An Honest Response: Yes, ALL Christians are Hypocrites

One of the unexpected results of my “Top 10” post going viral is that it’s given me the opportunity to interact (via email and comments) with hundreds of people who are either atheists, anti-theists, agnostics, or skeptics.

I listened and I’ve attempted to answer as accurately, honestly, and transparently as possible.  To that end, I took inventory of the basic comments, complaints, and objections of Christianity.  I’ll address them over the next several articles, but it didn’t take long to identify the one major problem non-christians had with christianity…

 

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Christians!

Here are a few of many, many responses and comments I got:

“The subject isn’t why people leave Christianity, it’s why young people leave the church. Many young people leave because the people they are surrounded by are unpleasant, egotistical, and judgmental at best and hateful, criminal and hypocritical at worst.” – Tim

“Many “religious” people are hypocritical, they teach “tolerance” when really there isn’t any unless you are the right kind of person… it’s a joke!” – RPennington

“I left the Evangelical Church for the simpkr reason that I could no longer, in good conscience, belong to an organization that was so completely intolerant and hypocritical. For a religion that is supposed to be based on radical love I find that 90 Percent of the Christians I meet to be extremely judgemental black and white thinkers and their philosophies.” – Meg

“Most churches have a lot of hypocrites. I know from experience that people don’t act in church the way they act the rest of the time.” – Holly

“I think the term “hypocrite” comes from being told one thing by the staff and pulpit but in reality the staff does exactly what u’ve been told not too in private. U get told how wrong it is to do something yet their own children still living in their home are participating in those same activities you’ve just been judged for doing. I think that’s where the hypocrisy comes from.” – KT

And here’s my response.

Ready?

I agree. Completely.  The church is full of hypocrites.

Even ardent detractors of Christianity would agree that Jesus was pretty clear on where he stood with hypocrites. (Matthew 24 anyone)?  In fact, Jesus is much harsher on hypocrites than we are.  Why is that?  Well, since we have such disdain for these “hypocrites”, let’s define what, or who they are.

Hypocrite (per Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

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In Texan, we’d call that “fakes and failures”.
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But you can only be a fake or a failure based upon a standard. And we ALL have standards. What are some things you believe or support. Being kind? Being generous? Getting enough sleep? Exercising? Eating well?
Do you do each of them perfectly? Of course you don’t. I don’t. So, by definition, I’m a hypocrite.
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We’re in good company. The Apostle Paul, who wrote roughly HALF of the New Testament said of himself in Romans 7:

For I do not understand my own actions. ForI do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. ”  

 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” 

“Wretched man that I am!”

Paul? Hypocrite by definition.  What what separated him from the hypocrites (Pharisees) that Jesus blasted?

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are likewhitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

 33 You serpents,you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

So much for “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”, huh?  Jesus hated hypocrisy more than we do.

But let’s make sure we’re clear in our distinctions:

Paul? Failure

Pharisees? Fakes

In the end, we’re all failures. The difference is, from a Christian perspective, that we KNOW this. It’s the entire FOUNDATION of our faith; that ONLY through acknowledging this failure, this complete inability to do what it is we WANT through faith,  can we be saved by Christ.  You may reject the gospel of repentance of this failure and faith in Christ’s sacrificial death to forgive you of that failure. But christian, atheist, anti-theist, agnostic, or skeptic, we all fail in striving to live up to the standards we profess.

What does this mean in regard to the criticism of christians?

1. You’re right. We’re hypocrites (failures). I fail. I fail every…single…day in both word and deed in not only the things I’ve done, but things I’ve failed to do.  I fail in my 2 stated goals by not loving God with all my heart and by not loving my neighbor as myself.

2. Anyone in the “visible” church who denies #1 is a hypocrite (fake).  Jesus himself says that every..single.. person fails to live up to the standard. If you claim you do, and are delusionally trying to convince others that you do… you’re a fake. A fraud. A phony. And to those who criticize them as such, you’re right. Jesus agreed.

