There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government. ––Benjamin Franklin
To set the table about a discussion of dishonesty and the exhaustion it causes: Those of us who run, ride and swim have all done insane workouts and participated in crazy race conditions. In my case, that winter session of 28 X 400 meters repeats (80 sec. each) on a rural road in the middle of winter comes to mind. So does the 15-mile Midnight Madness Race that started and ended in the dark of night.
I’ve ridden bikes until there was nothing left in the tank. Been bonked beaten up by lactic acid. The only thing left to do is pedal home at whatever rate you can manage. There’s a form of honesty in that. Let’s not forget either… those exhaustingly windy days where the sheer wear and tear of air roaring past your ears makes you want to stop and scream. Been there, done that too.
Admittedly I have far less experience suffering in the pool or open water. But swimming is plenty exhausting in any situation, especially when you’re just starting out. Here’s a fact: All these experiences teach us patience in this world, and how to deal with frustration and develop perseverance.
The exhaustion of dishonesty
But nothing on earth is more exhausting than dealing with dishonest people. I was quite stunned in thinking about this topic to go online and Google the subject of dealing with dishonest people. I found an entire menu of artfully crafted memes describing the pain that dishonesty causes in this world.
I’ll share just one because it describes the current atmosphere of public and political discourse these days. It describes the cognitive dissonance required to maintain a permanent seal of dishonesty.
This describes many types of ideology, but for illustration’s sake, let’s consider the cause of one particularly dishonest type of worldview. That is the outlook of creationism, the idea that the Bible in its literal form is superior to science on theories about the origins of the universe. This is belief system is held by 35% plus of people in America, and it explains much of the reason that a parallel proportion of people in this country embrace political dishonesty as well. They are willingly and aggressively deceived by the desire to own the narrative for themselves.
The problem with creationism is that it begins with a premise of bad theology. That is, the act of defending God by writ of some highly limited interpretation of scripture. But if God is real and all-knowing, and scripture is God-breathed, then creationism is an absolute insult to the deity it professes to defend. Why does God need defending? Only for purposes of human control.
To also brand bad theology a “science” is beyond absurd. There is no practical use for creationism other than as a denial of actual science. That’s literally all it does. The creationist worldview is an apologetic that not only lies about the material origin of all things living and dead, it steadfastly steals and cherry-picks snippets from actual science pose as a scientific-sounding theory. No aspect of creationism can be tested or proven by any standard of applied scientific method, because it call comes back to “God did it.” No one can test that claim. Yet this brand of tautology is what people seek to impose upon the world in place of practical fields of study ranging from biology to geology, paleontology to physics, and from medicine to technology. Creationism aggressively denies all these fields of human knowlege as dishonestly human attempts to deny the truth of the Bible as the absolute authority on all things in existence, and how they work. This is the lie and damage caused by bad theology. It doesn’t end there.
The final, and most exhausting claim of all, is that challenging these errant claims of bad theology beliefs is an infringement on the “religious freedom” of those who espouse them and try to impose them on others through public policy.
That effort is exacerbated by the application of biblical literalism to a mountain of other social issues such as women’s rights, gay rights, racial equality, environmental conservation and regulation of financial interests according to law. These are the bulwarks of America’s culture wars, and religious zealots have formed political alliances to assist them in imposing their beliefs, and by proxy, dominate the nation. We can throw in the irony of gun control and the conflated issue of abortion (while at the same time banning birth control, go figure…) and the exhausting paradox of dishonest theology is a plague without end.
The realm of dishonest public discourse includes the politically diseased ideology that America was founded as a Christian nation. That’s a claim made by religious zealots seeking to impose the bad theology of biblical literalism on history, ignoring the fact that it is literally corrupted Bible verses that justified slavery, approved genocide of Native Americans, founded Manifest Destiny and to this day fuel racist, militant militias marching on American streets today. Nothing sets evil loose on the world like corrupted religion unleashed.
Hitler’s Pet Project
On a worldwide scale, bad theology plays a deadly game of chicken with the truth. It has long made accusations that the theory of evolution was responsible for the Holocaust, conveniently forgetting that Adolf Hitler clearly stated, in defense of killing six million Jews and other targets of his hate, that “We are not doing anything that Christians have not been doing for 1500 years.”
Yet despite this actual history of religion’s damage to democracy and human equality as a cause, it loves to project its supposed values as absolute principles favored by the Founding Fathers. These were the same people who wrote the Separation Clause to avoid the ugly specter of theocracy taking over the Republic.
