Just the Facts

In 1997, 14-year-old Nathan Zohner polled his classmates to see if they would support a ban on dihydrogen monoxide. Before they answered, he warned them of the dangers of DHMO.

Here are the facts: the chemical can be incredibly dangerous. Accidental inhalation, even in small quantities can be fatal. Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO can result in amputation. It is found in tumors, pesticides, and the cooling systems of nuclear power plants. It has been used by governments to torture suspects and disperse rioters. Many cults even have rituals that require this substance.

Despite these risks, DHMO is common even in food that has been labeled “organic,” household cleaners, and even swimming pools. After presenting his classmates with these facts, 43 of his 50 9th-grade peers voted to ban DHMO. How would you have voted?

If you voted to ban it, congratulations!

You voted to ban water.

Yes, dihydrogen monoxide is just plain ol’ high quality H2O.

Everything Zohner said was true, but misleading. Inhaling water is called drowning. Ice does cause frostbite. Water is in all of our food and most of our industrial systems, but you and I know that doesn’t mean it is terrifying.

Zohner’s little experiment has plenty of applications. We can be misled with true statements. Did you know that the devil quoted scripture to Jesus in Matthew 4? He used truth to lie. Peter warned that some people would do the same thing to scripture—twisting for destruction (2 Peter 3:14-18). Perhaps that’s why Paul told Timothy to “rightly handle” the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

So remember – when someone gives you “just the facts” (or the scriptures!), don’t forget to make sure those facts are telling the truth.

How We Can Guard the Truth

Print“How can you tell if a politician is lying?” “His lips are moving!”

How sad it is to live in a society where truth has been replaced by her more popular cousin, opinion, and few can tell the difference anymore. How sad it is to see that we have reached a time when we require fact checkers who then need fact checking of their own.

Andy Andrews researched the Holocaust and found a chilling question—and answer.

“How do you kill eleven million people?”

“Lie to them.”

When truth erodes, we will find its replacement incapable of bearing the weight of society.

Too often, though, Christians have understood “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” too narrowly. We have rightly complained about politicians who lie, media that spins, and cons who deceive, but often, we have failed to see our own contribution to the decay of truth.

Every time we gossip and repeat a story about someone in town, we erode the foundation of truth.

Every time we make an assumption about someone’s motives and tell it as fact, we undermine the foundation of truth.

Every time we forward an email or share a message about our political opponents that we didn’t verify, we mar our credibility.

Every time we cling to an old wives’ tale, a tradition, or a superstition when facts tell a different story, we are chasing truth’s shadow, not its substance.

Every time we quit listening to a person because we don’t like what they have to say, we might be muzzling the voice of truth.

Every time we naively accept what we hear without question, our faculties for identifying truth get a little bit weaker.

Every time we use a bad argument or bad evidence in service of a good point, we suggest that falsehood is better than truth.

Every time we exaggerate the story or caricaturize people who disagree with me, we make lies bigger and truth smaller.

Every time we place a higher burden of proof on the claims of others than we do ourselves, we relativize and trivialize truth.

Every time we refuse to be persuaded by valid and true evidence and reason, we build another door to lock truth behind and live in a world of hypocrisy.

Every time we make an accusation on the front page and print the retraction on the back page, we mute truth’s volume.

Every time we sweep our problems under the rug or stick our heads in the sand, we attempt to falsify reality and cover up the truth.

A friend once said that since Jesus is truth that sets us free (John 14:6, 8:32), we should love the truth so much that we wouldn’t misquote the devil.

Never forget that all the world’s sin and pain began with lies from the father of lies.

Do we really want to advance his work, even in a small way?

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson