Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hypocrisy: Thoughts on the Rise of Disrespectful Behavior


I saw a blogger refer to Trump as “Liar-in-Chief.” There’s nothing surprising in that by itself (the internet being what it is). What made it troubling is I’m reasonably sure I saw said blogger castigate people who treated Obama in the same way during the past eight years because it was against Christian charity. That got me thinking about how far we’ve fallen from seeking out the truth and living it in all circumstances, replacing it with the hypocrisy of doing to one’s enemies what one normally thinks is wrong.

This is not a political problem, though politics seem to be the place where it happens most often today. Nor is it a factional problem. This kind of behavior seems to be found across political and religious lines. Where it seems to be rooted is in the belief that when I disagree strongly with someone, whatever I do in response is justified. 

It’s natural to feel strongly about things one thinks is right. It’s natural to feel revulsion towards things one thinks is wrong. But in doing so, we have a moral obligation to treat all persons as children of God, loving them even when they do wrong. Whether it’s a conservative who found Obama’s policies offensive or a liberal who finds Trump’s policies offensive, both are created and loved by God and we have an obligation to treat them accordingly. We don’t have an exemption when it comes to someone whose politics we hate.

This isn’t a call for moral relativism. There are things that are morally wrong and must be opposed. There are things that are morally good and must be done. But there is a difference between doing good and opposing evil on one hand, and hating the person who does wrong on the other. As a Catholic, I find Pope Francis emphasizes this difference in his calls for mercy. He recognizes that people sin, and that sin is wrong. But his position is we must reach out to the sinner with love, trying to bring them back to a right relationship with God.

I believe the remedy is to look at our behavior and see how we would react if someone acted that way towards something we hold important. If we would be angry, we should not do it ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t oppose evil—we can and must. However, using evil means to stop evil is forbidden to us as Christians.

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