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.