The Peripatetic Preacher. The Big Lie Lives

The Peripatetic Preacher. The Big Lie Lives July 7, 2021

Fully seven months after the November, 2020 presidential election, and the resounding victory of Joe Biden over Donald Trump, both in the Electoral College and in the popular vote, at least 1/3 of US Americans still cling to the big lie that Trump in reality won the election. It was in fact “stolen” from him by a cadre of antifa, socialistic Democratic, Black Lives Matter activist, baby-killing Clintonians, or something like that! It is in short a mad, deranged lie, kept alive primarily by the chief instigator himself, Donald J. Trump, the one-term 45th president, who whenever he emerges from his Florida (or New York) compound never fails to spout this foolishness in the ears of those who astonishingly agree with him, indeed who seem to worship at the Trumpian altar without shame or argument. Some of these devotees hold fast to the ridiculous belief that sometime in August, 2021, Trump will be reinstated as president, following the discovery of absolute proof that the election had indeed been stolen, and that Trump was still (and forever?) our president. This is all fanciful nonsense, the very essence of demented thought, the classic example of a Big Lie.

History is replete with such big lies. It might well be admitted that nearly every generation of people is faced with such a lie, sometimes rather bigger than others. Hitler lied about the Jews and their influence, and brought about their near-extermination from the planet. Stalin lied about his enemies, which surrounded him from all sides, he imagined, a series of lies that led to the deaths of millions of innocent people. Mao prescribed a series of Five- Year Leaps forward, and millions of his citizens died of starvation. During the Reign of Terror that began with the revolution against the French aristocracy, lies permeated the nation and Madame La Guillotine got a bloody workout. And so it goes, century after century, millennium after millennium; the big lie is ubiquitous among humanity.

This is true even in our Bible, which records both directly and indirectly examples of the Big Lie. I have been reviewing the history of Israel, and have thought again about the events that led up to the most important time in their history, namely the exile of the people of Judah into Babylon. For nearly six centuries (by the most common accounting) the people of YHWH had lived in what we know as Israel, that approximately 100-mile strip of land bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Jordan River on the east. But finally in the 6th century BCE, the jig was up. Early in that century, the huge Babylonian empire, centered in the land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, set its sights on this tiny land, now reduced mainly to a much-reduced Judah and Jerusalem, a way-station on the way to the fabled land of Egypt. The king of Judah late in the  7th century was Johoiachim, an Egyptian puppet king, propped up by Pharaoh Necco. Jehoiachim was in reality one of Josiah’s sons, named Eliakim, but the pharaoh changed his name to Johoiachim, perhaps as a sign that his reign was not in fact an Israelite but an Egyptian one: Eliakim means something like “May El establish,” with El being the common name for the deity in west Semitic languages, while Jehoiachin means “YHWH rises up.” The latter name is more obviously an Israelite one, suggesting that Necco wanted to give at least the appearance that his puppet was a genuine Israelite, despite his obvious complete control by the Egyptians. Thus, the name change itself was also a lie. This king reigned over Judah for 11 years (2 Kings 23:36); during the last three of those years the politics of the region changed radically, as the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar took control of the area and forced Jehoiachim to become his vassal.

Foolishly, Jehoiachim rebelled against the powerful Babylonian warrior-king, and died, perhaps in the subsequent fighting in the years 598/597 BCE, though there is no clear record of the reason for the king’s death. Nor is there any clear reason given for the king’s ridiculous and doomed rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. However, we can be more than certain that it rested on one Big Lie or another. Perhaps some Egyptian advisors, eager to confront the all-conquering Babylonian and recover their hegemony over Judah, convinced Jehoiachim that with pluck and grit they could still defeat the mighty warlord. And perhaps they trotted out a series of ancient oracles from various prophets who had predicted the early defeat and death of the hated Babylonians. For example, see the predictions of Hananiah in Jer.28 that loudly claimed that whatever exile there might be would be brief. The control of Nebuchadnezzar could not last; YHWH had willed it! How wrong he was! His Big Lie was nothing more than that. 

This lie was followed by another one, a lie that led to much darker consequences. After Jehoiachim’s death, Nebuchadnezzar placed his son, Jehoiachin, on the Judean throne, and, following the action of Necco, changed his throne name to Zedekiah, a name meaning either “YHWH is my righteousness” or “YHWH is my salvation.” That name is once again a classic Israelite religious name, giving a pious face to the obviously Babylonian puppet. Puppet or not, like his father before him, Zedekiah foments a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:20), certainly based on a lie from the prophetic past or from the conviction that the Babylonian might still be beaten in battle by a coalition arrayed against him. That hope proves vain, when Zedekiah in 587BCE, fleeing from Jerusalem through the encircling siege of Nebuchadnezzar, is captured with his fellow rebels, and forced to watch the brutal murders of his sons just before he is blinded by the enraged Babylonian (2 Kings 25:7). The rest of 2 Kings 25 describes in grim detail the ransacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s personal body guard, Nebuzaradan, especially the complete destruction and pillaging of the temple, down to the gold and silver implements and the vast array of bronze objects, from the capitals of the pillars to the huge Bronze Sea in front of the entrance.

All of this mayhem was based on a Big Lie. The prophet Jeremiah had warned Judah again and again that YHWH had determined that Jerusalem’s end in exile was certain and lengthy. Better to give up that doomed struggle than to fight an unconquerable foe. But the Big Lie won out, and the city was destroyed. 

Of course, one cannot say that if Jeremiah had been heard that the end of Judah and Jerusalem might have been avoided, but the Big Lie assured that the end would be final and deeply traumatic. I suggest that US America is standing at a similar crossroads today. Trump’s Big Lie must be attacked, humiliated, and defeated if the forces of true democracy are to win the day. History has warned us repeatedly that the Big Lie is always available and is a huge temptation for many who succumb to its wiles. The facts are clear: Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and decisively. Every recount and every court case has made that fact an absolute certainty. The Big Lie is just that, a big and dangerous lie that threatens all of us with anarchy and mayhem; the January 6 attack on our capitol is proof enough of that danger. It is far past time to deny and repudiate this latest Big Lie. May it die the death of all such lies in our history, consigned to that venerable trash heap where it surely belongs.


(Images from Wikimedia Commons)

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