Monday, 21 June 2010


Those hoping that the General Election would herald a change in the political culture after the long drawn out saga of MPs expenses have been sadly mistaken. No sooner had the ballot boxes been stored, the new ConDem coalition sealed in blood, the Browns moved out of No. 10 and the Camerons in, than we were treated to our first full blown scandal. David Laws, appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was forced out of office before he’d even had his headed note paper printed, by revelations about his expenses and private life.

This weekend the self appointed guardians of the nation’s morality have revealed that Chris Huhne, another Liberal Democrat member of the government, has been having an affair and he has announced that he is leaving his wife. Cue the predictable discussions about whether Huhne should be required to resign. I had the misfortune to catch part of a conversation between Lembit Opik and Edwina Currie on BBC Radio 5 Live late Saturday night as they considered the matter; informed comment it was not.

One of the charges levelled against both men is that they have acted hypocritically. Laws made great play of his financial probity over the expenses issue in the run up to the election. The MP has now had to pay back a considerable sum claimed on expenses that he may not have been entitled to. Huhne during the election portrayed himself as a family man and the revelations about his family life suggest that he has been engaged in an affair for some time.

It may be that Laws and Huhne are hypocrites. I don’t know, but here’s the thing; I’m pretty certain that many of those who spend their time exposing the hypocrisy of others are themselves hypocrites. I was very impressed with a recent interview given by David Yelland, editor of The Sun from 1998 to 2003, on Radio 4 at the end of May. Yelland was speaking about his alcoholism during that period and commented that the hypocrisy involved in running front page stories exposing the lives of others was a key factor in his addiction. He wrote in The Observer: ‘The Sun was a dangerous place for me to be, because my addictive traits were big box office. I was actually paid to rush to judgement, paid to lash out and attack - it was perfect territory for the drunk.’

As I said, I don’t know if Laws and Huhne are hypocrites, however, I do know that I am. It’s one of the truths I’ve had to face up to as a Christian; I claim to be a follower of Christ and yet again and again I fail to live up to that calling. Every time I say the Lord’s Prayer I am reminded of the times I fail to forgive others and fail to trust God for my needs. The only thing that helps me to face up to the truth of my hypocrisy and to strive to overcome it is the knowledge that God knows me and loves me as I am; hypocrite that I am.

One of the big criticisms levelled against the church is that it is full of hypocrites and you don’t have to spend long reading the church press or in church to know that it is true. It’s not something to be proud of, but we do need to be honest about it. This means we need to be slow to criticise the hypocrisy of others. That is not to ignore when others have done wrong, though we do need to avoid being quick to judge and to condemn. It also means we need to reach out to those who our society has branded as hypocrites; sharing with them the generous welcome, forgiveness and love that God has shown to us.

Whenever someone says to me that the church is full of hypocrites I have a simple reply: You’re quite right, the church is full of hypocrites and there is always room for one more so why not join us?

1 comment:

Alice Smith said...

well the Daily Mail 'expose' of Chris Huhne on Sunday in a service station and felt sick and convicted as you describe.
Go out into the streets and bring in the hypocrites and the criticisers and the cynics and the needy on all levels and bring them to the banquet...paraphrase!