Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How deeds affect words

I don't like being called a hypocrite, but when it happens I've learned that the identity of the accuser matters greatly. Not long ago I was called a hypocrite by an angry friend-of-a-friend on Facebook who never met me or ever debated with me. Her ad-hominem attack meant almost nothing to me (although seeing people who do know me leap to my defense meant a lot).

So when I am called a hypocrite by Jesus, it hurts deeply. His words at the beginning of Matthew 7 have shot through my heart more than once. Those are "faithful wounds", which were well-deserved, spoken to correct me, not to silence or destroy me. And I am now much slower to speak than I used to be...and I do mean much slower.

In the public arena, where the charge of hypocrisy is tossed around too freely, conservatives are seen as opening themselves up to The Charge whenever they stake out a firm moral/ethical position (ie: abstinence, Defense of Marriage, anti-abortion, etc). That such charges are often risible--like the one made against Sarah Palin for her unmarried daughter's pregnancy--doesn't diminish the amount of dust kicked up by the left. And yet conservative leaders continue to leave themselves vulnerable by adopting high moral and ethical standards. Why?

Here's the math for a conservative leader: holding high standards + failing to live up to those standards = embarrassment. Continuing to hold high standards + humbly taking responsibility = leading by example.

And here's the math used by the left: holding high standards + failing to live up to those standards = embarrassment. Holding lower standards + living however I please = no shame.

To the 20% of Americans who are solidly liberal, this second formula adds up. Of course to the 40% who are conservative, it doesn't. It's the other 40% in the middle--sometimes called "independent", but really "undecided"--whose reactions in any given episode of hypocrisy will carry the day. If just half those folks react conservatively (ie: "Sarah Palin is not her own daughter and is right to support her daughter in a difficult situation") then a majority of Americans have decided that the deeds are in harmony with the words.

In an age of bailouts, all conservatives and most undecided people who are honest, will conclude that we must not bail out of holding high standards. It is good for us and for our nation to aspire to high standards.

A word to conservative leaders: consider the source when painfully pulling out arrows. Pay attention to the ones in your chest, ignore the ones in your back...because if you have been living in harmony with your words, a majority of flawed Americans will have your back.