I was recently watching a rock and roll documentary about a band that had short lived success in the early 70’s. One of the things I’ve noticed rock journalists seem to love to focus in on is rock stars with a conservative Christian past.
And in this case, they were interviewing the drummer and sure enough, she described her childhood in which her family were consistent churchgoers and we’re left to fill in the blanks about her rebellious departure from that upbringing.
The reason she gave was, and stop me if you’re heard this before, the people at her Church were all hypocrites. They would talk about loving God and neighbor, but then they would gossip and mistreat each other just like the rest of us, and from that she concluded that the whole thing was a farse.
Now, this raises a question for me: is that a valid objection to draw from that experience, because I’m willing to bet we’ve all heard this same complaint from someone. I’ve heard it or some variation of it from several people who have grown lethargic if not outright hostile towards their former Christian affiliation and adherence.
What I find interesting about this rationale is that it is exclusively invoked in the case of the Church. You might reduce the argument, if you could call it that, to something like this.
A group of people gather to intentionally produce a specific good outcome; in this case a community of love. But the outcome is that they don’t love each other as well as their teachings insist. Therefore, the teachings are false and the community a failure.
Now, imagine if we applied that to other areas of society. People go to the hospital to get well. Not everyone gets well. Some even die. Therefore, going to the hospital is an illogical solution for infirmity.
Or, I went to the Gym to get fit, but when I got there I saw a bunch of people were not fit. In fact, some were the opposite of fit. So I said, what a bunch of hypocrites and hurried back to a lifestyle of idleness.”
Lastly, how about a school. People go to school to become wise, but when they get there they discover that many of their peers are far from knowledgeable or wise. I guess that means education is a scam.
What this actually demonstrates is that we go to Church because we recognize that we aren’t good and we need to receive the grace of God to become so. Just like we go to the gym to get fit because we recognize that we aren’t fit. We go to school to get an education because we aren’t currently educated, and we go to the doctor to get healthy when we aren’t healthy.
Now why is it that this logical sequence is more than obvious to all of us in the case of all of these instances but not when it comes to Church?
One of the reasons that has been explained to me by those resistant to the Church’s message is that the Church and its members should be held to a higher standard than everything else so that when Christians behave scandalously, we can’t help but be scandalized by it.
But if we do hold the Church to a higher standard, doesn’t that concede something? Aren’t we conceding that it is true in a way? If it weren’t, we shouldn’t expect them to be better than they are.
If Christianity is false, why would we expect people devoted to a misleading fairy tale to behave better than secular society? If anything, we should expect them to be far worse than secular society because of their preoccupation with false ideas.
Again, come back to the hospital analogy. If there was a medical treatment center whose treatment methods were based entirely on speculative superstition, you’d expect the patients going in to come out worse or at least no better than they were going in.
The last thing you’d do is hold that particular care center to a higher standard than the others. But, if their patients performed as well as a normal hospital, you’d have to give them some credit. You’d have to indulge the possibility that the apparent superstitions aren’t superstitions at all.
Human history has proceeded long enough that we’ve seen some derelict ideologies come and go and the reason they went was because of how wrong they were.
For example, we’ve seen fascism attempted with dramatic enthusiasm in the 20th century, only to collapse just as dramatically. Communism has enjoyed similar trajectories but with less fanfare so it’s taken longer for everyone to clue in about how problematic it is.
We’ve seen attempts to replace what was the heart Christian Europe with Enlightenment inspired ideals in the French revolutions atheistic cult of reason which was replaced by Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being.
This was expected to be a dramatic improvement upon the evils and injustices of the Catholic Monarchy. But it immediately led to terror, war, and mass murder so unrestrained that even its founders couldn’t protect themselves from it.
For a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire, a civilization, starting from nothing rose and experienced consistent and actual progress for a thousand years.
This civilization was known as Christendom and nothing like it had ever existed before. It’s achievements in law, economics, art, architecture, learning, technology, and military capability exceeded everything that came before it and we’re still coasting on the crest of its influence.
Now if Christianity is based on superstition and erroneous ideals, the way Fascism, Communism, and The Cult of Reason are, how did it manage that level of sustained progress? If those others nearly immediately collapsed under their own weight, why didn’t Christendom. Why did it continue to grow and prosper for so long?
And all these other experiments weren’t starting where Christian civilization did – from the ashes of the Roman Empire. They all started from a position of having inherited everything that Christendom had built at its peak and quickly spoiled the whole thing.
The 19th and 20th centuries can be characterized by endless attempts to replace Christendom with some idealized superior ideology. What we got was the concept of total war, countless genocides, two world wars, and more death and chaos than had ever been recorded in human history.
So anyway, yes, there are hypocrites in the Church and I’m one of them. That’s why I seek its healing embrace. There are hypocrites everywhere else too, the difference is, Christians admit to being flawed and hypocritical and seek a remedy for it.