Man-made Breasts, Or, Grace in Graceless Times

I remember a political conversation with my oldest sister years ago where I brought up something Senator Robert Byrd had said about whatever subject we were arguing about.

“I would never trust anything that former Kluxer had to say,” my sister said, shutting down the conversation.

Despite the West Virginia Senator’s repudiation of his racist past, my sister still held it against him and measured his present by his past. In her mind, he was a racist and would always be a racist, no matter what he said or did. All his present words and actions were tainted by his checkered past.

“Wow,” I replied. “Where is the grace?”

I’ve witnessed the gracelessness, and hypocrisy, of the Religious Right both personally as well as in the wider political and religious spectrum. They continue to hold grudges against Sen. Ted Kennedy for Chappaquiddick, or Representative Barney Frank for his “call-boy” scandal and, of course, against President Bill Clinton for his intern affair— all while making excuses for their own straying flock: Newt Gingrich’s affairs, David Vitter’s penchant for diapers, and the thrice-married congressman, Bob Barr who authored the Defense of Marriage Act.

The latest round of schadenfreude finds the left taking pleasure in the questionable morality of Miss California, Carrie Prejean. After her anti-gay answer to Perez Hilton’s question about marriage equality, Prejean has become a darling of the Religious Right, enjoying warm welcomes at mega-churches and joining the National Organization for Marriage in the fight against marriage equality for gays and lesbians. But, even Ms. Prejean has a spotty past – including a breast enhancement, paid for by the Miss USA contest itself, and now, topless pictures.

Alicia Jacobs, Entertainment Reporter at KVBC in Las Vegas, has seen all six of the photos and says some are much more revealing. Alicia believes the flicks may have been taken after Carrie’s pageant-financed breast augmentation about six weeks ago.

Liberal blogs have exploded with the news, chastising Prejean for her apparent hypocrisy — accusing gays and lesbians of some manner of lesser morality, while exposing her newly man-made breasts in pornographic photos.

NOM president Maggie Gallagher issued a statement, run by the American Spectator, that read in part:

Of course Carrie is not perfect. On a personal note, as a former unwed mother, I want to say to Americans: you don’t have to be a perfect person to have the right to stand up for marriage.

I absolutely agree with Maggie on this one. You don’t have to be a perfect person to stand up for what you believe in — none of us does whether we’re for marriage equality or against it. Can it be seen as hypocritical for Maggie — once an unwed mother —- to be speaking out about the primacy of what Prejean called “opposite” marriage? Oh, yes, certainly it can — just as it is seen by my sister as hypocritical for Sen. Byrd to support civil rights for blacks or other minorities.

As people of faith we do ourselves a disservice when we take pleasure in pointing out the seeming hypocrisies and shortcomings of those who may be on the other side of issues we hold dear. If we read our Bible closely we’ll find that it has always been imperfect people that God has chosen to do God’s work. Moses was a murderer, David was a philanderer and sent his romantic rival to the front to die in war to prevent him from learning of his affair. Paul was a persecutor of Christians before his Damascus road conversion. I suspect there are Christians who never truly trusted Paul’s conversion and took pleasure in pointing out his previous shortcomings and sins to prove his hypocrisy.

Truly, the only tools that God has at his disposal in this world are flawed human beings — people with a past they wish they didn’t have — pictures they wish they hadn’t posed for, actions they wish they hadn’t done, words they wish they could take back. What they all have in common — no matter what side of a political or theological issue they come down on— is the need for repentance and grace.

I disagree with every fiber of my being with Maggie Gallagher and Carrie Prejean on the issue of marriage equality. I think they are wrong and I believe that history will prove them wrong. However, I realize they are flawed human beings, standing in the need of grace and repentance – just as I stand in the need of grace and repentance.

I would hate for someone to hold against me some words or deeds of my past that I now am ashamed of or would recant. All human beings have the capacity to change. All human beings have the capacity to come to new knowledge and renounce old ways and old thoughts. We prevent grace when we hold the past against anyone. We prevent grace when we fail to forgive the failings of others – whether it’s having a child out of wedlock, joining the KKK as a young man, or baring our newly enhanced breasts for the camera.

Getting people on both the right and the left to give that grace will be an uphill climb, though. The American Spectator ends its piece this way:

Any time a liberal starts jumping up and down and yelling about a “scandal” affecting a conservative, remember this reply: “Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.”

Again I ask: “Where is the grace?”