Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Discounted Truth! Absolute Values! Buy Now!

Via Echidne:

A rural Alabama judge began wearing a robe embroidered with the Ten Commandments to his Andalusia courtroom this week....Covington County Presiding Circuit Court Judge Ashley McKathan said he ordered the robe and had it embroidered using his own money. He said he did it because he felt strongly that he should stand up for his personal religious convictions.

"Truth is an absolute value," McKathan said, "and you can't divorce the law from the truth. I feel we must resist the modern attempts to discount the truth."

Truth may be an absolute value, but that doesn't mean that everyone who publicly pledges allegiance to it is trustworthy. Used-car salesmen routinely give themselves names like "Honest Ed," but that doesn't mean they won't turn the odometer back before selling you a car. In fact, it usually means they will. What's in a name, after all? We can start referring to Rumsfeld as "Competent Don," but it won't make him any more fit to be secretary of defense.

A man could wear a t-shirt that said "World's Greatest Stud," and yet be a ham-handed, self-centered clod who spends every night alone. Are we supposed to find Judge McKathen's peacock vanity somehow more noble, and less obnoxious, simply because he proclaims himself to be the living embodiment of Truth, rather than sexual prowess?

Of course not, because most of us believe in a higher ethical standard for justice than for casual sex, and see counterfeit virtue as something worse than counterfeit vice. I haven't read the Bible as closely as some, but I did come away from it with the sense that making a grandiose spectacle of one's holiness is a sin considerably worse than prostitution or adultery. McKathan, in his fancy embroidered gown, looks to me like he's trying to be God's pimp.

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