Bryan Caplan  

Why Traditionalists Should Prefer Libertines to Hypocrites

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I've repeatedly encountered the following social conservative meme, most recently in an argument over the Mark Sanford affair:
We've got to stop acting like hypocrites are the worst thing in the world.  At least hypocrites have moral standards; they're just not living up to them.  All the war on hypocrisy really accomplishes is to give people a strong incentive to become libertines, people who openly flout traditional moral standards.  What could be worse?
I could argue that traditional moral standards are a mixed bag of truth and error.  But I don't have to.  Even if traditional moral standards were infallibly correct, ardent social conservatives should still prefer libertines to hypocrites. 

Why?  Because they can and usually do avoid close social relations with libertines!  A conservative Christian needn't worry that she will accidentally disgrace herself by marrying a libertine, because the libertine has the decency to make his intentions known. 

In contrast, it's hard to avoid close social relations with hypocritical traditionalists.  Since they pretend to share socially conservative values, they worm their way into your life and your family.  Then like the hypocrites they are, they shirk, lie, and adulter, bringing shame to their spouses, children, and extended families.

As an opponent of nationalism in all its forms, I share neither the revulsion people feel against "traitors," nor the grudging respect people feel for the loyal soldiers of enemy nations.  But for traditionalists' evaluation of libertines versus hypocrites, the nationalist model makes sense.  Libertines are like the loyal soldiers of enemy nations; you may not like them, but at least you know what you're dealing with.  Hypocrites, in contrast, are like traitors in your midst - and the wise social conservative will hold them in the highest contempt.
 
HT: An argument with John Nye, my favorite social conservative.

P.S. For the best movie about hypocrisy you're likely to see, try Harakiri.


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COMMENTS (37 to date)
Jody writes:

If the outcome you want is "minimize my exposure to behavior X", then your analysis could hold (assuming little mixing).

But I suspect the outcome desired by traditionalists is "I want as much of the next generation to share my values as possible"

In which case libertines, whether explicitly or implicitly, make a case against traditional behaviors. Whereas hypocrites arguably aid in persuasion as they too make the case for traditional values while attempting to minimize the visibility of their libertine actions.

So I think the answer turns, in part, on if the traditionalist goal is minimizing contact with libertine behaviors or marketing traditional values to the next generation.

B.B. writes:

I believe the old saying is that hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pay to virtue.

I think you need to make a distinction between the type of hypocrite who doesn't really believe in his heart the values he propounds and so secretly violates the norms (he is a secret libertine) and the type of hyprocrite who really believes moral values but is fallible and tumbles once (the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak).

Bill Woolsey writes:

Many advocates of traditional moral values are Christians. The core Christian doctrine is for sinners to repent. Caplan's notion that the community of believers are a group who live by God's law and are free from sin is contrary to Christian doctrine. The notion that their goal should be to avoid contact with sinners is wrong as well. Christians who take that perspective are the epitomy of hypocrites, according to Christian doctrine. Jesus always lambasted the Pharisees for exactly that approach. I don't deny, however, that this is a constant problem among the religious.

I don't know that maximizing the number of advocates of traditional moral values in the next generation is the goal either. I think maximizing the number of Believers in this and every generation is the goal. And this involves having sinners repent and return to God. Libertines haven't gotten to step one. (Realizing that they are sinners.) Jesus, however, focused more upon the self-righteously religious as those who haven't reached step one. That they don't believe they are sinners either.


Taimyoboi writes:

What if the Probability that a Person will end up Being a Hypocrite is Less if they Associate with a Social Conservative?

And the Probability that a Socially Conservative Person will remain Socially Conservative is Less if they Associate with a Libertine than with a Hypocrite?

Jason writes:

Hypocrisy isn’t believing in rigorous moral standards while failing to live up to them. It’s *claiming* to believe in rigorous moral standards that one has little intention of practicing.

Does Mr. Caplan really believe that the latter is the case with Gov. Sanford in particular or “sinners” in general? Why couldn’t the governor simultaneously (a) love his wife, (b) sincerely believe cheating on his wife is wrong, and (c) cheat on his wife anyway through temporary weakness in character?

Rigorous moral standards are hard to follow precisely because they *are* rigorous. How hard is it to practice “libertine” morality? There are hardly any rules to follow. Mr. Caplan would have social conservatives hold Gov. Sanford ‘in highest contempt’ but ‘grudgingly respect’ former Gov. Clinton?

