By now you’ve all heard about this genius, televangelist Ted Haggard, who smoked some meth while getting a massage from a gay male escort and may or may not have had sexual relations with said escort.
These sort of things aren’t new. Religious people engaging in practices which defy their preachings. It’s called sin. He’s head of a religious organization, and he got caught sinning in a HUGE way, so he’s got to go. If only the evangelicals had a confessional…
So, I would feel bad for the guy if he wasn’t filthy rich and deserved every ounce of criticism he’s going to get. Well, almost allcriticism.
Over at the PuffingTons Host, for example, Nathaniel Frank, Lyn Davis Lear, Martin Lewis, Martin Lewis again, Jill Sobule, and RJ Eskow are all jumping on the bandwagon to rail against Mr. Haggard’s “hypocrisy’. You know, practice what you preach and all of that jazz.
While I don’t want to rush to Mr. Haggard’s defense, I do want to illuminate the essential flaw in the liberal cry of hypocrisy.
First, what makes a hypocrite? Essentially it is somebody who says one thing and does another. In the Christian world, according to the talking heads on the left, it’s a preacher who tells you to do one thing while he does the other. See! Hypocrite. And they are right. Mr. Haggard is a hypocrite.
But we have to examine who is calling him a hypocrite. Christianity has come under attack as of late. Many people on the left are giddy with glee whenever a religious figure falls. Essentially, they remark that the silly notions of God are doing nothing but forcing people to live up to impossible standards. Even worse, they contend, believing in such an antiquated book (and they’ll rail against the Old Testament but say little about the New Testament) produces closed-minded hate-freaks who have done nothing but caused wars throughout the ages. This is a broad brush, but it accurately portrays a majority of people on the left (and those who are on the “right” with atheistic tendencies).
When you ask about their religious leanings, often you’ll get a “I was raised Catholic but…” or “I used to go to Church but…” or “I’m agnostic” or “I believe in the goodness of man” line. Nothing organized. Nothing concrete. Simply a feel-good “positive energy” kind of mentality that basically says, “Blest are you who do your own thing for whatever reason. That’s cool. Unless you’re a hatebot evangelical.” It’s no longer a religion as it’s more of a rationalization of their lazy beliefs into a set of guidelines which can be broken at will so long as the intent was proper. No divine retribution. No hell. No purgatory. No eternity. Just an idea that what we do on this planet is important, but that it ceases there.
Usually these folks are compassionate to a fault. They cry when Oprah interviews a woman who kills her own baby because she can’t deal with having a baby. They say, “Poor woman.” Or they “identify” with people who do horrible things, rationalizing the result. They think all war is bad, and that every bomb dropped targets a day care. They give to secular charities thinking that does good work. And they are against the death penalty, but see nothing wrong in embryonic stem cell research (hey, they were being discarded anyway, right?) Unfortunately, this mindset develops a meandering line between good and evil. Everything is perception and relative and there are no absolutes.
So when Ted Haggard screws up, these compassionate folks are the first to tear him down, which is odd, considering the compassion they show others. No rationalization of “wow, he’s under stress, he must have needed that meth.” No compassion. Just time to throw him under the bus. Why? Because he’s a moralist. And that’s an important distinction.
When people are confronted by someone who says their behavior is wrong for X, Y and Z, the person confronted usually gets upset. “How dare you!” Then they storm off. It’s a natural reaction. Nobody likes being told what to do or what their problem is. What really irritates people when confronted by a moralist is the possibility that the moralist is correct. And if you have been living your life incorrectly, and the compassion you thought you were dispensing was actually poison, that is truly a guilt bombshell. Rather than face an exposure like that, it’s best to ignore those questions. Even better, when a moralist actually exhibits moral failings, it’s hypocrisy! And if the moralist is a hypocrite, it invalidates their argument! (If only…)
The moralists, regardless of religion, are holding themselves to standards of perfection. It’s an impossible achievement, but does that mean striving for it is not worthwhile? Rather than abandoning the quest for perfection, the amoral strive for mediocrity– is what I do really that bad? If not, then I can live with it. There is no higher standard. There is no study of a situation. It’s a brief exploration of feeling which generates a convenient answer that has very little to do with the truth. On the other hand, a moralist studies behavior, logic, and prudence and comes to a realization that there is a good way to live. If he tells others how to live that way, and then is caught in a failing, he’s a hypocrite. But it is impossible to find the amoralist guilty in a similar way because their convictions are not based upon perfection but rather imperfect (human) perception. And you can’t call a human a hypocrite for being human.
Essentially, when you drop all pretense of perfection and put your faith in people, you will always be disappointed. So if you expect to be disappointed, there is no surprise in finding the failing of your neighbor. However, when someone chooses a moral path and preaches the benefits of that path, the goal is perfection, and that cannot be attained by a human course. So rather than commiserate with the failure of the moralist, it’s easier to call them a hypocrite and then laud the benefits of your worthless personal philosophy.
So Ted Haggard is a hypocrite, according to the amoral. It’s just another example that it’s easier to succumb to sin and grow comfortable with moral failing than it is purse a sinless course, admitting that there will be failings along the way.