Pharisees

In “Marriage Matters” (“Public Square,” November), R. R. Reno wondered how such a display of “public” immorality—same-sex marriage—could be greeted without comment. He worried that, in the presence of a gay married couple, acting as if everything were “normal and fine” would be to “bear false witness.”

I have the same reaction after reading Reno’s very public column. To act as if everything were normal and fine after digesting something so antithetical to the Gospel would be to bear false witness. So let me take his advice, avoid “accommodation,” and speak up: Didn’t Jesus say a thing or two about self-righteous Pharisees?

Amy Shipley
Key Biscayne, Florida

R. R. Reno replies:

In the New Testament, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of a mere outward piety that disguises the corrupt heart within. Thus the term pharisaical refers to the effort to appear holier-than-thou while in private largely ignoring divine commands.

My reflection on gay marriage was meant to say that the danger we face is precisely that of pharisaical hypocrisy. Here I sit, writing as the editor of First Things, penning columns defending the moral truth about human sexuality, marriage, and the natural family—and my commitments to civility and friendship tempt me to carry on in my private life as if none of those truths really matter.

If I just smile and accept and affirm in my private life what I publically reject—and I sometimes, indeed often, do—then I am a Pharisee in a painfully exact sense: a whited sepulcher outwardly ornamented with orthodox convictions but inwardly filled with decay.

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