A recent commenter did all she could to avoid the topic of a post and railed at length about the hypocrisy of Christians.
Critics have a point when they demonstrate where some Christians are hypocritical. After all, Jesus taught to judge but not to judge hypocritically.
But unless the critics are just pointing out the hypocrisy of some Christians as mere trivia, then the critics become judges and hypocrites themselves.
Think about it: If they reject the Bible, then what is their grounding for claiming that judging and hypocrisy are wrong?
Even if they could provide a grounding outside the Bible that judging is wrong (they can’t, of course, but that’s a different problem for them), then they are guilty of judging Christians for judging.
And of course, if they judge others for the (ungrounded) universal sin of judging, then they are hypocrites.
They judge people for hypocrisy when they are hypocrites as well, so they are double hypocrites.
Do they see the irony? Do they realize their own hypocrisy? In my experience they don’t. They are too busy avoiding the central issues of the debate and they use the hypocrisy charge to position themselves as morally superior to Christians.
A friend used to complain a lot about hypocrites in the church. I conceded that it is often the case, but I finally asked if he was wounded by some hypocrites at some point. He smiled and said no. I realized in an instant that he didn’t really care about hypocrisy. He just used that as an excuse to feel superior to those awful, hypocritical Christians and to avoid God.
These folks might want to reconsider the definition of hypocrisy as well.
a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.
The commenter in question insisted that to judge homosexual behavior as sinful was hypocritical if they didn’t give equal time to all other sins. But that doesn’t meet the definition. If one engages in homosexual behavior while speaking out against it then that would be hypocrisy.
Should Christians avoid hypocrisy? Absolutely. But we should point out when people try to silence us with silly logic.
0 thoughts on “Oh, the hypocrisy!”
Have you ever had someone claim they wouldn’t attend church because of “all the hypocrites” there? Yet they see nothing wrong with shopping, dining, going to events, or a myriad of other places with hypocrites. Hypocrites are every where. To avoid them would mean to never leave your house.
The fact that there are hypocrites that claim to be Christians in no way diminishes Christianity. Just like the fact that there are corrupt law-enforcement officers in no way diminishes the law.
These are the claims made by the folks who value cleverness over wisdom, or more often mistake one for the other. They think, because they have made a play on words, that they are wise.
It’s like a 7 year old who has learned their first fart joke. They tell it 100 times, convinced it’s the funniest gag of all time. Which is cute when you’re 7, and we laugh because it’s cute (though obnoxious). But when you’re an adult, we laugh because you’re acting like an obnoxious 7 year old.
I told a friend once that churches are a good place until you get people involved. That’s when the hypocrisy, etc. starts. This was a Christian complaining about OUR church, basically I told him he could find the same thing at any church.
Bottom line is that the church is full of sinners. But at least these sinners KNOW that they are sinners (well, most of them). And where would you rather have them go?
Good post Neil. People use that excuse to avoid dealing with themselves often.
This post reminds me of an interesting question I was pondering. A while back Michelle Malkin asked, in reference to a gruesome murder by a member of the Buffalo Muslim community, whether the story would “get as much attention from the MSM as, say, the Ted Haggard scandal or Pat Robertson’s Teletubbies remarks?” The implication here is that both Haggard and Hassan exhibited similar sorts of hypocrisy, and that more attention to the former is tantamount to liberal media bias.
The more I thought about this, the less I was convinced that the manifestations of hypocrisy had anything in common. If I may speak as a liberal, the reason Ted Haggard captured the country’s attention was because his hypocrisy showed his teachings to be a lie: if a prominent advocate of the ex-gay movement can still be gay, then clearly changing one’s sexuality is not as simple as Mr. Haggard’s church was suggesting.
Now, I’m sure you disagree with the conclusion (or even some of the premises), but I hope you’ll at least appreciate that this is the narrative that was common in the media, and the main reason that the story was so gripping. Another is that Haggard was almost a tragic figure to us liberals, believing in his heart that homosexuality is wrong, but powerless to change the way his brain was wired.
So my answer to Malkin’s rhetorical question is that the analogy doesn’t work if you try to extend that narrative. Hassan was best known for encouraging other Muslims to interpret the Koran more peacefully. Are we to take from his actions that he was wrong, that violence is actually right? That not murdering people is difficult? Of course not. We should merely note that Hassan was a psychopath.
I think these two types of hypocrisy are worth distinguishing. Because sometimes what we mean isn’t that the hypocrite is falsely claiming to have virtues, but that those “virtues” aren’t really virtues at all. This is, for instance, how many conservatives feel about Democrats championing public education while sending their own kids to private schools. Much of the debate around hypocritical public figures these days (most recently Mark Sanford) isn’t centered around whether they’re hypocrites, but rather which kind of hypocrites they are.
I don’t really have a point in all this; I just wanted to share these thoughts.
Thanks for visiting and commenting.
There are certainly hypocrites everywhere. But I think
Christians are often unjustly judged.
You may profess to be a Christian and try to live a good live, you may go to church and acknowledge that you are a sinner and recognize your failings. But when you mess up and the public becomes aware of it they call you a hypocrite.
A lot of people seem to think that becoming a
Christian means instant perfection. I wish that were so, but in my case and the Christians I know well enough to know; it is not. It doesn’t mean we are hippocrites to pick ourselves up, repent, ask for forgiveness and go on trying.
