Even When I Lie

When I was young, a Sunday School teacher presented our class with a hypothetical.

Imagine for a moment, he said, that a criminal came into the church today and seized your parents. He took them up to the front of the church and pointed a gun at both of their heads. Unless you denied your faith, he would kill them both. What should you do?

A heavy question for a 12-year old, it always disturbed me. ‘Always’, I say, because it was asked of me more than once. It came up shockingly often, although I suspect given differing sensibilities that you might consider once shocking enough. Perhaps it was the favorite brainteaser of a teacher bored of 30 years of giving the same pictorial lessons of Zacchaeus climbing the tree. I think it was a reflection of some evangelical churches’ occasionally morbid obsession with the end times described in Revelations. There was a time when ‘What will you do when you are persecuted for your faith’ occupied much of my mind. ‘What if Jesus returns before a girl ever kisses you?’ occupied most of the rest. There was really no doubt in any of our minds that it was going to happen during our lifetimes. Probably much sooner.

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  1. The two “greater truth” statements didn’t make my blood boil, but here’s what did: The implication that Trump is somehow worse - somehow a bigger liar, a bigger widener of the gyre, is farther outside the boundaries - than Hillary (putting classified documents on her personal email server - effectively putting our national security at risk - to advance her political goals), than Elizabeth Warren (claiming to be a Native American Indian to leverage victimhood status for political glow), than what too many to be named here did to stop Kavanaugh.

    I have no truck with any of them - on either side. I didn’t and wouldn’t vote or support any of them. Maybe I’m taking the easy route by being all moral about it - maybe, but what I can’t stand is the “Trump is worse than Hillary, than Warren, than Spartacus” argument. They are all the same horror show.

    The right should renounce Trump and other Trump-like conservatives and the left should renounce Hillary, Warren, et al. When both sides are willing to lose elections to reclaim some sense of morality, honor and dignity, then maybe the gyre will stop widening.

  2. Excellent. Made me recall my favorite aphorism from William Blakes’s “Auguries of Innocence”,
    “A truth that’s told with bad intent
    Beats all the Lies you can invent.”

  3. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I think you might be reading implications that don’t exist, which can be pretty easily forgiven these days! There’s only two paragraphs which allude to Trump, and neither make any comparisons. Truthfully, Mark, I haven’t even thought about the comparisons, because I think that they’re a distraction and part of the problem we face.

    I will be steadfast in my disagreement with your last point here. If we are playing for anything other than salvaging something from civilization here, enough of us must be willing to move even if the other side doesn’t. If we can make it safe to pursue a losing strategy, I think that we can do more than salvage and shorten the transition to whatever’s next.

    You’re not alone in disagreeing with me rather more fatalistically here. I think Ben agrees with you more than I on this point, and we talk about it a lot.

  4. I will think more about it, but right now, my “lean” is unilateral surrender won’t lead to a greater good. I think we need a temporary truce leading to more trust and, then, more incremental improvement - rinse, repeat. Also, sincere apologies for unintentionally misrepresenting your implications.

  5. Really enjoyed this, thanks.

  6. I second your idea that lying is the most pernicious rot on our body politic. One need only compare the lasting damage of the Vietnam War (a misadventure foisted on us through official lies from multiple administrations representing both political parties), with the effects of any of our non-lie-based wars.

    Lies are the enemy of us all. Systematically dis-empowering liars would seem to be a rational course of conduct then, yet we seem to be doing the opposite. Power & money flows directly toward the lies and the sirens who sing them. We’ve forgotten how to navigate by the stars, and instead gotten addicted to false compasses.

  7. The widening Gyre in the electorate is inversely proportional to the narrowing Gyre in the elected. Only the lies of the latter appear to be diverging whilst their actions are converging.

  8. Avatar for Mav Mav says:

    Hey Rusty, first time, long time…

    I think your analysis is spot on. A lot of people get caught up in the need to argue who’s wrong or who’s worse. (If you think Trump’s bad, wait till you see Hillary or vice versa). I think it’s the same reason why our first reaction in a personal argument is to tell the other person they are wrong. It’s our ego talking. We want to be right. Our minds try to avoid a state of cognitive dissonance like the plague. But like an argument with your spouse, knowing who is wrong is useless. It reminds me of something Jordan Peterson says about this topic. Something to the effect of, if you are constantly arguing with your spouse about who’s right and you win, congratulations you’re married to a loser. Your marriage will fall apart, just like the country will fall apart.

    Arguing is also useless because it doesn’t offer any solutions. It focuses on the past and not the future. Why spend time and energy on the things we cannot change? I think the prescription is to switch from a problem-oriented/past mindset towards a solution-oriented/future one. Suspend our egos and work towards solutions to the small problems everyone can agree on. That or more cowbell.

  9. We are led to Believe a Lie
    When we see not Thro the Eye

  10. Avatar for Mpm186 Mpm186 says:


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