As western culture becomes more post-Christian, those seeking to follow Christ will find themselves in increasingly difficult circumstances. We will essentially be in no-win situations. Do you want to be a hypocrite, a bigot, or a weirdo?
“Christians are a bunch of hypocrites.”
We’ve all heard that statement and we’ve heard it as an excuse for a whole host of things. Why don’t you come to church? Hypocrites. Why shouldn’t Christians have a part in the cultural discussion of marriage? Hypocrites.
Make no mistake, we’ve seen Christians act hypocritically. Just recently, we can point to Josh Duggar and other Christian leaders whose immoral lives have been exposed, all the while they preached the importance of biblical morality.
There are very real cases where self-professed followers of Jesus have failed to live up to the standards they championed for others. Many in culture have gleefully pointed to these instances and concluded, “If Christians refuse to live according to their own values, why should anyone listen to them?”
The hypocrisy of one Christian is used as a means to dismiss the positions held by other Christians. If that pastor cannot remain faithful to his wife, Christians should not speak on issues of marriage.
So hypocrisy is worthy of scorn, sure. But what about those trying to live out their ideals?
“Christians are a bunch of bigots.”
Think of large companies like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A, or small businesses like florists and bakeries, where the owners are seeking to consistently apply their values to their public life. No one is applauding their lack of hypocrisy.
In those instances, consistency is not important. It does not matter they are attempting to live out their beliefs. In fact, that’s the problem.
They have deviated from the accepted norms of the cultural elite. Because of those positions, they are automatically deemed to be a “bigot.”
If they disagree with abortion or any form of birth control, they “hate women.” If they decline to participate in same sex wedding ceremonies or celebrations, they “hate gay people.” Disagreement is equated with hatred and bigotry.
But maybe it’s just about certain hot button issues that affect the lives of others. What about when it’s merely a personal decision for you and your family?
“Christians are a bunch of weirdos.”
Meet the Halberts. Aaron wrote a personal piece in The Washington Post about he and his wife Rachel having triplets after having already adopted two kids.
While it sounds more like a heartwarming tale than a get-the-pitchforks-ready story, the Halberts are white evangelicals and their adopted children, including the triplets Rachel gave birth to, are black. For some that changed everything.
On top of virtually every other societal ill you can think of, the Halberts were accused of being racist (against both their own ethnicity and that of their children) and being self-absorbed (in their lives as full-time missionaries in Honduras). Commenters saw everything about the couple as strange.
You often hear abortion supporters claim that if pro-life Christians really believed that life begins at conception, they would be involved in adoption and they would do something about embryos created in IVP.
The Halberts are doing just that and are being called “nut-jobs” for doing so. Their religious convictions about life, adoption, and race were deemed strange and out of the ordinary by many responding to their story.
So faithfully living out beliefs others see as unusual is worthy of scorn as well.
The lose-lose situation for Christians
In many ways, convictional Christians are left with a difficult choice. In essence, culture asks us, “Would you rather be a hypocrite, a bigot or a weirdo—maybe some combination of the three?
Many who disagree with conservative Christians would want to clarify that there are other options available. It is possible to both stay faithful to your spouse and change your positions on abortion and gay marriage.
I agree that is possible. But for me and millions of other Christians, the same book that informs our beliefs about marital faithfulness does the same for our beliefs about marital definitions.
The same faith that says every person outside of the womb is created in God’s image and worthy of respect and protection says the same about life in the womb.
I cannot decide which of those beliefs I will embrace based on the popular opinion of the day. For me and many others, they are intertwined and inseparable. To do otherwise would make me a hypocrite. I would be acting in a way contrary to my beliefs.
And that is the lose-lose situation for the Christian. We can become a hypocrite, albeit one praised by culture instead of criticized, or we will be deemed a bigot and/or a weirdo.
If Christians are honest, however, we have to acknowledge mistakes on our part. We have been hateful and bigoted in the past (some still are).
When we held the most cultural cachet, we frequently behaved as if it pointing at others and saying they were weird was an acceptable substitute for making a legitimate argument against their beliefs or behaviors.
Some, often mistaking the current cultural position of Christianity, still believe mocking others as strange is enough. In addition to not reflecting Christ, it is not enough and we will continue to lose ground if we continue to act as if it were.
But in addition to acknowledging our recent historical mistakes, we should also keep in mind our ancient history and how our convictions were regarded then.
The current reality places modern Christians in a familiar place historically. Many of the same charges were leveled against first-century Christians by the Roman culture of the day.
And while we can and should point out the double standard at work in these modern day situations, we should remember that Jesus promised us this (and even worse) would be the case. The non-persecuted church is a historical anomaly.
Because we believe biblical values are best for everyone, including those who disagree, we should continue to seek to winsomely persuade others of the wisdom in following God’s design. We should speak the truth in love, but we should not be discouraged when things do not turn out as we hope.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Not that what we can experience in a western context amounts to persecution, but as G.K. Chesterton said, “A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. It is absurd to say that a man is ready to toil and die for his convictions when he is not even ready to wear a wreath round his head for them.”
Our consistent lives should serves as a rebuttal to any charge of hypocrisy. Claims of bigotry will be made, but they should look absurd in light of the way we love those who disagree. But our beliefs and actions will always be counter-cultural, so we may never bear the name of martyr, but we should be prepared to accept the label of fool or weirdo.