Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Do I Contradict Myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself. So sez Walt Whitman, and I have always agreed with this attitude - essentially we are all hypocrites at something. If we are human, then we are hypocrites. However, I think what we should strive for is coming to realizations about what we are hypocritical about rather than just letting them sit there unexamined. For instance, I am a hypocrite in professing to love humanity, but find it hard to volunteer at my local food bank. I am a hypocrite in vowing to love my neighbor when I bend over backwards to make sure that our North neighbors aren't discomfited by our roofing project (because they are really nice people) and couldn't give a flying f*** about our South neighbors (because they are inconsiderate alcoholics). And I am also a hypocrite in that I don't ignore other people's hypocrisies. In fact I tend to revel in them.

Now, my favorite hypocrites have always been the Christian hypocrites. My first exposure was at my childhood church where I couldn't reconcile the ostentatious wealth that certain families flaunted with the teachings that I was getting. I mean, we were drilled that the disciples gave up everything to follow Christ and that a camel would jaunt through the eye of a needle before a rich man entered heaven. And yet here was a family coming to church in furs and huge-ass Lincoln Continentals. The same family had a son the same age as me, and my mother once made me join some youth group thingy that the wealthy mother was hosting at her house. But oddly, her own son didn't have to join...I guess other kids needed saving, not hers...(The son also figures in another class-based anecdote I will save for another time.)

So anyway, I was greatly amused when I read this article about an editor who interviewed the CEO of GE, Jack Welch and then proceeded to have an affair with him, break up his marriage, and lose her job (I couldn't find a permalink for the article, so who knows if the link will still work next week...). This is all standard practice and expected for CEO's who have the morality of weasels and journalist's lives have never been known to be exemplary (even those at the Harvard Business Review I bet). However, I loved this bit:

She and Mr. Welch are to wed in a white-steepled church a few blocks away from their Beacon Hill townhouse, followed by a reception at home, in the ballroom. An evangelical Christian rock band will provide the music; Ms. Wetlaufer is a devout Christian.
A devout Christian. Yes, most devout Christians break up marriages and display on-the-job ethics that would make Enron proud. Ask the previous Mrs. Welch whether the behavior of the new Mrs. Welch is that of a devout Christian. Ask the unemployed of Neutron Jack's tenure if the way they lost their jobs were the doings of a devout Christian. Ask the people affected by the pollution in the Hudson River and other places that GE always refused to clean up if that was the act of a devout Christian. And here is the devout Christian's attitude on home breaking
You know, people fall in love all the time, marriages end all the time—sadly they do, but they do. People get divorced and marry other people. That happens.
Yes, other people sin and are bad, bad people, but "marriages end all the time" and, really, a devout Christian didn't have anything to do with it, it "happened."

One of the things that I really admire about Bill Gates is the way that he is using his money to fund things that really matter in the US and in the developing nations - no matter how much I vehemently disagree about the way he got the money. And yet he doesn't prattle on about being a devout Christian. What does that book say, "By their acts, you shall know them."?


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