“Embrace hypocrisy.”

That was the message delivered by the late Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist William Raspberry over 25 years ago in his commencement address to my graduating class at the University of Alabama’s College of Communication.

It may sound like a strange message to stick with someone after all these years, but it continues to resonate with me because his point was quite clever.

Raspberry’s message offered a warning to young people preparing to go out into the world that there would be those in society who would suggest hypocrisy — asserting a moral standard and then not meeting it — was a great wrong. He said such voices would prefer that young people live “authentically” without any moral standard than find themselves a hypocrite by not living up to the standard itself. And it was here that he took issue.

He argued hypocrisy was actually a “pre-ethic” that had a way of training people to know what good behavior should look like even if they don’t always live up to it … and that it might actually even inspire people to behave in ways that are better than their natural instincts tell them to act.

Like a speed limit that gets steadily increased to accommodate speeders until there is no speed limit at all, he also warned that attempts to guide society away from hypocrisy toward more authenticity would ultimately dismantle good behavior from society itself.

Over the years, Raspberry’s message has proven not just clever but also prophetic, as society has increasingly allowed its discomfort with “hypocrisy” to quell public norms on what constitutes moral or virtuous behavior, even within the faith community.

It’s hard to forget how the national media distorted Pope Francis’s infamous “Who am I to judge?” statement in 2013 to push a softer religion that suggested if a moral standard is difficult to meet, then we really ought not to espouse it in the first place. Both public and parochial schools alike hesitate to promote traditional character development grounded in Judeo-Christian values for fear of not being deemed “tolerant” communities. And now that social media has shown itself able to dredge up any mistake of the past, people of faith have grown shy about offering clear moral instruction for fear the media will resurrect some bygone misstep to discredit them.

And the effect has ushered in what appears to be more lenient attitudes towards drug usage, criminal behavior and sex.

In somewhat of a prophetic plot twist, however, our society hasn’t become simply a society empty of a moral directive as Raspberry might have envisioned.

Instead, the subtle erosion of our common moral standards has left a void that is increasingly being filled by those adopting an alternative code that uses vice, rather than virtue, as its guide.

It’s why I suspect the same institutions that initially offered truly inclusive and tolerant communities now find themselves homes for secularized “social justice” efforts and “social activism,” which often attempt to combat perceived educational, social and cultural inequalities by using any means necessary. 

These justice warriors don’t care about virtues such as personal humility, meekness, chastity, generosity, prudence, perseverance, or temperance.  Nor do they pursue justice or liberty in a manner that appreciates the inherent rights and dignity of all men or that understands man’s relationship to God.  

And when their anything-goes version of “justice” makes its way into political leadership, it’s actually quite frightening.

A good example was detailed last week in United States Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s dissent against the Court’s order declining to enjoin New York’s Covid-19 healthcare worker vaccine mandate.

There, Justice Gorsuch explained how New York Governor Kathy Hochul took office in August and intentionally eliminated the religious exemption previously promised and provided by former-Governor Cuomo in the mandate.


Because she claimed individuals who did not follow the mandate were not “listening to God and what God wants.”

It didn’t matter that these workers had legitimate, sincerely held religious beliefs against the vaccine’s development. It didn’t matter that they had been promised a religious exemption or that they had put their lives on the line for the well-being of others. Because Governor Hochul wanted them vaccinated, she believed the state had the right to play God to make sure it happened however it saw fit.            

So yes, Raspberry’s prophecy was right. Without holding fast to a common moral ground that we may not all live up to, we do create a moral vacuum.

But people of faith should also realize that if we don’t start making intentional efforts to fill that vacuum with virtue, it will inevitably be filled by vice.

Krissie Allen is a former attorney and English teacher who writes about issues impacting faith, society, and good sense. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.