Coming upon an internet portrait of a handsome but wicked and venal churchman, I was reminded of what the minister of a large church once told me: "Steve, I have the good fortune of looking like a central-casting Protestant clergyman [and so he did—a lot like Hugh Beaumont], and I am very sure it's never done me any harm." He seemed a decent man; he may even have been a believer. But it didn't help that he had a practiced sententiousness in the pulpit that matched his appearance perfectly. (One must be very cautious here. Covetousness keeps us from sympathizing and rejoicing with the favored, and puts us on the path of Cain.)
Still, many important churchmen have the gift of looking like honest and holy men who would never lie and always have the best interests of others at heart. Beholding them, it is practically impossible to think they are not what they appear, especially when they have developed an air of spiritual authority and deep sincerity but in fact are as black-hearted and self-serving as archdemons. I have seen this so many times, I tend to have a built-in prejudice in favor of the gruff, homely, and ill-spoken servant of God, although I know that's not right either. It is true, however, that spiritual men are spiritually discerned, and many are deceived by the clergy with whose skulls, according to several ancient authorities, hell is paved.
S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.
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