Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Warm Thoughts on the Intolerant Hypocrisy of Moral Relativism

By Garry J. Moes

The outlawing of the Ten Commandments in recent years seems to have led to some wonderful economies of scale in the area of sinning. The number of serious transgressions has been reduced to approximately three, far below the 600-plus possible violations of biblical law which were summarized some millennia ago into the familiar ten entries on the two tablets of stone now banned from courtrooms, schools and most public places.

One of the three is fairly new and reflects the ascendency of a new god (goddess?). "Warming" of the deity "Globe" is now among the highest of absolute offenses, but, thankfully, the unnatural acts which constitute this great evil seem to be largely limited at this time to only the most corrupt of pervert societies: advanced capitalist realms. It used to be that warmness was viewed in a positive light. We liked being around people with "warm" personalities. We appreciated a "warm" welcome. Couldn’t sleep? A "warm" cup of milk did the trick. Anything that gave us "warm" and fuzzy feelings was a good thing. But apparently the new god(dess) reacts adversely to being warmed, and to avoid her/its/his wrath and the certain catastrophes which follow thereupon, we must educate ourselves and our children, especially our children, to refrain from the sin of warming at all costs — and the costs may be staggering.

A second, more traditional, sin among the three remaining transgressions is Intolerance (and its cousin Racism), but, again thankfully, this is now a sin only on a limited scale; indeed, it cannot even be regarded as a sin unless one is intolerant of tolerance (i.e., a liberal view of life). That is to say, only people with the aforementioned outmoded traditional values based on the earlier recognized 600-plus sins are capable of intolerance. Intolerance by those blessed with a sense of liberality toward all things is really quite a virtue. This is tricky. Many people in the current transitional period have become very confused about when tolerance and intolerance are sinful and which targets are legitimate, so it is important always to consult the true experts, the elite arbiters of the new moral paradigms (such as certain movie stars). If you can’t understand what they are saying, just follow their example and you probably can’t go wrong.

Which brings us to the third remaining sin. This is perhaps as old as mankind and is pretty much the one remaining universally acknowledged human disposition that could be regarded as conventional iniquity. It is Hypocrisy — also known as The Double Standard. You can hear it discussed ... and soundly condemned ... almost every day, particularly in political discourse. It is highly bipartisan. You can see this great sin — and the denunciation of it — on both sides of the aisle.

It used to have a more religious tone to it. I remember long ago that when an evangelistically minded Christian, for example, would try to invite one of the traditional types of sinners to get right with God, the almost inevitable objection by the sinner would be that he wanted nothing to do with God because the Church was full of hypocrites. Someone came up with a clever retort that since no sinner ever gets into heaven and thus there could be no hypocrites there, it would make good sense to get right with God and thus be assured of going to that great hypocrite-free zone in the sky one day.

Nowadays, The Double Standard has a more generic or secular aspect. But that has not by any means diminished its character as a widely recognized sin.

We submit, however, that the charge of Hypocrisy, as applied today, is frequently a cop-out and misses the mark. To grasp this, one must understand the basic definition or character of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is (A) a show or expression of feelings or beliefs that one (B) does not actually hold or possess. To put it simply, it is "saying one thing" (usually something good and virtuous) and "doing another thing" (usually something bad or unvirtuous). The hypocrite, to state it in yet another familiar way, does not "practice what he preaches."

If you think about this for a minute, its means that there are always two moral aspects to the hypocrite which must be examined. On one hand there is the moral quality of (A) what he says, or shows, or expresses in public. On the other hand, one must examine the moral quality of (B) his actual or true hidden position. The problem with making a charge of hypocrisy is that one can easily fail to examine either of these causal positions and simply expose their combined effect, which we label hypocrisy if A and B are inconsistent with one another. The accused may then simply deny the hypocrisy charge or return it and never be forced to deal with the moral character of its underlying components. Furthermore, while no one likes to be accused of sin, being accused of hypocrisy is perhaps not the worse thing that could happen to oneself; after all, one can’t actually be fined or imprisoned or put to death for being a hypocrite.

Let’s consider an example so see why charges of hypocrisy are often the easy way out of a moral conundrum and rarely lead to corrected behavior.

One of the most prolific levelers of hypocrisy charges today is that Great American Sean Hannity, a truly guileless fellow who is almost always right in assessing the moral positions of his antagonists, the Liberals. Perhaps he is so prone to bring this charge because the sin is so fantastically ubiquitous among liberals. He is almost always right in recognizing hypocrisy when he sees it, but he tends to dwell incessantly (dare I say, ad nauseam) on the apparent hypocrisy and often fails to deal conclusively with the deeper sins of the hypocrite, the component polar positions (A and B) which combine to give rise to this sin of effect.