Bob Montgomery writes:

I think the correct social conservative meme, if you want to call it that, is best expressed by Doug Wilson:

But this overlooks the important role of hypocrisy in every decent society. As it has been well observed, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. When virtue is publicly honored, there will be those who do not live up to that standard but who nevertheless want to known as men who live up to it. As long as we have a fallen world, and we honor what we ought to honor -- marital fidelity, say -- we will have this problem.

The existence of hypocrites is evidence of a cultural virtue, which is encouraging to social conservatives - the actual hypocrites, of course, are rightly to be condemned for their behavior. The existence of libertines is evidence of cultural vice and is to lamented, but actual libertines are to be commended, as you say, for their honesty, if for nothing else.

English Professor writes:

Let's give credit where credit is due. The definition of hypocrisy as "the tribute that vice pays to virtue" is one of the "Maximes" of the 17th century Duc de la Rochefoucauld:

L'hypocrisie est une hommage que le vice rend a la vertu.

Arthur_500 writes:

Hypocrites are problematic to those who are interested in destroying them. However, there is a lot of ignoring of the hypocracy.
Politicians are hypacritic all the time. They make promises, draw lines in the sand and then compromise in the name of progress. Usually everyone looses.
Sanford has been a good family man from what we can read in the press. He said that the President (Clinton)had deceived the courts and compromised his oath of office and therefore should step down.
Now Sanford has been involved in an affair that he appears to be attempting to extricate himself from. Who knows? He went to Argentenia AFTER his wife told him she wanted a separation but we don't know if it was the last tango or a Dear Jane. There appears to be an effort to make things "right" and restore his marriage.
However, I fail to see the hypocracy. Did he deceive his security detail and the State so he could get some private time? Yes. I'll even bet he told his kids that the presents under the tree came from Santa Claus. However, did he lie under oath? No
Those who set themselves on a pedestal are doomed to fall off so it is easy for those with no morals to point the finger of doom. I don't care who Mark Sanford is but his marital life should not be the foundation of government. Anyone who bases their votes and value of government on the marital status of the governor is the actual hypocrite.

English Professor writes:

P.S. As several posters have remarked, hypocrisy is not the mere failure to live up to a given moral code; it is the public display of moral principles (in which one has no sincere belief) for social gain. Now, I tend to the belief that ALL politicians are self-serving louts, so many social conservative politicians are likely to be hypocrites--that is, they project moral principle only for the sake of getting elected (i.e., a form of social gain). But the seductions of power and fame are such that it would seem to me almost superhuman for a true believer in traditional moral values to survive more than a few years in Washington unscathed.

Yancey Ward writes:

Libertines are more fun anyway.

Bryan Caplan writes:
Mr. Caplan would have social conservatives hold Gov. Sanford ‘in highest contempt’ but ‘grudgingly respect’ former Gov. Clinton?
Not Clinton, since he's quite the hypocrite too. It's not like he officially announced he was in an open marriage. But if you named Hugh Hefner instead, I'd say he does deserve social conservative's grudging respect as an honest libertine.

Hypocrisy has its benefits. If Thomas Jefferson weren't a hypocrite, the Declaration of Independence could not have been written.

Devin Snead writes:

Sounds like you had a fun conversation with John Nye.

George writes:

There's a rule in the Navy that if you're the captain of a ship and it runs aground, you're relieved of command. It explicitly doesn't matter whether it was your fault: grounded ship? grounded captain.

Marital infidelity in politicians is (and should be) a similar bright-line rule: you cheat on your wife, the voters throw you out. You could sincerely love her and just be going through a tough time and seduced by a KGB plant, but if you cheat on her, you're gone. (In a recall or the next election; you shouldn't be impeached unless you're arrogant enough to lie under oath about it.)

The reason is that it's our best sociopath filter. An awful lot of sociopathic behavior is difficult to prove, and lacks motivated witnesses: if you take a bribe from me, neither of us wants that to come to light. By contrast, many wives get very, very angry at cheating spouses and are thus motivated to destroy them. And affairs by their nature last a while, involve lots of lies, and are generally somewhat observable.

As long as we keep giving politicians power, their ranks will attract sociopaths, and we need to do seemingly extreme things to weed them out.

Snark writes:

@Joseph Hertzlinger:

If Thomas Jefferson weren't a hypocrite, the Declaration of Independence could not have been written.

