Today I read separate pieces about Christian hypocrisy and why it’s turning people off.
The first piece, by John Pavlovitz, says that there’s good news and bad news. In writing to church, he says there’s bad news–that it’s dying. But the good news is taht its dying and something better. Left open is whether that something better is secular.
Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne writes the second, which takes the same approach, but with a more political (and less snarky) tone. In general, the message is that Christians are kind of a pain to be around and more people are noticing.
I’ve proclaimed myself a Christian multiple times, so I should respond.
Yes, I am a hypocrite. I’m mean sometimes. I prejudge people more than I should. I like the way leggings frame a woman’s butt and legs. I’m often stingy with my time, talent, and treasure.
And I’m currently listening to a song called Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced on Spotify (Dropkick Murphys if you must know).
No less an authority than Jesus would call me out on some of that. If you call someone a fool–if you judge them as unworthy, you’re in danger of judgement. If you check out the yoga pants, you’re just as guilty as if you schtupped.
I do all those things and more. And I know I shouldn’t. And that’s why I’m a practicing Christian. Of the Abrahamic religions, Christianity’s the one that isn’t dependent on your efforts. It’s central theme is that my Father can’t allow sin because it hurts his children. So in order to balance perfect mercy with perfect love, he came and paid the price so we can be reconciled.
We can’t–and needn’t–earn his love. I wouldn’t give my son a Miller Lite when he asks for a beer. And if I know how to treat my son that way, how much more will God treat us that way.
That kind of love is humbling. Except that the Father chooses to give it to me, I don’t deserve it. Mostly because I am all the things Pavlovitz and Dionne claim many of us are.
I don’t want to be those things. Certainly my Father doesn’t want me to treat his children that way. For half a century I’ve been trying to get better but it hasn’t worked all that well. So if my Father won’t give my son a Miller Lite, he’ll give me what I ask for, too–a softer heart.
The problem isn’t hypocrisy. We’re all hypocrites. It’s not hate. We’ve all hated.
It’s hubris. It’s the assumption that love makes agreement, that the Creator of the universe must agree with me.
Because I know what I am, I’m glad God doesn’t agree with me.
When Jesus met that woman at the well–a slutty whore if ever there was one–he didn’t judge her. He engaged her. He told her that she’d been through five husbands and was shacked up with a sixth man. But he never judged her. Instead, he offered her hope.
In his final days, Jesus took a low position–the position of washing feet. It was a servant’s task. One of the people whose feet he washed was the man who arranged his murder.
I fall short of that standard in a big way. In that, we’re the same. So the best we can do is the best we can do–together.
As for the church, it’s far from the monolith you might think. While the hard-asses of the world are getting the headlines, Pope Francis is trying hard to live up to his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. People like Father Richard Rohr are interpreting Christianity in new, challenging ways. Even Christians are included in the growing scope of people who don’t want harm upon gays.
So yeah, we’re a mess. But that’s kind of the point. We’re less messy together.