Friday, July 13, 2007

But is it just hypocrisy?

Here in New Orleans, the papers are full of front-page stuff about Senator Vitter's extracurricular activities. Porn publisher Flynt says there's more to come: he's on a mission to out the hypocrites who talk about family values while running a tab at houses of ill repute. Naturally, what Flynt (and most of us) call hypocrisy is very close to what psychologists call "compensation." And compensatory behavior is an acknowledgement, even if in an unhealthy way, that what one is doing is bad and that reparation needs to be made. I tend to think that hypocrisy comes in when all that reparation and bold, virtuous speachifying is done for the purpose of deception; somethign else is going on when it is a case of semi-conscious compensation.
It's easy enough to condemn hypocrisy. Especially when you can point to such blatantly hypocritical behavior. Besides, blaming has the convenient side effect of distracting an audience from other matters.
One thing that really strikes me in the current case is that Vitter made a pretty straightforward statement about having committed "serious sins" (that's certainly telling it like it is--most other people who have been similarly outed resort to self-defensive language). Vitter also mentioned "confession." If Vitter's confession was genuine, then we are not so much looking at hypocrisy as at conversion. And conversion should be allowed, even in our political system, because if we disallow conversion we will have...hypocrisy instead. In fact, what we need to do is foster a culture that permits conversion, transformation and personal renewal. We all need this, and we need it constantly. The tendency to consistently accuse others of hypocrisy could very well be a sign that one is failing to live in an attitude of awareness and continual conversion.


winifritz said...

Re Vitter, does anyone out there know what the sacrament of Penance is, and true contrition, with a firm purpose of amendment. I proffer:
What God has put asunder, let no man join together.

harv681 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
harv681 said...

Many people harbor a vehement and almost gleefully condemnation of others. I, too, had felt great disgust for David Vitter and his escapades with prostitutes. It was only after reading Sr. Anne's account of his contrition and conversion that I returned my large stone to its place in the garden. Shame on me.