Faith Works 2-11-12
As a hypocrite myself, I represent that remark
Even as the big news stories in the past week have been about same-sex marriage, as to whether or not gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to have the same legal options as men and women entering into marriage, the percentage of people choosing to marry in the first place continues to decline.
That seems odd.
The First Lady pushes healthy eating on late night talk shows and in kids' programming, along with many public health efforts adamant in insisting that we need to restrict through law or taxation (or both) unhealthy food options. Meanwhile, obesity rates go up and more and more people eat out of sacks in their cars.
How's that New Year's resolution going?
Exercise is touted as the sovereign remedy for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, and low test scores. High scores, on the other hand, go to TV ratings and screen time in general, on computers and smart phones and tablets. We're spending unprecedented time sitting, in chairs, hunched over displays of ever tinier sizes.
Our thumbs, however, are stronger and more adept than at any point in human history.
We are very good at saying one thing and doing another. That may not be a new skill set; Romans worried about overeating even as they invented the vomitorium (no, I didn't make that word up, but you'll have to look it up on your own). Cowboys expressed concern over limitations on their freedom if farmers fenced in the land, even as they shot Indians who didn't stay on their reservations.
The word we usually deploy here is "hypocrisy."
To be hypocritical, I fear, is part of the human condition. You can call it sin, our fallen nature showing forth as moral inconsistency, but the churchly side of the problem is that many (most) of the unchurched say that we inside our Sunday morning worship spaces proclaim and affirm choices and actions that we don't do much about on Monday through Saturday: to wit, we're hypocrites.
First response is: yep. Sure we are. Too much time spent trying to counter that argument is just wasted. Trust me, there's always another example to draw on for the anti-church, pro-y'all-are-hypocrites camp, and if we try to change the subject by saying "but I'M not a hypocrite," you're just begging for trouble.
So my answer is to say: absolutely. I'm a hypocrite at heart, and I need someone, even a Someone outside of my own little tiny cramped diseased heart to help me see it . . . because the core of hypocrisy is blindness, willful or well earned. THAT guy needs to lose some weight, while I just need to get a little bit more fit. YOU should behave more morally, and my choices are understandable because, well, you know, I've done my best. THOSE people's debts are appalling, but mine are earned…I mean I worked hard for…look, I'll pay it back out of my tax refund advance… Et cetera.
Is the church writ large hypocritical? You see, this is where the book of Revelation is most useful, and where it really should most often be utilized – not for skeezy predictions of that event of which the Boss plainly said "Ye shall not know the day nor the hour."
In Revelation, St. John the Divine from his Patmos Island exile reminds the churches in his care "y'all ain't all that." He sharply outlines their failings and foibles, their fallenness as faith communities, their having earned nothing much more appetizing than being spewed out of someone's mouth. He wasn't kind, and he made no excuses for them.
And then he closed his writing with an attempt to put down in words something of what he saw, when he looked at what the church might be in God's own vision. From the Divine perspective, he saw a redeemed and fulfilled Church, transformed and flawless – check out Rev. 21 & 22, it's at the back of The Book.
John was pretty clear: you're not there yet. But that's where you want to be heading.
Let that be the sincere prayer of all us recovering hypocrites!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about your favorite hypocrites at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Knapsack @Twitter.