Did you know that Olive Garden is an awful joke of a restaurant and no one likes to eat there? That’s the impression you’d get from stand-up comedians and late night talk show hosts, yet most people I know like it. Their parking lot is always full so their business seems to be doing ok. Yet somehow, Olive Garden has become a target for jokes. I think one main reason is that people today don’t care if something is true or not, they just want to follow the trend and be in on the joke. So someone laughs off how bad Olive Garden is because other people did it, too.
This happened to Sarah Palin. This is not a political point and I’m not saying one thing or another about her politically. But this is about perception. Tina Fey famously impersonated her on Saturday Night Live during the 2008 campaign. Tina’s caricature of Palin said “I can see Russia from my house.” That is the quote people now often attribute to Palin. However, what Palin actually said was “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”
This kind of thing happens all the time in politics but also in simple things like movie quotes and song lyrics. It’s like the telephone game kids play where you whisper a message from one person to another and as it progresses, you find that the message has changed over time.
A famous movie quote regarding truth comes from Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!” His character’s take is that there are truths in life that we sometimes would rather not know about. We’d rather ignore them and go along with the popular perceptions, or keep our heads in the sand altogether.
The prophets in the Old Testament knew a lot about trying to speak truth to a people that preferred popular perceptions. They dealt with kings who only wanted to hear good fortunes, and people that only listened to what they wanted to hear. Not only did that problem extend to the New Testament era as well, but is a problem with humanity of any time period.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 says “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
I’m going to begin taking a look at some misquotes, misperceptions and myths about Jesus, the Bible and Christianity. I’m not a Bible scholar but I did do some study in college toward my pastoral degree and I’ve observed plenty of poor perception of Jesus and the Church. Some things are simple enough to look at the context in the Bible or dig deeper into the story and find the truth.
“You want answers?”
“I want the truth.”
“You can’t handle the truth!”
I’ll end with a somewhat funny one that happens in church. At least it’s funny to me. In the song “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” the last line of the first verse is “on earth is not his equal.” When this song is sung in church, you’ll inevitably find someone raise their hands or pump their fists in excitement. Yes! There is no equal to God on earth! Except, wait. Look at the lines just before that:
“For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe
his craft and power are great
and armed with cruel hate
on earth is not his equal”
That portion talks about our ancient foe: the devil! He seeks to work us woe, he’s crafty and armed with CRUEL HATE. That’s not God, that’s the devil. On earth, there is no equal to how incredibly evil, cruel and hateful the devil is. In contrast, the song describes how our God is greater. But those specific lines are describing the devil. I always get a kick out of someone raising their hands in worship…singing about how there is no greater evil on earth than the cruel hate of satan.