Christians aren’t “good people”, we’re hypocrites (failures).  But the very core message of our faith prohibits us from being hypocrites (fakes).  To be a “self-righteous Christian” is complete violate the law of non-contradiction. It’s impossible to be “self-righteous” in a faith where our ONLY righteousness comes from outside of us (Christ).   Do you want to know how strongly Christianity teaches against “self-righteousness”?  Scripture describes our  “self-righteous works” as  filthy rags. Literally, dirty menstrual cloths. Let that sink in.  (Isaiah 64). Any “righteousness” a christian has is the polar opposite of “self-righteousness”! As the same Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Philippians:

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

So, we all fail. We’re all hypocrites if we’ve held ourselves to any standard of “goodness”, we’ve failed. The question is, which hypocrite are you, fake or failure?
Can you see past your criticism of others to see your own fault?
 “A lot of Christians in my life have been judgmental and cruel to people different from them, especially homosexuals, Muslims, and atheists. Whether it’s mostly true or not, Christians are perceived as hateful, and I don’t want to be associated with them. There is no excuse for discrimination.” – Holly
Ouch. Do you see the hypocrisy in that very statement? To Holly, there is no excuse for discrimination and judging people different form you.. unless you don’t want to be associated with Christians because, true or not, Christians are perceived that way. Do you see the hypocrisy?!?
Yes, we’ve all failed. But who have you failed? That’s  the question from a Christian worldview.  Who are you accountable to for that failure and how do you make it right?
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For me, I remain a hypocrite (failure) . I’ve failed God by not loving Him as he deserves. I’ve failed every single one of you reading this by not loving you more than I love myself.
And for that, I ask for forgiveness from both God and you.
Let’s discuss.
Marc

21 thoughts on “An Honest Response: Yes, ALL Christians are Hypocrites”

  1. Well said. Anyone who denies being a hypocrite is overcome with pride and blinded to his own wretchedness. I suppose being a hypocrite is one of those weaknesses that causes us to need Jesus even more.

  2. Marc,

    Great post. I’d like to offer the “tails” to your “heads,” or to expand a little on the flipside.

    In our culture, it seems it is becoming chic to criticize Christians. Whether that’s merited or not is outside my interest to discuss; besides, you’ve pretty much outlined why.

    My beef with those “outside” Christianity is that they more than see us as “no better than they,” they see themselves as BETTER than us; in our “hypocrisy,” we are now “beneath” them. They’re sitting in judgment of us BY THEIR OWN STANDARD (since they generally have access to no other perspective). If we as Christians are measured by Christ, and they consider themselves “better” than us because we’re “no better than they are”–and that is EXACTLY what they think, especially if they’re using Christians in ANY way as an excuse to deny Christ and do whatever they want–then they have, by default and by nature, elevated their own standard above Christ.

    The real question is, how do we overcome that delusion? Of course, the Holy Spirit must do the loving correction of perspective; I’m just throwing in that, certainly in our present age (if not in some way or other true throughout history), Christians and Christian behavior (or lack thereof) are really just an excuse for the lost to avoid or excuse their denying Christ as Lord. I don’t say this to give us a “pass,” nor do I suggest that we will not be held accountable for our actions (or failures) regarding our testimony. But at the judgment, God is not going to be bound up by some legal loophole when Joe Agnostic complains that some Christian or other wasn’t a good enough witness.

    Lastly, I think (and feel my thoughts are more or less confirmed by the quotes you’ve provided, as they seem to be typical–i.e., I’ve heard them before) many on the outside of Christendom dump a lot of grief on Christians for general societal failures that, in actual fact, Christians (or even the Church) have little or nothing to do with. It might be true in some cases that the Church doesn’t engage ENOUGH, but we’re often the scapegoat when society picks on or takes advantage of certain ethnicities or other societal subgroups. Here, too, I’m conflicted as to the best response–do we take it on the chin (“turn the other cheek”) or take up the argument? It’s a conundrum.

    1. Here’s the problem. All of your arguments stem from an acceptance of your view of God.
      I believe in God. I don’t believe that Jesus is God.
      Christians often fall back on this question. How can I know what is right and wrong without Christian teachings? My answer, From the Thousands of years of moral teachings that preceded Christ, or Abraham. ( Many of which are co-opted into the Bible nearly word for word from the peoples and cultures that surrounded the authors. Even the borrowing of holidays and symbols which continue until this day…Christmas, Easter? )
      Do you honestly believe that one must believe in Christianity to know right from wrong?
      And if not then you should understand that even though I am not a Christian; I can see that many of those who call themselves such…are bad people.
      If you are a liar, a thief, or a swindler…You are a bad person. If you pretend that you are not the thief, liar, cheat, that you are; and punish or promote the punishment of those who do likewise…you are an even WORSE person.
      I think the primary reason people are growing weary of Christian’s is they don’t speak of their own personal flaws first.
      Try running your churches like a 12 step meeting. Each week people admit their own failures to the church, followed by support and admonition…conducted openly and honestly before the entire congregation….People don’t have such disdain for recovering alcoholics as many do for professing Christian’s; because recovering alcoholics spend their efforts correcting THEMSELVES.
      Their efforts towards the outside world are usually acts of compassion and help, not judgement and derision, you guy’s should give it a shot…probably do wonders for your public image.
      Life to you.

