There will be plenty today who clearly see the hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich. He is adamantly for “the sanctity of marriage” and yet asks his second wife (who was his first mistress) for an open marriage so that he can continue his affair with the woman who will later be his third wife while remaining married to his second wife. In what sense does this confusing story reflect any belief that marriage is sacred?
It doesn’t. But what will be more telling is that poor Newt will be a scapegoat. Once again, we get to point the finger at the hypocrisy of another so that we can avoid seeing it in ourselves. More specifically, as evangelicals, our stances “for the sanctity of life” and “for the sanctity of marriage,” is really just a disguise. Our lives reveal that we are not “for” these things in any tangible sense. While it might not be as stark or public as Newt, our lives often reveal that what we really mean is we are not for the sacredness of life or the sacredness of marriage, we are “against abortion” and “against gay marriage.”
Once again, we do not want to go where our logic and “black & white” stances take us. It’s much safer and self-confirming to point out the wood we find in Newt’s eye, all the while blind to it in our own. And so we are, unknowingly, a walking contradiction. And unfortunately, it is a contradiction that is unwilling to recognize its own hypocrisy.
It is only when we are actually confronted with our “second wife” that we admit to it.
If we were for the sacredness of marriage, the divorce rate among evangelicals would not be the same as the rest of the US. If we were for the sacredness of marriage, we wouldn’t be secretly looking at pornography or finding ourselves in emotional and physical affairs. If we believed that marriage was sacred, we wouldn’t just passively shake our head when another couple in our church is going through tough times. But these are things we are not willing to admit to ourselves. Most of our lives reflect that we aren’t for the sacredness of marriage, we are against gay people getting the same treatment from the government as we enjoy. To be more accurate, we are probably afraid of what will happen, just as those who are in power are always afraid of changing the status quo in favor of those without power.
Again, if we were for the sacredness of life, we would not simply voice our outrage over the killing of fetuses, we would be actively involved in caring for single-soon-to-be-mothers. To be “for” something is to do whatever it takes, not just say what I think. Are you willing to mentor single-mothers? Are you willing to sacrifice some of your kids extra-curricular activities or open a room in your home to passionately love a mother who sees no way out? If not, do not tell me you are “pro-life.”
If we were for the sacredness of life, we would not rejoice over the defeat of America’s enemies, perhaps we would be anti-war altogether, like our Mennonite brothers and sisters. If we were “for” the sacredness of life, perhaps we would value life over budget and stop buying the cheapest products even though we are aware they are likely cheap because they are made by slave labor.
Perhaps this is too much. Maybe you are not ready to make these changes to your life. I am okay with that. In many areas, neither am I. But be honest with yourself. Stop saying you are “pro-life” and start aspiring to be “pro-life” or just say what you mean: “I think abortion is wrong but I’m not really at place in life where I willing to make a difference.”
Allow yourself to be confronted with your own hypocrisy and fear and you might find that the wars we wage do not happen between “us” and “them” but between “us” and “us.” The idea that we are fighting “them” is an illusion that keeps us from being confronted with the chasm we find between the beliefs in our head and the reality of our lifestyle.