Religious hypocrisy is not “family values” hypocrisy

Posted Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Law and Culture, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to General Public

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.

4 thoughts on Religious hypocrisy is not “family values” hypocrisy

  1. Steph says:

    Very well thought out and written post Gregory.

  2. Lee Forman says:

    Greg, Stong sentiment and I am in 100% agreement with you.

  3. Dawes Cooke says:

    I have always taken comfort in the words of one minister, who said that the church is a hospital for sinners, not a sanctuary for saints. nevertheless, it bothers me when someone finds religious faith only after he has been caught doing something really bad.

  4. TB says:

    Greg – I commend the clarity of your thoughts here and I agree whole-heartedly with your separation of religious piety and inter-human ethics. The former in most cases compels the latter but the converse of this is not true; ethics are free-standing without need for religious backing. Profession of “family values” drives me insane to start with, and then to load the speaker’s inevitable hypocrisy on top of it leaves me in shock at the inanity of those who would espouse this idea as it is so often described — equating moral virtue largely to mere avoidance of vice, without regard for what it actually takes to properly lead a family and rear children in our increasingly complicated world with our human brains that are entirely ill-equipped to cope with it.

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