Your question about that guy being wounded by a hypocrite in the church is a good one…I’m a gonna remember it.
Jonah comes close to a point I was going to make. Using the Haggard example, I would somewhat disagree that because he is a homosexual that his preaching against it automatically makes him a hypocrite. If he were to suggest that it’s OK for him for some reason, THAT would indeed make him hypocritical. But to struggle with the same sinfulness against that which one preaches means only that one views the sin from the perspective of one trapped in that sin.
To put it another way, for me to preach against losing one’s temper doesn’t make me a hypocrite if I accept my own shortcoming in that area. If I insist I am NOT one who loses my temper, when it is obvious I do, THAT is hypocrisy. I think hypocrisy is the appropriate charge for one who feels a behavior is OK for him but no one else.
Just my three cents worth (inflation).
I am sorry, but are you saying it’s okay to preach what you still haven’t gotten around to practice? I don’t think that would work. I mean, if I am a short-tempered person who’s trying to overcome my shortcoming but who hasn’t thus far, go tries telling someone who has the same shortcoming (who knows fully well about my propensity to yell at people at the slightest provocation and that I fully admit to my faults) not to do it, do you think that said person would even consider listening to me? Unless and until I have completely overcome my defect, I cannot go about preaching anyone else to overcome the same defect. Trying is never good as accomplished. Actually it’s both hypocritical and totally ineffective! Classic example is the parent-child one. The “I know I do it and I know it’s wrong, but you shouldn’t do it. ” stand never works. In fact, it’s all the more annoying.
Well, if you’re arguing about effectiveness, then context and presentation are pretty important. Contrast your phrasing with “I know I do it and I know it’s wrong, and I’ve suffered a lot because of it. You shouldn’t do it.” This is more or less the heart of “scared straight”-style anti-drug programs, no? While one can argue about the success of such programs, I suspect they’re at least better than teachers who’ve never touched marijuana telling kids that it will kill them.
If somebody is a recovering alcoholic but they fall of the wagaon, does that render their work with AA moot? I don’t think so.
I agree with Jonah, it depends how it is presented. My preacher can talk about, based on the Bible, how it’s wrong to lust after other women. If he slips though, and ends up checking out a girl up and down during the week, does that mean he has no right to preach on the topic? I don’t think so.
I think the main factors are, is it a lifestyle sin, are they honest about their struggles, and do they come across as judgmental. If my preacher preaches on lust yet makes no efforts in his own life to combat it, I see that as hypocrisy. If my preacher talks about lust and is honest and says he struggles with it, that is not hypocrisy. If the focus of the preacher’s message is how evil the sexual immoral are and how we should stay away from them and their sin is much worse than everybody elses, whether or not he does it, that’s just bad teaching.
I get your point, I think the main factor is that the person realizes they struggle in the same area, are honest about it, make efforts to combat it, and come across non-judgmentally.
After all – I’m not saying you say this – but the very idea that the preacher is supposed to be perfect in the areas they speak about is anathema to the very idea of what Christianity is. When we evangelize to others, we aren’t perfect, we are just beggars showing other beggars where the food is.
And, etymologically speaking, we should recall that honesty is the most important player here. “Hypokrites” is ancient Greek for “pretender”, after all. If one is being honest about one’s own failings, the charge of hypocrisy is unlikely to stick.
One more thing. Using the Haggard example again, I don’t understand the reasoning that concludes that if someone is a hypocrite, then the lessons he preaches is automatically worthy of rejection. What does one have to do with the other, particularly on issues of Christian teaching? We are not perfect.
In addition, I would also like to say that Haggard’s struggles may point to the difficulty in carrying one’s cross, but failure is more an issue of the individual’s resolve, not the futility of the quest. His faith in God to help him resist his own demons and temptations is likely less than it could be.
This is my opinion about the Haggard thing, and it may come across as controversial. Haggard’s problem is that he doesn’t come clean about struggling with homosexuality. He says he’s not gay, and that’s true in a sense, because I think of a gay person as someone who embraces heterosexual tendencies, but if he just admitted homosexuality is something he struggles with, I would be more okay with him.
It may have to do with the way the debate is framed. I don’t believe someone sins by having homosexual tendencies – that just means they are tempted by homosexual things – people sin because they have homosexual actions. I don’t sin just because I’m tempted by a magazine or billbboard, I sin if I indulge. Others thing homosexual tendencies within themselves are the sin, but just because something tempts us – even if it’s outside the norm – that itself is not a sin.
Sorry to detour of the post Neil.
Oops, “embraces heterosexual” should be “embraces homosexual”
“If my preacher preaches on lust yet makes no efforts in his own life to combat it, I see that as hypocrisy.”
A better way to say what I was trying to say. Thanks.
I’d like to point out that past guilt of a sin in no way suggests you shouldn’t speak out against that sin yourself. We all have sinned and come short, the NT tell us that. The apostle Peter gave us an example of true repentance: afterward we should should preach against the very things we have been guilty of ourselves.
Matthew 26:69-75 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Then in Acts 3:14: (Peter speaking) But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
Was Peter a hypocrite? No he was forgiven! This should be an example unto us. First, we are to preach against sin, even sin we ourselves have been guilty of in the past. Second, we shouldn’t hold a persons past sins against them when they do preach against that sin themselves.