One interesting feature of the recent scandals is their breadth. The current wave began with revelations about the office atmosphere at a conservative Republican—leaning (!) media outlet, Fox News, with the most visible examples being founder Roger Ailes and star talent Bill O’Reilly. Then there was a bit of a pause until revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who was not, um, conservative or Republican. And then the dam broke—media personalities at the left-wing Vox and at NBC, powerful Hollywood icons, a fashion designer, and the usual string of libidinous politicians, both red and blue.
This breadth has given us an opportunity to watch partisanship in action. When a politically conservative abuser is uncovered, the left calls for his head; when a leftist is uncovered, the right does the same. But when the perv is “our guy,” each side rushes to the ramparts and defends The Cause against Scurrilous and Unfounded Charges by Evil or Manipulated Women Out to Make a Fast Buck or Just Get Attention.
We call that hypocrisy. And nobody likes it—when it’s practiced by the Other Side.
There’s a reason why we don’t like it, at least in other people. Because we’re created in the image of God, there’s something deep inside us, even as broken and sinful people, that wants to be like him—that resonates with his qualities, even if we have difficulty putting them into practice.
And this particular quality is truthfulness. God is true and faithful and trustworthy. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for that quality, ‘emunah, is the source of our English word amen (“May it be so!”). We celebrate his truthfulness, and we seek it in others. Every government makes it a crime, or at least a misdemeanor, to break your word, to fail to keep a contract, to slander or libel someone. We expect truthfulness.
And that’s why we jeer at the opposition for their hypocrisy, even as we excuse it in ourselves. That’s different, you see; ours is a completely different situation. Apples and oranges.
When we engage in such sophistry, defending vice against virtue when it suits our cheap temporal goals, we have descended to the level of the perverts themselves. We despise them for being one thing on TV, or on the Senate floor, and being something very different after they’ve pressed the button under their desk to lock their office door. They’re hypocrites.
Just like us.
Others have noted that sinfulness is not necessarily hypocrisy; a legislator can vote for a law against fornication while being a fornicator who is trying desperately to stop. The hypocrite is one who does not see his sin as sin—who continues it while demanding that others stop. And neither side in this controversy shows any interest in stopping the partisan hypocrisy.
As evil as all this is, I think there’s another element to it that’s even worse, especially when practiced by believers.
In his classic passage on love, Paul lists a number of admirable characteristics of genuine love. Among those is the remarkable statement that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1Co 13.6). And love, you’ll recall, is both the first and second great commandment, according to Jesus (Mt 22.37-40).
I think we’ve all had this experience. There’s a new allegation; a new perp is uncovered. And he’s on the Other Side.
There a place deep inside us that feels really, really good about it. Oh, yeah, the other guys have another sleazeball.
And we rejoice.
Oh, we tell ourselves, as we shake our heads, it’s just a shame. Those poor victims—how they must be hurting. How sad that it took so long for their abusers to be unmasked. Such injustice. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Let’s see that justice is done, for the good of all, and for truth, justice, and the American way.
But we still rejoice.
We’re glad it happened. This’ll look really bad on the Other Side’s resume. How many House seats will this give us in the next election? How many more Supreme Court justices will this give us? How many decades of Our Side winning?
When we think that way, we’re not thinking like God. We’ve taken sides against him.
Time for us to change too.
Mark Ward says
Amen. We’re pilgrims and strangers in a land that is not yet our own.