It’s a tale of a pastor who’s said to be indulging in homosexuality even as he denounces it. And it’s said to be a tale of outrageous hypocrisy.
And actually, it is a tale of outrageous hypocrisy. But not chiefly — if at all — on the part of the pastor. There’s a worse offender in the story.
The pastor, Tom Black of Hope Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, has been outspoken against his former denomination (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) for its recent moves to approve homosexual practices. He was “outed” by a Minneapolis gay publication, The Lavender, and the ensuing events got national coverage. The Lavender‘s president says they normally don’t “out” people, but “The one exception is a public figure who says one thing and does another.”
But what were they reporting, and how did they get the story? The “what” is that Black confessed to an accountability group of men struggling with homosexual impulses that he “fell into temptation” on a recent trip. The “how is that The Lavender sent in a reporter to spy on the group.
So where’s the hypocrisy –the deception — here?
Let’s hear from a member of Black’s church, writing on The American Culture Website. Black “was discovered attending a support and accountability group in a Roman Catholic church,” the writer notes. “He was speaking honestly, to men he trusted, about his struggles, slips, and temptations.”
In other words, he was doing precisely what people on our side of the argument say a man in his situation ought to do. He is the very opposite of a hypocrite.
Agreed — in this case, at least. This isn’t to defend everything Black’s ever said and done, obviously. (Though it’s worth noting that even The Lavender doesn’t claim he succumbed to the temptation to which he confessed). Nor is it to render a judgment that he can function effectively as a pastor now. (Though it appears his church will let him do so). But “hypocrisy” — for confessing a temptation in the interests of repenting and resisting what you know to be a sin? For holding yourself to the same standard which you profess? Hardly.
If we want to find that vice, we might look first at the “journalist” who, as The American Culture writer noted, “infiltrated this accountability group, lied about his purposes, and then broke the promise of confidentiality he made to get in.” Now that’s deception. And that’s low. The “reporter” might as well have put a secret camera in a confessional.
All this said, hypocrisy isn’t the most destructive of vices. It is a vice, and shouldn’t be treated lightly. But it’s also, as a famous saying goes, “the tribute vice pays to virtue.” A far worse vice is shamelessness — especially the kind that treats vices as virtues. That’s what should concern us far more in our culture today.