Your Privilege is Showing

Rob Portman
Almost every day it seems, another politician or public figure ‘changes’ their position on what had been, until that time, a ‘moral issue’.

The ironies abound, but the self-serving cowardice and hypocrisy are breath-taking.

What kind of person makes a public stand on a ‘moral’ issue and then changes their position when it impacts someone in their own family?

Does this mean that laws, rules and ‘moral positions’ only apply to others?

Is a ‘moral position’ really ‘moral’ or is it, sometimes, a ploy or distraction in service to a larger political issue?

I’m not a professional philosopher, if there even is such a thing, but it seems obvious that an issue either is – or is not – a moral issue.

If a moral issue impacts us – or someone close to us – it should deepen and add concrete dimensionality to what had been an abstraction.

But these ‘changes’ remind us that ‘morals’ and laws are never abstractions.

Related: Redemptive Morality, Non-traditional Marriage and Les Mis – by Mal Green

Laws and rules (and the moral values behind them) directly address and impact our attitudes and behavior.

Our laws, at their best, reflect what is valued – who and what deserve our protection. But when we make laws or pass moral judgments that only apply to others, we are being inherently (self) deceptive.

We have seen this in the USA in the 1920s when men voted on whether women should have the right to vote, and some areas in the past few elections, where white people decide where, when and under what conditions black people get to vote.

And we see it most recently when heterosexuals ‘decide’ and make laws regarding what homosexuals can and cannot do legally.

This deciding what other people can do is inherently dictatorial and abstract and is in fact a working definition of hypocrisy.

It goes against every core human value, divine commandment and democratic political philosophy.

Partiality and bias clearly impede justice.

The whole premise of justice is impartiality. Deliberate objectivity should be the driving force in any legal judgment or political position. Anything else is self-serving sloganeering.

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We should not be reluctant to express or live according to our values, but our values should be authentic, universal and enduring and they should express our deepest selves and should never be held hostage to – or as a substitute for – passing political philosophies.

And for those formerly anti-gay politicians who now, ‘for personal reasons’ support gay rights and vow to love and support their family member – and say it as if it were a revelation that relationships surpass ideology – I have to say that I marvel at their vacuousness – haven’t they noticed that this is precisely what many of us have been clamoring for for centuries?

Are you really saying that if a law is draconian, discriminatory, dehumanizing and oppressive, but it applies only to others, it is acceptable, but if it affects you or anyone you know, it should be revoked?

Are you really saying that some laws should apply to me but not you?

Also by Morf: Writing in the Dirt – the Choice Between Being Right and Being Like Jesus

Do you imagine that our values are as shallow and arbitrary as yours?

We all know that even if our children use the same drugs or get in the same trouble, your children will never go to the same prisons as our children.

Our children will never go to the same schools or have the same opportunities as your children.

Your words, your stale and mechanical talking points, tell us and the world, that you never did – and never will – care for us. You only see and care about yourself. You are a blight and parasite, and your cowardice and newly found self-righteousness stink. As usual, you are not speaking out of conviction, but only self-preservation.

You are the modern version of the ancient hypocrites who made up complicated, burdensome rules and expected others to follow them (Matthew 23:4).

You don’t show any ‘change of heart’ – you are just showing us again, and again, that you don’t see us, you only see yourself and those like you.

The only way the rest of us will get any justice is if your children are ill, addicted, unemployed, disabled or exploited.

If that is what it takes, that will be our prayers for you.


Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.

Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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About the Author

Morf Morford

Morf MorfordMorf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.View all posts by Morf Morford →

  • Jonathan Starkey

    Whoa. I felt convicted reading this. I never thought of it that way.

  • Mike

    I have no idea what this is about. Am I supposed to know whose picture that is?

    • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

      Senator Rob Portman (R – Ohio). He was strongly opposed to gay marriage, then his son came out of the closet, and (after appx. two years) Portman is now a supporter of legalizing gay marriage.

