Sometimes I wonder if people have grown up watching too much Disney: the princess finds out her would be boyfriend has bungled a detail and she can never love him again. In devastation, she gives up on love until somehow, cheesily, he makes it right by rescuing her later in the story. Lying is, after all, the cardinal sin right? Doesn’t the Bible command us not to lie? Life and morality are all black and white issues aren’t they?
Let’s think a little deeper.
If you were in Nazi Germany during the war, would you feel it was okay to hide a Jew from German soldiers? If you answered “no, because it was against the law,” you have my approval to stop reading this article right now. I’m quite disappointed that you’re going to kill this little Jewish girl but at least I won’t have a guilty conscience for telling a lie”? I didn’t think so. Why? Because you’re protecting an innocent girl from harm, in this case, death. What if the soldiers were only going to beat the girl though? Maybe they won’t disfigure her, maybe they’ll just bruise her up, maybe break a few bones, leave a few small scars on her face? Does your answer change? What if they take her and force her to work in a concentration camp where her job is to gas prisoners but she herself suffers no harm? What if they just take her as a ward of the state where she never sees her family again and the government raises her?
When does your answer change so you become unwilling to lie? My answer is when the state of Utah wants to take away my children and put their mother in prison to enforce a law already found to be an unconstitutional infringement of my religion, free speech, freedom of association, freedom of privacy, etc., I’m not willing to tell the truth to make them foster children. Their mothers are all very good mothers and they love them very much. It would only harm the children to be raised elsewhere.
But can’t you just move?
If you were under the threat of being prosecuted under an unconstitutional law, living next to hundreds of friends and family members you’d associated with for your entire life, living in a home you loved, and living in a region your religion teaches is holy and where you should live if at all possible, would moving be your first choice? Did you support the state of Israel being created to give the Jews a place to live after the holocaust? Should all 30-60,000 polygamists in Utah be forced to move to a different state to avoid prosecution under an unconstitutional law? This answer isn’t exactly black and white either.
But Utah doesn’t really prosecute do they?
First of all, yes, Utah does prosecute. They are picky about it – and to many polygamists, it seems a bit too random to know whom they’ll prosecute and whom they won’t to make an educated guess. It looks like they are much more interested in prosecuting people who are vocal than people who abuse (they have been notified of abusers but apparently do nothing to pursue those people). They also use legal means to take lands and monies away from polygamist groups (look up FLDS lawsuits in Utah – I advised AUB this would be the state’s approach to persecution before it started happening). They also use the law to award custody to people leaving polygamy (I know of ONE exception after 16 years of practice in Utah) so polygamists lose their children, often under very unfair circumstances. I’ve seen attorneys demand supervised visitation because someone was a polygamist (no allegations of any abuse whatsoever) and I’ve seen judges order people to NOT teach their religion. So, you know, no big deal, right?
Doesn’t the Bible (9th commandment) say we shouldn’t lie?
Hmmm … the commandment we read in Exodus 20:16 says: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This says lying against your neighbor is a sin and it seems to imply a legal or ecclesiastical court by using the word “witness.” Is that just semantics? Just an excuse? Well, let’s think deeper. What happened with Abraham and Sarah? Twice, Abraham was deceitful about Sarah being his wife. Yes, I know she was technically his sister from a Biblical perspective but why did he say she was his sister? To avoid getting killed. And God horrifically punished Abraham for lying about it … right? Nope. God cursed the Pharaoh and threatened to kill the king who took her to wife if he slept with her. In the second instance, God told the king that Abraham was a prophet and would pray and bless the king’s family if he let Sarah free. And what was the king’s answer? He claimed to be innocent and noted that he relied upon Abraham’s false representation and how did God reply? That was why he wasn’t destroyed – God gave him a chance to make the right choice by returning Sarah to Abraham. Does that sound like God was pretty angry at and unsupportive of Abraham for lying? If God was upset about Abraham’s lie, why didn’t He set Abraham right after the first mess up in Genesis 12? And why have his back again in Genesis 20? Well, reasonable minds may differ but the never lie mantra doesn’t work for me. If I’m protecting Anne Frank from the Nazis, I’m lying to protect her all day long. Worship whomever you desire but I worship a God of love and principle and I see no true principle in letting Anne Frank die at the hands of Nazis because I need to never lie. Kill her if you like but I’m not living a life based upon principles like that.
In the show, TLC was gracious enough to include my instruction to my children that there is only one exception to lying: to protect an innocent person from harm. Maybe, you disagree. Maybe you believe that it is only okay if the person might get killed – Abraham’s life was on the line. I can respect that perspective. It isn’t explicit in the Biblical text. I have a hard time believing God is okay to turn over Anne Frank to Nazi soldiers for a good old fashioned beating just so I can be 100% honest but I can respect your belief in that principle. God let people suffer in the past – maybe He has good reason to let it be so … we could debate that all day long, bring up Christian martyrs over the ages, Mormon lying during the Reed Smoot hearings, the article Lying for the Lord by B. Carmen Hardy, and a host of other topics. I’m game for the intellectual conversation. I’ve done plenty of thinking about this already but I’m always willing to think harder … and deeper.
My only point here is that we need to think more carefully and consider that these issues are not as black and white as people think.
What do you think? If the law changed and said “we will steal your family and raise them to hate God if they’re Christian but we’ll spare the spouse who tells us where their family lives,” would you tell the police where your family lives or claim ignorance or silence? If you choose silence after saying “do you know where your family lives?” is that a lie? Have you broken the 9th commandment or have you followed the exception God laid out for Abraham?
God bless you all,