On hypocrisy

hypocrisyWhen Mike Jones went to the media with claims that New Life megachurch pastor Ted Haggard had paid him for sex and meth, he said he did so because of Haggard's hypocrisy. Jones said he felt that Haggard was a hypocrite because he preached against homosexual behavior while also engaging in it. The hypocrisy slur has been lodged against Haggard far and wide.

Two recent essays in First Things question the hypocrisy claim. While First Things is a religious journal, reporters on the Haggard beat -- or any subsequent scandal story -- should read them. Robert Miller argues that people aren't hypocrites because they violate a moral norm in which they profess to believe:

Hypocrisy is a much worse form of moral wrongdoing. It's a certain kind of lying, and so can be done only consciously and intentionally.

. . . Ted Haggard, I am sure, always believed that homosexual conduct was wrong, always wanted to avoid such conduct, and always regretted engaging in it after he did so. He found himself experiencing very powerful desires contrary to the values he sincerely believed in, desires he wished with all his heart he could have escaped from, desires he refers to as a "repulsive and dark" part of his life against which he has been warring for a long time. Sometimes, contrary to his wish, he gave in to those desires. This makes him weak, not a hypocrite.

Richard John Neuhaus added to the comments by providing a modern example of hypocrisy. German novelist Günter Grass loudly proclaimed for years that any of his countrymen who was affiliated with Nazis should be ostracized, more or less. And yet he had willingly served in the Waffen-SS and had hidden that fact. Neuhaus says false accusations of hypocrisy show a "naive indifference to the reality of the conflicted self."

Kevin Simpson and Eric Gorski's piece for The Denver Post uses the Haggard scandal as a jumping-off point to discuss homosexual behavior and its causes:

Although the nature versus nurture debate -- biology versus psycho-social factors -- has simmered for years, most recent research has pointed toward sexual orientation being hard-wired into humans, at least to some degree, said Anthony Bogaert, a psychology professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, who studies sexual orientation development.

What's so interesting about this story and so many others that deal with the "root causes of homosexuality" is the underlying assumption that an individual who engages in both heterosexual and homosexual behavior is, well, obviously and unequivocally gay. Take Ted Haggard. Here is a man who has been married to a woman for decades and has five children. He also, allegedly, paid a man for sex for three years. Isn't it interesting that so many people assume that combination means he's gay? You bake one loaf of bread, it doesn't mean you're considered a baker, but for some reason we think differently about sexuality. But only in one direction -- men in homosexual relationships who've slept with -- or even been married to -- women aren't considered straight.

Anyway, what's missing from the whole Denver Post article is the view of some Christians that homosexuality -- whether or not it is genetically influenced or some product of cultural influences -- is not the best expression of God's plan for sexual desire. The absence of that information or perspective makes the rest of the article -- which more or less condemns evangelical efforts to assist homosexuals in modifying their behavior -- ring hollow.

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