I love sharing these short, thoughtful messages by our pastor, Reverend Mark Adams, the pastor of Redland Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of the Nation’s Capital: Zachary Crocket, author of “The True Story of the Crying Indian” writes: “On Earth Day, 1971, the Keep America Beautiful campaign launched what was called one of the ‘50 greatest commercials of all time.’ Dubbed ‘The Crying Indian,’ the one-minute ad featured a Native American man paddling a canoe down a junk-infested river, surrounded by smog, pollution, and trash. The camera then panned to the Indian’s cheerless face just as a single tear rolls down his cheek.
The ad’s star performer, a man called ‘Iron Eyes Cody,’ became the ‘face of Native Americans,’ and was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Long before his fame in the 1970’s, Iron Eyes Cody was featured as ‘the noble Indian,’ starring in a variety of Western films alongside actors like John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. By all accounts, he was Hollywood’s—and America’s—favorite Native American.
But several (real) Native American actors soon came to doubt Iron Eyes’ authenticity. Jay Silverheels, the Indian actor who played ‘Tonto’ in The Lone Ranger, and Running Deer, a Native American stuntman, agreed that there was something strangely off-putting about the man’s heritage.
Then a reporter visited Iron Eyes Cody’s hometown and made a startling discovery: both his parents were full-blooded Italians. How did he fake his real identity for so long? Apparently the residents of his hometown in Louisiana were too invested in supporting their successful local boy. Hollywood, along with the ad agencies that profited from his image, relied on his false image. Even after his history was revealed, old Iron Eyes Cody refused to admit the truth behind his public personae. He continued to wear his braided wig, headdress, and moccasins, and kept talking about his connection to ‘the Great Spirit.’”
Of course, pretending is what an actor does, but I’m sure you’ll agree that, whereas Iron Eyes Cody was pushing a noble cause, he took it too far. The sad fact is we all do that. Think of it: How many times have you laughed at a joke that you didn’t think was funny? You just pretended to enjoy the pun in order to be accepted by the person sharing it. How often have you pretended to be interested in what another person had to say because you wanted to appear to be a compassionate person, when you could really care less about that individual? How often have you posed a deep question to look intellectual or given money to seem generous, or exposed another person’s sins to appear holy? We all pretend, don’t we? From time to time, we all do things or say things to make us look like something we’re not.
Make no mistake, when we embrace this kind of deceitful behavior, God considers it to be sin. In fact, another word for “pretending” is “hypocrisy,” a practice that Jesus repeatedly condemned as He did in Matthew 6:1-2 when He said, “Be careful not to do your ‘ACTS of righteousness,’ [your righteous PRETENDING], before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. And when you give to the needy do not announce it with trumpets, as the HYPOCRITES do in the synagogues and on the streets.”