Owning Our Hypocrisy

I'm not here to write about the news that has broken recently about the Duggar family. I have thoughts and opinions about it including a blog I want to write entitled "For the Love of All That is Good and Holy Stop Rushing to Defend the Duggar Family" and other more strongly worded titles. But I have been thinking a good bit about the response to this scandal from those outside the church and the corresponding counter-response from some Christians, which has kind of gone like this:

Outside: Christians are such hypocrites.

Some Christians: You're hypocrites! Lena Dunham, Honey Boo-Boo, and some stuff.

Granted some of the counter-responses have been more thoughtful than that but the gist remains. A popular response to criticism is always to throw the failings of the critic back in his or her face. To put a weird twist on a saying of Jesus, it is saying there is a redwood in our brother's eye when we can't see for the log in our own.

I understand this impulse. Christianity is not doing great in the PR department. Thus when a prominent Christian falters we worry about how it reflects on Christianity as a whole (God help us that the stars of a reality TV show represent Christianity as a whole but that's another story for another time). As a result, people sometimes go on the defensive. They try to spin the failure or redirect the issue to be about the actual, more egregious failings of those outside the church.

But I have another idea for how Christians can counter this. It's kind of risky. It's not going to be fun, but I think it's what we're supposed to do.

Outside: Christians are such hypocrites.

Christians: Yeah. We are.

Because it's true. We are hypocrites. We espouse a certain lifestyle or standard that we do not live up to. Over the course of my life, I have dealt with being judgmental, struggled with looking at pornography, been apathetic, have lied, not cared as much about those in need as my words would make you think, and a dirty laundry list of other things that run completely counter to the faith that I have claimed since I was seven years old. I am a hypocrite. We all are. One of the main points of Christianity is that we need God's grace because we are such screwed up people.

Rather than fighting and denying everything that makes us look bad, the church would do well to own its hypocrisy. I am not saying that it would completely change the world's opinion of the Christian faith, but I think it would do better than stubbornly clinging to a fantasy moral high ground.

Of course, admitting our hypocrisy means nothing if we do not seek repentance and change. If we say we are hypocrites yet do not seek to transform ourselves, protect those we are hurt, and hold accountable those who hurt others then, well, we are terrible people. Honest people, but monsters nonetheless. Again, that's why we shouldn't justify or diminish it when someone within the church falters. Yes, forgiveness is important and we are called to love mercy. Yet we are also called to seek justice as we walk humbly with God.

So the next time a Christian is revealed to have done something terrible and the world calls us hypocrites, I think we should be honest. We are hypocrites and we are sorry. That failure is inexcusable. Yet by God's grace, we are working to change. That transformation may be slow, but we think that if we humbly seek God, then that change will be real. It's time for us to own our hypocrisy, because if we don't then we cannot move past it.

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