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The meaning of hypocrisy

“Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!”


Nigel Pocock


It might seem very strange to start an article in a secular and radical on-line newspaper with an Old Testament quotation, but this is precisely what the prophet Amos was in 1,700 years ago in ancient Israel – radical.

Religious worship was a mockery against God, even if carried out with apparent enthusiasm. But why?

One leading psychotherapist has suggested that we need to look more deeply at the commandment not to commit blasphemy.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain!” Traditionally this has been taken to mean an expletive, such as “Oh, God!”, or “Oh, Christ!”, but is has been proposed that this is not the deeper intention of the commandment.

Rather, the deeper intention is the misuse of God’s name in a supposedly ‘religious’ context. This is exactly what Amos envisages.

For Bethel (‘House of God’) and Gilgal were the equivalent of Canterbury Cathedral and St. Paul’s today. Such ritual is worthless, says Amos—it is utter hypocrisy. The mask may look good, but it is entirely false. This is the ‘blasphemy’.

What then is the meaning of ‘hypocrisy’ for today, in our supposedly ‘open’ society? The Victorians believed in ‘virtues’ that were frequently impossible of attainment.

Moderns then point their fingers, screaming, “You hypocrites!” What these proudly virtuous (sic) moderns do not realise is that in hiding behind their much-vaunted ‘honesty’ and relativistic ‘values’ is an escape route.

For they can no longer be ‘judged’! This is because ‘judgment’ depends on an ideal that is aimed for, and that without this ideal there is no basis for judgment.

There is now no standard by which to call out, “Hypocrite!” What then, when politicians involve themselves in ‘creative’ accounting, and extra-mural sexual activities?

Is this impossible to pass judgment on? Are these people ‘hypocrites’? Or is this simply now become acceptable behaviour, since ‘everyone else does it’? Is the lowest common denominator the benchmark of public behaviour? For the goal-posts have not just been moved. They have disappeared altogether!

Yet such behaviour does have subtle consequences. People might want to go into denial as a means of coping, but this is a poor strategy, as it is a technique of problem-avoidance.

Financial irregularity, for example, effects the pool of cash available to help the least advantaged, while extra-marital affairs cause enormous psychological damage.

New research in epigenetics (‘added on to genetics’) shows that trauma throws switches on the genes, especially in adolescence and gestation.

This, in turn, has effects which are passed down through succeeding generations that had no part in the original trauma, as research on babies in gestation during 9/11 is showing.

This in turn creates an health services bill to treat the effects of this dysfunction, which could doubtless be put to better use.

So, hypocrisy, not today, for us honest folk, enjoying our masquerade? Who now has the whitewashed tombs, full of dry bones?

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