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May 27, 2012

Question: How do you account for hypocrites in your faith? Do they discount your beliefs?

I will take the question “Do they discount your beliefs?” to mean whether hypocrites undermine my beliefs.

First, let us have a clearer understanding of the strange phenomenon of hypocrisy. The Greek root of the word “hypocrite” denotes an individual who is acting or playing a part. A hypocrite is not just any believer who tries but fails to live up to the divine standard. If that meaning alone defined the word, then we should all of us deserve the epithet.

A hypocrite is, rather, someone who lives by pretence, who deceitfully and knowingly assumes the appearance of virtue, but who in reality practises vice to feed the perverted appetites of the lower self or ego. The hypocrite is usually found in the company of the self-righteous. In its most extreme manifestations, hypocrisy is associated with such negative attributes as aggression, ambition, cupidity, lust, pride, self-love, treachery, vainglory, etc.

Using this extreme definition of hypocrisy, we may say that hypocrisy is a disease of the soul. Needless to say, the hypocrite wreaks havoc on genuine religion, which depends on credibility for its dynamism and moral authority. What the hypocrite lacks above all are two spiritual virtues that are absolutely essential to religion — sincerity and purity of heart.

The vast majority of all believers in all religions are happily sincere and purely motivated. In my now 50 years of association with those Bahá’ís with whom I have had more than a passing acquaintance, those persons who might fall into this strange category are happily very rare.

Did these few individuals disappoint me? Yes. Did they undermine my faith? No. The quality of our faith should not be determined by the words or deeds of other individuals. Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet-Founder of our Faith, advises instead: “Fix your gaze upon Him Who is the Temple of God amongst men” (Gleanings, p. 315).
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen May 27, 2012
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