Friday, July 8, 2011

Web Of Lies. . . Lies On The Web. . . .

This week's news makes us think about lies. Former Major-Leaguer Roger Clemens is in court facing charges of lying to Congress. You watch the video tapes of Clemens and his accusers recounting markedly different stories, and you know that at least one of them is lying. Everyone, however, tells their stories with deep conviction on their faces and in their voices. Who do you believe?

Casey Anthony's acquittal on all charges except for lying offer another high-profile example of how easy it is for people to lie, lie, and lie again. Anthony and members of her family have lied over and over again. That's the truth.

We live in a culture that seems to have embraced lying as a way of life. I'm not sure we're at the point where lying is seen as a virtue, but it certainly isn't a vice. . . at least not if you can do it and not get caught. This cultural reality has combined with our deceit-prone sinfulness (yep, we all live with that as an ever-present tenant) and our emerging virtual world in a mix that's made fertile ground for lies, lies, and more lies.

My reading and research this last week and for several weeks prior has taken me through a stack of books cataloging the blessings and curses of life in the online age. I just finished reading Daniel J. Lohrmann's book "Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web." Lohrmann is an award-winning computer security expert who also happens to be a Christian. His book plays off our ever-present fear of Identity Theft to warn us about the more insidious and sneaky thief a thief we oftentimes welcome - who steals our integrity. Lohrmann lays out the many ways that "Integrity Theft" takes place in the digital age.

The first paragraph of the book's intro says it all: "Tim excelled at work and his colleagues and staff trusted him. But one day Tim's executive assistant accidentally discovered that he was running a questionable online business during office hours. For weeks, Agnes tried to ignore her boss's behavior, but she couldn't live with herself. Agnes anonymously reported him to security. Once caught, Tim lied to cover up his activities. When faced with undeniable evidence, he blamed others. One lie led to another until he was deemed untrustworthy. Tim resigned just before he was fired." Lohrmann goes on to write about this new "e-morality" that is rapidly emerging.

It's stories like these - and we will all be encountering them first-hand sooner or later - that should cause us to look to God for standards to which we must commit ourselves, to develop healthy online boundaries and habits, and to teach our kids - who will know no other culture and world than the one they've been born into - the difference between right and wrong.

Perhaps we should embrace and meditate on these words from Proverbs: "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight" (12:22).

Perhaps we should think seriously about the consequences of falsehood that we encounter in stories like those of Anthony, Clemens, and Tim.

Perhaps we should consider the darkness of our own hearts and how easy it is to NOT tell the truth, especially when it's easy to use the Internet to pose as someone else, market ourselves, or even remake ourselves over just a little bit in an image that's not who we really are.

Perhaps we all need someone or a group of someones to always be looking over our shoulder, ready to call us out if we're dipping our toes into dangerous waters.

Lohrmann gets it right when he says that there is "an extraordinary increase in the number of temptations we face in cyberspace. New seductions are clearly packaged as 'innovative opportunities' that are really appeals to engage in unproductive, harmful, and even immoral activities online. . . . our trustworthiness, character, and even religious beliefs are ultimately at stake. Regardless of the relative ease of clicking on a link, your online actions are affecting every area of your life."

If Christ is truly the Lord of every square inch of our existence, then His Lordship must extend over every square inch of the rapidly growing digital frontier. And, our every exploratory step must scream "Glory to God!"

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