This contradiction felt like betrayal, and I knew I would not be singing this church’s praises.
A few days later, I still could not move past the hypocrisy. I had come to know a wonderful woman, who I’ll call Sally for the sake of the column, whose mannerisms and character stood in stark contrast with the preacher’s message. How could such a nice woman frequent this church and indirectly support prejudiced sermons? There are certainly other churches that don’t do the same, and I was happy to show her one.
So I began to wonder — what constitutes a hypocrite? On a basic level, I think of a friend who complains about people chewing with their mouth open, even though I have seen him chew with a wide open trap. That’s blatant hypocrisy.
But Sally — can I write her off as a hypocrite?
Sally is nice and congenial; she exudes comfort and lifts up those around her. I personally witnessed these important facets of her character. Let’s assume that she attends this church because she loves its sermons, preaching and messages. She may have voted for same-sex marriage, but because of her beliefs, she views homosexuality as a sin.
This is unsettling for me as I commonly attribute her wonderful qualities to a person who fights against schoolyard bullies and fights for equality because equality is just. Her choice to come to this church seems to contradict that.
But is congeniality inherently linked to unconditional acceptance of all? Or do I simply associate the two due to my political prejudices and my personal beliefs? Is this woman really a hypocrite? Or is she simply out of line with my personal expectations for genuinely nice people?
I believe homophobia is wrong and cruel, but are being homophobic and being nice mutually exclusive? I don’t think so. And, as such, I only thought Sally was a hypocrite because she did not fit my mold of a “verified good person.” She is not a hypocrite.
My clarified perception on hypocrisy does not ameliorate my issues with this church, but it does help me make better sense of the congregation and one of its members. It helps me accept her congeniality as authentic even if she has prejudices. And that helps me restore a little bit of faith in the morals of our community.