Kevin’s Conversations: “Christian” Charlatans
Normally by this time of the week in my writing, I’m refining my article (i.e. trying to make my rough wordy mess at least semi-palatable for the reader) shortly before sending it off to Michael. Being that this is another one of those “I don’t know what to write about” weeks, I’m grasping for something of worth or interest. Of course, the latest terrorist bombing just happened, but I don’t have the words to address it and Michael has already spoken well on the tragedy. And no other grand topic has taken hold of my writing fancy. So this one may be a good bit shorter than my norm (but maybe not by too much, now that I’m done and came back to add this comment 🙂 ).
As a kid, we once had a former NFL football player come speak at our church. Or so we we were led to believe he was a former NFL player. I don’t really remember the man’s name (maybe it was something like Eric White), nor what his ministry was, nor do I remember much of anything he said. In fact, the only thing I can recall him saying at the moment was that he had played for the Buffalo Bills. At some later point, our church learned that this man had, in fact, never played in the NFL.
I was not devastated by any means to find this out, but was certainly disappointed. As a kid, it was neat to see this big former NFL player come out to speak at our relatively little country church. That feeling was lost when finding out the guy had misrepresented who he was and had deceived us about his playing career. Some may not have been phased much at all by his original appearance or the later finding of truth, while others may have been negatively impacted much more strongly.
Now this was before the days of the internet and Google. Over time, there probably have been plenty of Christian frauds who substantially misrepresented themselves and their credentials. Some, such as this so-called NFL player and others like Mike Warnke, were eventually caught in their lies and deceptions. Plenty of others may have made it through their entire lives without ever having been uncovered publicly.
In today’s world, it would take much more effort and skill to carry out such a ruse. Yet, and maybe it’s not to the same degree of overarching deception, but I read at Warren Throckmorton’s blog, among other places, of famous Christians who claim PhD’s and other degrees and titles when they have nothing more than empty honorary degrees from schools of dubious standing for which they did little to no work to gain their “degree”. I was reminded of this scenario once again when Throckmorton posted about General Jerry Boykin being the latest to engage in such a shenanigan.
The shame is, there is seemingly little concern in the Christian community for such folly, most especially among those who are followers of those who have been “outed”. David Barton is the prime example here. Throckmorton has been quite persistent in documenting Barton’s claim of having an earned doctorate, when that doctorate is nothing of such in reality. Yet, only those who already recognize Barton for his tomfoolery seem to care. It is difficult to find much of a peep on the matter from those who are supporters.
How much potential damage may occur when these things are just brushed to the side? When they are treated as miniscule indescretions of scant concern? How much damage may we, ourselves, cause when we engage in the same type of behavior? Maybe we’re not lying about fake PhD’s or about having played in the NFL, but how often do we give false impressions about ourselves or tell little white lies to make ourselves or our intelligence or our standing in life look a little bit better? When we may exaggerate just that needed little bit to give ourselves that extra oomph of appearance and/or persuasion. When we may use some “minor” misrepresentation or deception to give that extra edge to get what we want or to win the argument.
We may justify what we do by claiming no real harm or foul. But how do we know that in just the right circumstance, our conduct may not end up having a significant detrimental effect? How do those followers of David Barton who are aware of some, if not many of his difficulties, know that their continued support of the man may not have a meaningful negative effect? How does a preacher going around with a false claim of being a former NFL football player think that this is an acceptable act? How do we get to decide that getting what we want or winning the argument or achieving the desired ends justifies whatever level of trickery we may use to get there? When is it okay to just look the other way when we see others acting as such, especially when done so by higher profile people?
May God help us to stand in right behavior and trust that His good will for us and others will be achieved without us helping along the process to get what we want with dubious practices.