“He’s One Of Us”–The Art of Self-Delusion

Subtitle: What does Kirk Cameron have in common with Ollie North and Rob Bell?

I recently became re-acquainted with “The Emperor’s New Clothes”–a story I hadn’t heard in decades. You are surely familiar with it: As an emperor makes a public appearance, all the adults are pretending to admire his non-existent new clothes. They’re all willing to participate in the delusion because others around them are doing so. To admit the truth would be to go against the grain. Better to bow to peer pressure than to rock the boat and get branded as an oddball in the process.

Some recent discussions I have participated in recently have convinced me that not much has changed since the story about the nude king was written. There remains a strong tendency within human nature to delude ourselves in order to support someone–athlete, entertainer, preacher–who we decided long-ago that we really liked. We pretend his flaws, his bad performance, his teaching are not problematic in any way.

Of course, the Rob Bell “Love Wins” debate is the most obvious recent example, but there are other instances of well-meaning people putting on rose-colored glasses and refusing to truthfully examine what needs to be examined.

My observation is that much of the time, this happens as the result of people putting their faith in people, institutions, political parties, or denominations.

So am I saying that most people defending Bell are among his biggest fans before the new book? Of course. They have been touched by his previous books, and he has cemented in their heads that he is a good guy. And in fact, I still think he is. I don’t see a conflict in seeing him as a good guy and in disagreeing with what he says in “Love Wins”, though.

Ironically, one of the more vocal defenders of Bell since this mess started in February is Derek Webb. I say it’s ironic in light of what he said in this video clip (beginning at the 3:35 mark):

Speaking about another book by another author, Webb says:

“We will just take anything that comes down the pike in the church culture.  We don’t discern anything. We don’t discern teaching. We don’t discern music. We don’t discern anything to see if what it’s teaching is right. If we call ourselves people who believe in the bible, we should be taking things that are taught to us back to the bible, seeing if they line up as truth. And when things don’t, we should be bold enough and not be afraid to call them wrong, and to warn our fellow believers about them.”

I am not singling out Bell, though. I am calling out all of us, myself included, who are willing to open the door to self-delusion when it comes to someone we perceive as “one of us.” It happens with conservatives and liberals. It happens across the board.

Some non-Bell examples which come to mind:
Politics: my fellow Republicans are embracing the likes of Newt Gingrich, who was unfaithful to his wife, as was John McCain, the most recent GOP presidential nominee.  Then there are those who embrace Oliver North even as they denounce government corruption. It’s OK, because Ollie is “one of us”.

Sanctity of marriage: Republicans are the only party to have nominated (McCain) and elected (Reagan) a man running for president who has been divorced. It’s OK, because Reagan was “one of us.”

Entertainment: I’m amazed at how many within the Christian community think of Kirk Cameron as a good actor. Again, Kirk is “one of us.”

A few years ago, evangelicals, who are vehemently anti-porn, were embracing Mel Gibson, conveniently forgetting the amount of gratuitous nudity in his previous movies. Because of “The Passion of the Christ,” he appeared to be “one of us”.    How’d that work out for you?

I am sorry if you are a Newt or Gingrich fan, or you think Fireproof is a good movie. You are entitled to that. But my point is that many people will be more forgiving of less quality if they perceive that said politician/actor/whatever is “one of us”.

When you read or consider “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, what do you think of?