Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pious Lies

I finally finished reading Sarah. All through the book I kept noting little things that would be worthy of discussing...things like how Card addressed Sarah's feelings about her infertility, how Sarah and her sister interacted, and whether or not the relationship between Sarah and Abraham had been portrayed in a consistent or believable manner (I would say no to both.)

But all of that went tumbling away from my mind when I got to Cards afterword section where he introduces the notion of "Pious Lies", claiming that Abraham was completely justified in lying about Sarah being his sister rather than his wife when in the court of Pharaoh. (Interesting that Card made it Pharaoh who they were dealing with.)

Anyway I have been thinking A LOT about that, and struggling with the whole notion.
On the one hand I DO believe that the Lord can and does give specific instruction to specific individuals that require them to violate a basic commandment.

For example, in the Book of Mormon we have the story of how Nephi is commanded to slay Laban so that Nephi can get the Brass Plates and preserve his own life. He is told that it is better for one man to perish than a whole nation struggle in ignorance and unbelief which is what will happen if they don't have the critical records to teach their people from. I can accept that.

So if Abram/Abraham was given specific revelation from God to say Sariah/Sarah was his sister, based on my faith in revelation and that Abram/Abraham was indeed a true prophet, I could accept that.

What I do NOT accept is that any time an individual thinks their life is in danger they are totally justified to say or do anything they think they may need to in order to preserve their own safety. I think in some extreme cases it might be understandable and excusable to lie my way out of danger, but I think Card was just a bit too flippant about how he addressed this issue.

Honesty and integrity are precious commodities that seem to be little valued in our modern society. In far too many situations people fall back on thinking the ends justifies the means. So I am wondering - in what cases do I think it would be justified to lie to save my life? In what cases would I not?

Would I deny my testimony of Jesus Christ if I was told I would be killed unless I refuted that belief? I hope not.

Would I lie to a burglar who held a gun at my head if I knew a way to convince him/her that I was more valuable alive than dead? Probably.

I've been thinking about the "social lies" that are often told in order to spare some one's feelings. I'm thinking about all the many ways that I measure my own integrity and whether there are areas where I could specifically do a better job at honoring the truth.

Sarah was an ok book. I strongly preferred the other novel about her life by Marek Halter. Card's version didn't seem to stay true to the cultural / historical context how Patriarchy would have played out and his two primary women characters were way too one sided.

His writing in this book was not powerful for me, as it was in the novel Pastwatch which takes a very interesting twist on the Christopher Columbus story, or Stone Tables that gives us a view into the life of Moses and his family. I'm still a fan of several of his works. This one, for me, falls short.

1 comment:

  1. In Genesis is does not say the Lord told Abraham to have Sarai say she was his sister.
    However, in the LDS scripture "The Pearl of Great Price" Chapter 2, verses 22-24, it says, ".....the LORD said unto me.....let her say unto the Egyptians she is thy sister......"

    Card definitely took liberties with his characters, especially with Qira. In the Patriarchal society she lived in I doubt she would have voiced (even if she felt them) the "feminist" type feelings Card had to feel.

    I am not a "deep" reader, so I just enjoyed the book as an easy to read novel with characters I know from the Bible.