Is there anything as incalculable as the logic of an armchair expert?

A series of scholarly opinions concerning this “hypocrite” can be found in the July 5, 2004 issue of TIME magazine. Here’s a little appetizer from Dr. Judith Jackson Fossett, Associate Professor, Department of English Program in American Studies & Ethnicity and Director, African-American Studies, University of Southern California:

"With regard to his relationship with Hemings and the centuries of controversy that continue to generate interest, fascination, denial and scandal, we make a grave error in our contemporary assessments of Jefferson to simply label him "hypocrite". From 1789 until 1860, the President of the United States was more likely to be both Chief Executive and owner of slaves than not (with father John Adams and son Quincy Adams as notable exceptions)."

Overall, not a bad performance review for someone who allegedly put on a false appearance of virtue.

hacs writes:

Hypocrites are libertines signaling as traditionalists, and that behavior is a consequence of the perceived expected cost in signaling truthfully. The higher the cost, more hypocrites and bigger is the risk of contact with them for the traditionalists. So, there is a trade-off between the expected cost on the libertine behavior (over libertines) and the expected cost of hypocrisy (over traditionalists). The best solution is an equilibrium in that problem.

rsj writes:

George...how many employers have fired their employees for being unfaithful to their wives? Would your job fire you? Mine wouldn't, and shouldn't. It's a private matter that's none of anybodys business.

Randy writes:

Hypocrisy is only a problem if the default condition is trust. By way of example, we need not concern ourselves with the hypocrisy of politicians, because we should never trust them in the first place.

ericyu3 writes:

Libertines are like the loyal soldiers of enemy nations; you may not like them, but at least you know what you're dealing with. Hypocrites, in contrast, are like traitors in your midst - and the wise social conservative will hold them in the highest contempt.

However, having n enemy soldiers is not always better than having n traitors, especially as n gets large--would it be better for the US to have 40 million traitors or to fight against 40 million enemy soldiers (all from one country)? So if there are both a lot of libertines and a lot of traitors, the marginal cost of a traitor may be lower than that of a libertine.

noahpoah writes:

Then like the hypocrites they are, they shirk, lie, and adulterer,...

Shouldn't the verb be 'adulter'? A cheater cheats, a writer writes, a fighter fights, so an adulterer adulters, right?

Note that there are absolutely no exceptions to this rule. This is why butchers butch, tricksters trickst, and freighters freight.

Walt French writes:

...it's hard to avoid close social relations with hypocritical traditionalists.

Nope; it's easy: merely avoid all "traditionalists."

In my personal, limited experience, I have known many wonderful traditionalists, but the majority of those who self-identify that way seem terrribly concerned with others' morals -- unmarried moms, drug users, immigrants whose capability to work in the US exceeds their ability to get a visa, etc. -- than the (admittedly fewer) moral lapses of their own persons.

Heck, some of my best friends are traditionalists; they're fine people when they don't obsess too much about their shadow projections. But if you want to avoid hypocrites, there's the way.

And by the way, how is it more moral to avoid people who behave in ways that you don't like?

Sonic Charmer writes:

This approach seems to address the issue of which sort of person we should "prefer", hypocrites or libertines. This is an odd way to frame the issue, and I have never seen this issue as such arise before.

In my view the more commonly-stated anti-anti-hypocrisy sentiment is that hypocrisy doesn't make a person wrong, it's not a valid counterargument against them. This is most common in the context of a conservative politician who is shouted down and dethroned by the left for being a "hypocrite" (adulterer, or whatever). The point of such a stance is not to say 'better hypocrite than libertine', it's to say 'his hypocrisy here doesn't make his tax policy wrong' (or whatever).

I don't know (or care) whether I'd "prefer a libertine" to a car thief who tells his son not to steal, but that's not the point. The point is that he is correct to tell his son not to steal, and the fact that he is a hypocrite does not and should not (as, often, the left would have things) debunk him.

George writes:

rsj wrote:

George...how many employers have fired their employees for being unfaithful to their wives? Would your job fire you? Mine wouldn't, and shouldn't. It's a private matter that's none of anybodys business.

There are plenty of jobs where cheating on your wife would lose you your clearance, and thus your job. The point is that it's a good proxy for other unreliable behavior.

Somebody's character is clearly the business of anyone he has power over. We give politicians a lot of power. We should pay close attention to evidence that they are sociopaths, and act on that evidence in ways that would seem extreme in other circumstances.

