Friday, February 5, 2010

The Invention of Lying and the Art of Truth

The movie, The Invention of Lying, is not the kind of movie that I would spend ten bucks to go to a theater to see. I don’t know what genre to put it in that would classify it in such terms. I do like romantic comedies. I think it is the idea of a romantic comedy build around a brainless idea (I think of some of the Alan Sandler flicks.)

But I did have some interest in this movie . . . at least enough interest to watch as a rental . . . especially when someone else rents it and wants to see it.

The reason why I had some desire to see it was because of the deeper (probably more deeply than intended) issues raised and that of course is my pet peeve issue of living honestly.

Most people know the premise of the movie but I will quickly rehash in case you are not. It is the present world, but an altered world because the concept of lying has never, ever even been considered. The point is so extreme that even the concept of fiction is beyond comprehension. The main character works for a major movie production company, which makes historical documentaries. That is the only kind of movie possible because the truth must be told in every circumstance. I won’t mention too much more about the plot because that’s not my point.

I’ve talked a lot about (in previous posts) about the concept of trying to live down on the floor level, next to pure reality, rather than cushioned by layers (or floors) of self deception and the deception of others. So I was hoping that this movie would depict such a reality.

In some ways it does. People are very honest in conversations, but for the humor sake, people are very cruel. This is an important idea because in the conversations I’ve had with others this is almost always their point of why we should not live honestly, that is avoiding hurting others. The best example from the movie was people dating one another and saying things like, “This relationship can’t last because you are fat and I am beautiful and in a league above you.”

But honestly doesn’t have to be cruel. Sticking with the dating situation I will give another example. If someone really didn’t want to date someone, the normal way to do it is to say, “Oh, I can’t I have family coming into town this week and I need to be with them” (all lies). The cruel-honest way is to say no, because I think you are fat. But the non-cruel-honest way is simply to say “No thank you. I don’t want to go out” and leave it at that.

This topic of dating is trivial in the big scope of things but it fits with the movie. I imagine a world where we could all be honest with one another, about our motives and our actions. I think we would all be much more secure and deal with things in a much more healthy way. Another message of the movie (which was the purpose, besides humor, of the cruelty) is that life does not work well if we tell the truth.

But if God is there, and He is a God of truth (as scripture describes Him) then we must try and live honestly.

But this is where I think that many forms of Christianity have failed, including American Evangelicalism. In my opinion, we are very dishonest to ourselves and to one another and it is part of our Christian culture.

To bring this home, before I end this post, I will give a real example.

About four weeks ago Denise and I had one of our worst fights of the year . . . and it happened to be Bible study night. In summary, I got home from work and she was washing dishes. I asked how the day was going and she started venting to me about being tired of doing so many dishes. But in her frustration she vented toward me. This hit a raw nerve in me because I feel the same way. I work non stop (as does she) both professionally and when I get home. I too feel like I’m doing dishes every night, dishes that I had nothing to do with. In reality, it has a lot to do with two sons at home that dirty far more dishes than they wash.

But I became really angry at her and she at me. Unfortunately we didn’t even have time to fight it out as we had to race to Bible study. I was thinking that if we got there late, I would tell them that the reason we were late was that we were having a big fight. That’s the kind of honestly that I’m talking about. Denise felt relieved that we got there on time, or at least no later than anyone else, and it wasn’t an issue.

I think there are several advantages in living honestly like this. For one, others will see that you fight and then when they fight (as all couples do) they will not feel this inferiority complex but know that they are human. Also, if everyone at church fought out in the open, we as a body would be there to support them. I mean, I wish that Denise and I could have had our raw argument right there in front of everyone so that they could give us some objective direction.

The other advantage of “airing your dirty laundry” at church is that in the light the cockroaches can’t multiply. If we all go to church pretending that we perfect, then it creates more darkness in our personal lives where we can misbehave. “Misbehave” may be too polite of a word. I’m talking about “good” Christian men beating the crap (or more likely causing psychological injury) out of their wives.

I will rest my case. I will point out one more thing about the movie. They, to be cool in this post-Christian society, tried to portray that Christianity could only sprout up where lying was possible.

My excuse on the typos in this posting is that I am using a borrowed computer again and I must give it up, so I had to type fast without proof-reading.


Becky said...

Sorry, this has nothing to do with your post (well, maybe indirectly), but I thought you might be interested in the discussion that has been going on at the Boar's Head Tavern yesterday into today. The guys over there started addressing the elephant in the room ... iMonk's illness. You've mentioned your concern about Michael ... and honesty in the church is your interest ... so ... thought maybe I'd give you a head's up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your headsup. I haven't been over there in a while but I will.

I have deep concern about Michael and care a lot about him. I got in a little hot water with his followers when I expressed my frustration early on about the great mystery about his illiness. I guess it is because I work in medicine that we call a spade a spade. In the begining the "cancer" word was dropped but that was about it.

Now that Michael has updated us with more information, it does sound serious and I will pray for him with all my heart.

PRS & ALS said...

I agree that we need more openness in our Christian relationships. It's real, it's healthier in the long run. But it is more uncomfortable for many of us. I too have struggled with this issue particularly in the last few years and have tried to be more authentic and honest.

Our son and his wife lived in community while they were at seminary. They lived in an seminary apartment complex and kept their doors open to the outside most of the time. People heard and saw the good times and the bad. They cherish this time in their lives and grew so much through it. And the relationships they built with people there are like none others. After leaving there they moved in with my husband and myself (along with their son, as well as other family members living with us part of the time) But our family has a tendency to sweep things under the rug, to deny the elephant in the room. There was undealtwith tension that existed that should have been aired. But we were in such a habit of denying that we fell into that pattern again. The few times that we did express "negative" feelings, it was uncomfortable and we weren't sure what to do then. We were well trained by our Christian upbringing to supposedly let things go and not air our feelings. How do we who grew up in this get past it? Is it too late to teach an old dog new tricks?

MJ said...


I bet you son and wife will find it hard to ever be in that situation again.

That is one of the things that attracted me to LAbri. I guess that because the workers at LAbri always had students living with them, that they decided to live their private lives out in the open. A friend said that her first night in a LAbri house was strange. The worker couple were having a big fight. She eventually threw a tea pot at him, hitting him in the head. She thought that maybe these people weren't even Christians (she had been raised in a "holy" family).

It is tough to learn new tricks with the society that we live in pressures us to conform (by pretending that all is well).