In a Start Trek: The Next Generation episode titled, “Chain of Command II,” Picard, captain of the Enterprise, is held captive by a Cardassian inquisitor. Picard is shown four lights and told to say he sees five. Every time he says there are four, he experiences growing levels of torture. The Cardassian torturer hates Picard and is interested in what he knows, not a certain number of lights. The torturer wants Picard to lie, not for the sake of lying, but because the lie becomes his victory over Picard’s defenses, and eventually, his own soul. The number of lights is not what is at stake. The loss of Picard’s courage and integrity is.
The episode is hard to watch but ends well, with Picard finally yelling, “There are four lights!” He retains his integrity despite the deprivation and torture. His enemy did not crack his soul.
I was reminded of this Star Trak episode during the confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson for the US Supreme Court. Brown Jackson holds all kinds of bizarre, unethical, and unscientific views, but maybe the most dramatic moment came when she was asked by Senator Blackburn to define the term, “woman.” Brown Jackson replied that she could not. She is not a biologist, she said, so she cannot give a good definition of what a woman is.
This conversation is situated in a tumultuous cultural context in which more cultural institutions, and not a few individuals, are declaring that trans women are women, not men, and affirming non sequiturs like, “men can menstruate”. Part of what makes these trends so noteworthy and alarming, is that now, an individual vying for the highest court in the land, repeated the lie.
Why on earth are these transparent lies so important to a certain group of people? Why are they affirmed over and over again in the face of reality, science, and common sense? It is not trite to say that a four-year-old knows the differences between boys and girls. Why does a trained justice claim that she does not?
Why on earth are these transparent lies so important to a certain group of people? Why are they affirmed over and over again in the face of reality, science, and common sense?Tweet
It is not new to say that politicians lie. People up for elections or important confirmations will bend the truth to get elected or confirmed. But this is different for several important reasons. Political lies have obvious and utilitarian ends: more votes, more money, more popularity, more power, new job. These lies about what constitutes “male” and “female” are different. One set of lies becomes a matter of “fact-checking” and arguing in articles and on social media, the other turns into canceling and censorship very quickly. Political lies can be countered either through media or at the ballot box. The other kinds of lies carry a totalitarian weight to them that intends to put anxiety and fear into the minds of those who disagree.
The lie KBJ told is of the second kind. It is obviously false, but major media outlets were quick to come to her defense by trotting out pundits who were willing to whole-heartedly repeat the lie, others who accused dissenters of racism, and other so-called experts who confidently told us that science agrees that the differences between men and women are not a clear as we would think. And the number of pastors who whole-heartedly endorsed her is embarrassing. There is an atmosphere to this kind of lie. It becomes a heavy blanket, a dark cloud. Disagreeing with it means bearing the weight of the spirit of the age as it presses against you.
I am left wondering, why all the lies? The answer is dramatized in the Star Trek episode we discussed: the number of lights does not matter. Getting you to admit a lie as truth is what matters.
Paraphrasing Alexander Solzhenitsyn, there is a pattern to totalitarian lies: hear the lie, accept the lie, repeat the lie, believe the lie, and finally become indistinguishable from the lie. If people in power can get the masses to follow along and promote their lies, they own the masses.
There is a pattern to totalitarian lies: hear the lie, accept the lie, repeat the lie, believe the lie, and finally become indistinguishable from the lie.Tweet
The chief value, however, of the secret or conspiratory societies’ organizational structure and moral standards for purposes of mass organization does not even lie in the inherent guarantees of unconditional belonging and loyalty, and organizational manifestation of unquestioned hostility to the outside world, but in their unsurpassed capacity to establish and safeguard the fictitious world through consistent lying.Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harvest Book Book 244) (p. 382). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.
The chief value, she writes, in belonging to the “in crowd” (being Woke) is in the power’s ability to fabricate a false reality through repetitive lying. They need you to do their bidding, and they know how to make you do it. She goes on to say:
A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harvest Book Book 244) (p. 382). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.
This is another way of describing what is call the “Mass Effect”. People in power separate individuals from one another, make them suspicious of each other, create a sense of free-floating anxiety, and viola, masses of people are ready to believe anything.
One more from Arendt for good measure:
The elite is not composed of ideologists; its members’ whole education is aimed at abolishing their capacity for distinguishing between truth and falsehood, between reality and fiction.Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harvest Book Book 244) (p. 385). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.
The follower of Jesus Christ has a natural immunity to these kinds of things, or rather, they should have it. Our God is the God of all reality and all truth. He is the God who created all things, which includes not just stars and whales, but men and women, rationality, and the rules of logic. To deny something as rooted in our creation as the male-female distinction is to deny the only difference God created in the human race.
The Christian believes that truth matters – what Francis Schaefer called “true truth”. Jesus tells his disciples that if they follow him and hear his word, they will know the truth and the truth will set them free (John 8:31-32). We are called to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), and “put away falsehood” and “speak the truth with [our] neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25). The disciple of Christ is oriented toward truth. They care about the truth because it both leads us to Christ and heals the human soul. The more a disciple soaks themselves in the truth, the more distasteful falsehood and lies become to them. The more accustomed you become to breathing fresh air, the more you are repulsed by foul stench.
The more a disciple soaks themselves in the truth, the more distasteful falsehood and lies become to them. The more accustomed you become to breathing fresh air, the more you are repulsed by foul stench.Tweet
Disciples do not react to KBJ’s kinds of lies with a version of, “well, that’s interesting”, or, “maybe she knows something I don’t know”. We see it for what it is and refuse to repeat it or countenance it. Then, we speak the truth hoping that others are freed from these lies.
And along the way we know that the truth is better than lies. Individuals genuinely struggling with gender dysphoria are not helped by falsehoods. There are much better ways to help individuals who struggle with their biological and psychological identities. Children are harmed, not helped, by Queer Theory being taught in schools. Truth, while it is sometimes a hard pill to swallow, always liberates in the end.
I cover this issues in a little greater detail in about the first 50-60 minutes of this teaching: