I had a friend back in California who’s mother was completely opposed to the consumption of dairy products. her father on the other hand was more lenient on the subject, and it was a significant childhood memory for her that her dad would occasionally sneak her out and get ice cream at thrifty. Before they left however they would each consume a small taste of her mother’s Non-Dairy-Rice-Based-Iced-Cream-Substitute so that when Mom returned home they would not have to lie about the fact that they both had “Rice Dream” (as the concoction was called)
The story is very cute but it rather completely misses the point of morality. Mom’s desire was clearly not that her children consume minute quantities of Rice Dream, It was that her children do not consume dairy. By telling her that you had Rice Dream you are using an irrelevant fact for sole purpose of deceiving her into drawing an incorrect conclusion about what else had not been consumed that night.
Nonetheless this sort of thing very common within the christian church, Brother Andrew told a similar story in his book “God’s Smuggler”. Andy spent his life bringing bibles,and teaching gospel lessons in “closed countries” where it was illegal. Nonetheless he refused to lie as he went about breaking the law of these various nations, and records his difficulty in making the decision to describe himself on an immigration application, not as a “missionary” but a “teacher”. To the brother’s mind this was of course technically true, but to the authorities the information received was certainty not “I am entering your country for the expressed purpose of breaking it’s laws”
Even as far back as 350AD the great Saint Athanasius who famously defended the doctrine of the trinity in the early church was not immune from this tradition. Once when the roman emperor sent troops up the Nile to find ant kill him Athanasius sailed his ship right past them. they asked him “Have you seen Athanasius?” and he responded honestly “you are not far from him” so they sailed on.
One can only justify tactics like this by taking a very specific definition of lying. Perhaps you could define it as “Intentionally saying something which you know to be false to another person in order to get them to believe it” this then would exclude statements of untruth like sarcasm or irony, as well as acting, and simply being mistaken. It also excludes deceptive statements of truth like “I ate Rice Dream”. But at that point, Why bother? If it is moral to deceive your neighbor as much as you wish so long as you do not technically break the rule, then what exactly is the rule there for? Just for kicks?
Maybe instead of striving not to lie we should strive to be honest. Honesty has a much wider definition that implies we should communicate truth in all circumstances (truth being defined as that which corresponds to reality) This begins with honesty with yourself, meaning that if you are a career criminal for the gospel you probably shouldn’t pretend like you are following all the rules as well. 😉