Though I am not very religiously observant I find it disturbing that our culture considers religious men (or women) who act less than virtuous to be hypocrites. Our culture tars such folks as hypocritical when they are caught cheating (either on finances or spouses), as though being religious means being perfect.
My understanding is that all major religions consider humans to be imperfect, even fallen, and that some of the purposes of religion are to help folks achieve forgiveness and redemption when they sin and to help them strive to be less sinful. There is nothing hypocritical about being a member of such a religious faith while engaging in such behaviors: to be religious in this sense is to acknowledge one’s own imperfect nature and to know that forgiveness and redemption will be necessary and obtainable when one does not live up to one’s ideals. It both demeans and misapprehends the purpose of religion when our culture treats such folks as hypocrites. It is only when religious folks revel in such behaviors that they earn this epitaph.
However, many of the same folks claiming religious piety also claim to be strong believers in “family values,” which they have not chosen to define as creating high quality education for all children, or guaranteeing health care and safe neighborhood for all children, or freeing the world of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Instead they have chosen to define “family values” as avoiding and discouraging homosexuality, adultery and abortion. These “family values” folks do not accept deviation from these codes of sexual behavior for others and therefore are hypocrites when they are caught violating these same codes.
So I say have compassion for the religious person who has fallen short of his or her ideals. But for the “family values” espouser caught engaging in acts that “family values” prohibit, I suggest we are free to hang them from their testicles and waterboard them.