A few weeks ago (prior to the elections), I received an e-mail from a reader criticizing me for utilizing the services of a particular business – let’s call it a dry cleaners – run by a woman I’ll call Jane. Interestingly, the criticism came not because of who Jane was, but because Jane’s webpage has a link to a charitable organization that supported Obama.

Jane loves wolves, and she supports a wolf sanctuary that took a stance against Sarah Palin’s pro-hunting views. Therefore, the sanctuary supported Obama. Follow me so far?

The e-mailer found Obama’s stance on abortion to be repugnant – as do I – and suggested that I find a dry cleaner who is “more aligned” with where I “appear to be philosophically.”

Really. What a fascinating idea. I have to give up my patronage of Jane’s dry cleaning service not because Jane necessarily supported Obama, but because Jane knows someone who supported Obama. Based on that tenuous connection, the implication is that I have somehow compromised my morals by patronizing Jane’s dry cleaning business.

Does this mean I should only do business with those people whose wider circle of business acquaintances believe exactly, precisely the way I do? Wow, my life just got a whole lot more complex.

Remember the old idea that we are connected to every person on the planet by only six degrees of separation? Well, I’d like to introduce the concept of six degrees of purity. Maybe you can only be morally pure if six degrees of separation remove you from the nearest sinner. My guess is there are some self-described moral purists among us who virtually walk on water in their spotlessness.

So let’s look at a few examples of how I can purify my life. Or not.

I belong to an apolitical national organization with regional chapters. One member of this club graciously opens her home to us every month for our chapter meetings. She voted for Obama, but I know this only obliquely through the bumper stickers on her car, since politics never enter our chapter discussions.

Do I henceforth refuse to associate with this woman? Do I lobby to hold our meetings elsewhere? Do I disregard the efforts this woman puts into the organization because I am more morally pure than she?

Or do I … mind my own business?

We make and sell wooden tankards for a living. Even though they’re usable for hot or cold drinks, people who buy them often choose to fill them with alcoholic beverages. Do we stop making tankards because someone might use one as an instrument of drinking beyond the limits of what we might find acceptable? Or do we … mind our own business?

I love used bookstores. My favorite local bookstore is run by a very nice fellow who is a follower of an eastern religion. Do I stop patronizing his store because he’s not a practicing Christian? Or do I … mind my own business?

A dearly loved family member voted for Obama. Do I stop seeing her because she supported a politician whose voting record I don’t care for? Or do I … mind my own business?

A friendly cashier in a store I recently went into had a tongue stud. I happen to think tongue studs are stupid. Should I have walked out of the store because I didn’t like the cashier’s tongue stud? Or should I have … minded my own business?

There are some lovely people who just moved into our neighborhood. They practice a religion quite different from ours. Should we refuse to associate with them? Should we put our house on the market and move away because we don’t agree with their religion? Or should we … mind our own business?

I found out that a couple in our church voted for Obama. Should we stop attending this church because of one couple’s political affiliation? Should we lobby to throw this couple out of the church? Or should we … mind our own business?

Imagine taking moral purity to its logical conclusion. You’d have to investigate each and every person who comes into your life, however peripherally, to keep yourself sinless. You would need to investigate the integrity of the family of the kid who delivers your newspaper. You would need to interrogate every store clerk, every cashier, every bank teller, every gas station attendant.

You’d be a very popular person, let me tell you.

I’m sure you follow my logic here. Sometimes we must accept the fact that people are different. Unless a company’s sole purpose and function is in blatant violation of my principles (I really don’t care to get my female exams done at Planned Parenthood, for example), I usually see individual people on a continuum. I cannot not do business with each and every person in this country whose philosophies I may disagree with. Not only would this be a logistical nightmare, but the vast majority of the time it’s none of my business.

People who go to extremes in their moral purity are doing the human equivalent of trying to walk on water. It’s the old holier-than-thou syndrome, and it’s irritating.

I will continue to patronize Jane’s dry cleaning business because I find Jane offers excellent service at a decent price with a cheerful smile. If she starts advertising her business as “Jane’s Pro-Abortion Anti-Gun Dry Cleaning Service,” then that’s another story. But for now she doesn’t pry into my background, and I don’t pry into hers.

This week we celebrate the birth of a Man who consorted with prostitutes and tax collectors, the lowest sinners of those times (demonstrating that some things never change). He’s the only Person who ever successfully walked on water. The rest of us look pretty stupid when we try water walking, and those that do try tend to get all wet.

Besides, one never knows how one’s sphere of influence may ripple outward and affect others, even prostitutes and tax collectors, for either good or bad. Just a thought.

Peace on earth, goodwill toward men to you too.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.