Thou Shall Not Lie: A Brief Reflection on Ethics and Research

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It was April of 2009. I had just started my 2-month missionary bootcamp before deploying to the Middle East. During this training I heard all about how many wonderful ways I could get persecuted, imprisoned, or killed for being a missionary. While that certainly could create fear enough to lie in situations, it was always stressed that deceit cannot be used if you want to tell the truth. How can the Gospel spread if its messengers use deceit?

In journalism and research, truth and lies can’t share the same space. Deceit taints the end product. As I say this, I make the distinction between deceit and concealment. I have no ethical issues with concealment. If I participated in a report, I may want my responses or identity concealed but not lied about. On the other end, I wouldn’t want to be lied to, either. If I am part of a study that researches anxiety, let me know. Don’t lie about what I’m being tested for. When deceit is used, the variables become unreliable. Millions of variations of thoughts and actions can occur from what I understand to be reality. How does that make for accurate responses if my reality is false? Deceit directly lets the someone manipulate my reactions to meet his/her desired outcomes. While concealment will still yield different results from open revelation, at least my responses will be based on a reality I created from truth rather than lies. If the end goal is truth, truth must be embraced. I don’t necessarily need to know all the details or what is the full objective of the report or study. However, I must have truth if my reactions are to be accurate.

To bookend my response with my mission experience, I did learn about concealment in training. I learned Christ never deceived but did conceal. He never once stated to be the Son of God. He knew this would be taken as validation for the Pharisees’ charges of blasphemy. Instead, when confronted with the question, “Are you then the Son of God,” He replied, “You say that I am.” He deflected the question and answered at the same time. When I finally went to mission field, I learned that claiming to be a Christian was understood as someone who drank, hired prositutes, loved war, and hated anyone that wasn’t like them. The term Christian was a very inaccurate and often dangerous label to identify with. When I would be asked if I was a Christian, I learned to conceal but not deceive. I would reply, “I am a follower of Isa (Jesus).” This would be accepted as a good thing and open doors for the Gospel.

mhd

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