David Whyte continues his critique of church from a non-churchgoer’s perspective.
Today we investigate the “Christians are hypocrites” critique. The theologically minded will, of course, recognise the truth in this critique. We are all fallen beings proclaiming a perfect standard, the Father’s standard. However most people, when they accuse Christians of being hypocrites, don’t see this as theological hypocricy, they see it as real hypocricy.
“Youth” (Gen Y, and to some degree Gen X) are exposed daily to an incredible amount of advertising. This exposure has been measured at a rate of between 1500 and 3000 messages a day and has been happening daily for as long as they can remember.
Combine this with computer technology that can create images and ideas that are not real and you have very savvy young adults with a highly attuned “reality” metre. They are acutely aware of any double standard.
I first became aware of how much of a hypocrite I was at university. I went to an acquaintance’s house for a party. Everyone was on a caffeine “high” from Coca Cola and were, for all intent and purposes, “drunk” in their behaviour. Yet we were proud of the fact we didn’t drink alcohol.
It struck me how much of a double standard we had. We were being self righteous about how we didn’t “drink” when in fact we got “drunk” on socially acceptable drugs (caffeine and sugar).
Examples of hypocritical behaviour that outsiders looking into the Christian sub-culture see include:
• Harry Potter is bad, yet Lord of the Rings is okay because it was written by a Catholic.
• Violence in films is bad, yet watching a very violent film about a key person of the faith is okay (The Passion of the Christ).
• Being gay is wrong, yet we turn a blind eye to the porn issues that are endemic in our churches. And porn is bad to be caught with, but female porn in the form of trashy romance novels is acceptable.
• Smoking is bad, but comfort eating or food addiction is okay.
• Contemporary Christian music such as Delirious is acceptable but songs like “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica are not (look them up on youtube!)
• Swearing is bad, yet gossip, slander and back biting is acceptable.
• Sex outside of marriage is bad, but our divorce rate isn’t any different from the rest of the world.
We say family values are important but we are up to our eyeballs in dept, forcing mums and dads to work long hours.
There are at least six ways to decrease our hypocrisy and increase our credibility.
• Remove the Christian/unchristian distinctive. We like black and white divisions. Christian is good, unchristian is bad. However everything in this world has a piece of the Father in it, as nothing is outside of him, so everything has some white.
• Everything in this world is tainted by sin, so everything has some black. The question is how redeemed (or Christ-like) is something? Not, is it Christian or unchristian? Everything is a shade of grey and let us acknowledge this. Let us move out of the Christian ghetto into the joyful world he has made.
• Don’t criticise unless you have been there. If you have struggled and wrestled to overcome an issue, normally you are really compassionate about this issue. You know what it is like to be stuck in sin and deal with the consequences. I am compassionate towards people who struggle with bad language because it is a struggle I have.
• Don’t point the finger at outsiders until you have dealt with issues in your own church. For instance, if you haven’t got a programme to help porn addicts, you haven’t dealt with the issue yet because it is there. Don’t criticise abortion, which is a great stain on the world, until you have worked with the people who are killing themselves in your congregation. Heart disease, stroke and cancer risks can be significantly decreased through healthy eating and lifestyle choices, yet we don’t help susceptible people make the right changes.
Mother Theresa stood in front of conferences with world leaders in the audience and berated them about the evils of abortion, greed etc. People listened because she had spent decades of her life serving the poor and needy. Her life gave her credibility. We can focus on serving the church and forget to serve our local community. Our local Church of the Latter Day Saints got rave reviews in the newspaper because they were out painting over graffiti.
• Be more honest with people. Often the longer we have been a Christian the less honest we become. We know what a “good Christian” should look/behave like, therefore we pretend we are “good Christians.” If we all became a bit more honest with each other we could drop the masks.
• Recognise our own fallibility. Given the right circumstances, we could each fall into horrendous sin. Once we recognise this we approach people from humility instead of arrogance.