In the 1752 edition of Poor Richard's Almanack, Benjamin Franklin, ever the irreverent wordsmith, took on the subject of hypocrisy (which was huge at the time). Franklin said, "Mankind are very odd Creatures: One Half censure what they practice, the other half practice what they censure; the rest always say and do as they ought." I kind of think this is the scenario when it comes to Paula Deen's "media" shellacking here of late over using some very unwise and insensitive language from years past. As a result, her racial-slur controversy appears to be costing her dearly, possibly even her entire Southern cooking empire. But is Paula Deen's wrong any more wrong than when we as Christians (or non-Christians) carry a disparaging feeling in our hearts toward a person, yet not say it out loud? "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of" – Luke 6:45. So, if this is true, can't we all be a little guilty here?
Come on, you know as well as I do that too many of us "practice what we censure," way more than we would ever like to think. When it comes to ugly or even disrespectful thoughts about people, be honest, there are times that we've all been guilty of this. Even though we are children of God and long to serve Him with all of our hearts, still, this heart (mind, soul, will) of ours has been severely damaged from its original intended function. Our fallen "human condition", matched up with living out the words of Jesus, is a battle that we fight everyday of our lives, and I might add, will continue to fight until we close our eyes in death. Even Jeremiah tells us in 17:9 that, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" NIV
Now you know that things have got to be crazy out of balance regarding the Deen controversy when she ends up being defended by the likes of former President Jimmy Carter who said, "She has been punished, perhaps overly severely," and the Rev. Jesse Jackson saying, "Deen is a "sacrificial lamb" who "should be reclaimed rather than destroyed." So, Ms. Deen made a mistake, ok, who hasn't? She is regretful, disappointed in herself, repentant and does not want to repeat her wrong. Hello…Anybody out there? Does the media or anyone else holding animosity toward Ms. Deen know how to spell G R A C E or F O R G I V E N E S S? Seldom will you ever find me agreeing with Rev. Jesse Jackson, but even he gets it! She should be "reclaimed [not] destroyed!" Tell me, go ahead and tell me that there isn't one of us who wishes at some point in our lives that we were able to take back words said to someone that we regret saying. This is a perfect example of Jesus' famous hypocrisy statement in Matthew 7:5 where He proclaimed, "take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Is there no room for mistakes made anymore within our dogmatic, politically correct, make a mistake and it's off with your head, society? Really? I mean if there ever was a true purpose and reason for the globally popular letters, WWJD, then it's here!
To be perfectly honest, I'm not necessarily a Paula Deen fan, but this whole thing has gotten "hypocritically" out of control. I mean she admits to using the "N" word years ago, granted a horrible word connected to a shameful and terrible history in our country. But again, she did admit that she was wrong and has apologized profusely for that wrong. Now there's a firestorm of scrutiny from the media and others as her cooking empire begins to crumble around her. Ok, maybe there does need to be somewhat of a "lesson learned" for Ms. Deen. But here's the sad contradiction, African American rappers/comedians/entertainers seem to use the word consistently! Lil Wayne (the popular New Orleans-based rapper) can stomp all over the American flag and not suffer any adverse consequences at all and continues to make millions! Also, and even more disturbing and contradictory, both Lil Wayne and fellow rapper Jay-Z, use this "N" word multiple times in their music with little notice or comment from the press, or in some cases, the church! Consequently, many teens have adopted this offending word as a synonym for close friends and buds regardless of race, in many ways thanks to rappers like these two guys.
Something is just wrong when a person admits their sin, apologizes, explains why it was done, asks for forgiveness and then continues to be crucified as a result. Also, factor in that Ms. Deen was born in the South 66 years ago…no excuse but nonetheless a connection. Again…REALLY? As stated, most rappers and black comedians in this country often use that word and therefore perpetuate this ugly problem even further with virtually no one in the media holding them accountable. This is ridiculous, and, I believe, greatly saddens the heart of God. I clearly realize what 2 Timothy 3 warns us of being "lovers of money, self, unholy, unforgiving…lovers of pleasures rather than God…" etc. So actually in many ways we shouldn't at all be surprised or shocked when these types of inconsistencies happen. Nonetheless, it does make you want to shake your head to see such blatant hypocrisy and dishonesty being unleashed in our society. It makes you want to do a double take on the prophetic words of Isaiah that seem so appropriate for today; "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" – Isaiah 5:20 NIV
So here's what Ms. Deen said, "Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable… I beg for your forgiveness. Please forgive me for the mistakes that I've made." I mean how is a listener supposed to handle a statement like that? Come on, just how much penance does a person have to do before they're forgiven? Can I say it again? WWJD! What if it were someone in the media or even one of us in need of understanding, grace and forgiveness for a stupid thing we said or did? We all know very well that each of us have fallen into that category at times in our lives, our human condition dictates that we will. So here's another whopper of a life changing statement from Jesus, "What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence! Matthew 23:25 NLT. Yeah, well imagine how we could change for the better if we all took a good dose of those powerful words from our Messiah and King! Talk about self-examination, humility and empathy.
So, to all of us fallen mortals who may have a tendency to stick our nose up in the air and cast out our net of self-righteousness when we see others make mistakes and stumble in life, remember these words from Ambrose Bierce; "Hypocrisy is just prejudice with a halo." This coming from a man who was a self-proclaimed agnostic. Now come on, you know we can and should do better.