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The Invention of Lying, a Theological Review

February 1, 2010

I recently rented and watched, The Invention of Lying.  Though some of the previews made me skeptical as to whether or not this would be a good flick, the premise of the movie intrigued me.  Essentially the setting of the movie is that of a world in which everyone tells the complete truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  You can imagine by way of introducing such a world that from the beginning dialogue was pretty edgy and shocking, because people were saying exactly what was on their mind.

The hinge of the movie swings in a moment when the main character, Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais) receives a premonition which flies in the face of the world that everyone knows, loves, and assumes — he lies.  Because this truth-filled world knows nothing of deceit, untruth, nor lies anything and everything Mark says, people believe as gospel truth.  Here is where the movie comes to life.

In a matter of moments, Mark lies for money, sex, and power.  The audience is meant to dive right into this seemingly wonderful experience and imagine if we lived in such a world.  These three gods are hoisted up not simply as desire things, but revolutionary to Mark’s existence.  You see to this point Mark’s life was lame.  No one liked him, his job wasn’t going well, and he just had one of the most awkward dates in history.  Now his life was going great.  In fact his life had been so redeemed through the invention of lying that he became a savior. Mark gave money to the homeless, convinced an apartment mate not to commit suicide, and gave hope to his mother on her death bed.

This fictional world of truth had been presented as cold, lifeless, artificial, wooden, and calculated.  People got married if they were a good genetic match.  If someone does not possess good genetics they were said to be worthless and second class citizens.  This world without deception was hauntingly animalistic.  Apparently without lies we are just bland mammals, made to procreate.  Lies bring color, zest, and joy to life.  Lies are the little heroes that give us our gods.  This makes us glad that Mark Bellison discovered such a savior.

I would be worried if I thought Americans develop their theology based on movies.  But we don’t do that, do we?

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