THIS I BELIEVE
It occurred to me at Mass one Sunday that I believe in hypocrisy.
We were reciting the Apostle’s Creed, declaring all the mysteries Roman Catholics hold true. But none of it made sense to me; The Holy Spirit, resurrection, sin? I’d never had faith in those things. In fact, once I finished 12 years of Catholic School, I threw religion overboard, convinced that a life lived with honesty and integrity was more spiritual than one lived by a set of meaningless, two thousand year old rules.
But when I became a mother, everything changed. Rituals that bored me as a kid now seemed vitally important. I wanted my child to identify with a heritage deeper than his Irish/Italian bloodline; to experience the traditions my husband and I grew up with; to feel part of something larger than himself. I wanted him to receive the sacraments, and embrace treating others as he would like to be treated.
That’s why this pro-choice mom who supports stem cell research, gay marriage and women priests goes to Church every Sunday. The Mass may be celebrating Christ, but I’m there to honor my history, and to teach my son to give thanks for life’s blessings.
But I must admit that my hypocrisy is deeper than a spiritual dichotomy. It’s actually a multi-faceted pretense.
How else to explain why I never blow off an abused neighbor who cries to me almost every day about her tormented life. Her inability to break the circle of violence frustrates me to no end, but rather than scorn her, I pretend to understand her paralysis, and encourage her to get the help we both know she needs but will never seek.
Then there’s an in-law of mine whose parenting skills drive me crazy. While I’ve fantasized plenty about saying something to this person, I never actually do it. Instead, I keep my opinions to myself and concentrate on trying to make things better for the kids.
As a baby boomer, I once regarded as a birthright the contempt I felt for the “older generation’s” righteous sermons about patriotism and pot, delivered as they sipped Tom Collins, swallowed tranquilizers, and kept us in a war we couldn’t win.
I remember believing that once my generation took over, the hypocrisy would end.
Now Boomers are in charge, but instead of championing tolerance and understanding, we’ve produced a nation of red and blue fanaticism, fear and intolerance.
Maybe those World War II folks had it right after all. Maybe their brand of hypocrisy should make a comeback.
Instead of demonizing and shouting down opposing viewpoints, we could lower our voices and pretend to be broadminded, even if we’re sure the other side is nuts.
It’s possible that this behavior could infuriate our kids, but being hypocrites, we could feign patience and let them learn, as we did, that it’s possible mom and dad really do know best.
I think I’ll pray for that on Sunday, after I recite the Apostle’s Creed.
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