Each week in Watching Politics From the Pew, Benjamin Bartlett offers a thoughtful Christian perspective on the latest political happenings in the news.
Hypocrisy is a funny thing. It has to be one of the easiest accusations known to man. All you have to do is find something someone says, find an action that somehow contradicts it, and then accuse the person of being a, “hypocrite.” This is especially true in politics, where any explanation of your actions that takes more than two sentences is automatically ignored.
Such is the case with the recent unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Washington DC. As with most memorials, it received a lot of criticism. But the strongest and loudest criticism is this; that to use a Chinese stonemason and unpaid Chinese workers is a hypocritical action, one unbecoming of Dr. King. The implication is that when a project to honor a person is carried out, doing anything they may have disapproved of to accomplish the task of honoring them invalidates the final product.
I admit that often I find myself drawn into these consistency arguments. After all, I want leaders who are consistent and who honor the philosophies they espouse. And who can deny the power of a good, “flip-flop,” accusation during campaign season?
But hypocrisy is not a sin that should be taken so lightly or thrown about so casually. Take a few minutes to read through what Scripture has to say about hypocrisy. The picture that is painted is not one of a person who, at some point in their life, did something that might contradict a statement they made at another point in their life. In other words, the Bible doesn’t say you cannot grow and learn and change your perspective on secular questions over time. Hypocrisy is a sin where the words of your mouth and the direction of your heart are consistently at odds… you are a liar, a person willfully trying to deceive the world about who you are.
So I need to be careful about my accusations of hypocrisy. Often the best leaders are the ones who are able to see that their philosophy has holes and weaknesses, and can admit the need to change when the time comes. If I want to promote a healthy union, maybe I should spend less time looking for leaders who are 100% consistent, and more time looking for leaders whose hearts help point us in the right direction.
I’m visiting Washington DC this weekend. I plan to visit the MLK memorial, and I hope that when I do I spend more time thinking how I can promote equality in the world, and less about where the stones were shipped from. I’m pretty sure that’s the better way to honor an American hero.