But not all false statements harm our neighbor. This is why in his commentary on Genesis, Martin Luther discusses Augustine’s three categories of lies: the deadly lie, the playful lie, and the obliging lie. He defines the deadly lie as “when our neighbor is deceived by us to his ruin and our own advantage.” Scriptural examples of the deadly lie include Potiphar’s wife accusing Joseph of attempted rape or those who claimed that Jesus threatened to destroy the temple. Concerning playful lies, Luther says that Augustine calls those the lies “of poets or of actors on the stage.” For example, my dearly departed childhood hero Roddy Piper “lied” about being a drifter who finds magical glasses that reveal aliens disguised as humans. (This example is, I hope you know, not from the Bible.) The obliging lie — such as the one Michal told Saul about David’s whereabouts to save his life — is called as such, Luther says, “because it not only serves the advantage of someone else, who would otherwise suffer harm or violence, but also prevents a sin.”
So what kind of lie has the Center for Medical Progress told? It’s certainly not the playful lie, as no sane human being finds the videos entertaining. One might argue that this is a lie of the deadly variety, intended to bring shame to those who talk about “less crunchy [abortion] techniques.” But ask your average pro-lifer if he’d let Deborah Nucatola move into his house in exchange for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the reversal of Roe v. Wade, and he’d gladly let her take his place in the master bedroom. The clear purpose of the CMP actors claiming to be representatives from a fledgling stem cell company was not to shame or bankrupt those who have little regard for the humanity of the unborn. The purpose was and remains to stop them from killing the unborn.
The lie of the CMP is, therefore, the obliging lie — seeking to protect the lives of our littlest neighbors. It’s the same lie told by people who say to a frothing-at-the-mouth husband, “sorry, I haven’t seen her,” when his battered wife is safely asleep in their guest bedroom. It’s the same lie told by law enforcement officers who do undercover work to protect children at risk of sexual abuse or citizens at risk of gang-related violence. And if Tollefsen wants to compare the actions of the CMP with a figure from World War II, Truman and his decision to let thousands upon thousands of women and children die to end the war is far from an appropriate candidate. Rather, he’d find a much better fit in someone like Irena Sendler, the Polish nurse who deceived the German government by producing fake IDs for Jewish children in order to save them from the Holocaust.