The Adulation of Hypocrisy

Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! – From the classic scene in Casablanca, made in 1942

Bill Clinton speaking (2015)Twenty years ago – January 17, 1998, news broke on Drudge that then-president Bill Clinton had “relations” with a young intern in the White House.

That was the moment when I thought our nation had lost discretion and decorum.  It wasn’t only that I was disappointed (hardly shocked) that the leader of the free world might engage in illicit sex.  No, it was the explicit nature of how the media described the “affair.” And following that came the hypocritical outcries from politicians and press suggesting they had no idea such things ever happened.

Last year we witnessed the Weinstein scandal in Hollywood.  Goodness…a movie director asking pretty girls for favors in exchange for stardom.  Everyone in the movie industry was shocked – the same people who are churning out movies and television shows filled with violence, profanity, nudity and explicit sex.

And in the past week, politicians and political pundits are protesting the profane pronouncements of our apparently potty-mouthed president.  My goodness, a president using disrespectful language.  The language was so awful, but newspapers reprinted it in headlines and critical politicians repeated the words while lambasting the president for using it.

Having spent time in newspaper offices and public-relations agencies, I can testify that President Trump could not utter any word that a large percentage of reporters, senators, congressmen, corporate executives, teachers, police officers, firefighters, soldiers and, yes, sailors, utter on a regular basis.

Matthew_Getting_Mouth_Washed_Out_With_SoapI am not endorsing or excusing foul language.  But even a cursory examination of history would suggest swearing has been a problem for a long time.

In 1738, Edmund Gibson, Lord Bishop of London, published “An Admonition against Profane and Common Swearing.” He hoped to save an increasingly coarse culture from further descent.

On August 3, 1776, General George Washington ordered that there be no swearing by the soldiers under his command. I guess his ears were ringing.

And as a Christian, I’m aware of the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

I’m also aware that the Gospel isn’t gentle with hypocrites.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” – Luke 6:41

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” – Matthew 23:27

How sad it is that people of power and influence behave badly.  But the hypocrisy permeating our culture is horrifying.  Most of us are behaving badly and we need to start behaving like Christians. We need Jesus as our role model, not Captain Renault.

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Lessons from the Flu

fluI have the flu. It hurts.

I’m saying that not because I’m looking for sympathy. I’m just one of a few million people who have the flu.

I mention it to put everyday life in perspective.

Most of us have dreams: places we want to visit, career levels to achieve, a book to write, a hit song, getting all the kids through college.  Sometimes our dreams are practical and materialistic: a new house, a fancy car, mink coat, a bass boat.

If you have one or more of these dreams, you probably don’t let them dominate your every waking thought, but they pop up now and again.

The flu changes all that. Over the past 24 hours, goals and objectives that seemed to important faded behind the immediate desires to have joints that don’t ache, a stomach that holds solid food and eyes that can focus.

Today the old saying “if you have your health you have everything” ran through my mind a few times.  Simply feeling OK seems much more important than having a bulging savings account or a redecorated dining room.

The flu certainly can’t be seen as a force for good in the world.  It kills people, although I believe all it will do is make me miserable for a few days.  But the flu has brought me back to the basics of focusing on the present and having an ongoing conversation with God, asking for his comfort and patience.

Ravioli – the Next Generation

1227171934aThe moment had been creeping up on me for more than a quarter-century, but I didn’t see it coming.

Not the time. Not the place. Not the circumstances.

I sat in my kitchen, just a couple days past Christmas 2017. Four other people bustled about the kitchen rolling dough into pasta, mixing cheese and spices, putting together dozens and dozens of ravioli made from scratch. The task required patience and attention to detail and the love of good cooking I recall from my grandma’s kitchen and the kitchen of my wife’s grandmother.

But these ravioli makers were young: my daughter (half Italian on her mother’s side), her husband (plain old American like me), my son (half Italian on her mother’s side), his wife (pure Irish). All four are within a couple years pre or post thirty.

Two other people shared the kitchen with us: my daughter’s three-month-old twin daughters.  They weren’t much help with the actual making of the ravioli, but I expect they will be someday.

My wife learned to make ravioli from her mother, her mother learned from her mother, who I assumed learned from her mother.  My wife taught my daughter, who will someday teach her twin daughters.  This particular day, she was teaching her husband, her brother and his Irish wife, who proved to be most skilled in the practice of raviolian arts.

An aside: I never have learned the ravioli part of marrying into a large Italian family, but I learned how to make pizza dough from my wife’s grandmother and I’m pretty good at it (for a non-Italian).

But as you might expect, this isn’t really about making ravioli or pizza, but a generational changing of the guard. A few years ago, my wife and her mom would make the ravioli…now it is my daughter.

It seems like only yesterday that my wife and I were young marrieds heading off to Christmas Eve dinner at her grandma’s house.  This year, we went to my daughter’s house. The menu featured the same pasta with sauce made from garlic and oil.  Just like grandma made – really.

As I sat in the kitchen watching the ravioli parade forming, I found my mind bouncing from various times and places.  The times and places blended together and told me that despite all the squabbles and sacrifices, family topped everything else.

I was a young man at my wife’s grandma’s house for the holidays.  I was a little boy waiting for Christmas morning.  I was a young father wrapping presents for my children and getting ready for midnight Mass. I was in Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, and Indiana, all the places the family had at some point called home.

My grandma’s cookies were glorious and her mashed potatoes never had lumps.  Same with my mom.

Now, home and family were these wonderful young people making food in our kitchen. Their laughter, joking, sharing, coaching, and teasing were beautiful to observe.  Maybe this was the moment my life was prepared to receive.