Bear in mind that the voters can throw politicians out for any reason they think is important (like, say, being a Republican), and in states with recall, at any time. Private employment law prohibits a lot of that. They're very different situations.

I liked what I knew of Sanford (especially when I thought he was hiking), but the South Carolina voters should put a stake through the heart of his political career. And if they don't, they're fools.

The Cupboard Is Bare writes:

I found this definition of libertine in the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

a person who is unrestrained by convention or morality; specifically: one leading a dissolute life.

One thing I discovered about people who fit this description...many of them do as they please, but expect everyone else around them to sacrifice their individuality in order to accommodate the libertine's wishes.

Tracy W writes:

George - this is only useful if politicians who have affairs are therefore bad at their day jobs.
There's a famous story. You have three candidates you could vote for:
Candidate A: Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologists. He’s had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

Candidate B: He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whisky every evening.

Candidate C: He is a decorated war hero. He doesn’t smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn’t had any extramarital affairs.

Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Candidate B is Winston Churchill.
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler. (Slightly misleading, he had affairs, but wasn't married until right at the end, so no extramarital affairs).

I don't think that having an affair means that someone is a sociopath, nor that not having an affair means that they aren't a sociopath. What their partner wants to do about it is their decision - if it was my husband I'd carve his heart out with a spoon - but I'll judge a politician by how he, or she, does their actual job. And I don't see any reason to believe that a perfect personal life means that someone would be any good as a leader.

As for losing your security clearance, the logic there is that cheating on your spouse is material that could be used for blackmail.

aez writes:

So many insights packed into this thought-provoking post and these comments.

Thanks so much.

eccdogg writes:

I am with George. I think cheating on your wife is a good proxy for trustworthiness. Thus I would not re-elect a known cheater or someone who cheats on their taxes or lied on their resume etc. Unless said act occured a long while ago and thier has been ample evidence of a change of character.

Colin K writes:

@Cupboard:

many of them do as they please, but expect everyone else around them to sacrifice their individuality in order to accommodate the libertine's wishes.

I once got chatted up by a group of Mormon missionaries. I told them that asking me to abstain from sex was one thing, and I could probably cope with not drinking booze, but they lost me at giving up coffee*.

I think morality and ethics at a society-wide level are for most people sort of like Weight Watchers. You see the bacon, you know it would taste good, you want to eat the bacon, but you think of your support group and how you don't want to be weak and have a slice of apple instead.

Then someone comes along and tells you that he lost twice as much weight as you by eating bacon instead of fruit, and you want to prove he has it all wrong because you hate to think of all the bacon you gave up. At the extreme you call anyone who promotes a bacon diet a fraud and hazard to the public health.

This is one reason I am a big believer in federalism and localism. If you want to be surrounded by people who think cigarettes, whiskey, and wild women are bad things, move to Salt Lake City.

The problem for libertarians is that you tend to get places with strong property freedom or strong social freedom, but rarely both. I live in Boston, where Adam can marry Steve but can't smoke a cigarette in the bridal suite or carry a pistol in case someone wants to beat him to a pulp. The best places I can think of are liberal bantustans like Park City UT or Austin TX, where the pinkos get overruled on things like gun rights and taxes.

* Especially since they are OK with Coca-Cola, which seems like the most hypocritical sort of legalism...

Max writes:

I can't quite follow Mr. Sanford's idea of a hypocrite being better than someone with not much of a principled approach to morales. What good is it to proclaim values when you can't even live up to them yourself. It is even worse you expect other people to live up to them, but not yourself. I find that to be a going maxime for the Conservative person out there (especially over the top with politicians).

A libertine by contrast doesn't have much of a moral rule-set or even much in case of raising borders for one self. But, and this is the qualifying difference, the libertine is up front with it and just says it.

So, I think that truthfullness is to be a value (and a traditional value) that trumps other socially conservative values. But as you see with a hypocrite even this value has no meaning and values without meaning are worth nothing...

Max writes:

@Colin K:

I totally understand your notion. It is what has bothered my all the time, that most people fall into one of the two categories (why else would there be such a strong 2 party system). It is the same here in Germany, you either get social liberties or you get "economic" liberties, but both at the same time is just too tolerant and small a group for anything worthwhile.