      • Mike

        Thanks, you told me more in two sentences than the whole article did.
        I’m not sure if this is hypocracy. People often sees things differently once they get a chance to see it up close.
        For instance, if someone enlist in army and is sent to Iraq, and after two years of seeing war up close becomes a pacifist, do we call him a hypocrite? Do we say that he is just being self-serviing because now that he’s in a war he wants to go home?

        • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

          Agreed. It’s always possible that the change of heart is for self-serving and/or hypocritical reasons, but I cannot see into the hearts of others. I can barely see into my own!

          • Mike

            I basically agree. Though sometimes you can see into another persons heart. Like when you ask someone if anything is wrong and they say, “I’m fine”, but you can tell that they are absolutely NOT fine.
            And maybe if I knew more about Portman, I could say if I thought he was being self-serving or just honestly changing. But even when you know someone, reading their mind is very difficult. And I’m for giving people the beneift of the doubt, anyway. Morford doesn’t bother to give any explaination for how he’s judged Portman’s heart.
            Also, I hope it didn’t seem that I thought you were calling Portman a hypocrite. I was adressing you, but I was actually talking about what Morford said. I think that was unclear.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Oh, don’t worry, I understood you. And again I agree – all through my schooling I was trained to give what we call a “sympathetic reading,” which is to say assuming the best from an author or speaker until given a reason to believe otherwise (in other words, giving the benefit of the doubt). I don’t always succeed at it, but it’s something to strive for.

          • SamHamilton

            That is wise advice, particularly so when it comes faceless communication.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Indeed – and (though I doubt it was intended this way) is good advice for debates, as well. If your rebuttal is directed at the best interpretation of your opponent’s stance, then it would logically follow that any lesser interpretation is also rebutted.

          • Daithi Duly

            “but I cannot see into the hearts of others. I can barely see into my own!”

            Great statement Snommelp! Such a truth for us all to remember

        • SamHamilton

          Good point Mike re: war and experiences. Very, very few people, I would imagine, actually changed their view on gay marriage because of some high-minded principle or were completely convinced of the case for gay marriage the moment it was first proposed to them. I’m guessing for most people who ultimately decided gay marriage is just came to that conclusion slowly as they came into contact with more gay people who simply want a “normal” life or at least were exposed to more reasoned arguments in favor of gay marriage made in mainstream places. The idea expressed by the author here that some people should have all this filthy vitriol and name-calling thrown at them because they came to this conclusion a few years later than some other people is completely and utterly uncharitable.

          And the idea that Sen. Portman, in particular, should be subjected to it is outlandish.

          This site needs better editors from time to time.

  • http://twitter.com/practicalpsycho Paul

    I’m wrong about a lot of things. I’m grateful and usually penitent when I’m able to learn what’s right. I’m not sure it helps me or motivates me to work for more of what’s right if, when I finally come around, I get lambasted for my process or for what I did before I came around. Will Rogers said, “There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” I’d really like to help people avoid that electric shock and to avoid it myself, but sometimes that’s just how we figure things out.

  • Sharon

    Well. While I believe the author’s points about hypocrisy and self-serving attitudes of those who “change their minds” are valid, his callous and, in my opinion Un-Christlike, closing statements really put me off. He says, “The only way the rest of us will get any justice is if your children are ill, addicted, unemployed, disabled or exploited. If that is what it takes, that will be our prayers for you.” Absolutely sickening. Mr. Morford, I am not sure whom you are including when you say “our” prayers, but to pray against anybody and/or their children, that they would become ill, addicted, unemployed, disabled, exploited, or any other hurt or calamity is patently hateful and not what God wants for his followers. Sir, do you actually intend to ask God to cause these people, and their innocent children, pain?! As for me, I will keep praying for God to change people’s hearts, because only God can do that, and only God knows how to accomplish it. And, Mr. Morford, I will pray for you — not against you — as well.

    • 22044

      Thanks Sharon.
      I’m not really sure how to engage with this post. It looks like a Frank Schaeffer rant.
      I thought you did well with it, though.

      • Eric Masters

        You and I don’t agree on much, but I’m glad to see that neither of us wants to pray for misfortune to fall upon our enemies, let alone their children. God bless.

