Friday, August 31, 2007


Senator Larry Craig from Idaho was arrested in June 2007 in a men’s restroom at the Minneapolis Airport. He plead guilty to disorderly conduct. Apparently, it was a place frequented by men seeking gay sex. Of course, the press is having a field day, and Craig isn’t helping matters by denying that a guilty plea suggests his guilt.

Interestingly, the big word of the day is “hypocrisy.” Several commentators are expressing their moral outrage that Craig is a conservative Republican who speaks strongly in favor of “family values.” That he would say one thing and do another has caused the pundits to be shocked and dismayed.

I am bothered by the tidal wave of “hypocrite” charges. Is Craig a hypocrite? The evidence suggests yes. Nonetheless, there are bigger problems here than hypocrisy. As one pundit noted, “Adultery, for starters, is worse then hypocrisy.”

Oscar Wilde, no paragon of a prim and proper puritan, once quipped, “that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.” Back in those days, vice and virtue were considered objective. The hypocrite, despite his moral failing, at least knew the right thing to do. These days, our current culture teaches that morality is based entirely on personal preferences. The highest good is “to be true to self.” Where virtue is defined by the individual, hypocrisy becomes the only vice.

Paul’s confession of sin rings a little different in the modern ear:
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:14-15)
Paul is a self-acknowledged hypocrite. He doesn’t particularly need redemption. He needs merely to change his convictions to fit his morality. In our world, the libertine will never be a hypocrite.

“Hypocrisy”, at least in its current manifestation, has become a useless word.

No comments: