No Homage to Virtue

A famous French statesman once said, "Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue." This was an acknowledgement of the gap between what we profess and what we do. But acknowledging the gap is one thing; wallowing in vice while preaching virtue is another. This grossest form of hypocrisy these days is that committed by those on "our" side in the culture war, those who profess to be friends of traditional values. The latest example is New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who, as I broadcast, is weighing whether, because of marital and health crises, he should step down as Hillary Clinton's opponent in the New York Senate race. He's not looking for my advice, but if asked I would tell him, "You've been a good mayor. Go take care of your medical problems, get your life straightened out, and forget about politics for awhile." Giuliani's hypocrisy deeply wounds those of us who believe in traditional values. And it's worse than failure to live up to the standards that has professed. By his outrageous conduct, he has brought disrepute on the very positions he has espoused. In Mr. Giuliani's case, he made a big issue on the campaign trail of wanting to put The Ten Commandments back on classroom and courthouse walls. Now both moral conservatives and our opponents can wonder, "has he ever even read them?" Guiliani is not alone in this kind of hypocrisy. I recall a meeting during the impeachment controversy with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. At one point Gingrich leaned over to me and said, "Clinton has to resign. He can't stay on in the midst of an impeachment. No one can lead with moral authority when, at the very same time, he is engaged in this sordid affair." I thought his assessment was correct. The only problem was that, as it was later disclosed, Gingrich himself at that very time was involved in an affair of his own, one of long standing. It's difficult to understand how people who profess to be moral conservatives, not to mention Christians, think they can get away with such blatant hypocrisy. Do they really think that they can hide the truth forever? Of course, they can't. And when they try to, the people damaged are not only the hypocrites themselves, it's those of us who have spent years advocating traditional values. That's because their hypocrisy enables both our opponents and the public to dismiss talk about traditional values as mere sloganeering, as mere election-year gimmicks. It reinforces the now- infamous refrain "everybody does it." The public, you see, doesn't seem to care when rogues commit immoral acts. They laugh it off. "Oh, he's just being himself again." Mr. Clinton over recent years has shown us that he could engage in morally reprehensible behavior and still be loved and approved of in the polls. So now are we going to shrug it off when Rudy Giuliani, campaigning on family values, embarrasses his wife and neglects his children while carrying on with another woman? I say no. Mr. Giuliani, do the honorable thing and step down. Some may think there are two realms of morality, but that can't be. What public figures do in private is a reflection of their character, and character is what guides how they behave in public.


Chuck Colson



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