“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
Aesop's Fables contains many stories, but perhaps the most repeated one is the boy who cried wolf. You likely know this story of a young shepherd watching the sheep who had cried wolf and drawn the villagers out to protect the sheep, yet there was no wolf. The boy found humor in the panic of his neighbors to come out and help. After they had been fooled 3-4 times the neighbors grew tired of the boys trickery. As you likely know, a time came when there was a wolf eating the sheep and the boy's cries for help were ignored by the neighbors and the wolf had himself a nice meal, or perhaps many nice meals. The fable ends with these words, "There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth."
In virtually every culture since the beginning of time there have been "boys" who cried wolf or yelled "fire" in a movie theatre. Many were not motivated by humor; instead, they are motivated by a particular political or social agenda. Some are motivated by what appear to be honorable goals. In fact, those are the ones I want to address here. In recent days there have been many cries of injustice. Some have related to birth control for women, racism by police forces, income inequality, and more. There is no doubt that injustices occur in a fallen world, it would be ridiculous to say otherwise. Moreover, it should be remembered that God is a god of justice and government along with the church are His instruments in this fallen world.
However, when claims of injustice are made, if they are not valid claims, they serve only to increase injustice. Most claims of injustice include both a person or group who are the alleged perpetrators and the alleged victims. If the claim of injustice turns out to be false, the alleged perpetrator becomes the victim. While some may scoff at the significance of this potential turnabout, Proverbs 22:1 reminds us that "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." The loss of integrity to false accusations could cause great harm, and usually does. Three players on the Duke lacrosse team in 2006 were accused of rape. Later these accusations were found to be false, but as a result of the accusations, the team was suspended for two games and ultimately the rest of the season and the coach was forced to resign. What was accomplished by the accuser in this case? Perhaps 15 minutes of fame was the goal, if so, goal reached. Unfortunately her claim of rape is still remembered every time some woman claims rape, her false claim casts doubt not only on her, but on every woman who makes that claim, especially against an athlete or well known person. The results of a false claim of injustice are tragic. In the story of the boy who called wolf, great harm was done because the boy had improperly claimed a wolf was eating the flock when indeed it wasn't. The harm did not come immediately, it came later when an actual wolf appeared.
Accusations of injustice are serious claims whether they are criminal or social. Some, like New Testament scholar Stephen Mott, claim that in order for justice to be accomplished, partiality towards the oppressed and the poor is appropriate (Biblical Ethics and Social Change, 53). Mott's arguments are problematic on several fronts, but this blog post will not dive into all of them. Needless to say, this is a gross misunderstanding of justice in general, and it does not consider all the appropriate biblical texts. In the middle of Leviticus (the book everyone likes to skip when they read the Bible) is a great passage about justice. It says, "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly" (19:15). It further reminds the reader not to slander, lie, deceive, hate, etc. When false accusations of injustice are made, all of the previous commands are broken.
When opportunistic people with political agendas come along and claim injustice before acquiring all the facts they are exactly like the boy crying wolf. Racism is a horrendous evil, but false claims of racism cause people to turn a deaf ear when real racism strikes. Rape is a horrendous evil, but when false claims of rape are made it causes people to turn a deaf ear when real rape occurs. The same could be said about adultery, child abuse, and all sorts of other evils. Justice is not partial towards anyone and it ought to be dependent upon facts, not false claims by a media looking for a story that will get ratings. In the midst of media hype, ratings, and all the rest, don't be gullible, don't believe everything you read or hear, think critically, examine the claims closely, and, above all, don't perpetuate the problem by crying wolf.
Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop's Fables (p. 31). Amazon Digital Services, Inc..
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.