I often here from democrat, leftish friends how high they value tolerance and that one has to accept other cultures and belief-sets and not judge them. Why then is it so hard for them to acknowledge the same respect and tolerance to libertarians? Is there a more tolerant mind-set than social- and economic liberties??
But obviously that is not in demand and instead you get one of the two communities that differ only in the degree of social or economic liberties...

George writes:

Tracy wrote:

this is only useful if politicians who have affairs are therefore bad at their day jobs.

This may be an important difference between us: you want them to be good at their day job, and I don't care if they're good at their day job. I happen to believe their day job is Getting Reelected; I'm guessing you think their day job is Doing Good Things for the Citizens.

I think the danger of sociopaths in positions of power is so great that keeping them out is worth throwing out a lot of non-sociopaths. It's not like we're running out of people who want to be Governor of South Carolina.

.... Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Candidate B is Winston Churchill.
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler. (Slightly misleading, he had affairs, but wasn't married until right at the end, so no extramarital affairs).

He did sleep with his underage niece (Geli Raubal) and probably kill her, though; Weimar Germany was too sophisticated to count that against him. Unfortunately, their inability to detect a sociopath harmed a lot of others. There were, of course, plenty of reasons to vote against Hitler that you left out of your policy-free comparison: the kill-all-the-Jews stuff signals mental imbalance to me (in addition to being gravely wrong).

If you want ardent admirers of Candidate A, you should probably look on other blogs.

I don't think that having an affair means that someone is a sociopath, nor that not having an affair means that they aren't a sociopath. What their partner wants to do about it is their decision - if it was my husband I'd carve his heart out with a spoon - but I'll judge a politician by how he, or she, does their actual job. And I don't see any reason to believe that a perfect personal life means that someone would be any good as a leader.

The claim is in one direction only: a politician having an affair is strong evidence that he's a sociopath. I freely admit you can be a sociopath and not have an affair, and that you can be a non-sociopath who's nonetheless no good at running a state. And you don't have to prove conclusively that someone's a sociopath to want him out of office; some people might be skittish about even a 25% chance.

As for losing your security clearance, the logic there is that cheating on your spouse is material that could be used for blackmail.

Sooo.... That's another reason to reject politicians who cheat on their wives: even if they're not sociopaths, they're more vulnerable to blackmail and related corruption. Thanks.

Here's a sincere question for everyone: it seems like women are far more forgiving of male politicians' affairs than men are. Is this true? If so, why is it? Do men just have a better idea of how ridiculously easy it is to not cheat on their wives?

rsj writes:

[Comment removed for rudeness and policy violations. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request reconsideration of your comment privileges. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog.--Econlib Ed.]

Tracy W writes:

George:
I happen to believe their day job is Getting Reelected; I'm guessing you think their day job is Doing Good Things for the Citizens.

This I think depends on the politician. Every now and then you run across one like Ruth Richardson in NZ, who showed no signs of wanting to get re-elected. I also think that there is some overlap between getting reelected and doing good things for the citizens, or more precisely not doing terribly bad things. I think that the major advantage of democracy is that you can throw out the worst leaders, like Robert Muldoon (ex PM of NZ), non-violently.

There is also some alignment of interests - for example from history most leaders do not want to be kicked out of power by an invading country, and I don't want my country to be invaded either.

There were, of course, plenty of reasons to vote against Hitler that you left out of your policy-free comparison

This is of course the point of the story - a person can have a good-looking character and still be not the person you want as a leader.

If you want ardent admirers of Candidate A, you should probably look on other blogs.

Say what you like about FDR, at the end of WWII Germany was in ruins after having been bombed to pieces, most of the young men killed, vast numbers of women in eastern Germany had been raped by the Russians, half of it was under Communist occupation. Hitler lead his country in an appalling bad direction. The US was in nowhere near such a bad state. Nor was the UK. Despite the many moral failings of their leaders.

The claim is in one direction only: a politician having an affair is strong evidence that he's a sociopath.

Don't believe you. I think it's weak evidence that someone is a sociopath. The estimates of sociopathy in the population are about 4%-1%, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy the rate of adultery is about 10-15% of women, and 20-25% of men http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adultery (well, those are the numbers that admit it). So if we assume that all sociopaths commit adultery and take the highest figures for sociopathy and the lowest figures for male adultery, then if all you know about a man is that he has committed adultery, there's only a 20% chance that he is a sociopath.
Vary the figures somewhat more and you get even lower figures for the probability of sociopathy given adultery.

