Hypocrisy, as always

After reading La Shawn Barber’s thoughts about Haggard I thought I’d revisit the issue of hypocrisy. Pastor Haggard wil of course be accused of hypocrisy for being opposed to gay marriage when he was actually engaged in the practice of homosexuality. I don’t actually know if he was. He has admitted some “indiscretions” but hasn’t said which part is true. Ms. Barber accuses him of hypocrisy, and while I agree with most of her post, I have to take issue with that statement.

Pastor Haggard has confessed a belief in the sinfulness of man. This is of course a core tenet of Christianity. Paul discusses the reality of those who know the law and yet violate it in Romans 2:

Romans 2:21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?

His application of this is not to call this man a hypocrite. It is to say that he is without excuse:

Romans 2:1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

But this again is one of the central tenets of Christianity. We’re all without excuse. That’s why we need Christ.

The hypocrite is not someone who fails to practice perfectly their own stated beliefs. The hypocrite is someone who claims to believe things he doesn’t really believe. The hypocrite is someone whose religious or moral or political views are meant for public consumption rather than a sincere expression of his own beliefs. The Pharisees were hypocrites. They loved to do charitable deeds in public and pray on street corners, but it was all for public consumption (see Matthew 23). They just
wanted to be thought of as good.

So is Pastor Haggard a hypocrite? I don’t know. He might be. If his religious views and his political stands are just a power play, then he’s a hypocrite. If he is against gay marriage because it will get him political influence with Bush and with the evangelical community, then he’s a hypocrite. But this is kind of hard for us to judge, especially without a lot more detail. Being sinful doesn’t make him a hypocrite. Otherwise we’re all hypocrites and the word doesn’t mean anything.

How he handles this will say a lot. If it’s true that this has been going on for three years, most months, with drugs and with a paid escort, then that does lean us in the direction of hypocrisy, one who just doesn’t believe what he claims to believe. If he really believed that homosexuality was an abomination before God, you’d think he’d be doing whatever he could do to curb it. And one of the things he could do to curb it would have been to confess it to someone else and get some help. And if that were the case, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to everyone. This doesn’t sound like a man struggling with sin. It sounds like a man reveling in it. A repentant man also doesn’t come out and blame others, calling this “political payback”, though it wouldn’t be surprising at all if that is what this is.

But sin really rolls us sometimes. We don’t know what’s gone on behind the scenes. We don’t know if Pastor Haggard has spent sleepless nights praying over his sin. We don’t know if he has confessed it to others, like his wife. We don’t know if there have been ups and downs, times of victory and times of failure. And we don’t know if Pastor Haggard prayed for deliverance from this sin and that this is the way that God has ordained to grant that deliverance.

In short, we don’t know the man’s heart, and we don’t know the secret things of God’s counsel. Without a lot more information than we have, we should be slow to levy the charge of hypocrisy.

UPDATE: Jollyblogger has some excellent thoughts, as he always does.

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