Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hypocrisy

"Beauty and Beast"
- a cactus growing along a desert trail-

Yesterday I came across an article about an American Roman Catholic archbishop who has apparently gotten himself into some  "hot water" recently. The bishop's claim to fame has been his very vocal and often strident opposition to the enactment of a new marriage equality law in his state -virulently speaking out against Gay marriage as being offensive to God. In fact his bold and public condemnation of homosexuals in general had gained this bishop quite a bit of notoriety. 

However, people are now learning that this same bishop who was condemning homosexuals had at the same time also been transferring a whole bunch of pedophile priests from parish to parish where they continued to victimize children.  Then on top of all that, it appears as if the bishop himself is Gay. He continually violated his public vow of celibacy and had numerous homosexual affairs.  

Personally I could care less about the bishop's sex life. What bothers me is the hypocrisy of it all. 

For the vast majority of my life I have been part of the established church, and I certainly don't believe that people who belong to churches are "all a bunch of hypocrites." However, I do also believe that, for the most part, there is a tendency toward "hypocrisy" inherent in the system and in the very structure of the established religious institution. 

The religious institution often comes across as having all the "right answers" about God and about life. Religious people are supposed to walk on a higher moral ground - the goal is to lead a pure and sinless life, a life that is better than and holier than others. This often leads to judgment and condemnation of those who do not have the same "right answers" or walk on the same moral path, and as I see it, this provides a breeding ground for hypocrisy.

The word "hypocrite" means "actor;" I don't believe that any one of one of us has ever has all the "right answers," and none of is ever perfect or holier or morally superior to anyone else. We human beings are a wonderful mixture of "beauty and beast." We are prone to compassion and kindness and we also have a darker side that pulls us in the direction of selfishness and destruction. But since many religious people have been taught to think they are somehow better than others, when they "inevitably" experience their darker side, they have to "act," as if it doesn't' exist.  They become "hypocrites."

When I look at the life and teaching of Jesus I don't ever find even a hint of judging or condemning.  In fact Jesus made it a point to eat with lawbreakers and welcome outcasts into his circle of belonging.The only people who did get under his skin were the religious authorities of his own day who wore flowing robes and and said long prayers in public places presenting themselves as walking on a moral path that was superior to others, while at the same time living lives of self-centered indulgence -ignoring the poor and needy, concerned only for their own personal gain.  Jesus called them all "a bunch of hypocrites," and warned:

Why do you see the speck of dust in your neighbor's eye,
but do not notice the log in your own eye.
You hypocrites, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.

It also seems to me that it's not just religious people who are prone to hypocrisy. Any one of us who thinks they have the "right answers" and has a "holier than thou" attitude will always be an "actor" on the stage of life. 





3 comments:

  1. Paul I can look back into my life and see so much of my religious experience just like you described. It's humbling to do so and that is good. The religion you described is good for nothing. Thanks again for sharing.

    Dave.

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    Replies
    1. Dave,

      Sometimes recognizing and facing the demons is the only way to overcome them--the established church has to face the demon "hypocrisy" head on if it expects to survive.

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  2. The more I think about it theology or so called 'truth' can be set aside and replaced with kindness. If the example of Jesus teaches us anything at all it is that.

    I've sat in church counsels where the fate of a church member was being weighed. She had not been living up to the churches standards and the council was deciding what should be done, dis-fellowship her or censure her. I suppose they felt they were doing the Christ like thing by deciding to censure her. Eventually she just stopped coming to church which was probably better for her.

    I was young in the faith at that time and brought up the story of Jesus in John 8. It didn't fly. I was informed that this behavior was making the church look bad by her not living up to its standards. Love, understanding, forbearance and kindness were far down on the list of standards they upheld.

    Dave

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