      1. Here’s the problem. All of your arguments stem from an acceptance of your view of God.

        M5S: Agreed, as will yours.

        I believe in God. I don’t believe that Jesus is God.

        M5S: (See?) 😉 So, the by your own logic, your presupposition above will be laid out below.

        Christians often fall back on this question. How can I know what is right and wrong without Christian teachings? My answer, From the Thousands of years of moral teachings that preceded Christ, or Abraham. ( Many of which are co-opted into the Bible nearly word for word from the peoples and cultures that surrounded the authors.

        M5S: I would agree that your view of right and wrong is properly grounded in deism. However, in which deistic religion do you ground yours? I would agree that there is certainly a moral code which predates Abraham. (As a Christian, I would not agree that it would predate Christ, the creator.)
        From what deistic religion would you draw your moral code that predates both Abraham and Christ? I’d be interested to know.

        Do you honestly believe that one must believe in Christianity to know right from wrong?

        M5S: No.

        And if not then you should understand that even though I am not a Christian; I can see that many of those who call themselves such…are bad people.

        M5S: No disagreement here. In fact, the purpose of the article was to say the very same. Christians who claim to be “good people” don’t get the very fundamental issue of the faith!

        If you are a liar, a thief, or a swindler…You are a bad person. If you pretend that you are not the thief, liar, cheat, that you are; and punish or promote the punishment of those who do likewise…you are an even WORSE person.

        M5S: I agree. Jesus said the same. The problem is that I *am* a thief, a liar, and a cheat. Jesus not only held the line on these, he raised the bar. If you’re interested, check out Luther’s Small Catechism as it explains the 10 commandments.

        I think the primary reason people are growing weary of Christian’s is they don’t speak of their own personal flaws first.

        M5S: Have you read my blog? Did you read this article? Seriously, I’m flawed. Seriously flawed. I sin ever.single.day in word and deed.
        And that’s just what others can see. The stuff going through my mind is even crazier. That’s the human condition. Christians don’t reach some place of piety where these aren’t problems. Anyone who claims that they have is a liar.

        Try running your churches like a 12 step meeting. Each week people admit their own failures to the church, followed by support and admonition…conducted openly and honestly before the entire congregation….People don’t have such disdain for recovering alcoholics as many do for professing Christian’s; because recovering alcoholics spend their efforts correcting THEMSELVES.

        M5S: Funny you should mention that. My church service begins EVERY WEEK with confession and absolution! Part of that is admitting that I have sinned against both God and my neighbor.

        Their efforts towards the outside world are usually acts of compassion and help, not judgement and derision, you guy’s should give it a shot…probably do wonders for your public image.

        M5S: Man, are you sure you’re not a closet Lutheran? 😉 The view here is that God doesn’t need our good works, our neighbor does. Since my faith taches that I’ve received compassion and grace which I did not deserve, that I am to be compassionate and gracious to everyone. No, really, EVERYONE. Love my enemies everyone.

        Judgement and derision. That would be interesting if it weren’t for your closing remarks. Aren’t you judging me and my entire faith? From what moral high ground? What is your faith teaching that you can judge me in derision? Hmmm.

        Just a thought.

        Marc

  3. While we are hypocrites in that we preach a christian lifestyle, yet constantly fail to live up to that creed, we must be careful not to let the opinions of people who do not have Christ to affect our judgement and beliefs. The spirit of this age casts the truth (wherever it turns up) in a negative light. So when a person says, ‘I am against gay marriage’ those around him automatically recoil in shock, and proceed to tell the person how intolerant and hateful he is. As for ‘black and white’ thinking, isn’t that the basis for morality? You are either doing right or doing wrong, a message many people do not want to hear.

  4. When I was a Baptist I had a lot of non-Christians throw Fred Phelps and his Westboro gang of hatred in my face…now as a Catholic, I find people pointing out the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the scandals with Priests. People ask me how I can be a Christian in good conscience, because Christianity is so full of hypocrisy. And my answer has stayed the same: the Church is made up of humans. And until the day that Christ returns, the Church will never be perfect, not even close. We long for the Church to be perfect, and we long for her to be spotless, but as Christians, I think we need to accept that we are human, and we are not perfect. The Church exists by God’s grace, and the Church must learn to both accept that grace, and then in turn extend that grace to others.