Furthermore, the characteristics of sociopathy, such as an inability to learn from past mistakes, impulsivity, etc, make me doubt the likelihood of many politicians actually being sociopaths. To get to the top in politics you need to have long-term supporters, not merely people you've impressed superficially with glib charm.

This is too low a probability for me to conclude that a politician has just disqualified himself only becuase he's had an affair.

That's another reason to reject politicians who cheat on their wives: even if they're not sociopaths, they're more vulnerable to blackmail and related corruption.

Or alternatively, to not get our knickers in a twist about adultery amongst politicians. The French have no problems with their leaders being blackmailed over adultery.

The Cupboard Is Bare writes:

Hi Collin K,

Don't know if you're still around to read this, but thank you for the post. I enjoyed it.

"I live in Boston, where Adam can marry Steve but can't smoke a cigarette in the bridal suite or carry a pistol in case someone wants to beat him to a pulp."

I totally understand where you are coming from. I live in New York State where a woman who is being stalked cannot carry protection, because, in the words of our local A.D.A. "we wouldn't want any violence". In other words, they want to protect the perp. Even Sen. Hillary Clinton's office told me to send them a letter and they would keep it on file...as if that was going to help (but in all fairness, I think most people realize that from her first day in office, Hillary's sights were set much further afield than NYS).

Normally I would say that it's not the responsibility of the police to protect you, but when they take away your right to protect yourself, then it follows that the police should be obligated to step in.

As for Sanford...after having confessed to the affair, he repeatedly asked for his wife's permission to return to his mistress in Argentina. But what I think he really wanted was not her permission, but for her to condone his behavior.

What I am most curious about is what his reaction would be if he were to discover his wife had taken a lover, and if he would have been supportive of any requests made for her to occasionally visit her lover. It is that response that would determine whether he was a true libertine or a hypocritical conservative.

Aaron Boyden writes:

The actual research into personality traits suggests that the various kinds of behaviors we classify as "honest" or "dishonest" correlate poorly with one another; someone cheating on their spouse once is probably a good proxy for their cheating on their spouse again, and not much else. It might still be relevant to a job with security issues, but only because vulnerability to blackmail can be relevant there, not because it's evidence that the person is intrinsically more likely to violate work confidences.

But on the main point, it seems to be being assumed that the typical conservative is not a hypocrite; otherwise, tolerance of hypocrisy seems recommended in hopes of getting the same in return, while tolerance of libertines has no similar benefit. And surely in fact the conservatives are all or nearly all hypocrites.

Dwayne Mayor writes:

St. Paul apparently regarded the hypocrite as a more loathsome individual than the mere libertine. In fact, he explicitly demands that Christians cut off all social associations and sever ties with hypocritical Christians whereas he describes associating with honest libertines as "inevitable." He writes:

"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”" 1 Cor. 5:9-12

In that bygone age when the Christian religion actually demanded moral discipline of its adherents, a Mark Sanford would have been permanently excommunicated from the "fellowship of the saints[righteous]."

Libertine writes:

Coming from the other side of the aisle, as an open, unrepentent libertine, I have to thoroughly agree with your thoughts on this matter. I've expressed similar thoughts on my own blog, albeit coming from the opposite side of the aisle.

In fact, I've had many traditionalists express similar thoughts to me; that they respect me because I am open and honest about who and what I am, without excuse or apology.

And I find it amusing, that as conservative Christians avoid company with the libertine, I tend to avoid association with the conservative Christian. I don't avoid them as marriage partners, however, because I've decided that marriage as is currently defined is not a good fit for me, considering the way I've chosen to live my life.

Like you, I have no respect for the hypocrite; the one who gives lip service to conservative beliefs, while secretly engaging in more libertine behaviors. Just as you do, I highly value honesty and integrity in others.

Also like you, I believe that I am a moral person, even if my moral tenets differ in some key respects from yours.

Though I do not believe in sexual or emotional exclusivity of any kind, my behavior, which is congruent with my beliefs, is not "infidelity". "Fidelity" is to honor the promises that one has made. Because I never promise to be exclusive to anyone, my non-monogamous behavior cannot be described as "infidelity".

The core of my moral beliefs is the Golden Rule; to treat others as I would wish to be treated. Because I do not expect sexual fidelity from others, my own behavior is congruent with this tenet.

I believe true amorality resides not in the conservative traditionalist nor the honest libertine, but rather in the two-faced hypocrites you describe.

Thanks for this interesting post.

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