Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Slippery Slope" Letter from a Reader

On my Facebook fan page, a reader left this comment about my latest release, Deceit:

I have read and enjoyed most of your novels, including Deceit, which I found very thought provoking. However, I think you may have ventured unto a "slippery slope" in your epilogue where your main character ponders the morality of "pretexting" in her work as a skip tracer. Perhaps one can raise legitimate questions about the ethics of deceiving those who have skipped out on their bills. But, what about the policeman confronting a hostage taker with a knife at the throat of a child? Or, what about Corrie Ten Boom? Should she have told the Nazis "I cannot tell a lie, I have Jews in the attic?"

Some day we will dwell in a place where God's truth prevails. But, we're not there yet. In the mean time, someone has to do the "dirty work" in a fallen world. The trick is knowing where to draw the line. Hopefully, that's where the Holy Spirit comes in.

Thanks, and God Bless your work!

I like the insight of this reader. And actually I agree with his arguments regarding deceit, although I don't agree that my novel Deceit starts down a slippery slope in the wrong direction.

Sometimes my challenge as an author is to raise questions for the reader to consider--not to provide all the answers.
Deceit is bottom line a tale of suspense. At the same time the theme that arose as I was writing the book focused on deceit in each of our lives. Has deceit stolen into my life in such a subtle way that I've allowed it to remain there? And--is deceit ever okay? In the epilogue my protagonist, Joanne, wonders if the lying or "pretexting" she uses in her skip tracing is all right for a Christian. She doesn't answer the question but knows she will be pondering it, and that God will lead her accordingly. However she does note that a good friend tells her it's absolutely okay--in the same way that police interrogation tactics include lying to the suspect to get him/her to confess. They're catching the bad guys, and therefore the end justifies the means, the friend says.

I think of Rahab in the Bible, who hid the two Israelite spies Joshua sent into Jerico, then lied to her king, saying the men had slipped away. God saved Rahab and her family because of her deed.

Deceit is not a light-handed book. Once the story is said and done, I wanted it to provoke self-reflection. The obvious and worst deceit in the novel is not relegated only to nonChristians, but very much to professing Christians, including a respected church elder.

What do you think? If you've read Deceit, do you agree with all the observations of the reader above? (Please don't give away any plot points in your comments.) If you haven't read the book--do you think there is ever a time when lying is okay? And how do you decide in your own life where to draw that line?


On another note--winner of this month's Photo Friday is Richard Mabry, with this caption: You men are all alike. "Oh, I don't need directions!" Congrats, Doc. Please email me with your choice of book (as long as we have it in stock) and address.


Kathy C. said...

That's a hard question. I know some people say truth at all cost. I have "bluffed" on things to get a confession from one child--acted like I knew more than I did or said I knew something to be true that I just made up to get him to tell me what's going on. I justify it by calling it "fictionalizing." : )

As far as Rahab, she lived in a cultural where lying was prevalent. She hadn't yet met God so can't be expected to live by his standards. The midwives lied about the babies being born too fast to kill also.

Hard questions. I guess if we attempt to honor God in all we do, things will fall into place. Your character is human too and sounds like she was seeking out the truth.

Richard Mabry said...

Brandilyn, thanks for choosing my caption. It's always fun to try coming up with the right words to match your out-in-left-field photos.
As for the subject of this post, I think the answer--like that to many other questions--is "it depends." Thanks for making us think as we read your books.

Nicole said...

Rahab did the right thing. It included a lie to save her family.

I marvel at people who say it doesn't matter what the situation is: lying is never okay. It's about trusting God. Trusting God comes in being smart enough to figure out the situation and to honor him with your heart. He knows the heart.

Ananais and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit revealed it. There's a particular difference in the kind of lying done and its motives.

totai said...

Bradilyn, I love this discussion. Anytime I hear Christians say all lying is prohibited, and then cite their own version of the 8th commandment, I am amazed. The scriptural prohibition was to keep people from making misleading statements or deceiving others into believing something not true about "your neighbor".

Lying (any variation) is usually not the correct course of action, particularly if the goal of such deception is to cover your sin. However, I would agree that this is not as clear-cut as some make it out to be!

SheilaG said...

It's a hard question. My first instinct is to say we should never lie, but I guess my quandary is that I don't know what exactly is considered deception. For instance, Jesus never lied, but he didn't tell everyone who he was. There was a correct time/place/people to reveal that. Would we say he was being deceptive to the other people through omission, or was he simply being wise about how much information to give to whom? He never said he wasn't the Messiah when asked, but didn't always volunteer it, either.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Sheila, I don't think we need to equate keeping a secret with telling a lie. In Rahab's case, she was directly confronted. Have you seen them? Yes, they came and went. It was the "and went" part that was the lie.

Interesting that you bring this up, Brandilyn. Just last week I wrote a post on the subject: "To Lie Or Not To Lie". As I looked at the topic, I was most influenced by Jesus saying that Satan is a liar and the father of lies.

Can God work, even when we rely on sinful avenues rather than on Him? Well, sure. He worked when men crucified Jesus. He worked when Paul was persecuting Christians. I'm just not convinced we should put lying into the "gray area" category as one commenter did.


Nicole said...

I don't think it's a gray area. I think the objective is to tell the truth. However, there's no question Rahab was honored for her protection of the Hebrew spys. She chose her actions based on the good she believed she was doing to thwart the evil intentions of an evil regime. God used her. She believed the truth the spys told her and acted on it.

Sometimes it's God who sorts it out--that being the matters of the heart.

Daniel Smith said...

The end does not justify the means. Ever. That puts us in the position of judging which belongs to God alone. Therefore, there must always be another justification for our actions and inactions.

Rahab was justified because she did what was right in God's sight. She respected Him over her king. But that doesn't mean she had to lie to accomplish it. Jesus never lied, for example. I think Rahab was justified because of her intentions rather than because of her actions - which were deceptive.

So I think that is the only exception to the rule. If whatever is God's will in a given situation requires us to use deception to accomplish it, then it's acceptable - and I doubt very much that there will ever be a situation when that is the only way to accomplish God's will.

This is a very, *very* dangerous place to be. Satan is the father of lies. I like to call it his native language. Therefore, when we lie we are claiming Satan as our father and not God.

Again, it's a very, very dangerous place to be. One should not speak a lie lightly.

Cheryl Klarich said...

First of all, I loved Deceit!

Now about the lying thing...

I've often thought about the people living in Nazi Germany, there were those who lost their lives on the spot by speaking out. And their were those like Schindler, who pretended to be a Nazi and saved as many Jews as he could.

It's good to examine our hearts to the best of our ability and then trust God that we are here for such a time as this and leave the outcome to Him, knowing that He loves us.

Reba said...

As Christians in a fallen world in the year 2010, we are all on the slippery slope. Daily we have to make decisions to dig in and not slide down. We are faced with temptations greater than the body of Christ has ever been faced with.

I believe that for authors to ignore this and not write about it will do the body of Christ an injustice. Not only that, but how would Brandilyn's work lead people to the body of Christ if she does not meet them where they are...right there on that slippery slope.

I personally have had the privilege of leading 74 people to Christ through Brandilyn's books. Why? Because they could relate to the issues the characters faced and those characters showed them the way up the slippery slope.

Kudos to Brandilyn for allowing God to use her in that way.