Read Myth 1: Religious People Are Ignorant Blind Sheep
Read Myth 2: Religious People Invented God and Heaven to Make Life Easier
Read Myth 3: Religious People Are Stuck In the Past
Read Myth 4: Religious People Are Irrational Fundamentalists
The most overwhelming stereotype that non-religious people, and even people who identify themselves as Christians rail against are self-righteous hypocrites. This stereotype itself, is so ubiquitous in secular media and among Christians themselves, that they go way way way out of their way to disassociate themselves with Christianity in general. Christians come up with all kinds of clever statements, slogans, and apologies to make sure that they are not mistaken for the rest of those Christians who could be blamed for just about every hypocrisy since the dawn of man. In fact, I have met people who have left the Church feeling this, without ever actually being able to pinpoint and identify a concrete specific situation of sufficient evidence to indicate that there is a self-righteous hypocrite that they have met.
This accusation, however, is not one that is allowed against people of other religions. You never see a Buddhist or a Jew accused of such a thing. In fact, I don’t think I have ever met any. It is never done, either because it is politically incorrect to suggest that Jews or Buddhists are self righteous or hypocrites, or because it is politically incorrect to suggest that Christians are not.
We live in a therapuetic culture. Self help books are big business. The assumption is that we have all the resources in ourselves to fix everything in our lives. The assumption is taken further in government, that we as a nation have all the resources to make our lifestyle sufficient. In addition, we believe we can fix all the complexities in our personal lives with the next consumer purchase. We are not, however, permitted to admit that our lives are imperfect. We are, further, not allowed to admit that we are not perfect as people, heck it could cost us our jobs. We are forced to toss out objective standards of what makes a human person good, in favor of a more subjective goodness, which requires no effort, challenge, discomfort, or passion for us to lift a finger to go beyond ourselves, well with the exception of buying something.
So it is sport among Non-Religious and Religious people alike, to catch others in the act. The media itself is relentless and merciless in their pursuit of the next big scandal to uncover at the expense of all the people involved who will be exposed to public scrutiny. I am not saying that people who commit criminal acts, whether clergy or politicians, who are themselves public figures should not be scrutinized, what I am merely pointing out is the attitude of our culture that revels in the humiliation of others. It seems more a fixture of our secular world, then the religious world, to hunt down and outright condemn and others for their actions.
What if we could be imperfect, flawed, broken, and humiliated, and acceptable? There is no room for it in this life. One mistake, one blunder, one unintentional crime will smear your reputation for life. Our society teaches us that there is no room for forgiveness or for mercy. Your actions will judge, and condemn you, and be your tainted legacy for all of humanity centuries after your death. There is no room to correct your past or any of your mistakes. Your legacy will never forgive you. There are consequences to your mistakes that can never be overwritten.
Christians, in addition, are worse off. Christians in their effort to disassociate themselves with hypocrite christians end up themselves becoming self-righteous by that very disassociation. By claiming to be “a true follower of Jesus,” unlike those “self-righteous hypocrites” sounds just like the Pharisee in one of the Parables that Jesus refers to “who follows the Law,” and is not like “those sinful tax collectors.” So we become as merciless on Christians as our secular counterparts do who make such broad sweeping stereotypes of Christians as self-righteous hypocrites. As if it is God’s will for us to not model mercy, we play the same immature game of calling tattle tailing.
I think the truth is that many people accept their faith when they see that they themselves are acceptable, with their imperfections, with their flaws, and brokenness, and humiliations… They recognize that they themselves are acceptable before God who takes on the supreme accusations of blasphemy, and suffers the greatest humiliation, being dealt the punishment deemed to any unforgivable crime.
So next time somebody accuses Christians of being self-righteous hypocrites, acknowledge that they are right because you know your own imperfections and your own brokenness and everything about you that makes you an awful sinner. Then thank God that the person making such accusations against you is not your eternal judge.
So obviously, Christian self-righteous hypocrites exist. There are plenty of finger wagging politically correct witch hunters out there as well, who have a purely secular agenda. I don’t think we can ever pretend that we will be above our mistakes. So, in complete contradistinction to our secular counterparts, our faith gives us room to recover from our mistakes, and hope for a better tomorrow. The truth is, for Christians, for all of our judgments and attempts to get people to heaven, we have to know that looking for blame doesn’t always fix the present situation, let alone make for a better tomorrow. Guilt is in itself a good thing, but finding guilt is often unproductive. We have so many wonderful gifts at our disposal. I think the world, which is so fixated upon humiliating the imperfect, could use a good dose of hope for redemption. Redemption is an altogether forgotten concept, and it is hugely significant that we direct others toward it. What better time to speak of redemption from sin then the Sacred Triduum where Christ was humiliated and died in the worst way for us, that we could be redeemed.