One of Mr. Hannity’s favorite targets of late, for obvious and wholly appropriate reasons, has been Al Gore, the new high priest of the deity Globe ... the thunderous prophet and revelator of the very un-chic new sin of warming. Mr. Hannity and others have carefully followed Mr. Gore’s travel and living habits and found that the way he lives and works and travels is grossly inconsistent with the way he says the rest of us should live and work and travel if we are to avoid the new sin of warming Globe. Mr. Gore’s critics seem, for sure, to have nailed him to the wall on the sin of hypocrisy, the double standard, inconsistency writ large. But few, including Mr. Hannity, have gone deeper to examine the moral realities of either Mr. Gore’s preachments or his behaviors, the constituent components of his hypocrisy. Yet this is quite possible to do. It has been done, thankfully, by some dedicated journalists (see the results of their in-depth investigation, for example, elsewhere on this blog). The result of this examination is much more important and useful than taking the easy way out with a charge of hypocrisy. It shows that Mr. Gore is a liar and a fraud and that the mathematical al-gore-isms and computer models he touts in support of his divine science (what he preaches) are just plain wrong. And because he advances falsehoods, he himself is a moral wrongdoer. (Oops, pardon me. I forgot there for a moment that lying, fraud and deception are among those old-timey "sins" that are no longer recognized as unacceptable.) One could, on the other hand, examine the morality of his actual personal behavior and find that his rich lifestyle is perfectly moral (again, pardon the appeal to the out-dated notion of moral standards). These types of examinations would do much more for creating a better (oops, sorry, another moral judgment?) world than making easy charges of hypocrisy. But because few have taken the trouble to do the hard moral legwork, Mr. Gore goes on his merry way of deceiving the world and potentially destroying it with misplaced policy proposals.

Lest it be thought that I have been too hard of a moral ally like Sean Hannity, let me make you another case involving the other side of the philosophical aisle.

Liberal secularists are very found of charging conservative Christians of hypocrisy on the issue of the sanctity of life. "They say they are pro-life but they won't lift a figure to end capital punishment, gun violence or war. They're such hypocrites," the typical charge says. "Such a blantant double standard. Cluck. Cluck. Tsk. Tsk."

By leveling this mindless hypocrisy charge and pointing out a seeming inconsistency, the liberals smugly believe they have won the moral ground: The Rightwingers are hypocritical; they're positions must therefore be dismissed. End of discussion.

But if the accusers were to do the hard legwork of moral investigation of the Christian practice and preaching, they would find no hypocrisy at all, no inconsistency. That's because the true underlying Christian position argues only the sacredness of some kinds of life and the damnation/forfeiture of other kinds of life. Innocent life is sacred and worthy of protection as an inalienable right. Guilty life is not inalienable and must be forfeit when its owner has deprived a innocent person of his or her sacred life (sacred in that it is God-given and thus inalienable). Murderers and those who take life through unjust war or aggression have no such inalienable right to life. That is the Christian position and taking the life of such persons through the behaviors of capital punishment, just war and appropriate police action is entirely consistent with the Christian profession regarding life.

But to reach that understanding one has to carefully study the Christian's "A" -- his stated position -- and his "B" -- his actions or behaviors -- from a moral standpoint. That's hard and often devastating work. It is much easier to claim moral superiority and victory by spewing out a simplistic charge of hypocrisy and never examining the premises of the hypocrisy equation.

To do in-depth moral evaluation, however, leads inescapably to making absolute moral judgments, something that has been rendered all but impossible in light of the new reality that there are virtually no sins left. In fact, the present moral relativity explains why the only available sin with which to charge one’s enemy is hypocrisy. If neither one’s public expression (A) nor one’s hidden agenda (B) can be labeled right or wrong, all that is left to charge is that these two positions are inconsistent with one another. And inconsistency can be considered morally wrong only if it has the nature of an absolute.

This is the weird world in which libertarians live. Listen to another commentator who is fond of citing the double standard, Bill O’Reilly. He is always quick to tell his viewers and listeners that he couldn’t care less what sodomites, for example, do or believe. "What they do is they’re business," he predictably bloviates with regard to this or most other societal situations he addresses. But he has no trouble at all leveling a charge of hypocrisy in this or that situation, and that alone is enough for him to come to a moral conclusion, since hypocrisy is one of the few moral absolutes left in this world (the other two being the aforementioned global warming and one-directional intolerance).

The upshot of it all is that the moral relativists have painted themselves into an uncomfortable and potentially deadly corner, for no one can survive long in a world where all behaviors are acceptable, save a tiny handful of insipid comportments like hypocrisy which gain moral gravitas only by screeching about them.

Gracious me, but moral relativists are so intolerably hypocritical! Which would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that a major segment of the rest of the world is inhabited by some rabidly determined absolutists whose moral compass points only south. And because it is sin to be intolerant of these folks, there is little we can do to stop them, unless, of course an angry Globe destroys us all first.

1 comment:

Splash said...

Well said! You're a modern day G.K. Chesterton!