The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets. -John Mark Green
One of my favorite movie moments comes from Casablanca, that awesome Humphrey Bogart film about stranded refugees hoping to immigrate to America during World War II.
Bogart’s character runs a nightclub in Casablanca where gambling, though illegal, happens nightly. Everybody knows it, including Captain Renault, who regularly plays the Roulette table. But under pressure from a superior to find any excuse to shut the nightclub down, he stands up near the bar, blows a whistle, and announces quite piously: “I am shocked – shocked! – to find that gambling is going on here.”
Right then a cashier strides up to him, hands him a wad of money, and says “Your winnings, Sir.”
It’s a pitch-perfect look at hypocrisy, similar to what we saw played out last week as Hollywood actresses, actors, and other luminaries scrambled to rebuke disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein for his harassment of women over the decades.
Never mind the fact that many of these outraged women have let themselves be filmed naked for millions of men to desire. Never mind the fact that much of their product features women being seduced, ogled, or raped to further the plot. Never mind the gleeful conquest of teenage girls by teenage boys featured in countless movies they produce
Never mind all that. They are still shocked – shocked! – to see that exploitation of women is going on in Hollywood. So OK – Hollywood and hypocrisy are welded together nicely.
Put Down That First Stone
But surely we’re not going to leave it at that. Do political conservatives, much less conservative Christians, really need a reminder about the spectacular failures we’ve suffered over the years in our own ranks?
Just as many on the Left claim to be vanguards of sexual equality while secretly exploiting women, so many on the Right claim to hold traditional family values while secretly smashing them like Moses’ tablets. Worse yet, despite the guilt on both sides, when someone on one side of the aisle is publicly exposed, the other side seizes the chance to cry “Hypocrite!”
But hypocrisy, like sexual sin, doesn’t discriminate. It’s quite inclusive, welcoming everyone from every spiritual and political leaning. There’s plenty of it to go around.
Of Weakness and Wickedness
I should know, because I’ve been guilty of it. Towards the very end of my early years of ministry back in the late 70’s, I was teaching weekly Bible studies at a local Foursquare church when I decided, one November evening, to give myself permission to look at pornography.
It didn’t take much. I had a predisposition towards porn which I’d been resisting for years, and the temptation to finally indulge seemed to grow stronger daily. I was also curious about these new outlets called “Adult Bookstores” that were springing up in different areas of my city. My weakness – that strong area of temptation in my life – didn’t constitute a sin. The sin came when I decided to cave into it.
To this day, I’m appalled not just at what I did (and the seven-year massive backslide it led to) but at the ease with which I could do it. All it took was a simple decision, an assertion of my “right” to enjoy some pleasure, and a minimizing of how serious a betrayal that decision would be.
Weinstein and I part company when it comes to sexual harassment, one of the few sins you won’t find on my resume. But we share a vile bit of history which I hope he’ll come to face, renounce, and seek freedom from: the wickedness of justifying your weakness.
It starts with a leaning towards a sinful tendency. As children of Adam we’ve all got them, having inherited the sin nature, though the specific ways we experience it and the particular sins we’re drawn to will vary from person
For Harvey W., the predisposition to sexualize and eventually violate women probably reared its head early, springing from the sin nature and encouraged by the false ideas about manhood that get foisted on boys from Day 1.
The Lies we Come to Love
When we’re little we visit a mechanic’s garage or a men’s locker room or an auto shop and, way too often, our education begins. There’s a calendar with a naked woman openly displayed on the wall. Maybe a lewd magazine or two laying around. I remember so clearly the message I got from such simple visits to manly places:
This place celebrates masculinity, therefore masculine men come here, and there’s pictures of nude women for us to enjoy. Therefore, real masculine men feast without apology on women.
When early lust gets macho applause, is it really surprising when, in so many cases, that lust is given free reign, accompanied by the wildly narcissistic belief that women exist for men’s pleasure, that women can be handled with or without their consent, that women are bodies first and people only when we deem it convenient?
Author Naomi Wolf puts it another way:
Is the beauty myth good to men? It hurts them by teaching them how to avoid loving women. It prevents men from actually seeing women. It does not, contrary to its own professed ideology, stimulate and gratify sexual longing. In suggesting a vision in place of a woman, it has a numbing effect, reducing all senses but the visual, and impairing even that.
None of which is an excuse, as we still exercise the free will to obey or discard our false ideas. So Weinstein’s story is old, awful, and worst of all, common. I’ve read he’s sought treatment, which is good, but not enough. Because the decision to gorge your cravings at someone else’s expense is not, in the end, a clinical one so much as it is a moral one. It calls for repentance, not just analysis.
He’s not, by all appearances, insane. Surely he knew the women he groped, leered at, or manipulated didn’t like what he was doing. The willingness to continue despite their discomfort shows an attitude of “I will” having its roots in patterns that are more Luciferian (Isaiah 13:13-14) than Freudian. That, to my thinking, is the crux of the problem.
But it’s a problem we don’t have to be a part of. Rather than join the chorus railing against Weinstein, we can more diligently admit our own weaknesses (Matthew 7:5) confess them as needed (James 5:16) be all the more diligent to refuse ourselves permission to indulge them (I Corinthians 6:18) and shake off whatever perverted ideas we may have learned about sex, intimacy, and the honorable mystery of the male-female partnership.(Romans 12:2)
God be merciful to Harvey Weinstein and to the many who’ve been harmed, directly or indirectly, by his behavior. God grant him repentance and a knowledge of his need for salvation. And God grant us, every time a tragic story like this hits the fan, renewed commitment to our own holiness
Tomorrow (Tuesday October 24) at 5pm Pacific Standard Time I’ll be hosting a live, free 25-minute webinar on overcoming porn. If this is an issue which has affected you in any way, won’t you join us? Just join my Facebook page at 5pm PST.