I never used to view Hillary as an insightful theologian, but I am rethinking my position. In branding us as “deplorable,” she may have unearthed a rare and valuable theological truth.
One dictionary defines deplorable as meaning “causing or being a subject for censure, reproach, or disapproval; wretched; very bad.” Maybe that definition of us contains a good dose of reality.
I have run head-on into this realization the few times I have attempted a selfie. When looking at the screen on the camera even before I snap the picture I find myself rapidly sinking into a depression that only handful of Zoloft capsules can alleviate. Looking at the actual picture sends me into relapse. “Deplorable?” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
The only consolation, one that is pretty deplorable, is that the human race supplies me with a lot of company. Most of us in our unvarnished condition (i.e. without makeup) aren’t objects of beauty. Like the undertaker said when asked to make the deceased look good, “I am a mortician, not a magician.” And I’ve just been focusing on our faces. For most of us, the rest of the picture becomes even more deplorable.
But our appearance merely encompasses the beginning of sorrows. Think about human frailty. One little genetic flaw, and there are millions of possibilities, one small virus, one serious disease, can incapacitate us at least temporarily if not permanently. But think even about the more mundane aspects of life that can incapacitate us such as only getting three hours of sleep for a couple of nights, or, and this gets really bad, not being able to get your coffee in the morning. We are deplorably vulnerable people.
Then there is the more profound, more serious issue of our morally deplorable state. It’s not just running roughshod over the Ten Commandments, which is bad enough, but perhaps much more troublesome are the countless thoughts, attitudes, and even actions that reflect selfishness, lust, greed, envy, pride, insensitivity, ingratitude, laziness, and numerous other deplorable qualities.
It seems that Hillary is on to something with her “deplorable” pronouncement, except, of course, her failure to include herself and her supporters in this category. In a society that for about half a century has promoted self-esteem, maybe we can use a good dose of Hillary’s evaluation of humanity.
Even Christians have been caught up in the self-esteem euphoria. We are assured that God does not see the deplorable behaviors of believers, but as He considers us He only sees the righteousness of Christ. One problem with that position resides in the myriad passages that explode this contemporary evangelical myth. Consider the message of Jesus to the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-5:
“’I know your works….. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (ESV)
Or this warning of James to believers:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 ESV)
God’s good news for Christians is not that God is delighted with us even when we act deplorably, but rather that God has equipped us with the tools that enable us to live according to His principles and precepts, and when we fail we can confess our sins and get back on track. The former undermines motivation to overcome deplorable behavior while the latter motivates us to aggressively pursue a non-deplorable lifestyle.
The even better news is that someday those committed to Christ will be in heaven where every trace of deplorability will be forever expunged.
It would be good for Americans to take to heart Hillary’s evaluation, only applying it to all of us. The realization that we are deplorable should drive us to Christ and motivate us to apply His solution.