Yes, it is exhausting work fighting the gaslighting of the world by people who are dishonest in their religious worldview and eager to use it in leveraging votes and influence. They deny the true sources of evil in order to gain power for their own tribal instincts.
That has made me realize that we are running a race that cannot be completed. We are engaged in a battle that cannot be won. Instead, we are like characters in the play No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre, locked in a room for eternity without a door for escape. At any time, two people in the room hate and conspire against the other one. Quite sadly, that is the latter-day truth of “Hell is other people.” It surely feels like that these days.
If what the Book of Genesis says is true, the “world” is a fallen place not because Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation, but because a legalistic Serpent acting out the role of a religious advisor took control of their destinies and convinced them they would never die if they bought into the promise that the Serpent knew what was good for them. Does that sound vaguely familiar to anyone?
We are left, as a result, with a lifelong effort to outstrip and outrace evil in a “fallen world” created by those who least abide in the principles that provide salvation from that fate. This is a struggle to the end of time, whatever that means.
What that really means is that the existentialism that we studied in college was right all along. The “irreversibility of time” is a fact of our existence. We can’t go back to fix our mistakes. Nor can we predict the future, as apocalyptic Bible-beaters love to claim. They’ve taken to applying the bad theology of reverse literalism; the Book of Revelations, Daniel and other cryptic literature, to invent from whole cloth a false belief in the Rapture to force a fatalistic worldview on all of reality. This is the worst kind of bad theology because it erases hope, replacing it with a literalistic notion that the “new world” to come is a physical place. It is not. The “new world” is instead realized following the principles of God to produce an entirely new reality based on the belief that love drives out evil. That is what cures the selfish greed of worldliness.
Schemes and dreams
But people get rich off turning religious beliefs into wealth-generating schemes. Televangelists tell people to send money to their ministries before even feeding themselves. That’s how dishonest people operate. They claim their selfish purposes are those of God, or the Market, or some pro football team. People cheat to win.
So much winning based on so much dishonesty. It draws in so many radically conflicted, confused believers who “stay honest to their dishonesty.” Then they force or coerce other people to abide with corrupt interests through force of their power or position in society. Jesus branded these types a “brood of vipers” and “hypocrites” for their sins of power. The worst among us spit in the face of that call to repentance.
That will to flaunt power and claim glory explains the times we’re in, and why it is so exhausting to be alive these days. As mentioned, it wasn’t much different two thousand years ago when Jesus challenged the legalistic, tradition-wrought system of religious authority that he saw corrupting and abusing people, especially the meek, the needy and those struggling for hope in this world.
But the dishonest never care about that population or the state of the world around them. That is true even when people who rank among the most needy are caught in those circumstances. They are manipulated by promises from the wealthy and powerful that they can get one rung above the people they hate by stomping on the people one run down on the ladder of social status. They’ll even follow the leader to their death in the “cheat to win” philosophy. All wars are based on that psychology.
That’s not what Jesus or America has ever been about. It’s quite the opposite really. Both the Bible and the Constitution speak to a world of equality if we take the time to read the symbolic merit of the words contained within.
Dishonest people never take the time to figure all that out, and they seldom take “no” for an answer. They have lazy minds and look for a quick fix. As a result, they’re always busying themselves worshipping Golden Idols and demanding their own set of Kings and Queens to rule over them. As the Bible shares, God often grants them those wishes whether it is good for them or not. That typically leads to utter ruin. Among this brand of believers and followers, few actually embrace or welcome the true spiritual growth that comes through accepting equality in the world. They would rather try to win than humbly accept their neighbors.
We see it in the workplace too, where fearful people twist the truth and manipulate or seek power over others to suit their own needs. We see it in families as well, when sibling rivalries and other needless conflicts result in estrangement. It happens every day. Most typically it is the result of one sort of dishonesty or another.
It is truly exhausting to realize all this. But you are not alone in wondering why and how it all happens. That is why it is more important than ever to stay the course. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (1 Timothy 4:7). If we learn anything from our running, riding, and swimming, it is that nothing worth gaining comes easily.
First and foremost, be honest with yourself in all respects, whenever you can. Second of all, seek out people who are also honest. Be eagerly cautious with what you consume in both volume and source, and test the truth of it. Be courageous when you sense the truth is threatened, and seek help when evil or difficulty surrounds you. That is where the meaning of true faith emerges. If there is a Kingdom of God, it resides therein.
You know all this from experience. You’ve chosen to go through hardships willingly, and endured unwilling situations the best you can. Character emerges through the passage of time and instinct. Learn to trust yourself and respect, progress and love will follow, like a shadow of your soul.
The purity of the moment is made through the absence of time–Cheik Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure