5 Ways Hypocrisy Is Fraying Our Society’s Moral Fabric

Person with eyes covered by scarf blowing in wind.

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ gave more flack to the Pharisees than any other group of people. He really stuck it to ’em. As it turns out, Christ has a BIG problem with hypocrisy, and the Pharisees were the embodiment of it. Their actions didn’t match their words. supposed beliefs didn’t match behavior. What their mouths were saying didn’t match what their hearts yearned for. To them, Christ said,

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

(Matthew 23:27-28)

Times have changed, but people haven’t. Hypocrisy looms darkly overhead in this, the twenty-first century. Of course, not everyone is a hypocrite all the time. I don’t know who you are, so hopefully none of the following examples applies to you at all. But from a broad, societal viewpoint, you’re probably well acquainted with some of these:

1. Religious tolerance

Hands praying near candles.

Our society prides itself in tolerance and acceptance. We denounce antisemitism (and rightly so!). We try to fight the rising tide of Islamophobia (and rightly so!). No one should ever be shamed, bullied, or discriminated against for their religious beliefs, right? And yet, The Book of Mormon Musical, which specifically targets and mocks the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, broke box-office records across the country in 2012 and received nine Tony Awards back in 2011.

So, do we really support religious tolerance for all? Or just … some? I can’t imagine The Qu’ran Musical would have been so widely celebrated (nor should it be).

Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.

(Psalm 28:3)

2. #MeToo

A woman's eyes full of tears.

The message from the popular #MeToo movement is loud and clear (and rightly so!): Sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable. Yet research shows there are over 100 million visitors to Pornhub every day. One source reports, “A few years ago, a team of researchers looked at 50 of the most popular porn films—the ones purchased and rented most often. Of the 304 scenes the movies contained, 88% contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal aggression … Research has confirmed that those who consume porn (even if it’s nonviolent) are more likely to support statements that promote abuse and sexual aggression toward women and girls.”

You can’t support #MeToo and support pornography use at the same time. If you support the latter in action, your words about the former are empty.

Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?

Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

(Isaiah 29:15-16)

3. Youth violence

Sad teen male.

Close relatives of mine are teachers, and the frequency with which their schools deal with threats of violence is simply appalling. It seems like there’s a new school shooting in the news every other day somewhere in the United States. The country mourns, as it should.  We denounce violence and wonder what is happening with our nation’s youth. “We need stricter gun laws!” Sure, that might help. But guns are just the fruit of a seed planted much more casually. Relationships. Hate. Media. For example (I’m not saying this is the cause of youth violence, but it’s a worthwhile factor to look at), go on Spotify and look at the top music charts. As I write this, in the #1 slot for the “United States Viral 50” list, is Lil Kambo’s Kid Carti. It mixes the theme song of a popular Sesame Street character with these lyrics:

Elmo came with that AK-47
N****, you don’t hate on me, I’ll bring out that 11
Bring out the AK, 40, lil’ 7
I bust it up on you, n****, you look like presents
And you don’t mess with me, you look so ugly
I tried to keep it clean, ’cause I look so smuggly
I got a bunch of swag, and your swag’s at zero percent
You got a big nose, n****, you ain’t got no scent
This is the song, la-la, la-la, Elmo’s song, (Whoo, whoo)

This is the tripe that kids today are filling their minds with and we’re supposed to be surprised when kids end up acting out violently? Studies show that “Songs with violent lyrics increase aggression related thoughts and emotions…” that have “implications for real world violence.” All seeds produce fruit after their own kind. If we don’t like the fruit, why do we allow the seeds to be planted? Maybe this should be the rhyme we play on repeat from now on:

The Devil really is a fellow of wine and song, 
Playing a tune that trades right for wrong. 
The tone-deaf man will hear his notes and say, 
What could be wrong with being festive and gay? 
And when a sad tomorrow that tune does bring, 
Few will know that from their own lips it did spring.

4. Selective empathy and the environment

I’m going to let the following 3-minute video from Nas Daily do the talking for this one:

Selective empathy. It’s a thing, and we all suffer from it.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law…

(Matthew 23:23)

5. Online bullying

A laptop computer.

Bullying is wrong, especially via social media (which seems to be the new thing). But as soon as someone in the societal spotlight is accused of bullying or behaving inappropriately, we rally together online and thrash them for all they’re worth. Careers and people are destroyed. But they deserved it, right? It’s just an appropriate case of vigilante justice. Nick Sandmann. James Charles. Rosanne Barr. We don’t have to condone poor behavior, but there are no “except when…” caveats to Christ’s admonition in Matthew:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth … Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…

(Matthew 5:38, 43-44)

Things are just going to get worse

Sunset over city.

It’s no surprise that the moral fabric of society is falling apart. It was prophesied, it’s happening, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And while we may not have much control over the road the world decides to travel, we can still decide which road we will travel as individuals.

We can be lights for the world and for our families. We can choose sincerity over hypocrisy. We can follow the path to the Tree of Life instead of joining the raucous crowd inundating the great and spacious building. We have to. Church leaders have repeated over and over again, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” The history provided by Helaman 5 is growing ever-increasingly close to repeating itself:

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction…

(Helaman 5:2)

How do you try to be a light for an ever-darkening world? Let us know in the comments.

David Snell is a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's the Founder of The Sunday Pews, and has experience writing for Mormon Newsroom Pacific, KBYU11, Classical 89 Radio, FamilyShare.com and plenty more. He tries not to take himself too seriously and just wants to brighten your day a bit.