Liar, liar, pants on fire,
hanging from a telephone wire.
I always assumed it was the liar who’s pants were on fire in this children’s rhyme. It’s the liar who ends up hanging from the telephone wire, right?
But I’ve started to wonder, could it be that we’re the one with smoking pants in a precarious situation? The liar isn’t the one about to be consumed by flames. We are. Because we believed the lies, we are the smoking ones strung out across a great divide.
The liar is the one slowly cutting the telephone wire while shouting falsehoods to us:
Wow, you look amazing up there.
Where there’s smoke, there’s hardly ever fire. Just relax.
Smell? No, I don’t smell anything burning. Must be your imagination.
But the intensity of the flames in the last 36 months has left me taking a hard look at all the deceptive, grandiose talk. And I’m left wanting to shout back:
Hey you’re a big, fat liar, liar! Why didn’t you tell us our pants were on fire? Were you really content to just leave us swinging from our belt loops on simple telephone wire believing all sorts of lies? You didn’t think for one moment it would be a good idea to blow the smoke out of our eyes and reveal the truth!?
Then again, what exactly would I see if I had clear vision? Would I see an apocalypse? I’ve heard people use the term more frequently since 2020. Are they liars?
Maybe not. The word apocalypse comes from the Greek word apokaluptein. The ‘apo’ means ‘un’ and kaluptein’ means ‘to cover’. So taken together, apocalypse means to uncover or to reveal.
Is that what’s happening right now?
I want to close my eyes and rage and wail, but I also feel like I need to see. To soberly evaluate. To bear witness to the way some of the popular notions around me have been uncovered, often with great violence and suffering, and reveal nothing but a smoking pile of cloth and wire.
For example, it’s been said in the 21st century that highly contagious diseases like SARS and Ebola only happen in “dirty” countries.
Well, somebody lied because the dirt on top of 1,000,000+ graves of Covid victims in the United States proves otherwise.
And it’s been said, “Racism in America ended in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed.” And if it didn’t end then, racism dissipated sometime in the 70s, right? And if it didn’t end then, it must have ended in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected President.
Except that The Ferguson Report says otherwise.
Except that George Floyd’s final words say otherwise.
Except that Charlottesville, Charleston, and Buffalo say otherwise.
Except that people and incidents I want to ignore in my own hometown tell me racism still burns in America.
It’s been said for my entire lifetime, “If only Roe v Wade can be overturned.”
Then… what? More Americans will embrace a more pro-life culture?
American mothers and babies will have more peace, security, and support?
American voters will desire more “Christian” legislation and policies like this?
Instead I see anger, fear, and bitterness and I wonder if the pro-life movement really got what it wanted. Yes, I am pro-life. Yes, I want life, abundant life, from womb to tomb. But I grieve how we got here.
Our God is like a protective mama bear, a comforting mother hen, a delicate knitter, a nurturing mum, a tender shepherdess overflowing with mercy, compassion, faithfulness, and abounding love.
If that truth got compromised along the way, then “wins” are still losses. The ends don’t justify the means.
It’s been said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
In the aftermath of Uvalde, we now know this is entirely a lie.
At Robb Elementary, the ratio wasn’t 1:1 or even 1:10. It was 1:376.
1 bad guy.
376 good guys.
21 lives, including 19 4th-graders, ended violently.
But the even uglier truth is that the NRA has known for years that this is a lie, yet they still perpetuated it. At its own conventions, where the “good” guys with guns significantly outnumber the “bad” guys with guns, they don’t allow anyone to carry or conceal a gun during the keynote speeches. Why not?
Because bullets don’t care about ratios. One “bad” guy bullet, even if it’s followed up by 100 “good” guy bullets, can still kill your high school sweetheart of 24-years or a 10-year-old boy who makes coffee and leaves notes for his grandparents every morning or a shy, nature-loving tomboy.
The NRA knows the truth and yet, to a nation blazing with gun violence, they lie and deceive.
They want us to believe “We’re so divided we can’t possibly find common ground on (fill in your favorite political issue).”
But actually, that’s a lie too. The vast majority of Americans (different surveys have different percentages but all show it’s a majority) are in favor of measures to ensure commonsense, responsible gun ownership.
And it doesn’t end there. The vast majority of Americans are in favor of a commonsense immigration process, a refugee program that is both welcoming and secure, a healthcare system that is available to all and affordable to all, and the list goes on.
More unites us than divides us, but that wire of truth gets quickly obscured by political smoke and fire.
Speaking of politics, it’s been said “The 2020 presidential election was stolen.”
