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The ethics of lying

Created date

July 13th, 2009

Forty crew members from the U.S.S. Pueblo recently gathered in Vermont to compare memories four decades after North Korean patrol boats fired on them. Their three-week mission had turned ugly in 1968, leading to one combat death and 11 months in captivity. Although the Pueblo retains its Navy commission, the Pyongyang regime has converted the vessel into a tourist site. Still docked on the Taedong River, the craft prompts questions about the ethics of lying. At the outset, when the captors claimed that the Americans had crossed into their territorial waters, this was a lie. Then, when Commander Lloyd Bucher was beaten and threatened with execution of his crew, he signed a fake confession. Some say that lying is morally neutral (antinomianism). Others argue that lying is usually wrong (generalism), but may be right if it saves a life (situationism). Among those who hold to absolutes, one group feels that the commander had a moral duty to choose the lesser evil for the higher good (hierarchical absolutism). Others allege that his deed was wrong, but forgivable (ideal absolutism). In the end, I believe that life never puts us in a situation where we must choose evil (non-conflicting absolutism); instead, we are free to tell the truth or to remain silent leaving the consequences to God or fate. The military story reminds us of the scarlet innkeeper from Jericho. After hiding Hebrew spies in her attic, Rahab encountered the sheriff s posse. At first she told some truth: Yes, the men came to me. Then she misled the deputies in three ways: I did not know where they had come from .The men left .Go quickly. You may catch them. Although the Bible never commends this brave woman for her words, Joshua later spares her life, and the Christian writings affirm her action: She welcomed the spies and sent them off in a different direction. Two days before Christmas 1968, the Pueblo crew was released. Among them, some still dream of the day when the old ship will steam back into San Diego within sight of the cemetery high upon a bluff where their spirited commander rests in peace.