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Famous April Fools’ jokes and the denial of truth: Praying on Maundy Thursday for the faith to have faith

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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An orange post-it reading "Happy April Fools' Day" is stuck to the back of a man looking at a computer screen
© Светлана Соколова/stock.adobe.com

Perhaps the most famous April Fools’ Day joke of all time is the BBC’s “spaghetti harvest” prank. On April 1, 1957, a news broadcaster told his audience that a Swiss region near the Italian border had “an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop” that year.

The camera cut to images of people picking spaghetti off trees and bushes and then sitting down to eat their “real, home-grown spaghetti.” Some viewers got the joke, but others reportedly asked about ways they could grow their own spaghetti at home. 

Perhaps Volkswagen will make future April Fools’ Day lists. The automaker announced Tuesday that it would rebrand itself as “Voltswagen” to promote its electric car strategy. Now the company is telling us that the move was a joke. Since the Wall Street Journal and other outlets are reporting the story, the marketing ploy clearly worked. 

Here’s the moral of the story: Don’t believe everything you see in the news. In our post-truth culture, every day is April Fools’ Day. 

“Religion is the last bastion of sanity” 

Case in point: a CNN reporter wrote an article yesterday in which he stated, “It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.” An evolutionary biologist responded: “Observing genitalia is the consensus criteria for determining one’s sex at birth. It is inaccurate only about 0.018 percent of the time.” 

Writing for National Review, Alexandra DeSanctis adds: “The concept of ‘assigning’ sex at birth, far from being based on any ‘consensus criteria,’ is a progressive invention designed to inculcate new parents into believing that a child’s biological sex and gender are sometimes, or even often, misaligned, and that it would be damaging to them to merely accept the reality of their biology at birth.” 

This “post-truth” trajectory is especially on display in the so-called Equality Act which would elevate LGBTQ rights at the expense of religious rights. Margaret Harper McCarthy notes in the Wall Street Journal: “At stake is the freedom of rational human beings to use a common vocabulary when speaking about what all can see. . . . That is why religious freedom is also at stake. Religion is the last bastion of sanity.” 

Why is this true? 

The sexual revolution is an expression of the worldview that individual freedoms are the highest freedoms. Each person must be free to experience sexuality or any other dimension of reality as they wish. Personal beliefs are personal truth. As a result, the commitment to objective truth and values that lies at the heart of the Judeo-Christian worldview is the “last bastion of sanity.” 

McCarthy makes this point persuasively: “Those who believe in the invisible order are now the last custodians of the visible one.” She closes with a powerful and sobering prediction made by G. K. Chesterton more than a century ago: 

“Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face.” 

“Not as I will, but as you will” 

In a day when defending not just Christian truth but the concept of truth itself is controversial and dangerous, it will be tempting for Christians to retreat from the “culture wars” and thus from secular culture. This despite the fact that we are commissioned to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) as Jesus’ “witnesses” (the Greek word can also be translated “martyrs”) where we live and around the world (Acts 1:8). 

When obedience to our commission comes at a cost, we find ourselves back in the Garden of Gethsemane. Few of us relish conflict and persecution; most of us would like to be free to live and let live. As a result, we find ourselves praying with Jesus on Maundy Thursday, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39a). 

What we need is the courage and commitment to finish his prayer: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (v. 39b). 

Here’s the good news: We can pray for the faith to have faith. We can say with the father of a demon-possessed son, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). We can do what Jesus did, telling our Father what we want but then submitting to his will. We can ask for the courage to have courage and for the power to be obedient. 

“We have every reason to say thanks to him” 

Is your Father calling you to serve him at a cost? Are you facing a temptation to refuse, a sin to confess, a person to forgive, a person from whom to seek forgiveness? Someone who needs your witness or compassion or service? 

When last did it cost you something significant to follow Jesus? Is there a better day than Maundy Thursday to pray, “Not as I will, but as you will”? 

Max Lucado asks: “You wonder why God doesn’t remove temptation from your life? You know, if he did, you might lean on your strength instead of his grace. A few stumbles might be what you need to convince you his grace is sufficient for your sin. You wonder why God doesn’t remove the enemies in your life? Perhaps because he wants you to love like he loves. Anyone can love a friend, but only a few can love an enemy. You wonder why God doesn’t heal you? Oh, he has healed you. If you are in Christ, you have a perfected soul and will have a perfected body. His grace is sufficient for gratitude. 

“We can be sure of this: God would prefer we have an occasional limp than a perpetual strut. God has every right to say no to us. We have every reason to say thanks to him. His grace is sufficient” (his emphasis). 

Why do you need such sufficient grace today?

NOTE: I am honored to preach at tomorrow’s Good Friday service at Dallas Baptist University. If you’re nearby, you’re welcome to attend. The service begins at 7 p.m. in Pilgrim Chapel. Face masks will be required, and seating will be socially distanced. Please RSVP at dbu.edu/easter. I look forward to seeing you there as we celebrate why this Friday is so “good.”

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