Lying for Jesus

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Lying for Jesus is a form of pious fraud which happens when some Christians believe that falsifying information is acceptable if that brings people to Jesus or somehow supports his historicity, saintliness or supposed godliness.

The practice has a long and venerable history in the Christian religions.


[edit] Lactantius

Early Christian author Lactantius (ca. 240 – ca. 320) -- along with his anti-Christian contemporary, Porphyry of Tyre (c. 234–c. 305) -- wildly exaggerated the stories of orgies and other forms of debauchery that 1st century Romans allegedly practiced. Oddly enough, many of these stories were based upon anti-religious critiques written by Romans in the 1st century.[1] Christian historians have used these stories ever since to emphasize what early Christians allegedly struggled against in their society.

[edit] Eusebius

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. AD 260 or 265 – 339 or 340), Emperor Constantine's bishop, is often presented as one of the earliest active advocates of the process:

How it may be lawful and fitting to use falsehood as a medicine, and for the benefit of those who want to be deceived.[2]

In reality, no evidence of Eusebius actually stating any such thing can be found. The quote actually comes from a chapter heading which Eusebius may have not written.[3]

That said, 19th century cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt dismissed Eusebius as "the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity". Ramsay MacMullen Dunham Professor of History and Classics cites Eusebius as an example “Hostile writings and discarded views were not recopied or passed on, or they were actively suppressed..., matters discreditable to the faith were to be consigned to silence."[4] Italian historian Arnaldo Dante Momigliano wrote that for Eusebius "chronology was something between an exact science and an instrument of propaganda"

Also evidence of Eusebius having issue can be found elsewhere.

In The History of the Church Eusebius claimed "It is also recorded that under Claudius, Philo came to Rome to have conversations with Peter, then preaching to the people there ... It is plain enough that he not only knew but welcomed with whole-hearted approval the apostolic men of his day, who it seems were of Hebrew stock and therefore, in the Jewish manner, still retained most of their ancient customs."[5] Logically if Philo talked to Peter and knew of the apostolic men of his day he would have written something about Jesus that the Christians would have preserved given it was "welcomed with whole-hearted approval" Yet in what the Christians preserved of Philo not one word about Peter or the apostolic men of his day much less Jesus is made. In fact, people even claim there was no reason for Philo to know anything about Jesus!

Eusebius is considered the most likely perpetrator of the probable tampering with Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, in particular the so-called "Testimonium Flavianum".

[edit] Martin Luther

As well as his documented belief that reason is faith's greatest enemy,[6] the founder of Protestantism also noted:

What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.[7]

[edit] Sectarianism

Different Christian sects are also quite often prepared to distort the position of other Christians whom they consider heretics. Wingnut Protestants' claims about Catholicism are a common recent example.

[edit] More recent Christian deceit

  • It is common for American evangelical Christians to claim the United States was founded as a Christian nation. The book "Liars for Jesus" by Chris Rodda details and refutes these claims. This one rests on even worse theological grounds than the above, as it has nearly zero chance of actually bringing souls to Christ, but hey, politics.
  • Dishonesty by creationists, particularly young Earth creationists (YEC), is well known and documented elsewhere; even at least one Christian acknowledges that it happens. YEC dishonesty simply demonstrates the lack of honest evidence for the YEC position.[8] There was a large amount of deceit surrounding Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.[9]
  • Misleading statistics were and are used by some conservative Christians to argue that gay men have shorter life expectancies than they really have.[10]
  • The photograph of Phan Thi Kim Phuc.[wp] Reverend John Plummer made a ton of money and was able to bring many, many people 'to Christ' by publicly claiming to have been involved in the attack shown in the famous picture. His story tended to change depending on who he was talking to about it — sometimes he was the pilot who dropped the napalm, sometimes he was the officer at headquarters who ordered the attack, sometimes he was the communications officer who coordinated the attack.... and so on. He actually had nothing whatsoever to do with the incident which occurred after most American forces had already left Vietnam. The attack was actually ordered and prosecuted entirely by the South Vietnamese military.
  • "Cassie said 'Yes!'" Cassie Bernall was one of the thirteen people killed in the Columbine High School massacre, and her death in particular was latched onto by conservative Christians (most notably her parents), who spun a story claiming that the killers asked her if she believed in God, and then murdered her after she replied in the affirmative. The truth was that the Columbine killers did ask another student, Valeen Schnurr, if she believed in God... but unfortunately for those looking for a Christian martyr, Schnurr survived the massacre.[11] The book She Said Yes is still being sold as non-fiction and generating money more than a decade after the claim was discovered to be false. Initially, the claim could have been perceived as an honest mistake, but repeating it after the truth behind the incident became known to the public is dishonest. The lie is so deeply entrenched in some peoples' minds that believers will sometimes go as far as threatening violence towards those who try to tell them what really happened.
  • Many, many claims by "ex-Satanists" at the height of the Satanic Panic of the '80s and early '90s. Mike Warnke, Michelle Smith, Lauren Stratford, John Todd, and Rebecca Brown were among those claiming to have left Satanism and become Christians, selling millions of books with their lurid stories about the "Satanic underground" and the Illuminati. Invariably, all of their claims turned out to have been made up, with the details of their lives as known to friends, family, co-workers, and schools conflicting with what they were preaching.
  • Bill Wiese's book '23 Minutes in Hell' is scare-tactic sensationalism at its best, and attempts to use Bill's experience (read: bald-faced lie) of visiting Hell to scare people into converting (and to make him filthy rich).

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Google Books page scan from the 2004 book Christianity and Roman Society by historian Gillian Clark.
  2. Translation by Gibbon, who really didn't like Eusebius.
  3. Roger Pearse (2010) Eusebius the Liar?
  4. Christianizing the Roman Empire: A.D 100-400, Ramsay MacMullen, p. 6, Yale University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-300-03642-6
  5. B. Hudson McLean (editor, 1993) Origins and method JSOT Press ISBN-13: 978-1850754411
  6. Martin Luther - Reason - faith's greatest enemy
  7. Sissela Bok, Lying: Moral Choice In Public and Private Life‎, New York: Pantheon Books, 1978, p. 47
  8. Creationist Lying for Jesus?
  9. Lying for Jesus?
  10. Lying about Gays for Jesus
  11. Rosin, Hanna. "Columbine Miracle: A Matter of Belief." The Washington Post, 14 October 1999. (As that article points out with some irony, a legitimate inspirational story could have been mined from Schnurr's actual experience. A girl affirming her faith in the face of death, and her potential killers turning away and letting her live, could have easily been spun as God protecting His followers from Satan's trenchcoat-clad minions. But that would've denied evangelicals a good martyrdom story.)
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