DENY EVERYTHING

July 30, 2007

At the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. I bought one of my most prized possessions.  It’s a gray cap that has these words stitched in the front:  DENY EVERYTHING.

That statement, believe it or not, conveys a lot more than the intrigue and the supposed drama of covert operations.  To me, espionage is a cowardly way of engaging in diplomacy among nations, and I abhor the murderous mayhem which has been and continues to be instigated by the likes of the Central Intelligence Agency (an ironic oxymoron if there ever was one), the K.G.B., Her Majesty’s Secret Service (alias 007) and so on.  While I find the alleged activities of spies compelling at some level, I am utterly disillusioned by those who have to lie for a living.  

Take the farcical film, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, for example.  Chuck Barris, who created television shows like The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show, wrote the autobiographical screen-play to clear the air regarding his cold-war responsibilities with the C.I.A.  Apparently, while offering his services as chaperone to one lucky couple, Mr. Barris had other duties to fulfill.   Namely the curly headed host had to kill communists in Helsinki!  Yes, the movie is well made and worth watching.  But I believe the overall point of Chuckie’s memoirs is that he wanted to do something important with his life.  He wanted adventure.  He wanted the passion of being involved in world events.  In the end, however, what his dual existence (as an assassin and a T.V. producer) got him was nothing more than tedium.   Whether or not Barris worked for the CIA, his depiction of himself and his relationships betrays a certain boredom.  

If being a spy means not trusting anyone at any time for any reason–there are no true surprises.  Individuals, families, ethnic groups, sports franchises, television networks, insurance companies and sovereign nations all operate out of their own alienating self-interests.   As undercover men and women begin to recognize this despairing and pervasive conspiracy, it doesn’t matter what agency has sent which operative to take out whatever political target.   The Bourne Identity be damned.  Casino Royale, cash in your chips.  Life is a Breach–a breach of everything that’s truly worth living for.   No matter how much we mythologize about spying–no matter how entertained we are by James Bond–those who actually deny everything must live and die in very lonely ways.   

As for my souvenir hat, let me tell you what I’d like it to communicate:  

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…”  (1 Corinthians 2:1–2).   

Such as they are, the facts resemble that enigmatic remark of the apostle Paul in the first century.  Apart from Christ, nothing and no one ultimately satisfies.  Apart from the Crucified One, every kind of love fails–love of country included.  Apart from Christ, our commitments and our promises wither like grass in the hot summer sun.  

So I DENY EVERYTHING–everything that I seem to know, everything that I’ve been taught to trust, everything that appears rock solid.  I deny schemes and systems and self-help strategies ad infinitum.  I deny myself as much as the Spirit of Christ allows me to–all with the hope that EVERYTHING WILL BE GIVEN TO ME IN CHRIST.

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