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April 8, 2000
Column #971

TIME FOR TRUTH

     In 1989 after the Berlin Wall fell, I was in Prague for the last days of Communist Czechoslovakia. Every night a half million people gathered in 15 degree weather in Wenceslas Square to hear a playwright and later, President Vaclav Havel speak movingly about the corrupt government ruling the nation.

     The Czech crowd erupted in a chant: ''We Are Not Like Them! We Are Not Like Them!''

     ''A central defining feature of the Czech revolution - was the contrast between truth and lies,'' writes Os Guinness in a powerful, new slender volume, ''Time for Truth.'' People said of the Communist regime, ''They are people of lies and propaganda. ''We,'' the revolutionaries, ''are people of truth.''

     Similarly, the American Revolution began with those stirring words of the Declaration of Independence, ''We hold these truths to be self evident...''

     Today no truths are self-evident in America. Truth is relative.

     Edmund Morris, the official biographer of President Reagan who had unprecedented access to him, wrote ''Dutch,'' with himself as a fictional observer of the young Reagan.

     In a post-modern world, Guinness says the question is no longer, ''Is it true?'' but rather ''Whose truth is it?'' What has replaced genuine truth is ''a world of lies, hype and spin. Truth is dead and knowledge is power.''

     There is no better example than Bill Clinton who explained on national TV, that he didn't have ''sexual relations with that woman.'' It all ''depends on how you define alone,'' or ''what the meaning of the word is, is. Even The Washington Post had to conclude: ''It is difficult to find a single honest sentence in the factual defense of the perjury charge.''

     Guinness calls 1999 ''the year America learned to live with the lie. The Clinton/Lewinsky scandal became a profound crisis for truth in American public life as a trio of forces converged: a virtuoso liar of a president; his morally contorted supporters from his fellow Democrats to his wife, who in their support of him enabled him and demeaned themselves; and a largely confused and complacent public willing to become complicit in their own corruption.''

     Lies have consequences. Corrupt leaders spawn a degradation of the culture.

     The Parents Television Council reported last week that prime time references to oral sex soared from zero in the first four weeks 1989 to 20 in the same period of 1999. The February issue of Talk magazine reports that in dozens of interviews, teenagers acknowledge that ''oral sex - which in true Clintonian fashion, the kids don't think of as Real Sex, - begins considerably earlier than intercourse.'' The very first scene of the fall season's premier of ''Ally McBeal,'' features the title character having sex with a total stranger. Weird sex dominates Academy Award movies.

     Yet neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush have expressed any shock about the coarsening  culture, even though polls show that public's highest priority is for a ''restoration of moral values.''

     ''Vaporized by critical theories, twisted by ideologies, hollowed out and, replaced by psychological categories, obscured by clouds of euphemism and jargon, outpaced by rumor and hype, softened by mawkish sentiment parading as emotion, truth in America today is anything but marching on,'' writes Guinness, a man born in China, educated in England and now a U.S. citizen.

     What's the answer? At one level, mendacity will be found out. How long were Clinton's secrets, secret? More important, Scripture is an eternal source of truth. In 19 years of writing this column, I have always found secular evidence backs up the truth of Scripture.

      St. Paul wrote ''Flee fornication.'' Millions ignore this truth, at their peril.

     The result? A third of U.S. babies are now born out-of-wedlock. On the other hand, those who marry as virgins (there still are some) have lower divorce rates. Of virgins marrying in the 1960's, a University of Maryland study found only 30 percent are divorced. But of those who were sexually active, 50 percent lost their marriages. Of those who married 1980-83, only 14 percent of virgins were divorced by 1988, but 24 percent of nonvirgins.

     Thus, the sexually liberated are two-thirds more likely to divorce. 

     Guinness writes that 2000 years ago, Jesus declared his universal requirement for living free -- ''words that are fact for the poor and powerless no less than the beautiful, the rich and the important; for people of both genders, all races, every class and each generation:

     ''If you will stand by my teaching, you are truly my disciples; you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.''

Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus.

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