Gary Hofmeister: Hypocrisy … really?
February 17, 2008
Even if we pay attention to the trends of the day along with the changes in generations, some things can pop up and give us a good knock on the head when we realize how transforming they are. My three children are in the 40s range, but when they were teenagers, I began to notice certain words frequently appearing that I hadn’t heard used in the same context previously. Some of them were “hypocrite,” “evil” and “two-faced.” At the time, I didn’t think a lot about it.
Now we seem to have continued this into a mindset whereby virtually anyone who criticizes anyone or anything, particularly in the moral arena, must be a combination of George Washington, Billy Graham, and/or Jesus Himself or find himself condemned as a charlatan. An article in this space a few weeks ago attempted to draw a contrast between two sports celebrities in the manner they had conducted their private lives. I was somewhat stunned to see the reactions of many readers who thought this was totally out of line either because the writer herself was not perfect or because moral standards themselves are always purely subjective.
I am certainly no theologian. Nor could I coerce any close relatives or friends to vouch for my sainthood, so I find this absurd. My particular belief system is Christian and thus I adhere to the “fallen man belief,” which dictates we “are all sinners and come short :” Does this mean I cannot privately or publicly present what my understanding of our religion teaches and hold it up as a goal we should aspire to? If I personally have some flaw (and probably do) that a reader or listener can uncover that shows I’ve been less than 100 percent successful at avoiding, does that make the principle itself any less valid? I think not.
We are rightly outraged by those such as Jimmy Swaggart and others in the ministry whose transgressions seem to negate their teachings, sometimes on the same day. The Elmer Gantry Syndrome is well ensconced in our culture. We hate the phony, especially if he is a righteous one who seems to be condescending to the rest of us. But it is a far stretch to demand absolute purity of soul in order to lay down some standards because we aren’t batting 1.000 at following them.
Thus, if we continue along this vein even further, we can count on another of our present trends to coordinate and merge with it as well. Situational ethics have been snowballing for decades now, though the concept has ebbed and flowed. Ultimately, we leave everything, and I mean everything, to the individual to decide what is right and wrong. When that happens, the society will totally disintegrate because some folks have decided that murder and thievery are just part of their nature. Or, mercifully, there is a reaction that uses common sense to discern that our laws are indeed based on some moral rules, perhaps the Ten Commandments.
Going back to the juxtaposition of two of our “heroes” who at least overtly have manifested different behavior to generally accepted norms of conduct regarding love, marriage and children, I would think our primary concern would be how this might influence our youth : which I believe was the thought of the author. Assuming you start with the presumption that there is nothing wrong with stressing the “Ideal” of marriage-to-last and children having a mother and father, I find nothing to fault. But if even this is too much of a standard to aspire to, heaven help us.
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Gary Hofmeister is the owner and operator of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers in downtown Steamboat, a company he founded in 1973. He is a Director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado and a former Republican nominee for Congress in the 10th District of Indiana. He made 18 trips to the former USSR to teach democratic-capitalism during the 1990s.