Sunday, September 4, 2016

Hypocrisy

We all write out of our own 'stories.' Writers do anyway. We tend to take our experience as normative. And that's okay to some extent, because our lives are the ones given us by God for a reason.

Image result for angry preacherWhen I was young, and I mean a teenager, I placed 'hypocrite' and 'Christian' side-by-side. I had no reason to do so. I only knew what I was told. How I picked up on this one, I'm not really sure. I wasn't the first person to put the two together and am certainly not the last. It wasn't that my thorough knowledge of Christ's teachings came first, then my observation of His followers, and then my comparison and conclusion. That's how I put them together now, and in doing so draw a rather different conclusion.than I did at fifteen. Believe which one of us you will.

1. Most people don't know Jesus' teachings well enough to draw this kind of conclusion. Most secularized people say Jesus said "don't judge" and then think that this means He did not teach an objective morality. That's simply false. He said "don't do X" and "do Y" all the time. Do not commit murder, fornication, adultery, do not covet... 

2, Most people don't know Christians well enough to conclude that they are hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone who says he believes X and does the opposite on purpose for some ulterior reason. A hypocrite is not someone who yells, knowing full well that Jesus said not to get angry. A hypocrite is someone who yells, knowing full well what Jesus says because he thinks he is a special case, because he thinks rules are for suckers, and/or thinks others things are more important than following Jesus even though he says nothing else is more important than following Jesus. An alcoholic who slips up and drinks is not a hypocrite - if he knows full well that what he did is wrong and yet felt too weak to resist the pull. It is not hypocritical to say that I slipped up, I made a mistake.

How can any person look at a congregation gathered on a Sunday and conclude: hypocrites? Who knows people that well? Very few can and should. You don't know whether my sins are signs of hypocrisy, or of sincere struggle, of personal crisis, or, even, of moral progress. I rarely know myself what my own sins are signs of.

Most times my hypocrisies do not have anything to do with my attendance at church. They have to do with what I think or say. The tongue, the tongue, as David McPike likes to remind me! Most times my hypocrisy is a result of me applying a degree of severity to someone else from which severity I wish to immunize myself. This is hypocritical for a Christian because of the Christian's commitment to God's love. Let me explain:

Christians believe

a. God loves all equally (perfectly).
b. His grace is poured out to all sufficiently in Jesus Christ.
c. All have a responsibility to the good life concomitant with points (a) and (b).

Image result for angry preacherThis is our Faith. It is the heart of the Faith, not a periphery of it. In other words, love, justice, judgement are at the heart of the Christian life. Our idea of God as love it at the centre. We cannot hold positions and attitudes that contradict these three points. It is impossible for a Christian to believe that God is easier on me than on person X because He loves me more. When a Christian sins he is directed toward the idea of God's mercy, and not to his own sense of justification or entitlement. He hopes, he does not insist.

"Love sins" are the biggies, then. Let's think back to Jesus' teaching on the unforgivable sin. (Mk 3:28-30) The Church has always interpreted this as a sin of despair, a sin of presumption, a sin of judgement against God's mercy. (Aquinas correlates despair and presumption in (ST II-II, 21 & 22)).

Few other things make Christians hypocrites as the sins of love. If we malign a, b and c we are in big trouble. Claiming someone is a hypocrite is as likely (if not more likely) to be an instance of hypocrisy than a correct judgment of hypocrisy in another person. Why? Because it is a kind of presumption about another person's degree of love of God. In these cases it is usually a sin against (b) or (c), but even sometimes (a). When we call people out we are very often doing so through lack of love and so we are lying about our religion of love. Yes, sometimes people are hypocrites, like the crusader for marriage who is actually an adulterer. But even then, why am I calling him out? Why am I apt to jump on him? Why do we get so personal?

Now, I don't want to be a Pope Francis here (lol) and deny objective morality, but let the teachers teach, the shepherds shepherd and me worry about me.

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So why do people keep calling Christians hypocrites? This is a very interesting subject.

1. Why did I?

I did because I wanted more from people. I wanted guidance and edification and meaning from my elders and I wanted to see Christian virtues in the world at large. So, it was personal. It was not about the world at large, or the Church or Christians. It was about me!

2. Why do we hear it so often in the media, etc.?

a. It's potshots, plain and simple.

b. It's disappointment like I felt as a teenager.

In no case is it a reasoned reflection on Jesus' teaching and the life people actually lead.

I include Gandhi in this. For as wise and good as he was in so many ways, when he said that "if Christians only lived like their Jesus then..." he was being rather simplistic and narrow-minded, like I was at 15 years old. Gandhi had no insight into the hearts of men. He had no idea of their struggles. He was being imperialistic in his own way.

Let us take the Gospel that was read today: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple... In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple."

The 'giving up' part came easier to Gandhi than to many of us. Today is the wonderful canonization day of St. Teresa of Calcutta, a woman who also excelled in the 'giving up things' part. I do not think that she considered that the hardest part of her life in Christ. I get the impression it was the 'dark night' part. We have a saying in Christianity,

"If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

My impression is that Gandhi did not get this part and focused more on the externals. Knowing one of his mentor's as well as I do (i.e. Tolstoy) I think I am justified in verging toward this assumption.

Finally, our preoccupation with this term hypocrisy is about frustration with, fear of, and disappointment with the other. So many people say they don't go to church because Christians are hypocrites. I have proved above that this is not true and that people who say this cannot know whether those people are hypocrites or not. I think it is more likely that frustration, fear, disappointment and alienation have much more to do with why they don't go to church.

I can't speak for any other denomination than the Catholic, nor even every Catholic parish, but I can say for certain that hypocrisy is not a common feature among Christians today: going to church provides very little social advantage today. In fact, pretty much the opposite is the case. It's a liability. Not really a place for hypocrites anymore.

A few last points:

When a person accuses a congregation or a people in abstract of being hypocrites, it is usually the case that they are superimposing a set of standards on a people they do not actually endorse. For instance, outsiders will remark that Christians are hypocrites for having jewelry and nice houses but don't care if they are using contraception. Whose standard is that, anyway? It's not the Church's.

Also, people often alienate themselves from the Church over their experience with their parish priest. The priest won't marry my daughter because... The priest won't let us to x, y, z at our father's funeral. The priest has this rule or that rule. He let's that group of people do X but won't let us do Y. All I can say is that if we applied these strict standards to everyone in ours lives, we'd have no families or friends left. Why's the priest get it so hard? Have you even tried to understand his reasoning?

1 comment:

  1. If you're at all interested in knowing . . . the Catholic Dogma . . . that we *must believe* to get to Heaven, and which you have *never* seen . . .

    I list it on my website > > www.Gods-Catholic-Dogma.com

    > > Abjuration of heresy to enter the Catholic Church > www.Gods-Catholic-Dogma.com/section_19.1.html

    The Catholic God knows . . . what we think and believe . . .

    Catholic writing of Romans 1:21 >
    "They ... became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened."

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Deuteronomy 31:21 >
    "For I know their thoughts, and what they are about to do this day."

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Job 21:27 >
    "Surely I know your thoughts, and your unjust judgments against Me."

    The group that calls itself "islam" ... is not a religion. Fully proven by the fact that the "koran" says the *opposite* of the Old Testament Prophets > Section 113 of the site.

    ReplyDelete