Oh, Zion! Dear Zion!
I have a lush novel planned–full of carnivals and music and beautiful girls slow dancing with their young men on moonlit patios. In the broader landscape described here, kindly old men will give sing-song sermons full of teary-eyed spiritual assurance. It will all be set to a big, swelling chorus, and everyone will feel the glory of being soldiers in an army–an army bent on building, and defending, that glorious city on a hill.
But every chapter will end with the words, “and the sun set one more night on the big, glorious lie.”
I have no desire to pick a quarrel with my own people, but more than four decades ago, as a nineteen year old, I broke with five generations of my own family and decided that no matter how warm the carnival felt, I just didn’t believe the ancient Hebrews once colonized the Americas, that a New York farm boy translated new scripture from gold plates found in a hill, and that someday, if I was really good, I would colonize my own world, as a god, with my own plural wives. We simply could not, I reasoned, be a “chosen people” on the basis of such wild storytelling.
After leaving “Zion,” I came to understand that my own problem was not peculiar to Mormons or Mormonism. I rushed into the seeming respectability of a Stanford education, and I could tell many stories about how many lies are built right into the foundation of modern academics, but I’m thinking just now about a friend of mine who was lured up to a San Francisco apartment, by a Stanford faculty member, to explore the “glories” of man-to-young-man-sex. I was told nothing happened, but I can still remember my friend shaking his head and saying, “can you even imagine a faculty member doing that to a freshman?” This was also the era of biologist Paul Ehrlich, who kept assuring the world there would be mass famines in the 1990s if we didn’t reduce population growth — a laughably bad prediction that never caused the false prophet any trouble, because “less people on earth” was an article of faith, like today’s “less carbon dioxide in the air.” Any sloppy paper, any false mathematical model, can be justified by virtue of cherished faith in the commonly adored lie.
We live in a sea of deception and false assumptions, folks, a fallen world full of wheat and tares. I participated in this just yesterday, by sharing as the truth a parody account tweet; it more or less confirmed my view of Planned Parenthood, and I bought the lie without even questioning the source. We absolutely swim in lies, both the ones that fool us, and the ones we defend.
You would think — given the depressing nature of finding out how wrong we are on so many fronts — that when the shining truth reveals itself, we would all rush towards the brilliant light. Sure, some of us would be embarrassed by having been fooled, but knowing the truth, the absolute truth, would be something like a cleansing, right? We can move forward, can’t we, when we abandon a lie? We can find more truth, armed with the truth?
Not so fast. One day, as a graduate student in Iowa, the radio dial landed on a station coming out of Salt Lake City. The announcer let me know I was about to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As the music soared, I clenched my jaw and fought back the tears. (“..and should we die before our journey’s through, all is well, all is well..”) So much of my childhood, so many of my loved ones, so much of my history was built on a set of charismatic stories that couldn’t be examined too closely. The whole multi-billion dollar edifice might fall, and along with it, far worse, we would lose a shared myth, a glorious lie that gave us all heart. Some of the sweetest, most hard-working, generous people I knew would see their homes, and foundations, ripped from the very ground by the cruel tornado of truth.
The truth isn’t always easy to embrace. Sometimes it costs you everything — homes, jobs, the affection of family.
So we shouldn’t be surprised by an FBI that has forsaken the truth and turned itself into an instrument of partisan terror. We shouldn’t be surprised when Hillary Clinton isn’t prosecuted for compromising state secrets and Donald Trump is terrorized for attempting to preserve the historical record. We shouldn’t be shocked when young doctors paying off student loans simply do what they’re told, and double-down on “vaccine” safety when all cause mortality sky-rockets and young men are stricken with myocarditis. A lot of folks would lose their jobs, their power, and their standing if the lie isn’t defended at all costs. Many of our once trusted institutions are now acting more like religions in the service of a central, glorious lie: “The FBI is about justice,” “We run fair elections,” Public education is about the children,” “These drugs are safe and effective.”
In the instance of Covid policy, can you imagine–should the mRNA technology prove to be dangerous–the horror of realizing you had counseled people right through death’s door? I’m guessing that even if the data proves incontrovertible, people will do just about anything to avoid the truth if it means having participated in negligent homicide.
Take it from someone who knows the power of a group solidarity that is fixed to a fragile, but vital, lie: when you agreed to pitch the mNRA narrative, when you agreed to jab your children, you were essentially choosing the more stylish of two religions. You were “science” and the other guys were hillbillies. Some of you even got a little emotional about your devotion to the collective demand–but very few of you have even read a medical study, much less critiqued one. You don’t know matrix algebra or multi-variate analysis or molecular biology. You just trust the “right” people. They were your Zion, and Zion MUST NOT FALL. Even when children began dying, the horror of your making the wrong decision could not be contemplated.
In the real world, when the truth might cost you your pension, or your friends, you might find yourself not just capable of lying but being the best kind of liar: someone convinced a lie is the truth — a truth that can’t be questioned. In the strange case of rising all cause mortality the medical elites have a strange defense these days: “We don’t know what’s causing it, but it definitely isn’t the vaccine.” When someone tells you election integrity, or Covid science, can’t even be questioned, I can’t help thinking of that defense some religions, throughout history, have used against truth-seekers: “there is something spiritually wrong with you if you are even asking these questions.”
The advice to fellow high priests, defending their franchise rights: “Don’t answer the questions. Don’t even think about answering the questions. Attack the curious and insist on silence.”
America was built by people who had the nagging sense the very foundation of civilization was compromised. The building itself might need to come down, or the faithful might need to start over again in the wilderness. It would mean losing loved ones and crossing oceans and burying fellow disciples. It would mean abandoning old sweet lies and giving up on institutions they once thought defended the truth. It would be cold, and lonely, before the crop came in, and the new village was built, but that new city on a hill really would be worth finding.
It’s worth finding in the way that starting over is usually worth it. We make mistakes, friends. Let’s own them. We need to rebuild the village on better footing.