Monday, October 3, 2011

We tried ..... But It Didn't Work ~ Wrinkled Brows

Note:  Wrinkled Brows is a sometimes Monday series on a quote or a word of interest (perhaps only to me.)  

"We tried to legislate morality and ended up enshrining hypocrisy."
.... Ken Burns as quoted in Parade, October 2, 2011 in reference to his new PBS series on Prohibition.

I really never thought much about the Prohibition movement, or even the fact that it involved an amendment to the constitution, which was later repealed.  It was, after all, from my grandmother's era.  But now that I have given it some thought, it was a pretty amazing chapter in American history.  I watched the first episode last night on PBS as perhaps you did, too.

But it was the Ken Burns' quote above that really stopped me in my tracks, because it resonated with so much of what I have observed in various religious institutions during my lifetime.

Talk about legislating morality, or trying to.  I was raised in one of the very strictest conservative Protestant denominations.  We did not drink (probably why Prohibition never interested me very much), nor dance, nor wear makeup, nor wear jewelry (except for a wedding ring), etc. etc. etc.  I bought a red dress once, and made the mistake of wearing it to church, only to be soundly denounced by some of the older women for looking like a "Jezebel."  It was very wearing - every pun intended.

As you can readily see, many of the "prohibitions" in my religious upbringing were directed more toward the women of the congregation than the men.  I found that galling, even as a teenager.  But I obeyed because we were taught that was the way to holiness.  Unfortunately, I don't think I obtained holiness, except for often feeling "wholly ticked off."  Legalism - believe you me the pharisees had nothing on us in that department.

Not long ago, I stumbled onto a website - which I do not plan to name here because it was so discouraging to read, and because the authors seemed to gloat over the fallen - which listed dozens of major scandals involving well known preachers over the past fifty or sixty years.  Talk about "enshrining hypocrisy" - and they did a bang up job of it.  Some of those they listed were "legends" in my youth and others were held up as "heroes of the faith", when they were mostly egotistically driven frauds.  Sad, but true.

I don't really have many heroes any more.  Too many turned out to have feet of clay.  I really, come to think of it, only have one and they crucified him.  But I can relate to him more and more, partly because he hated the religious hypocrisy of his day and made no bones about it.  Neither was he an abstemious prude; in fact, he himself said they called him a drunkard and a glutton (neither of which was true).

Nevertheless, he did not allow it to cause him to become alienated from his Father, nor bitter toward others, nor isolated from the fellowship of believers.  He recognized hypocrisy, named it for what it was, and then just went about his Father's business.

Now there is an example worth following.  Until next time ...Marsha


  1. Marsha...what a wonderful approach to finding the Truth in our religion. I'm with you we only need one Hero.

  2. That is a very convicting quote. Hypocrisy is the Devil's solution to our seeking holiness... but I loved how you brought it back to Jesus. He acknowledged that there was hypocrisy, but it didn't make him bitter or ineffective. He just kept going about his father's business. Wonderful!

    Regarding your latest post - maybe you will end up with an Indian summer!