cares if he fudges and shades what's factually evident? Using hyperbole lets a speaker cut corners.

This habit for fudging facts isn't a new Trump trait. Years ago, he divulged why he lies in "The Art of the Deal," ranked second in sales to the Bible, according to The Donald. Trump's ghostwriter has him affirm, "I play to people's fantasies" and a "little hyperbole never hurts."

Yes, lots of hyperbole causes hoopla, but like taking too much cod liver oil, it makes discerning listeners wince.

Staff member Kellyanne Conway gets the president's habitual use of hyperbole. She supported White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who sputtered some easily disproved claims the press investigated as bald lies. Conway dubbed Spicer's original insights as "alternative facts."

Chuck Todd, host of "Meet the Press," had the temerity to respond, showing contempt for fibbing, prevaricating and shaving the truth. "Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods," Todd thundered as if he were a contemporary Moses reciting the Ninth Commandment against lying.

Trump's loyalists wink at his lies and give him a pass. He's captivated by superlatives. He uses extravagant rhetoric for us to take seriously, not literally. He masters hyperbole.

These are excuses, lies to cover for a liar. They elevate deceit and undercut decent conversation.

The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (, which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God's history come alive.

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