Some are still saying this today, but the list has grown tellingly short. The last couple of months have unveiled that it hasn’t just been Democrats who are calling this allegation false, it is Republican officials, judges, and administrators alongside the President’s own family, friends, appointees, advisors, and campaign officials who say this is a lie.
You name it—investigations, lawsuits, hearings, recounts—all reveal that there is no evidence of widespread fraud.
But the truth is even more damning.
Recordings from the president’s own chief strategist declare that “Trump’s plan, to falsely claim victory in 2020 no matter what the facts actually were, was premeditated. Perhaps worse, Donald Trump believed he could convince his voters to buy it, whether he had any actual evidence of fraud or not.”
In a country that believes in laws, due process, and equal justice for all, one man told the nation that all didn’t apply to him. He deliberately played his supporters for the fool.
And he hasn’t let up. His caustic rhetoric continues to pound away at the heart of the U.S. republic: “Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation were it threatened. They would put their lives and their freedom at stake to protect her. And he is preying on their patriotism. He is preying on their sense of justice.”
Our nation is filled with great men and women who, in the middle of a blitzkrieg, would willingly try to walk across a telephone wire to defend our constitution and our freedoms. The commander-in-chief asked and continues to ask them to do so for an outright falsehood.
It was all a premeditated sham.
The American voters were lied to.
Speaking of national officials, it’s been said by Roman Emperors, British Prime Ministers, and US Presidents that “to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”
Only it seems to me that there is no actual peace through preparation.
The Afghans know this. The Iraqis know this. The Palestinians and Israelis know this. And now the Ukrainians know it’s all lies.
There are no red lines.
There are no security guarantees.
There is no such thing as “Never again.”
There is only nuclear blackmail. If you’re a country with nukes, you can invade, terrorize, and murder, all while holding up the nuclear weapons card.
And although the US wants to claim the high moral ground on this issue, we proved culpable of repeatedly making hollow promises ourselves.
Of all the lies, this one grieves me the most. “Never again” will only ever be all bark and no teeth this side of heaven. All my anger at the atrocities on Ukrainian soil will not put the boundary line back. We are all smoldering souls who need saving from ourselves after centuries of crusades, campaigns, and conflict.
It’s been said, “Sexual abuse is a much bigger problem for the Catholic church than it is for (insert my favorite denomination here).”
The testimony from thousand of women and children who have been abused and assaulted in organizations ranging from SBC churches, Mars Hill campuses, Christian magazines, evangelical organizations, and Christian camps proves that power and control corrupt pews and pulpits of every stripe.
No denomination has a record clean enough to cast the first stone.
But what makes this lie all the more infuriating is that “Shepherds” knew about the abuse—some for decades—but claimed the victims themselves were the liars. The leaders who professed to follow the Father of Lights actually kept camp with the Father of Lies.
They knew the truth, but still they deceived.
And even after all this apocalyptic fire, we still have the audacity to say things like, “You do you.”
Well, maybe not if you’re abusive, belligerent, callous, divisive, explosive, fearful, greedy, hateful, idolatrous, judgmental, a know-it-all, lustful, malicious, narcissistic, oppressive, prideful, quick to anger, rude, selfish, tight-fisted, unforgiving, vengeful, without self-control, xenophobic, yellow-bellied, or zealous for power.
On any given day, I’m at least two or five or ten of these, so “you do you” is only going to fan the flames of conflict around me. If it is a flourishing life I seek, then I must see this for what it is—another lie.
Nearly every week seems to bring another apocalypse—the cover lifted off a new scandal or lie. And I have been the one to say:
my pants are on fire!
I’m hanging from a telephone wire of falsehoods
because you didn’t think the truth mattered.
At least that’s my initial retort. It shifts the blame. My getting deceived is not my fault.
But that too is a kind of deception: self-deception. I’m partially responsible for the flames. The smokey mirage is appealing.
If the lie is true, then I can be satisfied with superficial platitudes. I can double-down on my righteous indignation without reevaluating my stance. I can step around the hard work of making peace, seeking true justice, and becoming a good neighbor.
But the choice to stubbornly hope my wire-swinging will be fast enough to cool my red-hot pants does not hold much appeal any longer.
In this moment I feel the need to douse the flames with lament and saturate them with humility. To unhook my belt loops from the wire and instead, bear witness to the way light is breaking into the darkness.
It was said two thousand years ago by a man claiming to be the Son of God, “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.“
“Nothing” is quite a sobering word. Not a thing. Not one secret, not one lie, not one selfish-greedy-arrogant motive that finds futile ground in my heart will stay hidden.
Let she who is without lying lips cast the first flame.
Lord, have mercy.