Christian Hypocrisy in Examining the Word of God and the Words of Politicians

Flickr photo by wy_jackrabbit

First off, before the strident atheists out there start lifting this post up as a “See, even, so and so, says Christians are a bunch of hypocrites!” let me be the first to stipulate that all people of faith are, at some level, hypocrites. Because we understand that we are not perfect, there will always be inconsistency. Of course, depending on one’s context, some Christians are more hypocritical than others, but in the end, very few people actually do walk the talk in totality. This reality doesn’t lessen faith for me, rather it is the way in which I hold myself accountable and am challenged to keep striving to live a life that is consistent God’s calling and claim on my life.

With that disclaimer, out of the way, as part of Patheos’s 2012 election coverage and in response to this week’s questions, What’s wrong–and what’s right–with the role of faith in American politics today? I offer this min-rant.

Like many of you out there, I am both frustrated and fascinating by the election season. Truth be told, I love it: the strategizing, the sociological implications and the constant challenge to be community. I do my best not to add to the negativity and unhealthy interactions that are in front of us all the time, but sometimes, like so many of you, I just want to scream/tweet out, “You are mean, lying poopy face . . . oh why do you hate America so?!?!?”

One of the instigators of my frequent potty mouth moments is seeing how supporters of both main presidential candidates* respond to one another and the claims that each campaign makes. It seems that supporters of both parties are pretty inconsistent when it comes to examining what the campaigns are putting out there about the economy, healthcare, foreign policy, taxes, poverty, etc. Generally speaking, when we like and support a candidate, we believe them and if we don’t support a candidate, we find every way to discount their every claim as an utter lie.

Seeing as many of the people who show up in my various news streams are of the Christian variety, I have noticed the same patterns when we approach Scripture. Now don’t worry, I am not trying to equate our political system and God’s movement in the world. I am only pointing out  how we tend to approach our beliefs in times of disagreement. These are the things that I have noticed:

When we read the Bible, The Word of God . . .

  • We lean into and take at face value passages that reinforce our already held beliefs.
  • We dig deeper into the history and context of the passages in order to discount any that call our beliefs into question

When we hear words from politicians . . .

  • We lean into and take at face value the words that our preferred politicians says.
  • We dig deeper into the words from politicians we don’t like in order to discount their version of the truth.

In both of these cases we are basically doing two things: one, finding all the support we can to affirm our already held beliefs and, two, finding anything we can to discount the beliefs that others might hold as true. In the end, we are more concerned with making sure that we are right, rather than being open to the possibility that our beliefs might need to change, shift or . . . heaven forbid, be scrapped in totality.

Of course there are always exceptions to these two extremes and I would even go as far as saying that these approaches are not always “wrong,” ways to approach politics and faith, for sometimes when we dig for one truth, we unexpectedly discover another. At the same time, I think it’s fair to say that, at some point, each and every one of us falls into the trap of not thinking critically about our politics and our faith. Truth is, it’s exhausting to engage in the self-reflection and relationship building that might lead to a change of our hearts and minds. Despite what some might like to believe about themselves, NO ONE LIKES CHANGE. The only change any of us really champion is change . . . for other people.

Now I am not sure what we do about all of this other than try and be more consistent. I try to remain diligent in not always discounting everything that any candidates says, nor do I take, at face value, the truth that any candidate claims. I have found that following people on twitter with whom I disagree, while excruciating at times, has been helpful in maintaining perspective. I have also found that Politifacts, especially on twitter, seems to be a very helpful truth-o-meter for campaign claims.

In the end, there are no easy answers and I find strength in the fact that we will always fall short of perfection. But if we can all acknowledge these realities of shared hypocrisy and extend a little grace towards our enemies in these times of battle, maybe we will all see the other side of this election season a little less bruised and battered from the fight.

A small hope for sure, my hope for us all nonetheless.

* I will save this topic for another post, but I am seriously considering a vote for the Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala Green Party Ticket.

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conservations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

Bruce’s Friday Five v9.21

 BOOKS // If you are like me, you are reading more than one book at any given time. Some are for work, others for edification and still others, what I call “brain candy,” for the pure joy of reading.  Here are three books that are are being lugged around in my bag and/or on my kindle these days. If you liked the non-fiction gem, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America then I guarantee that you will devour Erik Larson’s latest book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Holy schmoly, only is it a page-turner with the added bonus that you feel yourself getting all smarter and stuff as you read it.  Next up is one that was recommended to me by a friend and professor at the University of San Francisco, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang, again, get smarter. And if you really want to dive into the hip-hop scene, grab the pricey That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader or give a listen to Blue Scholars’ Cinemetropolis, one of my favorites. And finally, I have been trying to finish my review of T.C. Ryan’s Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey Through Sex Addiction, so I’ll say more about it later, but it’s one of those topics that is simply never talked about; a good one to read.

 The 47% // Okay, I admit it, while I will resist the name-calling and demonizing that is just too easy, after watching the video of Mitt Romney and his comments during a private fundraiser, I for one, do not think that he was pandering or misspeaking. One can argue about whether or not Romney should have said what he said, but I have no doubt that he echoes what many people believe . . . and he has helped to make my choice of Obama or Stein even clearer.  I posted some thoughts on the whole thing, but here is a great post from Rhetoric, Race and Religion [blog | twitter | facebook] and contributor, Rashad Grove, as he muses about a Theology of Privilege. Good stuff.

 GANGNAM STYLE // This week, I REALLY felt out of the pop-culture loop . . . more than usual. Not only was I unfamiliar with most of the songs from this week’s episode of Glee, Britney 2.0, but “Gangnam Style” references were popping up everywhere. Apparently there is this thing called Youtube where people can share movies and this one is a biggie. Thank goodness for Grace Ji-Sun Kim, for dropping a little knowledge for those of us who are out of the know.

THE DEMOCRACY OF INCLUSION // If you are looking for a cool project to support with a few bucks, I just got a note from multimedia journalist and friend, Michael Fagans, about a very cool project that he is working with the Kern Arts Council. From Michael, “One of the reasons that this project resonates with me is that it is a film about and by people with special needs. Rather than document a group of people in our community, the group is turning the camera back on society and talking about and illustrating their experiences with life. All too often people think of special needs children, but no one seems to realize that they grow up to be adults.” This seems like a worthy project, so please like their Facebook Page and, if you feel so called, please join me and donate on Kickstarter.

ONE-LEGGED SOCCER PLAYER // And lastly, from the “If this does not move you, you might just be dead inside” file, here is a 12 second video that made me tear up just a bit. Watch it a few times. Pure awesome. h/t David Lewicki

Five blog highlights since my last Friday Five . . .

  1. Thoughts on Bitter Gun Owners and the Entitled 47%
  2. What the Body of Christ Can Learn from Fantasy Sports
  3. Why This Christian Will Never Own a Gun
  4. A Gift of Perspective in Discerning God’s Call
  5. FREE eBOOK: 54 Leaders Under 50 Share 50+ Ideas to Revitalize Your Congregation

My Friday Five  is a mishmash of weekly-ish happening and people that I find compelling, provoking and/or just plain quirky. If you stumble upon such things over the course of your day, please feel free to pass them along to me via Twitter or Facebook.

Number images are from the Leo Reynolds’ Collection, Creative Commons


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