Essays Moral and Political Index
On Lying Under OathOaths and vows are much the same thing. They both involve laying the soul on the line, so to speak. In fact, they call down on the head of the swearer a curse if he breaks his oath or vow. To swear by Almighty God means to call for Him to punish us if we fail to keep our word. Though most people nowadays do not seem to understand it, any vow or oath, especially where God's name is invoked, is a weighty and dangerous matter.
This is why we swear in court ''to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.'' Truth is so essential to justice that our fathers in their wisdom demanded a solemn oath to assure it. But an oath is only valid to one who fears God. A godless scoundrel can take the oath and lie to his heart's content. So our founders added to the oath, which was enough for any honest man, the criminal penalty for perjury. Where there was no fear of God, they hoped that fear of man would suffice.
But not so. Anyone with political clout, cold cash, and clever lawyers can circumvent the law. No powerful criminal, with a significant following, need fear the full sanction of the law. Just ask O. J. Simpson and Bill Clinton.
"And the people would have it so." As I listened to
the House Managers make the case against Clinton, I wanted to scream, ''You're
right! You're absolutely right! But it doesn't matter!" For you see there are just enough Americans of the same moral bent as Clinton that the open and shut
case against him just doesn't matter. Where fear of God and fear
of man no longer restrain them, men do what is right in their own
eyes. May God have mercy on our land!