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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Friendship University”

In this episode, Twilight Sparkle stages a not-so-secret infiltration of the Flim Flam Brothers’ “Friendship University” on a more-than-justified hunch that they’re running another money-making scam. Eventually, her overt espionage is discovered and exposed by the brothers, who threaten to go public with the information that the “Princess of Friendship” was so distrustful and unfriendly that she tried to ruin a legitimate rival school to keep it from competing with her own.

More interesting, however, was later in the episode when Twilight (and Rarity)’s work bore fruit and discovered how the Flim Flam brothers were charging exorbitant fees for stolen lesson plans. However, even now having evidence of the brothers’ wrongdoing, the crooked brothers still tried to use the fact they had caught her in the act spying as leverage to keep their own misdeed from going public.  It might seem like they don’t have a leg to stand on at first but, if you keep in mind the context of the episode as well as how things operate in real life, you can quickly tell that threat was all too real.

It should be more than obvious if you take a look around at news stories in the modern day or any day that sometimes all it takes is an accusation to ruin someone. It doesn’t matter if the accusation is totally untrue–all you need to do is have it look at least plausible, and then let gossip and society do the rest. This is especially true if, like in the case of Twilight Sparkle, you already have “enemies” in high places. Individuals like Chancellor Neighsay would have been all too happy to back and reinforce any claim on misconduct on the part of Twilight if it meant ruining the reputation of her alternative school, true or not, and given the profile of the new “Friendship University” it would have been publicized largely. She knew, and the Flim Flam brothers knew, that even if the truth came out that the newer school was a con-job the damage would have already been done.

In the same way, around the world, people every day manage to ruin others, shift blame onto their victims,  or sink their opponents by simply making accusations that are flimsy or blatantly untrue.

Politicians in America do this all the time; especially during election season. Even if they are unable to back them up in the end, they continue to say the mere “seriousness of the allegations” is enough to merit looking at a rival with distrust; even if it’s a total lie. (That’s like me being able to accuse anyone I want of murder and everyone should immediately distrust them because it was a “serious accusation”.)

While racism and sexism do indeed exist, people also make wild claims about them against innocent people to shift focus away from any misdeeds they are doing–sometimes going so far as to make outright accusations of heinous crimes because they know full well the victim will spend loads of time and money defending against it and still will never escape the stigma. (I find these particularly insidious, because that ends up hurting real victims of racism and sexism in the long run.)

Sensationalist stories continue to resonate with people’s memories far longer than the truth, especially in the case of people who have done past, lesser wrongdoings because if someone is guilty of one sin everyone is quicker and easier to blame them for greater ones. Take, as case in point, Ty Cobb. While his own behavior and demeanor were far from ideal, to this day he is still considered one of the most despicable players in the history of MLB for racist crimes, including a totally false one alleging he murdered an African American busboy, even though they’ve been proven to be nothing more than fabricated stories (later in life, Cobb was actually in favor of integrating baseball). As another example, Sarah Palin. After her gaff on answering a question asking which magazines she read, in which she said “all” the magazines, there were people who believed she also once declared: “I can see Russia from my house”…which was never her at all but rather a joke on SNL by Tina Fey.

My personal peeve in the modern day is the wave of anti-vaccination…which, much to my horror, is actually so predominant that proponents of it march on Washington. Many anti-vax claims originated from an unrepeatable, poor-founded study suggesting a link between vaccinations and autism. If you know anything about how viruses work, you know perpetuation of this ridiculous lie is harmful not only to people who don’t vaccinate but to people who have been vaccinated as well. That hasn’t stopped people from continuing to cite this bogus study and back it, however, because how sensational its claim was.

This is very serious business. People can forfeit their jobs, lose the support of their neighbors, friends, and family, receive constant death threats, or worse as a result of mere accusations. In some countries around the world, especially with partial justice systems that only allow certain people to testify, people are permanently robbed of their rights because all one has to do is accuse them and they’re guaranteed a conviction as they have no legal foothold to defend themselves.

Because of this, many people in the world protect themselves and their own bad behavior by taking a page from the Flim Flam brothers and threaten to accuse their accusers. And this threat is real enough to keep people very quiet. Adults often guarantee the silence of abused children by threatening to get them into deeper trouble on trumped-up charges; knowing that society will take their word over that of kids. Whistleblowers are discouraged from becoming public when an employer can make up any old excuse and claim it’s unrelated to the whistleblowing action to get them canned and rejected from any other business. And, once again, in some countries, simply reporting on a factual event is enough to get the government to accuse you of spreading inflammatory lies and being a secessionist…which in turn is enough to get you a jail sentence.

This is by no means a new tactic. On the contrary, it’s throughout the Bible from the very first book. When Joseph, operating as the slave of an Egyptian master, was encroached on by his master’s unfaithful wife trying to seduce him, she escaped her own wrongdoing by simply accusing Joseph of instigating the whole affair and got him thrown into prison for years (Genesis 39). When Jeremiah the prophet spoke against the corrupt actions of the ruling elite in Jerusalem, he was falsely accused of desertion in order to silence him (Jeremiah 37:11-15). Lord Jesus Himself was accused of being a revolutionary (Luke 23:2), a madman (John 8:48), and even consorting with demons (Matthew 12:24) when He began to call out the religious leaders of His day on their hypocrisy.

One account that always comes to mind for me in regards to false accusations is not from the Bible but involved the Israelites during the time of the Babylonian Exile. The story is about a pious and beautiful Israelite woman named Susanna. A pair of Israelite judges conspired to rape her in her husband’s own garden, and threatened her to either consent to the grotesque act or they’d use their own position to accuse her of adultery and have her put to death; knowing full well people would believe them as two witnesses rather than her. In that case, as in similar cases, a person was threatened to keep their mouth shut in regards to evil and submit to it, or be seriously hurt or even destroyed by a false accusation.

However, faced with this terrible option, Susanna was able to keep one thing in mind. For her, she realized this boiled down to a choice between being blameless before society or blameless before God. She chose to keep her eyes on the latter (screaming for help instead), and as a result not only preserved her integrity but was eventually vindicated from her foes (who themselves suffered the penalty they planned to inflict on her according to the Mosaic Law).

I have no idea where you are in life or if you find yourself in Susanna’s sort of situation–a time when we’re encouraged to overlook something or walk on eggshells around something because we fear the reprisal we’ll receive. Such a time is a true test of conscience and morality; a time when we have to decide if doing the right thing is worth it when there will be nothing but pain and personal hurt as a result.

For the Christian, if they intend to be able to do the right thing they must concentrate on doing what is noteworthy or blameworthy in the eyes of God, not man. In the end, it is what God thinks about us that matters and, as the Bible says, he always provides a way for those who trust in him (Psalm 91).

The more we are able to focus on that and adhere to it, the more our decisions will be based on doing the right thing no matter how people see it.

For those faced with a difficult situation in which they are in between “a rock and a hard place”, faced with two options that seem equally horrible and pressured by the threat of punishment to keep silent, my suggested prayer today is for you.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, I thank you for all the strong and courageous men and women of the Bible (and history) who, by their perseverance and example, showed us that it is ultimately more important to be clean in your sight and to stand by doing the right thing than to live in fear of human reprisal. When the world seems to turn against me for something I haven’t done wrong, to punish me for walking in integrity, or I am terrorized with what others will think of me or will do to me to cripple me from doing the right thing, help me to see only your face and to walk in your light. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”