        • 22044

          Thanks, peace & God’s best to you as well, Eric!

  • wterrya

    Perhaps you need to leave a little room for people to change their thinking, even on “moral” issues. It might be somewhat foolish for anyone to think they are always right. Changing positions or beliefs might be a sign of maturity, not self-serving indulgence as the author suggests.

    • SamHamilton

      Good point.

  • Steven Hersom

    The article taken as a whole has some valid points only if you are dealing with people whose only intent is self preservation ( I will admit that the world is full of these people and a lot of them are politicians). The broad brush of discrimination paints both ways and we are not better served by using it against those who are discriminating. You cannot make a universal assumption that through life experience a person is not capable of having a change or heart.

  • SamHamilton

    There’s some truth buried in here somewhere…I’m trying to tease it out… Something along the lines of Christians should be careful about saying that a position we’ve taken is the morally right position because something might come along later that causes us to change our minds. This could have been written about any issue, at any time…but…

    The self-rightous sanctimony that this point is smothered in stinks to high-heaven. “…many of us have been clamoring for for centuries?” Huh? Virtually no one in this country or anywhere else in the world believed gay people should be able to marry 10-15 years ago. Even the most progressive people in public life weren’t talking about gay marriage 10 years ago.

    And picking on Portman is ridiculous. The President switched his position last year too. Other, much more prominent politicians than Portman have done the same. Where was the accusations of acting only out of “self-preservation” or “only caring about yourself.” Or that the President’s current “self-rightoueness stinks? Blight? Parasite? Cowardice? Oh please…spare me the melodrama. Unless you, Morf, were out crusading for gay marriage 20 years ago your self-rightousness stinks. If not allowing gay people to marry today is an outrage, then it was so 20, 50, 100 years ago too. Anyone who takes up this cause is late, and they’ve all done it because they’ve either come into more and more contact with more gay people or the ideas being presented by gay people on this subject. Portman’s not alone. He’s one of millions of Americans who’ve changed their opinions after listening to gay people talk about this issue. Get off your moral high-horse.

    This deciding what other people can do is inherently dictatorial and abstract and is in fact a working definition of hypocrisy. It goes against every core human value, divine commandment and democratic political philosophy.

    This makes no sense, Unless you, Morf, are an advocate for direct democratic voting on every law put on our books, this is what Congress is elected to do. 535 people are elected to decide what other people can and can’t do. If we don’t like those laws, we change those people. It’s not dictatorial or hypocritical.

    • Eric Masters

      Well said. All of our eyes were opened at one time, to claim that changing your mind is selfish and deplorable we are all in trouble.

  • Eric Masters

    I like your assertion, but not your conclusion.
    A couple things:
    1. When somebody has the honesty to change their mind on an issue like this- even for selfish reasons, that’s a small victory for us.
    2. I will never pray for hardship for my enemies, because when Jesus said pray for your enemies- I think he meant it.
    I’ll be honest, i’m surprised to see such a graceless opinion piece on this site.

  • Daithi Duly

    Here we go again. An article that looks as if it has came right out of an far left pamphlet. Right off the bat full of what Orwell called “pompous diction” and brimming to the limits with “righteous rage” that in my opinion, has yet to prove itself.

    “This deciding what other people can do is inherently dictatorial and abstract and is in fact a working definition of hypocrisy. ”

    If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15

    “And for those formerly anti-gay politicians who now, ‘for personal reasons’ support gay rights and vow to love and support their family member – and say it as if it were a revelation that relationships surpass ideology – I have to say that I marvel at their vacuousness – haven’t they noticed that this is precisely what many of us have been clamoring for for centuries?”

    I think that Gods word is clear on Homosexuality so I can’t applaud those who have changed sides. However one would think that Morf would be happy to see people come to his side. No mercy however, ALL of these people ARE hypocrites and apparently worms according to Morf.

    “Do you imagine that our values are as shallow and arbitrary as yours? We all know that even if our children use the same drugs or get in the same trouble, your children will never go to the same prisons as our children. Our children will never go to the same schools or have the same opportunities as your children.”

