Father Brendan’s Thursday Thoughts | OPINION, May 17, 2017

A CONMAN walks into a bar and shouts, “One beer thanks!” so the bartender serves him his beer and says, “That will be $7 thanks!” The conman looks at him and laughs and says, “What are you talking about? I just paid you!” Not sure what to say, the bartender replies, “Oh, I am sorry!” Twenty minutes later the conman walks up to the bar and says to the same bartender, “One beer thanks!” so the bartender serves him his beer and says, “That will be $7 thanks!” “What?” says the conman with a surprised look on his face; “What do you mean $7? I just paid you!” The bartender is again confused and replies “I’m sorry, I just forgot again.” A third time the conman goes to the bartender and says, “One beer thanks!” The bartender pulls the drink and says “Now, I’m not giving this beer to you until I get your money first!” The conman laughs, then says, “Your funny. Now give me back my change will you!” 

Last week CNBC reported that “account-takeover fraud”, which is basically where con artists steal your personal information to access your account and transfer money, in the US increased 31 per cent in 2016 from 2015 and that losses due to such fraud topped $2.3 billion, which is a 61 per cent increase over this same period. Yikes!

But how do con artists get your information? How do they steal your life? Even your soul? Often we give it to them. We want to hear their persuasions, be consoled by their music, their musings.  

I met my first conmen (conboys) as a child. They were older and smarter than me and had such persuasion over me that they even convinced me to own up to, and be punished for, things that they did. I was in trouble for something I said or did every day as a boy (not a lot has changed really), so what was one more punishment? Reading back through my records for this column I discovered that I actually thought I was doing something virtuous at the time by taking the blame. 

Con artists have always been around. In the time of Jesus there were conmen he argued with and some of the worst kind. In the time of Christ these worst type of conmen would deceive and swindle people not only out of their money and property but con them out of things far more important: their beliefs, their faith, their religion, their values, their God. 

Jesus didn’t call them conmen, he called them false prophets as they robbed people of their beliefs and they’re still around. 

I read earlier this month that a new biographical novel on John Lennon is to be released later this month and earlier this week it was announced that another of Lennon’s angry letters is to be sold at auction. Almost 40 years after his death it appears Lennon’s influence lives on.  

In his famous hit Imagine, which is often played at Christian youth services and ironically Christian funerals, Lennon sings, “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.”

I think Lennon’s music was great, even ingenious and that he was one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the 20th Century. But we do need to remember the importance of being discerning when we are searching for the values by which we will live our lives and many musicians of our day are following Lennon’s practice of encouraging rebellion, especially in the youth, through a disbelief or distrust of any authority figure in their lives.

True, all you need is love, but there are many conmen out there selling many different shades of grey, but if we are discerning, we can work it out. 

FATHER BRENDAN LEE

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