Pity the poor man or woman who espouses righteousness by right doctrine and right conduct who then must enter the public eye as a leader or celebrity. The result is always predictable, as born out by countless news accounts. If status before God depends on conduct, that status is always tenuous at best.
Whenever a self proclaimed religious moralist stumbles morally and does so publically, we often conclude that the man or woman was a charlatan in the base case, only pretending to believe in God and one’s duty to live uprightly before Him. I personally doubt that to be true in the majority of these cases. Instead, people who claim their identity and status before God by what they do are inherently doomed to suffer frustration and failure. That was the lesson of the Old Testament experience of
Instead of “tut-tuting” what was bound to happen we need to pay closer attention to the words of Jesus. If we really listen to what the New Testament proclaimed, in contradistinction to that of the Old, we hear repeated again and again- All have sinned. All are equally guilty. I have no basis for judgment of others. We are all the same before God. Therefore, in the truest sense, the most heinous public sin is equally mine.
Yes, human actions and decisions carry consequences, both good and bad. It is disappointing when any of us makes a poor decision and then suffers because of it, often taking others along for the ride. The lesson we need to take away from such incidences is one that questions most of what we have been taught religiously, either overtly from the pulpits or implicitly by our cultural heritage. Righteousness before God has nothing to do with what we have been taught and therefore have internalized by incessant repetitions. My identity is provided by God in accordance with His inalterable Will, and no power in heaven or earth can change that identity. We are all his offspring as the Apostle Paul said and therefore when I judge another I judge myself because we are all the same.
The kinds of behaviors we generally extol are not inculcated by moral judgments and exhortations. If they could be, they would have been long ago. When we heap scorn on the morally fallen , we simply relive the flawed strategy of the past, either hoping for a different outcome or simply relishing the chance to once again feel better by pulling someone else down another notch.
The church would have us believe that men fail morally because they are inherently bad, having a flawed nature which drives them to failure. The message is that you are basically a bad person, so you cannot help being bad, unless you allow God to intervene, meaning embracing the church’s doctrine. When people are told long enough that they are not very good and that the general expectation of them is also not good, then a self fulfilling prophecy comes into play. I act according to how I view myself. My actions become as flawed as my supposed identity.
A religious position which make some in our midst the rightful religious and moral instructors of others is the basic problem here. No one is in a position to be another’s moral judge and instructor and attempting to be leads to the apparent hypocrisy we witness. The Bible recommends judging righteous judgment, but only God would be capable of such a thing, so such human judgment is impossible. When the religious finally relinquish the idea that they are the moral leaders and instructors of everyone else, then the spectacle of public humiliation that we observe so frequently can finally end. Moral failures may not cease all together, but at least we can begin to address those failures not by more judgments, exhortation, and “mea culpas” but rather by sincerely acting out our true identity as God’s children and modeling the behaviors we actually wish to see in others. After all why criticize what I can’t control instead of controlling what I can, namely me.