    Here again, Morf throws Blanket statments over all kinds of people. And seems to preach the myth that so many people of his persuasion believe. That all politicians are evil as are rich people. One forgets that David is described as a man after God’s own heart.

    Then Morf presents the cherry on the top.

    “The only way the rest of us will get any justice is if your children are ill, addicted, unemployed, disabled or exploited.”

    Here we see Morf upon his knees. He claims that the is the ONLY way the rest of “us” will get justice. So Morf goes to his bed praying that children will fall prey to illnesses. Will become addicted to Heroin, cocaine and other drugs that will ruin their lives, destroy their bodies. He asks that they will be stuck off, unemployed, forced to beg on the streets. Then he prays for them to be exploited. He prays that they will be raped, molested and abused. He then justifies all this by saying

    “If this is what it takes”

    Tony Campolo needs to screen what is placed on a website where his face appears on almost every page.

  • Joshua Bower

    Where exactly in the “red letters” (words of Christ) will one find the justification for praying for “illness, addiction, unemployment, disability, and exploitation” for children of the rich and politically powerful? The rage behind the words here distort any good this article could have accomplished. It also leaves folks like me in quite a pickle. I’m a conservative evangelical pastor who has believed for his whole life that same-gender sex is defined in scripture as a sin. I’ve stated publicly on multiple occasions that 1 man/1 woman in the covenant of marriage is God’s intention for the expression of human sexuality–a ‘moral’ issue for sure. Since then, as I’ve met and befriended more and more gay folks, my views have changed significantly. But nothing has changed my thinking more than having children: I cannot engage this issue without looking at my 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter and knowing that I want to love and support them no matter what their sexual orientation and subsequent choices are. Could I reject my gay child? Of course not. So I feel like a hypocrite for believing gay sex is a sin. But yet, the Bible still appears clear to me that it is…so I’m ultimately torn. But the author seems to give me 2 options: 1) Stick to my conservative guns and be viewed as a hopelessly antiquated, fundamentalist bigot by more progressive people (or affirm civil unions while upholding that the marriage covenant be 1 man/1 woman for the church and become the scorn of both left and right); or 2) Affirm full marriage equality and thus become the very embodiment of cowardice and hypocrisy. I’m not looking for pity now as I wrestle with the Bible and my personal beliefs and experience, nor will I seek praise from the LGBT community if and/or when I change my theological position, but come on, Morf. “What kind of a person makes a public stand on a ‘moral’ issue and then changes their position when it impacts a member of their own family?” Human beings, like me, who may change over the course of 3 decades or more of being human.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.olson.522 Daniel Olson

    Of course to be against something which I find holds no temptation for me, (and/or affects no one I’m are close to) is easy. If I’m are attracted to the opposite sex and are close to no one LGBT, then LGBT rights might seem unimportant, or even offensive depending on my background. It costs me nothing to “stand up for” the standard scriptural interpretations. Mercy seems completely unnecessary.

    If I’m single.. or perfectly satisfied in my marriage, or afraid/ashamed to admit that I’m not, I can proudly hold up a standard condemning divorce. But if I feel trapped in an abusive or detached marriage, or if my closest friends seem unable to fulfill their vows due to the human condition, then compassion, sadness and eventually mercy find their way into my heart. Divorce, while not what we had hoped for becomes a choice, which ultimately does not separate us from the love of God.

    I have same gender attraction. I could easily condemn divorce since it held no potential conflict for me. I also found that a Christian man who I interacted online with, seemed perfectly fine with divorce and remarriage, citing a hodgepodge of OT scriptures. This same man held tight to the standard evangelical interpretations of Scripture towards homosexuality, with no signs of the empathy, compassion, or mercy he could show those struggling with their marriages, or faced with remaining single after a divorce.

    Romans 2:1 says it so well: “There is no excuse for you who pass judgement on others. Don’t you understand that in your judgement you have condemned yourself? Don’t you realize that you are guilty of the same practices?

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