Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter

As I read yesterday of Kellyanne Conway’s defense of the “alternative facts” used by the Trump administration, I found myself humming “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie,” that squishy old romance song from my high school days. I remember it in part because when I did a “favorite song” survey for the “Oak Barks” school newspaper, as a new frosh reporter, English teacher Genevie [sic] Hamilton told me that it was her favorite. A love song? Mrs. Hamilton? That seemed very strange to me.

Here are the words, as I remember them, without resort to the Google machine:

Be sure it’s true when you say I love you. It’s a sin to tell a lie. Millions of hearts have been broken, just because these words were spoken: “I love you, yes I do, I love you. If you break my heart I’ll die.” So be sure it’s true, when you say I love you. It’s a sin to tell a lie. [1]

Mrs. Hamilton was not exactly a romantic, except when it came to poetry. In fact, despite her purple dresses and upswept graying hair and lace collars, she was sort of scary. So I think she was sending a message to the whole school, through the universally read “Oak Barks,” and its widely acclaimed intrepid freshman reporter: If you lie, I’m going to get you, because that is a sin. [2]

In addition to “alternative facts,” one of the popular ways these days of avoiding real facts is by saying, “It’s a matter of opinion.” No, not everything is a matter of opinion. If I say cherry pie is better than apple and you say apple is better, yes, that’s a matter of opinion. If I say that 2 plus 2 equals 17, that’s just wrong. If I keep insisting that 2 + 2 = 17 is “a difference of opinion,” I am lying. I tried to convince math teachers Alva Cato and Marlin Kell, and physics teacher Kenneth Robinson, that my opinion was as good as theirs, but it didn’t work. Except for pie. Not for pi. 

It is correct to call a lie a sin because truth is not just a church category. It’s the most important category for family, school, business, law, and any other area of civilization. Sin breaks relationships, makes trust impossible. That’s why a lie is a sin. You can call a lie “an alternative fact,” but it still breaks relationship, makes trust impossible, and that makes relationships impossible. A lie isn’t just a lie; it’s a sin.

The memories of old people are often just opinions, but we should know this by now: Be sure it’s true when you say… anything…


I tweet as yooper1721.

1] I did use the Google Machine for this information: The song was written in 1936 by Billy Mayhew and popularized by Fats Waller. I did not check the lyrics, so if I got them wrong, it’s not a lie or even an alternative fact, just a bad memory.

2] Okay, “universally read” and “widely acclaimed” are probably alternative facts.

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