Volume 19 Issue 3.
Whoosh! Suddenly there was blinking and beeping circling the earth. It was an unmanned Soviet Union spacecraft named Sputnik. The world froze in fear. The evil empire had captured the advantage in the race to outer space. The United States was in shock.
Our small country school had a special convocation to calm our nerves. This is true. Public education programs had already left us in great fear of the Soviet’s atomic bombs, the government was building bomb shelters and teaching students how to get under their desks to avoid nuclear fallout in case of an attack. Now we had Sputnik the satellite to worry about. Not to mention the UFOs and alien invasions. Flying saucers were being spotted everywhere. Capitalizing on the public’s obsession a certain toy company succeeding in making the Pluto Platter which became one of the nation’s top selling toys, now known as a Frisbee.
This period of the fifties is often referred to as the cold-war era or the Atomic Age. But for some young men at the time it was more about the flying saucers than the Soviet threat. How could the Soviets, we rationalized, ever compete with aliens from Mars? In this atmosphere my friend and I decided that we would stage a fake “saucer” landing.
Dennis and I burned a rather crude circle in the grass where we planned to allege that the “saucer” had landed. It was in a field near a small wood and a lazy Indiana stream flowed nearby. It was to be the perfect place for the touch down. We had a wheelbarrow full of tools, kerosene, lye, and other farm chemicals and worked hours creating our scam. We practiced our lies in order to keep our story straight. It was an elaborate fantasy, mostly plagiarized from the hundreds of comic books we had read. But we were certain it was fool proof. We laughed and imagined how smart we were. We became intoxicated on the idea that our tale would be featured on the news and our fame assured.
After a day of hard labor we just dropped the whole thing. I don’t recall a specific reason, other than boredom. But I have thought since that perhaps unintentionally, subconsciously we discovered the difficultly and the foulness of making a lie. The strange thing for me, at least is that I have never forgotten how with every step the whole scheme became increasingly more difficult. How incredulous to believe that such a childish stunt would have ever fooled anyone. The whole thing has stayed with me, even after fifty years. We did not merely lie about something out of fear or under pressure but rather we made a lie, conceived it, meditated upon it, planned it and conspired to execute it.
The making of a lie is serious business with serious consequences. As we are warned in Revelations 22:15, “For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
One of the most profound definitions for lying is given to us by Thomas Aquinas who states that, “lying is a statement at variance with the mind.” This definition supersedes more common ones we hear today because it strikes at the deeper implications that lying has upon the liar’s own mind. We often think of lying as damaging to the one deceived by the lie. This is true enough but lying in reality afflicts the liar even more. It condemns him. The Oxford Dictionary explains that a lie is, “an intentionally false statement.” Of course this is a proper definition, but it is more than that. A lie is a statement that not only attempts to deceive but as Aquinas points out, “is at variance with the mind.” It might be possible for someone who intended to lie, to perhaps unintentionally and unknowingly tell the truth but since his statement was at variance with his mind, according to Aquinas, he nevertheless lied.
The lying prophet, the lying parent, the lying businessman, the lying politicians, the lying teachers, the lying husbands and wives all play a role in the darkness and evil that is spreading upon this world. It must stop. Not only because it deceives but it diseases the spirit and the mind. It corrupts the heart. It leaves people, families, corporations and societies in a broken condition. It builds a culture of deceit and guilt.
As Christians we know that there is message of holiness and righteousness that is clearly revealed in the scripture. We know that there are definitive doctrines of salvation declared by the Apostles. We know what is right with respect to morals and Godliness. To speak contrary to these principles is to “be at variance with the mind.”
The flying saucer caper, had we attempted to execute it, would have made us the joke of the county coffee shop, a hoot for the local sheriffs – but for Dennis and me in that brief quixotic moment it was all so plausible. In the end however, we were at variance with our minds. Although I was just a lad and the prank was ill conceived and never came to fruition a certain embarrassment still lingers with me.
Our hope for revival may well depend on getting together the mind and the message. Conviction of heart leads to passion of spirit. The Apostles could not have turned the world upside down hiding Jesus. In fact, they declared Him, proclaimed Him and lifted Him up. They placed their own lives on the line. There was no bait and switch technique. The Apostles were didactically clear and left us with a heritage of certainty. In time true convictions are revealed and every generation must decide how they will resolve the unique challenges of their day- and if the mind is at a variance with action then lies are made. Over time the fame and euphoria found in saucer landing dreams or false doctrine schemes will fade and our hearts, our lives, our churches and our nation will be left with the crippling consequences of deceit.