The Grove Is On Fire

Lying To Get To The Big Truth

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Depending on how big a geek you are (and let's face it, you're reading a blog right now, so you're a bit of one) you may have seen the story about a guy called Mike Daisey who made a lot of publicity about the appalling conditions in the factory that makes your iPhone. Turns out he was lying. It's not that the working conditions in Chinese electronics factories aren't pretty terrible, it's that what he said he'd witnessed hadn't happened.

The gist of Mike Daisey's defense is the idea that, though the pieces of his story weren't actually true, they combined to make for a story that painted a larger truth. Wrong. Daisey was not getting at a larger truth. He was instead painting a big lie.

That's from John Gruber's excellent blog. His point is you can't establish a bigger deeper truth with little soft "truthy" lies. That "truthy" expression to describe this sort of behaviour I've stolen from another excellent blog where the author explains the behaviour like this:

The easiest way to make a story engaging is to personalize it, to say "this is something that happened to me". Everyone knows this on some level. Urban legends happen to "a friend of a friend" because, just by adding that phrase, you have made the story twice as interesting as one that happened to someone to whom you have no link at all.

And here's the point for youth ministers and Christians in general. When you have something to tell the temptation is to try and make it more interesting with truthy stories. They didn't happen to you in quite the manner you're saying, but they did happen to someone at some point so they're kinda true right? That guy who got saved, well sure you weren't there, but it's a better story if you were and that'll grip the teenagers more. And you're trying to get across a really important point so it's worth doing it. Wrong. You can see on just human terms, even little small, truthy lies, undermine the whole message. And even more so on spiritual terms. You can't explain the God of truth with small little lies.

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The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. - Psalm 24:1