Truth and Lies: The (Dis)Honesty Project


If you haven’t watched this documentary,  your should.  It’s on Netflix, and it’s a great introduction into the field of behavioral economics, the science of lying,  and the costs associated with lying and cheating. 

It basically alternates between Dr. Dan Ariely and his co-researchers explaining what their experiments have shown,  and people who’ve been caught lying or cheating telling their stories, including what was going through their minds when they were doing it. 

It’s amazing to see how things like transactional distance make people more likely to cheat, but being reminded of an ethics system (even one from a religion you actively don’t believe in)  makes people less likely to cheat.

Give it a watch some time.  

The Art of Vulnerability

Nietzsche Quote

As Christians, we have to be willing to step outside our comfort zones, something I’m not very good at.  I’m not a naturally outgoing person.  I tend to prefer books and numbers and art and ideas to people and social gatherings.  Of course, I get as lonely as anybody else if I do not get enough social interaction.  I’m incredibly thankful that I’m married to a woman who not only understands this, but feels very much the same (though she’s more focused on music than on books and numbers).

But I think that going outside our comfort zones almost by definition means doing things we’re not so good at.  Don’t get me wrong: I think God made us the way we are for a reason.  I think our talents and temperaments are not accidents, but gifts.  And so I will probably never be called to lead a Billy Graham-style crusade, preaching to millions, or even work as a pastor, dealing with an entire congregation in groups and one on one settings.  But if I ever am, I know I’ll have to step up and do it, trusting that God will give me the strength to fulfill His call.

So, what does that mean here, in the written word?

I think, for me at least, it means vulnerability.  Nietzsche famously said, “of all writing, I love only that which a man has written in his own blood.”  I think that (if I may be so bold as to speak for Him), God may feel the same way.

Vulnerability goes beyond honesty.  A person may be completely honest, as far as it goes, while writing about topics that never require him to lay himself bare, to intentionally make himself look weak or foolish or flawed.  But only by appearing weak and foolish and flawed can we really glorify God.

And this goes for fiction as well as blogging and memoir (those who know me know I’ve always written fiction, and I’ve always struggled with being truly happy with what I create).  It’s hard, when trying to juggle plot, character, character voice, and prose style to really be vulnerable.  It’s not easy to let an ugly, doubt-ridden, questioning, disappointed, vulnerable part of myself spill out into the characters, especially not a character I like.  It’s not easy; in fact, it hurts.  But it is, I believe, necessary.

So what do you think?  Should our brokenness before God show through in everything we write?  Is there a place for confident, even didactic prose?  What about didactic, prescriptive fiction?  And are we ready, as Christians in an often-sanitized culture, to confront each others’ vulnerabilities?

The Ends Don’t Justify the Means

You’ve probably all read about Representative Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.”  And while that phrase is troubling and awful, it isn’t the worst part of that interview.

The worst part is when he perpetuates the lie that women don’t get pregnant from rape.  This stems from a medieval superstition and has no basis in science and medicine.

The truth is, women do get pregnant from rape.  According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (as reported on, roughly 5% of rapes result in pregnancy, or 31,000 per year in the U.S. alone.

31,000 per year.  That’s almost 85 per day.  That’s one every 17 minutes.  That’s not the number of women raped in the U.S.  That’s the number of women who get pregnant from being raped in the U.S.  31,000 per year.  85 per day.  One every 17 minutes.

Statistics are one thing, but stories are another.  A very brave woman named Shauna Prewitt wrote a response to Representative Akin, telling him that she was raped and became pregnant, and how that affected her.

The thing is, I’ve heard Akins’ lie before, from the pulpit.  I didn’t believe it, because when a visiting preacher says something that goes against common sense, medical science, and reality, learned early to blow it off.  There are a lot of false prophets out there.

I feel sympathy and compassion for those who didn’t learn that early, and were hurt by these hyenas-in-sheep’s-clothing (I won’t diginfy them by calling them wolves: at least wolves hunt strong, swift prey like deer.  Hyenas just kill the weak and chew carrion).

I’ve encountered a disturbing trend among evangelicals, especially among the more politicized side.  They’ve come to believe that the end justifies the means.  Defeating “ungodly” politicians justifies whatever misinformation they have to say, whatever worldly promises to power-brokers they have to make, whatever weak person or group they have to trample.

I’ve even encountered at tendency to believe that Christians are entitled, not just to our their opinions, but their own facts.  “Global warming is a secularist conspiracy.  Women don’t get pregnant if they’re raped.  Tax cuts for the rich won’t make things worse for the poor and working class, but will make things better.  Jesus was a free market capitalist.  Homosexuals are all secretly pedophiles, and marriage equality is just a stepping stone to eliminating all age of consent laws (thank the Family Resource Council for that one), etc.”

But as Christians, we cannot allow ourselves to be drawn in by power, by convenient “facts,” by misrepresentations, by worldly politics.

Especially not when the result is pain and offense to victims of that most raw and blatant crime of power: rape.