Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hypocrisy and Virtue

Hypocrisy (along with intolerance and authoritarianism) is one of the very few vices in the post-modern canon of morality. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a vice that the world very frequently accuses Christianity of. "Brights" love to point out that while Christians may claim that their morality espouses chastity and fidelity, "red" states have higher rates of illegitimacy and divorce than "blue" one -- and highly educated atheists have low divorce rates compared to the "average Christian".

Conservatives (a certain line of thought goes) are hypocrites. They run around proclaiming a high standard of morality, and yet again and again it becomes clear that no Christian is perfect -- every Christian violates his own moral code. Why can't conservatives just "judge not"? Why don't they stop insisting that gay marriage and abortion and birth control and divorce and all these "personal, bedroom decisions" are moral issues and let people follow their own consciences? And why not admit that some bad things just happen? Sure, abortion and divorce are bad -- but bad things happen all the time. Conservative Christians get divorced and have abortions too. So why make all this noise about "objective evil". Why not admit that everyone is a sinner but we're all basically good?

One of my liberal Episcopalian friends had a great deal to say along these during the bishop Robinson flap. Her claim was that conservative Episcopalians were being hypocritical in opposing Robinson when they knew very well that even believers in orthodox morality sin. "So what if he's more publicly known as a sinner," her argument went. "All priests and bishops sin, so why should people be upset simply because you know that this particular bishop sins in a particular way?"

All this is very different from Christ's objection to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Christ condemned the pharisees for pretending to be sinless while in fact sinning.

The post-modern condemnation of hypocrisy faults people for declaring something to be a sin despite the fact that he does it.

Well, we are all definitely sinners. So the post-modern condemnation of hypocrisy is essentially a demand that no sin ever be condemned. Goodness knows, it's discouraging when someone who has been an upspoken proponent of morality is publicly revealed to commit the very sins that he condemns. Yet isn't such a hypocrite far better than someone who denies that those actions are sins at all? To paraphrase Chesteron: The thief respects private property, he merely wishes the property of others to be his own. The adulterer respects marriage, he simply wants to enjoy the pleasures of someone else's marriage in addition to his own.

In our topsy turvey world, what many people call hypocrisy is simply the refusal to be so depraved as to ignore the existence of sin all together -- even if one is not successful in avoiding the sin. Three cheers for hypocrisy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent! It is so tough for some to see that it takes humility to acknowledge our own sinfulness, but to continue (with God's graces)in the struggle. With this formation of humility, the heart is better prepared to show love and not just say it. It's hypocricy when one is so prideful they refuse to take responsibility for their own sinful behaviors.

The beginning of your post got my attention. Great post.