The Mandelson controversy has thankfully moved off into an enquiry, where they can address the question of whether he lied or not. Once again, the lie seems to be the most unforgivable sin in British society. We appear to have a model which says, Most of the time we are truthful but occasionally people lie, and then the public gets rightfully indignant. But this model ignores the fact that lies are a much more normal part of our routine than most of us admit. Recently some academic friends were discussing folding down the corner of a paper near the staple so it looked as though you had read the paper when you hadn't. Lies don't have to be verbal. They can be lying actions.
Or lying images. There's a whole industry manufacturing them: making us look virile, youthful or very sincere, when we're not. Even buildings lie. There are fake beams, Georgian makeovers, pretend stone walls and doors that can't open. The cathedrals where carvings were done to perfection in places where nobody but God could see them, are definitely a thing of the past.
Then there's 'institutional lying'. Corporate advertising and public relations are scarcely prostrate before the truth. And some newspapers who talk up the lies of politicians, are themselves unrepentantly libellous.
Only the new-born escape it, and sadly, not for long. This week our first grandchild was born, Zadok Storkey. And as we looked at the dear little fellow, in his crib, at peace with God and the world, we saw the sheer beauty of a face without guile and without deceit. For the rest of us, the issue is whether there is any place where we can be completely without guile or deceit; where the lies can be exposed and drop away. If there is, it could be a place of terror, but surely also of great relief; a place where we can know and be known, where we are searched and readily give up the stolen goods.
We can't find that place on our own for it's a spiritual issue and we're part of the problem. We need the psalmist's prayer:
'You search me, O God and know my heart;
you test me and see if there is any offensive way in me.'
When lying is so ingrained in our culture, it takes no less than God to see through liars and open us up into ways of truth.