  5. Thank you Marc! That is what I have told people for years. People would say “There are so many hypocrites in church”. My response is “Where else would they be?”

  6. Nail on the head again.
    I am very vocal about my Faith. I am both willing to admit when I am wrong (which is an every day occurrance), challenge those that claim to be my brothers and sisters in Christ, share prayer requests, and share praise when He answers prayer.
    What I run into along with the accusation that Christians are hypocrites from non-believers are the circular debates I end up in with men and women who say they are Christians yet have no knowledge of Christianity.
    For example~ a friend recently posted what I understood to be a rant against Christianity for using pagan symbols for Christian holidays. Her argument was at first that this made us hypocrites. Assuming she was a Christian, i attempted to explain why those methods were adopted quickly realizing in the following debate that while this woman spouted Scripture when it suited her~ she did not believe that the Bible is the word of god, that there is only one way to heaven, etc. In fact she believes god is a goddess and she also practices pagan rituals while still claiming to be Christian. These Universalists are as much a part of the hypocrite problem that plagues the Church today. Why? Because so few REAL Christians call them out. So few Christians DEFEND the faith.
    I am a mil spouse. In all the places i have been i am more afraid of those hypocrites because i see the destruction they do. Not saying we arent all hypocrites(failures) as you say. I know I am. So how to we deal with the other hypocrites(fakes)?

    Another brave post! God bless!

  7. The answer to these people is that stripping the church of her moral standards will not make it a better place. When they attack Christians for hypocrisy, it is not to make the Christian live by his standards. It is to make the Christian adopt the accuser’s standards.

    Let’s take a look at Ned Flanders on the critically acclaimed show, The Simpsons. Ned, his wife (while she was alive) and kids all live immaculate lives. They are portrayed as even responding to a higher moral calling than the local pastor. Throughout the long-running show, Flanders has frequently been an annoyance to Homer and the other less religious people. He wasn’t a hypocrite though. They didn’t dislike him because he failed to live up to his lofty standards. The reason he irritated them so much is because he had standards in the first place.

    Failing to live up to the moral teachings of Christ is merely a convenient vehicle for the faithless to attack the Church. It’s a convenient platform they adopt to bulwark their own moral unwillingness to live under the rules. An old Irish proverb proclaims, “unwillingness easily finds an excuse,” and for them the excuse is the moral shortcomings of those who aim high.

    Surely such failures on our part require criticism and attention, however, those are best given from people who live by the same standards. People with logs cannot extract mites.

    A fundamental reason I have such a difficult time staying in modern churches is their constant attempt to comfort these people by lowering their standards to appear “welcoming” and “accepting.” Rob Bell’s recent race over the line to embrace Gay Marriage, although explicitly contrary to Christ’s teaching, apostolic decree and church doctrine (without very loose interpretations and a year of heavy pseudointellectual footwork, that is) is just another example of the church, when accused of hypocrisy, abandoning its standards rather than addressing its conduct. Certainly Rob Bell doesn’t speak for the church as a whole today, but his views represent a growing trend.

    What happens when the phrase “Christian” no longer means anything juxtaposed against “secular” because all of the standards and expectations originally laid out for us under Christ have been discarded?

  8. So truthful and to the point. We are all in the same boat. All failures .. But through Christ we become clean as many times as needed. Likewise we forgive as many times as needed. Even if people may wrong us for the same thing over and over..same as Jesus forgives us the same.

