REAL Righteousness vs Ostentatious Bull$hit
When a beloved religious leader passed away a fornight ago at the right old age of ninety-five, his death made headlines internationally. Both the New York Times and the DailyMail made much of how the near-sighted gentleman would remove his glasses lest he view anything of a sexual nature while walking down the street.
And just like that, I was triggered. Angrily triggered. Why? Because it was all so familiar. Because my cult-like, Bible-thumping near-sighted family also removed their eyeglasses or averted their gaze in the name of righteousness. As I wrote in Going Rogue After Isolation:
I’ll never forget the time Michael tried to show my parents a video on YouTube. In the background of the video, a male jogger jogged past. Mother bowed her head. Then a female jogger went past. Dad bowed his head. There they sat, staring down at their laps, neither of them were watching the video.
Oh, it looked so righteous! But was it? Or is this kind of look-at-me-I’m-being-holy display of nearsightedness like those anti-wrinkle lotions they sell on home shopping television. All about “the appearance of”…but no one is ever quite sure if they work or not.
The more I ponder on narcissists and religion, the more I’m convinced there is faux righteousness and true righteousness. Faux righteousness is ostentatious. It’s in-your-face. Flaunts and vaunts itself. It’s nauseating. Perhaps even infuriating.
For example, it may be vocal about the evils of alcohol. Loudly condemn those who use tobacco products. Banish the television to the attic or blatantly turn its face to the wall. Block up the internet. Remove its spectacles lest it see the curve of cleavage or a fishnet clad thigh.
But that doesn’t mean diddly-shit because the same person may be horribly abusing their own family behind the closed doors of their alcohol-tobacco-and-TV free home.
The distinction between righteous and unrighteous resides in the heart.
True righteousness, on the other hand, may not look like righteous at all. It may look like a balding, bespectacled Oxford professor. He has a pint in one hand, a cigarette in the other and is telling a good ol’ ribald joke, surrounded by the laughter of his fellow authors and professors. I refer, of course, to C. S. Lewis and the Inklings.
Yet, for all his so-called “vices,” I sometimes think C. S. Lewis was the only righteous man I’ve ever known.
Let me give you another example of this fascinating juxtaposition.
I was raised in a home so “righteous” that at the age of twenty-four, I didn’t know the words cock, dick, pussy, SOL or CYA. While being taught from childhood never to laugh at dirty jokes lest I become guilty of being party to dirty jokes, yet I was trapped because I couldn’t recognize the telltale words that identified a dirty joke. See the problem?
Driving around town, my mother sternly ordered me to “look away” when we drove past Shinders Bookstore or Fantasy Gifts, with the lace lingerie clad plastic mannequins in the window. If animals began mating on PBS documentaries, Mom changed the channel in disgust. At a visit to the zoo during my teens, when the gorillas started copulating, I was rushed from the scene. My sex-ed was done with a straight face or a condescending smile, as though solemnity was some kind of disinfectant for a dirty subject.
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I was also taught that all art, photographs, movies, et cetera containing full or partial nudity were “pornographic.” Any hint of cleavage was erased on VHS tapes. There are portions of some movies I’ve still never seen. As you might imagine, all my clothes were very loose, very high-necked and I was horribly ashamed for having visible curves.
So righteous, you say? I’m not convinced.
It may be utterly genuine. It may be the steps taken by someone battling pornography addiction. Or it may be the kind of phony-baloney exterior righteousness cults practice.
I recently ended a friendship with someone in a cult that insists all its women wear “righteous” one-pattern-fits-no-one ugly dresses. But that doesn’t keep the underage girls from being raped by brothers, fathers, cousins, church members who must only confess and be shunned for a while as punishment. But woe to the rape victim who doesn’t “forgive” her abuser! Woe to her if she gets depressed. Woe to her if she commits suicide. She will be refused Christian burial by the very cult that harbors her rapist in its bosom. Yet, not one of those mens’ names will ever appear on a court docket nor on the Sex Offender Registry.
Now, let me tell you about true righteousness.
Apologist and pastor Josh McDowell tells a story about a graffitied wall he and his children once encountered. Every dirty word in the book had been spray-painted (tagged) on that wall. Now, my parents would have told me sternly to “look away” and rushed me from the scene. Pastor McDowell did the opposite! He bought large sodas for his children, found a bench and explained every word on that wall to his children. I’m sure there was much giggling. He raised kids prepared for all the words life, friends and coworkers would throw at them.
The same goes for art. Regular readers will know I’ve recently discovered a passion for the Old Master paintings which contain nudity more often than not. That’s why the art teacher in my Baptist school covered all the interesting bits with Post-It notes when showing us photos of the Old Masters. Just like home.
Does that make it righteous? NO! It makes it distracting. Not only that, nudity in art eases the curiosity of teens in the throes of puberty, worried their bodies aren’t “normal,” curious about the opposite sex.
How well I remember joining the group of Baptist thirteen-year-old girls clustered around the “D” volume of Encyclopædia Britannica in the school library. Trying desperately to stifle our giggles, we strained for a peek at Michaelangelo’s David sculpture. It was our only way of knowing what boys had in their pants. If our we-provide-no-sex ed school had their way, we girls would never even see a penis until moments before our “first time” so David was our only hope of knowing what the heck was in store for us! Blessings upon Encyclopædia Britannica!
But I digress.
C’mon! Seen one penis, seen ’em all. There’s a difference between curiosity and lust. A difference between art and pornography. A difference between seeing nudity and actually committing adultery.
The distinction between righteous and unrighteous resides in the heart.
So with all due respect to dearly departed religious leader, who to judge by the vast crowd of mourners who followed his casket was much beloved, I prefer to think of righteousness in the words of the Prophet Samuel and not in whether spectacles are perched on the nose or not:
“…for the Lord seeth not as man seeth.
For man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7 (KJV)
Thompson, L. (2018). REAL Righteousness vs Ostentatious Bull$hit. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2018/03/real-righteousness-vs-ostentatious-bullhit/