Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Culture Says: Hypocrisy = Judgmental

David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Research Group, a Christian think-tank, recently published a book called Unchristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. The book, based on a survery of 867 participants, 440 who were not Christians, discovered that a significant majority viewed Christianity as anti-gay and hypocritical among other things. 87% felt Christianity was judgmental, 85% believed it was hypocritical, and 75% believed that Christians were too involved in politics.

In an article from a local newspaper at Lousiana State University in Baton Rouge, one student, Emily Territo (a sophomore biology major) said:

... she has an issue with the amount of judgment that seems to come with the faith.

"I do find that there are hypocrisies in the church," she said. "They say judge not, but then they judge you."

Here is what I find interesting about this quote. This student, and many others like her, equate hypocrisy with judging. In many cases I've found that non-Christians complaints about the hypocrisy in the church has very little to do with lack of purity in the church and everything to do with lack of acceptance of an individuals sinful lifestyle. Isn't this the primary complaint of the homosexual community in regards to conservative evangelical churches? I challenge you to find one example of where a church or Christian community has been labeled hypocritical by the homosexual community (or any individual or community of individuals who flaunt their depravity as a badge) because the church itself is impure or immoral. Generally the church's character is attacked on the basis of lack of acceptance by the deviant community, not lack of purity.

Let me be clear about this: this isn't to say that the church isn't hypocritical at times because of impurity and sinful indulgences. The visible and invisible church of Jesus is a church full of hypocrites precisely because it is a group of redeemed sinners. In this sense, all followers of Jesus are hypocrites because none of us are without sin and yet we are called to pursue holiness. But it is more theologically appropriate for us to realize that true followers of Jesus are saints who sometimes sin and shouldn't pursue a lifestyle of sin that would appropriately earn us the label hypocrites.

Getting back to Ms. Territo's complaint, her issue isn't with the fact that Christians preach holiness and then deliberately live as antagonists and enemies of the very message proclaimed (isn't this the true nature of hypocrisy?) Her complaint is that Christians speak against immorality and then place demands on people for acceptance into Christian fellowship (i.e., the church). I'd like to ask Ms. Territo, "How is this different than what Jesus demanded from people in the New Testament?" Mark tells us precisely this in his gospel:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

Under Ms. Territo's definition, Jesus then, is a hypocrite, because he is violating her understanding of what Jesus meant in Matthew 7 when he teaches us not to judge others. By calling people to repentance (change in lifestyle), Jesus is excluding all who say they desire to love and follow Jesus but aren't willing to lay aside their love for sin first.


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