Smithtown native Steve Rannazzisi, a comedian and star of the FXX sitcom, "The League," admitted last month that he had lied about working in the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A harmless fib or a sinful falsehood? This week's clergy discuss the difference.
The Rev. Thomas Boyd, pastor, Church of the Nazarene, Massapequa Park:
If someone were to say to me that they never lied, I would know that they were lying. Lying is a sin every time you do it because God's word tells us not to lie. Leviticus 19:11 states, "Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another." This is the first of 73 times the Old Testament admonishes us not to lie or be deceitful. Proverbs 12:22 states, "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy." The New Testament has 27 references about lying. Colossians 3:9 says, "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices." I believe that all of us know instinctively that lying is wrong. Parents say it's not what my children did that made me so angry; it's that they lied about it. If in fact, we do not like to be lied to, what makes us think it is all right to lie to others? Lying is done to cover up something we did that we don't want to admit to. We lie to make ourselves look better than we are. We lie to get something that we might not be entitled to. Every reason that we lie is not a positive reason. Don't kid yourself. A white lie is still a lie. Imagine how much better our world would be if we were all truthful in all circumstances. Besides, if you tell the truth, you don't need a good memory.
Sanaa Nadim, chaplain, Islamic Society, Interfaith Center, Stony Brook University:
In the Islamic tradition, there is a saying, according to the Prophet Muhammad, that "he who lies, cannot be one of us." (Hadith) It means that lying is a huge sin in Islam. Lying corrupts the heart, and it influences the morality of your personality. It shows a certain cowardice, and an inability to face whatever situation you are confronted with, or your lack of acceptance of who you are. Lying is permissible in these instances: For example, when your wife has cooked food and you don't like it, but she exerted herself and presented it with such kindness and generosity, instead of hurting her feelings, when she asks do you like the food, you can say, "Thank God, that was a good meal." The second instance is if you are trying to bring together people who are in an argument. You may say, for example, "Oh, he always speaks well of you," and then turn around and say the same thing to another party, in order to soften their hearts and create harmony. However, in my opinion, to gain notoriety or materialistic advantage by lying, is spiritually, emotionally and humanly unacceptable. Moreover, to capitalize on a very monumental tragedy, such as Sept. 11, where over three thousand people lost their lives in the most horrific way, and those who were saved were traumatized forever -- to attach your success to this can only describe you as insensitive and without dignity. In the end, deception destroys honor.
Rabbi Janet B. Liss, North Country Temple, Glen Cove:
We have a poster hanging in our Hebrew School with the saying, "If you tell the truth, you will never have to remember who you said what to."
Judaism is very clear on this point, and our sources go into exquisite detail to keep people from lying, exaggerating the truth, swearing false oaths, being deceitful in one's behavior and destroying another through deceitful speech. There is a category of acceptable white lies. You are allowed to lie if the effect of telling the truth will cause unnecessary hurt; when telling the truth will cause pain, by, for example, telling someone at a party that you don't like what she is wearing. You are allowed to lie if your life or someone else's is at stake. You may lie to create peace or do good, like lying to a poor person in order to help them while maintaining their dignity. You may lie if someone is invading your privacy. A single person can say that he/she is married to stop unwanted advances. You can lie to exaggerate a point, if it is understood that you are exaggerating, for example, "I am dying to have the latest cell phone." You cannot lie to elevate your position, to mislead people or to give yourself an advantage over others. The excuse that "everyone does it" does not make it right or acceptable in Judaism.