Today I ran across a little meme starring Lisa Simpson declaring, “If you claim that morality is subjective, then your moral condemnation carries no weight.”
She’s partly right, you know. But she’s also partly wrong. Because Eupocrisy.
What is Eupocrisy? The opposite of hypocrisy. A hypocrite is worse than his best word. A eupocrite is better than his worst words. Jesus tells a parable about a hypocrite and a eupocrite:
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. – Matthew 21:28-32
It’s one of the little ironies of how history has gone in the past twenty years that people who professed moral relativism 20 years ago are now some of the most hard-charging moralists in the world. Christianist hypocrites call them hypocrites. I call them people who have experienced moral growth and an encounter with lived human reality. Christianists actually sneer at people who were once moral relativists for making professions of belief in good and evil in the Age of Trump. Because Christianists have abandoned the gospel and the hope of repentance and change and instead are focused totally on destroying their enemies by any means necessary. So repentance, change, and growth are all–for that antichrist cult–signs of weakness, not of the working of the Holy Spirit.
Meanwhile, these same Christianists, who have had full access to the Christian tradition and have chosen to sell their birthright for a pot of Trumpian message, are the real hypocrites, because at some level they know the gospel and have chosen to betray it for a criminal traitor and antichrist who led them to an exceeding high mountain and promised them, “Christianity will have power…you’re going to have plenty of power. You don’t need anybody else.” And so they have spent every day since prostituting themselves to this dimestore antichrist and deforming themselves into the image and likeness of this liar till the lie has become their native language, like his. They lie constantly to defend Trump’s incessant torrent of lies. And their chief lie is the moral relativist claim that Trump’s lies are all justified because “both sides” lie. In the words of Rudy Giuliani: Truth isn’t truth. And when confronted with the claims of justice, that Cult (which rationalizes sadistic cruelty and sexual assault against children at the border with “The law is the law!”) applauds Cult hero Orrin Hatch when he says he doesn’t care about law when it comes to the criminal traitor who leads the Cult.
The point is this: One of the many weird side effects of Trump is that he has managed to reveal that many Christians are, in practice, atheist moral relativists who reject, for the sake of a grab at power, the reality of the living God who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Meanwhile, he has been forcing people who have long claimed they were moral relativists to acknowledge that, professions of moral relativism aside, they believe in their heart of hearts in an objective moral standard. Some of them are slowly facing the fact that this implies the existence of the living God.
As the real modern atheist, Richard Rorty, pointed out, there is, apart from revelation both natural and supernatural, no universally valid answer to moral questions such as, “Why not be cruel? Why not lie your head off like Trump? Why not grift, betray, live for self totally and nihilistically defend all this crap if you can, like Trump, get away with it and die in your golden bed, old and full of years?” Quoth Rorty:
Anybody who thinks that there are well-grounded theoretical answers to this sort of question . . . is still, in his heart, a theologian or a metaphysician. He believes in an order beyond time and change which both determines the point of human existence and establishes a hierarchy of responsibilities.
Good people who claim they are moral relativists and even atheists have revealed themselves by the millions to be no such thing. They have the perfectly Christian moral insight that, “Damn it to hell, this is wrong, dammit! Wrong!” and do not fill the air with piffle about how Trump and his Cult wanting to send deport Vietnamese refugees who have lived here for 40 years are simply not to their personal taste. They do not say to filthy Christianist liars who defend this monstrous evil, “You have a legitimate point of view. Your love of inhuman cruelty is exactly the same as my preference for cheddar cheese. Let us agree to disagree.” Nope. They call it what it is: evil. And in doing so, they please the God they think they don’t believe in.
And they demonstrate it in that most Christian and incarnational way, by living it instead of talking about it.
This is what I mean by Eupocrisy, the reality that, while a lot of people are worse than their best words, there are also an awful lot of people who are better than their worst words. The Christian tradition, to be sure, spends a lot of time trying to get the words and ideas right. As Islam and Iconoclasm show, a small miscalculation in theology can end up smashing all the statues in the world. Getting its thinking straight about the person and work of Jesus was the labor of the first seven ecumenical councils and I praise God for them.
But Jesus’ parables of judgment make clear that if you get the words right, but do not have love, if you say “yes” but live “no”, if you participate in correct liturgy but step on the face of the beggar at the Church door, you–I–shall not be saved. It is better to be the loud and self-proclaimed moral relativist sheep who says with surprise, “When did I see you hungry and feed you?” than the loud Christianist goat who “owns the libs” proclaiming his belief in right and wrong while defending lies and selling the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.