Tuesday, 08 May 2012
By JN Hong
I’ve been catching various fragments of the Invention of Lying.
My brother has been watching it on the hard drive recorded off the television. It is a relatively old movie and was released quite a while ago, but I haven’t mustered up the inspiration to sit down and view the entire movie.
The premise of the show is set in a world where no one knows how to lie, and this is fraught with philosophical impossibilities that I don’t really understand. The idea of the movie is that “telling the truth” is limited to speaking frankly, and without restraint. This limits the idea of truth to an impossibly small circle, whereas people are not allowed to be genuinely mistaken. Moreover, what if people know the truth, but are not compelled to voice the truths? Is that not considered lying, unless we are all naturally gossipers and to not gossip is to lie to our human nature (I could live with that).
Anyway, Ricky Gervais lives in a world where everyone tells the truth, no one has discovered how to lie yet.
It’s an amusing premise where Ricky Gervais discovers the first lie, and people are still believing him to be telling the truth. The first lie he perpectuates is that he is black and his name is in fact [insert someone else's name].
While he happily inhabits this little world for a while, he’s suddenly called to his mother’s bedside. He is struck with the brevity of life with his mother is dying, and fearful of what happens after death. He muses how she would live and then she would never come back into this world again and an “eternity of nothingness”. I found the scene on youtube:
What he creates is the greatest “lie”: the notion of a heaven where “you go to your favourite place in the whole world”–a simple nirvana/heaven concept.
While I feel it is a very intelligent critique and satire about the origin of Christianity and various other religions, born out of a will to make death more palatable and desirable, I feel it is largely one-sided. To me, the story is inspiring to what joy and happiness there is for a Christian after death–that there is no fear moving from this world to the next. I feel as Christians we often forget how great a story that God has revealed to us. After this scene in the hospital, the news spreads that he knows of what happens after when you die, and people are still convinced that every word people speak of is true. Crowds gather all around his house and nighttime vigils wait for the very sight of Ricky Gervais to exit the building.
The desperation and the hungriness for the Gospel is evident. People want and need the Gospel constantly. I think Christians always forget this, and how much the world is in need of the Gospel. I feel we often have a narrow focus in “missions”, and the target is not only the poor in Africa, but also the man standing on the corner, the man behind the counter when we buy our energy drinks. Every man is curious about where we are going beyond this lifetime, and whether there is hope for every man. I feel that is the question that everyone is asking, but as Christians we have the keys to the Kingdom, and we have the Holy Spirit residing in us–what else is there stopping us from telling the truth?
My question is this: In a world of lies, what if heaven is the only truth we can hold on to?
What if everything we believed in, and built our lives upon was the lie that we have been perpetuated? When our eyes are opened to see how society has been constructed in such a way that is diametrically opposed to God, we realise that heaven is not a lie constructed to make death more palatable but a natural destination for our present sanctification. That is, the truth of heading to the most beautiful place our minds could comprehend is a growing reality every day as we grow closer and closer to God.
I feel Ricky Gervais has religion right in some aspects, but he has the issue upside down: the world is built on lies, not on truth. The premise is that we all are born in sin, and in need of the truth to bring us to reconciliation. I believe that as long as God can see into the deepest recesses of our hearts, then He can see how much we need heaven. It is not a lie that is only for people on their deathbeds, but a truth to build our lives upon.