Are All Christians Hypocrites? Yes, Maybe and No.

unmask hypocrite

If you missed it, please read my previous piece “Preventing the Next Josh Duggar Situation” dealing with our mere baptism of culture’s celebrity obsession and our failure to realize exactly from where sin originates.

The revelations about Josh Duggar have brought to the forefront a much broader discussion about Christians and hypocrisy. (If you need a recap, here is The Washington Post’s excellent timeline of the entire situation.)

Does his criticizing the sexual behavior of others, while engaging in not just sexual sins, but criminal molestation, mark him a hypocrite? Are Christians, in general, hypocrites for so often critiquing the behavior of others, while failing to live up to their own standards?

As a Christian, my answer would be yes, maybe, and no. Let me explain.

Yes, all Christians are hypocrites.

Part of answering the question comes with identifying what it means to be a hypocrite. If someone is a hypocrite because they fail to live up to the moral standard they proclaim, then Christians are clearly hypocrites. In fact, we might be the biggest hypocrites on the planet.

The Person we claim to follow and whose live we attempt to emulate was perfect. We base our moral standards on His perfect example. And we fail to live up to that. Every single day.

But even more to the point, unfortunately, we are particularly hypocritical in terms of our criticizing certain sexual sins. We have made those behaviors, especially involving homosexuality, to be somehow more worthy of condemnation.

Not only that, we have done this while ignoring our own proclivity to sin, even sexually. There is not one of us who is blameless. From pornography to adultery, from lust to molestation, we have repeatedly failed to live up to the standard we preach.

Often times, even in the midst of this failure, we have displayed arrogance and a lack of self-awareness. In that way, yes, we are hypocrites.

Maybe, all Christians are hypocrites.

If you are speaking of Christians as being part of some exclusive club of hypocrites for excusing their own behavior or mistakes, even heinous ones, made by those within their circles, then I believe you are wrong.

This is not a trait peculiar to Christians, it’s a very human one. And it’s one that reinforces the biblical teaching of the fall. We all have succumbed to the effects of sin entering the world and we all want to make excuses for our mistakes.

Yes, Christians have been quick (perhaps too quick) in accepting the statement of Josh Duggar and seeking to move past it without being overly concerned if he truly understands the gravity of what he (and to some extent, his parents) did. But Christians are hardly alone in this.

The majority of feminists have not rejected Lena Dunham over what she did as a child to her younger sister. Hollywood continues to embrace Woody Allen despite accusations of sexual abuse from his adopted daughter, not to mention marrying his step-daughter 35 years his junior.

Despite admitting to and being arrested for the rape of a 13-year-old girl as a 44-year-old, Roman Polanski has continued making films and has been repeatedly honored by the movie industry, including an Oscar for Best Director in 2002.

Maybe Christians are hypocrites, but in this way, we (unfortunately) reflect our surrounding culture. That does not excuse hypocrisy. It simply recognizes it as a temptation to which many succumb.

No, all Christians are not hypocrites.

Christians aren’t automatically hypocrites for holding to a moral system even when we fail to meet those standards. True hypocrisy enters the conversation when we dishonestly claim to personally meet that standard.

It’s not hypocritical to say people should eat more vegetables after you’ve just had a hamburger. It is hypocritical to say people should be like you and eat more vegetables when the only green thing you’ve had in the last six months was a bottle of Mountain Dew.

While there are numerous Christian leaders who have been dishonest, most followers of Christ are upfront about failing. In fact, it’s part of our theology.

The very nature of embracing Jesus is admitting that you have failed and will continue to fail. Christians may have done a poor job of explaining it, but it is no less true.

We aren’t proclaiming perfectionism just a perfect moral standard met by a perfect Person. In that way, in our best times, we are far from hypocrites.

Does it matter?

In one sense, it absolutely matters if Christians are hypocrites. We should be striving to better follow Christ and have our actions reflect Him. That is a given.

But in another sense, the issue of hypocrisy often becomes a surrogate for a much different claim—the Christian moral standard is wrong.

