“Do not lie to one another, seeing you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9).
The current issue of Vanity Fair magazine (February 2016) carries a story to keep you thinking for a week or two. You read it and think, “What? How could this happen?”
One of the producers of Meredith Viera’s NBC program fell in love with the famous heart-transplant surgeon on whom they were doing a feature. Paolo Macchiarini was amazingly accomplished, stunningly successful, and fabulously rich. He was handsome, suave, and a charmer.
The producer, Benita Alexander, on her second marriage at the time, promptly forgot her altar vows and fell head over heels for this surgeon, who wined her and dined her. Soon, they were flying all over the world, living a life of luxury, and making plans for a wedding of their own.
Meredith Viera said about the surgeon, “He’s the doctor who does the seemingly impossible, going where no other has yet dared.” The New York Times had done a front page feature on the man. He was clearly somebody.
So you’ll know, the narrator talks about the conflict of a producer having a relationship with the subject of their feature, but I’ll leave that for other people. There was something else about the story more fascinating.
The surgeon’s vitae (aka, resume’) was a show stopper: medical degrees from a couple of schools, a PhD from another, and awards right and left. He was a consultant to the pope, a private doctor to this celebrity and that one. He was often called to the White House to confer with the president’s doctors. On and on and on.
And then this: The pope was going to perform the wedding.
Yep, the pope himself. Even though both were divorced, Pope Francis wanted to show how open he was to change. The ceremony would even include a gay couple, friends of the bride and groom, and they were over the moon with excitement. Oh, and the Obamas and Clintons would be attending the wedding. As would Vladimir Putin.
Certainly, the event of the year. Decade, even.
The bride, Benita Alexander, was goofy in love. Head over heels.
Then, gradually, it all began to unravel.
The Vatican announced the pope would be making a trip to South America at the time the wedding was supposed to take place. The wedding was canceled, even though the invitations had gone out. Benita sent emails to friends in 17 countries with the sad news, even though many had already purchased flights and hotels.
Benita hired a private investigator and soon discovered that almost every aspect of Macchiarini’s story was a lie. In fact, the “surgeon” was still married to his wife of nearly 30 years. The Vatican assured investigators that no one there had ever heard of this doctor, and he certainly had never operated on any pope, as he claimed.
His credentials were as bogus as everything else. Schools where he claimed to have advanced degrees confirmed that even if he had studied there for a time, he left before completing the program.
Hospitals had been conned, patients had undergone his surgery (although many died soon after!), and his little scam had gone undetected.
Asked how she could have fallen for such a con man and why she was not suspicious from the first, Benita Alexander replied, “This was not some guy I picked up in a bar. This was a renowned, accomplished, established surgeon whom we had followed all over the world.” The idea of him making all this up, she said, was “too ridiculous to give it any credence.”
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
At this moment, there are people running around claiming to be war heroes, to have held high rank in the military, to possess medals and honors, to have been fighter pilots of great achievement, and they are lying.
Our military even has a team assigned to ferret out these impostors, and Congress has made this a crime.
In academia, we hear regular reports of distinguished professors and even college presidents who have padded their resumes with exaggerations and untruths. Coaches are sometimes revealed to claim degrees they never earned.
Occasionally, we read of pastors of large and well-known churches who are revealed as liars. They claimed degrees and honors from seminaries and universities they never received, bragged of accomplishments that were bogus or grossly exaggerated, and allowed themselves to be recognized for something they were not.
When the facts are known and the man is revealed to be running a con on the Lord’s people, everyone looks at the Pastor Search Committee that brought the man to the church in the first place. “Didn’t you check his credentials?” they’re asked.
Their answers go something like this (let the pastor search committees read and beware)–
–“He was already pastoring a huge church and had great visibility. You don’t want to question the resume of such a distinguished pastor.'”
–“We were so in love with that man, no one thought to question his record. I mean, he was ‘anointed.’ God had His hand on the man.”
–“Surely, a preacher wouldn’t lie. Would he?”
–“Some on our committee thought double-checking his record would be an insult to him. Normally, we do a background check on people we bring to the church staff, but surely not someone of his stature.”
And so, the error gets perpetuated, and a con man gets passed along.
Let the pastor search committee take their time.
Let the pastor search committee skip no steps in verifying the integrity and record of the candidate.
Let the pastor search committee fall in love with no candidate too quickly.
Let the pastor search committee be willing to turn away from a candidate who can be clearly seen to have exaggerated his record and padded his resume’. No “anointing” can compensate for a lack of integrity.
Let the pastor search committee agree up front that integrity and honesty are among the highest virtues and that no liar will be brought to their church. Any committee member who will not agree to this should resign now.
Let the pastor search committee so labor and pray and work that for generations to come, people will bless them for faithfully carrying out their duties.