In my recent post Modesty II I discussed the cultural value of understatement being confused with Christian humility. They are not unrelated, but the overlap is not so great as some (okay, liberals) suppose. It occurs to me that this was one of the things happening in the library discussion I had about the book True Patriot, which I reviewed here. My main disputant, who is also a friend, kept insisting that the common displays of patriotism are not true patriotism. This is obvious enough, but he seemed to be going further, insinuating that they were a mark of shallow patriotism. He told a story about a previous co-worker who displayed Christian symbols quite obviously, but was a known womanizer. He was haranguing me a bit about how such applied to displays of patriotism as well.
That wolves can hide in sheep's clothing is fairly widely known. What would be the point of hiding in wolves' clothing, after all? But I can't see any point to bringing in his story unless he were claiming that characters in sheep's clothing are usually wolves. If he meant something milder, he would have told a different story. People eventually say what they mean if you let them go on long enough, don't they? Depending on the strength of the prejudice, there is a type of mind which leaps to the conclusion that sheep's clothing is anything from frequently to infallibly evidence of wolfishness. Which is insane, because real sheep do actually exist. Most creatures in sheep's clothing are, in strict point of fact, ovine.
Without trying to add to my Origins Of Liberalism series, I think I stumbled upon this additional bit. The deterioration of Christian humility into a cultural preference for understatement has been taken on by the Arts & Humanities clan as an indicator of virtue. Display equals hypocrisy. It's a tough idea to defend when you look at it out in the open like that.