The first time I realised the place hypocrisy occupied in civilised life was when I was sixteen. For the whole of S4 I had been taught English by a woman I couldn't stand, and when we heard she was to retire at the end of the session I was faced by the demand that I contribute to the pressie my classmates were buying for her. The money wasn't an issue, but I felt revolted by the idea that I should join in. I felt I was being asked to "look like the flower but be the serpent under it" (we'd been studying Macbeth). I felt I was the serpent, and it was a rough couple of weeks.
Fast forward. I am no longer a heathen adolescent, but a mature Christian. (Moving away from Glasgow at a critical juncture provided me overnight with this new identity - no-one here had known me as a serpent). And yes, you try to change things which a new perspective sees as unhelpful, destructive and so on. But as a recent discussion on this blog seems to indicate, I still haven't quite got rid of the fangs. Should I feel bad about this?
One of the perceived features of Christianity which used to put me right off church was the idea that to be a really good person you somehow had to lie down under the slings and arrows and never, ever, retaliate. That was a kind of simplistic view, and I've moved on from there. But does faith in God mean that you have the freedom to ignore the conventions of society, regardless of any effect on other people who may not share your point of view? And does it mean that if someone treats you with lack of courtesy you're supposed not to notice?
I'm still thinking about this, so I'll content myself for now with one small observation: If we have to love our neighbour as ourself, then we need to remember that our neighbour may not be singing from the same songsheet - and may not even have a licence to photocopy it.