  9. I think another issue in play here is the issue of intentions. There is an extent to which I agree that none of us are perfect, none of us measure up to an absolute standard of perfect behavior (although, I do believe that the Bible teaches that Christians can grow to a level of holiness where they DO love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, even if it takes us years to get to that point). However, the issue is, what are we doing about it now? Are we being faithful to the Lord as best we can, or are we just going out and doing whatever we want (or NOT doing that which we should be doing) and excusing it by saying “well, we are all failures anyway”. We recently left a church because the vast majority of the people there seemed to place little priority on holiness and being faithful to the preaching of the word. They would do their token church appearance on Sunday morning (some would even skip Sunday School as well), but then you would never see them in church on Sunday night. Some would be there for youth activities on Sunday evening, or choir practice, but then you would see them walking out the door and driving off rather than stay for the evening worship service. You would not see them there during special services during the week (Thanksgiving Eve service, revival services, etc), but yet, they could clear their calendars to show up for fun and games activities like Easter Egg hunts, youth activities, trunk or treats, etc. They would be faithful to show up for these things, yet when it comes to the preaching of the word, forget it. Some would live sexually immoral lives, go out to the bars, and yet would come in on Sunday evening to lead youth group. Then the other group, we will call the faithful group. They would be there faithfully for the preaching of the word when the doors are open. They seemed to take Christ seriously enough to surround themselves will fellow believers and the preaching of the word and to try to live a Godly life. Now, is either group perfect? Does either group succeed with 100% accuracy in living up to all of God’s commands? No, of course not. But how can we lump both groups together and call them all “hypocrites”? The latter group knows their need of Christ and is seeking to grow closer to him through the preaching of the word while the former group doesn’t seem to give a hang about the Lord or the things of God. And I think this distinction is obvious as well. I think any thinking person can tell the difference a mile away between an honest disciple who knows his shortcomings and his need to be fed the bread of life verses the pretender who just wants to play church once a week and then go out into the world and forget about it and sow to the sinful nature all week long. And I think many churches are full of the former group, such that people probably are turned off by Christianity when all they see if people showing up and playing church on Sunday, but then not showing any fruit of being genuinely interested in the things of God. I avoid many churches because that is all I see there. If these folks would attend a real church filled with genuine believers, they would probably be more likely to overlook their human infirmities and shortcomings when they realize that these folks are genuinely interested in persuing holiness.

  10. Yep.

    I see it in my DNA every day: pointing the finger while 4 are pointed back at me. In my own blogging attempts, I have found myself drawn back to the subject of Christian hypocrisy over and over – there are so many angles to come at it from. This discussion causes me heartburn in considering how skewed a message our American evangelical forbears must have given for it to have come to this.

    If you don’t mind, here’s my topic list on Christian hypocrisy.

    http://interpretingthecosmos.com/tag/christian-hypocrisy/

    Grace in Christ…

  11. Reblogged this on Pastor Mike's Musings and commented:
    This is a very helpful article-yes, ALL Christians are hypocrites! It doesn’t make God any less good or true, but it does show how much everyone, even believers need Gods forgiveness on a minute by minute basis. Praise God for his forgiveness and grace!

  12. Great Post!
    Men don’t counterfeit $1 bills, they counterfeit $100 bills. By calling someone out as a hypocrite you are confirming something that is true and that is right.

  13. Admittedly, I have a mixed response to this post. On the one hand, I obviously agree that there is great, great hypocrisy among us. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if this material causes more harm than good. May I be so bold? This article feels less about a call to faithful living and more of a call to shame (I’m sure that is NOT the author’s intent).

    It seems to me that an article of this nature intends to demonstrate to non-Christians that we acknowledge (or ought to) that we ourselves fail to be the examples of moral superiority that we champion, and in so doing, gain an audience with those outside the church by demonstrating humility. Does it accomplish that?

    Christians, both fairly and unfairly, have earned a reputation as being the ones to condemn the splinter while being blind to the plank. However, it i my experience that this type of material does not defuse the critics’ fire, but rather fuels it. Have we created an “us-vs-them” dichotomy? Perhaps. But the non-Christian, among other things, is also desperate to sing the us-vs-them anthem. The more they can find fault with Christians, the more they can justify their sin, the more they can justify their reason for remaining outside. By highlighting so strongly our hypocrisy, I believe, it encourages them to ignore their own.

    The Gospel does not simply tell us that we have sinned, but that ALL have sinned. Yes, that includes us, yes we must humbly admit our imperfection. But our goal should be to draw attention, not to an imperfect institution, but to a perfect God.

    Hypocrisy is not a Christian problem, it is a human problem. It is a problem that hinders ALL humans, Christian and non-Christian, from entering into fellowship with God. I think then we are better served by highlighting the problem, AND THE SOLUTION, and not just the offenders in our camp.

    What do you think?

      1. Yes, I not would say that I am reacting to an error on your part – all have sinned, we agree. Rather, I am choosing to take exception to the overall tone. If this article had been written by somebody outside of the church, I would’ve received it as “Christian-bashing”. To me it feels like a review of various ways in which Christians are guilty of hypocrisy, all the ways in which we, and we specifically, have failed on this point.

        Well, we have failed on this point, egregiously. So I cannot disagree with you.

        Rather, I am suggesting that such a relentless review is unbalanced. Speaking for myself – which is admittedly a very subjective point of view – upon reading this article, I do not feel encouraged to faithful living, I feel scolded. I take from this article that you are scolding Christians, and reminding us just how hypocritical we really are; I do not believe that was your intention.

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