What is most interesting to me is this little nugget:
"Among Republicans, honesty is the exact inverse of popularity. Jeb Bush is the most honest, and he's got the lowest poll numbers among the serious candidates. Donald Trump and Ben Carson are the least honest by quite a bit, and they're also leading the field by quite a bit. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are in the middle on both honesty and popularity."As Drum says, "It's almost as if the Republican electorate wants to be lied to, and the more you lie, the more they like you."
If you distrust something published by the left leaning Mother Jones, a Fox News poll in November polled people on which candidates are honest vs. not honest. Ben Carson scored highest, at +34. Hillary Clinton, who came in at negative 28.
The question then arises: When someone talks about honesty, what do they mean by that word? Obviously the folks at Politifact have a different definition than the "1,230 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide" who responded to the Fox poll.
As I've read and listened to what's being written and said about the candidates, two distinct concepts of honesty keep popping up. They couldn't be more different.
The first approach to honesty is one I've heard over and over during this presidential campaign season, summarized succinctly in this quote:
“His honesty, he’s blunt, he tells it like it is...” (a Trump supporter, quoted at breitbart.com)That sentiment is spoken often about Donald Trump, but similar comments have been made in reference to other candidates as well.
At the other end of the spectrum is a comment made by Ashe Schow, on Observer.com. Schow is ranking the candidates after one of the GOP debates last October, and says this about Jeb Bush:
"Where he excelled: His answer to the very first question about his greatest weakness was more honest than any of the other candidates. He actually gave a weakness: He’s impatient, and the presidency calls for patience."Whatever you think of Jeb Bush or of that answer in particular, it certainly is an example of a much different definition of honesty. It was blunt in the sense that it didn't hold back. He did indeed "tell it like it is". But he was being blunt and to the point about his own weakness, not bluntly rude and scathing in pointing out the weakness of an opponent or a policy.
I'm not here to talk about the accuracy of either of those statements about the candidates' character, nor am I trying to build up or tear down any specific candidates.
My concern is about the definition of honesty, from a biblical point of view.
I've heard (and read on social media) several Christians use phrases "he tells it like it is" and "blunt" and "he really lets them have it" in describing the honesty they see in some candidates.
If these same Christians were preaching or teaching about Jesus as the Truth (as in, "I am the truth, the way, and the life"), would they use those words to describe Jesus' honesty? For that matter, even if you don't think of yourself as a preacher or teacher, but just a "regular Christian", is that the concept of honesty you talk about when you're sharing your faith with your friends and neighbors and co-workers?
One biblical character famously scoffed at the idea of a perfect standard for truth. "What is truth?" he famously asked. The words were spoken, of course, by a politician.
Some will (and have) objected: We're not electing a preacher-in-chief. We're electing a commander-in-chief.
Yes, that's true, but I would counter: There's only one definition of truth and honesty, and it should apply in your fishing boat on Saturday, in church on Sunday, in the office on Monday, and on the campaign trail, no matter what day it is. In season and out of season.
Many people fail miserably and many more fail occasionally to live up to the biblical concept of honesty. Many of those who fail are believers, like me.
The biblical concept of truth and honesty is defined by Jesus himself, the perfect example of honesty.
Was Jesus direct? Did he speak the truth even when it was unpopular? Did his honesty sometimes offend and upset people? Yes, yes, and yes, you'd better believe it.
Was Jesus ever rude or vulgar? Was Jesus sarcastic in his truth-telling, ridiculing people? Did he shade the truth in order to gain popularity? No, no, and no again.
Fellow believers, support whomever you will. Vote for whichever candidate you think will make the best president.
But please don't destroy your witness and lay down a political stumbling block for seekers by using the word "honesty" to describe any politician's dishonesty. Let's not praise the ones who practice deception by putting a self-serving spin on everything they say. And let's not praise the alternate flavor of deception, the ones who try to pass off rudeness and sarcasm as honesty.
Missional politics means always being more concerned about winning people to Christ rather than winning them to a political candidate or viewpoint. As I said in the current issue of Christian Standard magazine (Theology in the Public Square),
Have you considered whether your freedom of political expression might interfere with your ability to be heard when you talk about Jesus?When it comes to honesty, the mature Christian will avoid the craftiness of deceitful leaders and will instead speak the truth in love, just as Jesus did.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:14-15)