One True Scotsman

It goes like this.

A Scottish man is traveling in Ireland and gets lost so he walks into a pub at 10 am looking for directions. As he walks up to the bartender the guy sitting closest to him, an Irish man, falls off his stool because he is too drunk to sit at 10 am.

The traveler, visibly repulsed, turns to the barman and says, “No Scotsman would be drunk before lunch.” Condescension and disgust dripping in his tone.

Out of the traveler’s periphery a man speaks up, or more appropriately, slurs up, “I was born in Edinburgh, and am a direct descended of James VI, King of Scots.” He then promptly passes out clearly as drunk as the Irish man and . . . clearly Scottish.

The traveler slowly turns to the barman and with the same tone of righteous indignation says, “Well, no true Scotsman would be drunk before lunch.”

The No True Scotsman argument is a logical fallacy that grows like crab grass as ideologues attempt to distance their cause from the flawed members of said cause. Politics are a particularly hospitable environment for the lack of true Scotsmen.

Venezuela wasn’t real socialism.

Yes, Bernie Sanders, socialism is a train wreck in Venezuela and you can’t tax that reality and sprinkle a little bit of the embarrassment between the Nordic countries to hide its failure. That’s a socialism joke, a joke which isn’t funny unless everyone gets it. Also, Bernie please stop paying for ads that show up in my facebook feed.

Donald Trump isn’t a real republican.

Well he registered as a republican, debated as a republican, won the primary race as a republican, and became the president as a republican. You don’t get to say, “he’s not a real republican” when he says crass things on his twitter account.

I could go on but I would guess that the picture has been sufficiently painted.

This type of thinking is incredibly enticing. It allows a person to hold an idealistic picture of their movement/cause/religion/etc. all while conveniently distancing themselves from examples of moral failure. This public distancing from a morally broken member of a group showed up recently in a most predicable way.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal has been a slow drip of disgusting revelations for the past few weeks. Gross sexual misconduct, abuse of power, and a litany of corruption that should end in criminal prosecution.

Weinstein, who was repulsively referred as “God” by Meryl Streep, has sat atop the Hollywood hierarchy for decades and has leveraged that position to pressure women into sexual conduct with implications of career advancement in return.

The behavior has apparently been going on for the better part of three decades—this is only with Weinstein by the way, there is a plethora of evidence of sexual misconduct in Hollywood since its inception—but is just now coming to light. As the societal outrage turned toward Hollywood, WashingtonPost writer Alyssa Rosenberg tweeted a fallacious yet anticipated response:

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 10.48.25 AM

Every time I read the tweet I hear La Vie en rose playing in my head. Yes, Harvey Weinstein is a vocal supporter of progressive values, contributor to progressive political candidates, and contributor to progressive causes but he isn’t a real progressive. This sort of runaway logic has the feel of being on a train conducted by Wallace and Gromit.

Harvey’s not a progressive and the drunk guy is not a Scotsmen.

Where does Hollywood go from here?

No one wants to admit that the group they are ardently loyal to has massively ugly character flaws . . . or, at an even more personal level, no one wants to admit their own massively ugly character flaws.

We all have ideals and we all fail to be the human embodiment of those ideals. It is incredibly difficult to stare into the mirror, pull off our self-made masks of virtue, and allow ourselves to find an honest assessment. It is so incredibly difficult because we know what hides behind the mask; the horrible reality of rancid hypocrisy.

We are the Scotsmen at the bar and the passed-out Scotsmen on the floor. The hypocrite who fails to live up to our own standard and the denier who refuses to call the obvious failure an accurate sample.

Where do we go from here?

The presence of hypocrisy in the midst of ideals is simply a natural byproduct of ideals. At some point, we all fail and then we try to rationalize and save face (I’ve written previously about this impetus in the Church). In our churches, political parties, and schools of philosophy there are no true Scotsmen.

This is where Christianity, at a doctrinal level, takes a different turn from all other systems of thought. Instead of playing the social equivalent of three card monte with the moral failings of the in-group, Christianity readily admits to all of its members being the failed Scotsmen.

No Christian lives up to the ethical standard . . . in fact that admission is a precondition to being a Christian. First you repent then you believe. As a believer, I don’t have to put on a happily idyllic moral mask, instead I pull the mask off revealing all the ugliness that is rightfully mine, and then rely on Christ to fix the brokenness that I have caused.

Where do we go from here? We rely on Christ.

When you find yourself at the crossroads of your failure vs. your expectations, rely on Christ. If honesty takes you to the raw place of realization that you cannot live up to your own moral standards, you then need to turn somewhere else; somewhere that can meet the moral standard required, rely on Christ.

The view of Christianity is not an idealistic picture, it is a Christocentric picture.

Residing at the center is Christ, giving his righteousness to all the failed Scotsmen who routinely don’t live up to the ideal ethic. In that sense, there is only one true Scotsmen. One person who lives up to the ethical standard perfectly, and it is in him that Christians place all of their hopes and desires.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s