People claim Christians are hypocrites … therefore we don’t have to listen to them when they talk about morality. Because they fail to live up to their own standard, their contribution to a discussion about morality is worthless.

But actions are right or wrong intrinsically, not based on the person condemning or condoning it. Lying does not cease being wrong simply because a murderer disapproves of it.

Demonstrating the validity and trustworthiness of biblical morality is a much larger task than one blog post could contain. The same is true, however, of its rejection.

It takes much more than one cable talking head ranting about Josh Duggar and Christian hypocrites to disprove anything at all about what the Bible says about morality.

Are Christians hypocrites? Yes, maybe, and no. Do any of those answers say anything about biblical morality? Only that everyone fails to adhere to it, which is what it has claimed all along.

9 Comments

  1. Great thoughts. Of course, the one side will argue that the difference between Duggar and the Hollywood examples you give is that Duggar now speaks so much about his morals. I don’t think Woody Allen & Roman Polanski talk much about sexual morals.

    Still, your point is on the money. It’s not that most liberals have a problem with past sin. What many tend to look for is a reason to denigrate Christian morality.

  2. David

    Woody Allen did not marry his step-daughter. He and Soon-Yi’s adoptive mother Mia Farrow never lived together, Soon-Yi lived in Farrow’s apartment which Allen rarely visited, he had actually seldom even seen her before Farrow asked him to start spending more time with Soon-Yi.

    Yes, the age difference is creepy, but from all accounts it’s been a successful, strong and loving marriage for 20 years.

    And the sexual abuse charges are so worthless Farrow (who has a history of sexual abuse among her own family) never charged Allen, and state officials never prosecuted the charges.

    • Kelvin

      Well, there was more to it than that. Mia Farrow was the mother of Woody Allen’s biological son Ronan, and they jointly adopted two more children, so even though they weren’t married, Soon-Yi was the half-sister of Allen’s children. I frankly find it implausible that Allen “rarely visited” Farrow’s apartment given that his three children were living there; you’re really telling me that he only saw them when Mia bundled them up and brought them to his place? Maybe it’s not legally a step-daughter relationship, but in terms of messing with the family structure, it’s virtually indistinguishable. His son Moses certainly saw it that way, famously writing to his father, “Everyone knows not to have an affair with your son’s sister.”

      As for the sexual abuse charges, it’s true that Allen was never prosecuted, but that’s less than a complete exoneration; the judge in their custody case called Allen’s behavior “grossly inappropriate.” The prosecutor claimed he did have probable cause but felt that Dylan was too fragile to be put on the stand, without which the case couldn’t go forward. (I will grant that that’s a borderline abusive move by a prosecutor, leaving an accusation hanging with no way to fight it.) At the least, though, “worthless” is not an accurate description; “inconclusive” would be fairer.

  3. Lourdes withem

    Your article on how hypocrisy and Christianity converge is compelling. I applaud you for addressing such an emotionally charged and timeless topic. Every generation will witness the hypocrisy of humankind, Christian or not. Many people spout personal opinions without articulating a coherent point, you made three points by answering yes, no and maybe to the question Are All Christians Hypocrits? Whenever there is a conversation regarding the truth about the human condition I add this: this is why character is multifaceted involving grace, mercy, humility, forgiveness, seeking truth, living in truth, integrity, honor; not everyone understands much less can define these terms. I draw from a vast pool of people who have graced us with their presence as I join in your conversation about the hypocrisy of Christians by submitting two quotes here, the first by Pearl Bailey, “You never find yourself until you face the truth” and the second by Virginia Woolf, “If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people”. Also, I think what is particularly galling to people who do not profess to be Christians is to observe so-called Christians behaving badly (i.e., hypocritically) while simultaneously speaking in a sanctimonious, self-righteous, self-serving, preachy manner and then cap it off with a self-justifying “but I am not perfect and never claimed to be perfect”. In sum, Christians are to be held to a higher standard of behavior. Why? Because Christians should know better. Unfortunately, not all people who profess to be Christians are enlightened and self-aware manifesting the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit delineated in Galatians 5:22-23, namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.