A reader writes:
Hi Mark, I hope all is well. In light of the perennial issue of whether it is ok to sometimes lie (well, I agree with you that Church teaching is clear on this, but you know what I mean), I thought you might be interested in this documentary.
I have not seen it, but according to the review, it seems to demonstrate that white lies, or “good” lies, frequently leads to bigger and worse lies, as people continue to rationalize their behavior. It also sounds like there’s some interesting material on the desire for confession, the act of “swearing on a bible,” and the idea that often the people telling the lies aren’t evil horrible monsters but ordinary people who screw up.
It sounds like they have their head screwed on straight, which is not something I can say for the Lying for Jesus crowd.
And I would agree with C.S. Lewis that lies are typically the refuge of the powerless. Children lie because it’s their only defense from forces they can’t control. So I agree with Thomas that most lying is venial and of the “Responses to ‘Does this dress make me look fat?’ variety”. But when Christians–Christians!–start making wilful apologetics for lying and painting it as noble–even blaspheming by saying Jesus was a noble liar–I just want to take a two by four to somebody’s skull and knock sense into them. What part of “God cannot lie” is unclear? So yeah, the embrace of the little lie is the gateway drug to the Big Lies and the native language of hell. We can reduce the culpability for an awful lot of lying to near zero, particularly in high stress cases. But the moment we move from saying somebody is not culpable for lying in a high stress situation to devoting increasing amounts of energy to thinking up rationalization for regarding ourselves as heroes for lying? That’s the moment we have lost our minds.