One of the many moral failings of the Christian Right is their frequent inability to apologize, authentically, for wrongdoing. Some examples quickly come to mind:
- Exodus International has never apologized for the involuntary detention and abuse of underage youths at its Love In Action live-in program in Tennessee, nor for its co-sponsorship of the current Uganda antigay genocide campaign, nor for its defamations against antibullying activist Kevin Jennings and its defense of violent hate crimes as valid expressions of thought and speech.
- The Liberty Counsel has not apologized for its incompetent legal representation of “ex-gay” poster mom Lisa Miller, nor for its failed efforts to silence critics of ex-gay movement wrongdoing with frivolous cease-and-desist letters.
- And Jerry Falwell famously said he was sorry not for committing grievous wrongdoing (which he did commit, routinely) but rather for the fact that others’ feelings were hurt when he wronged them.
There are several potential reasons for the Christian Right’s amorality and impenitence:
- Megalomania: A false assumption that they are superior to others, grandiose, omnipotent
- Narcissistic personality disorder: An extreme preoccupation with one’s own subjective perceptions and desires, often as if they were absolutes. Such people may reject objective criticism, disrespect others’ perceptions and desires, pursue selfish goals, and project their selfishness onto a higher power (such as God) in order to confer false humility and divine obedience upon their motives.
- Lack of socialization: A failure to heed basic social courtesies and protocols, such as addressing someone by name or title, requesting permission to be excused, refraining from interrupting a speaker — or failing to understand what an apology is.
Just in case Exodus, Miller, the Liberty Counsel, or others ever offer an apology in the future, I recommend that they immediately be required to document the authenticity of their “apology.”
Bill Beloit of the University of Missouri and Jon Hess of the University of Dayton, both experts in communication and rhetoric, define the following components of an effective apology:
- Admit guilt: Often, a public apology starts with an admission of guilt, but it’s followed immediately by an attack upon critics, not accepting blame, and by minimizing or even denying what the offender did or shifting the blame to someone else.
- Show remorse: Feeling bad is the difference between empathy and indifference
- Change behavior: One’s intentions may be called into question if the offense is repeated.
- Attempt to right the wrong: Undo the harm or compensate the wronged individual(s).
- Listen: Genuine listening to the other person, either before or after the apology, can help the offender better understand the effects of the offense.
Source: University of Dayton Magazine, Autumn 2009