April 8, 2000
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
''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
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
Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus.