Why the church is full of hypocrites

I’ve been a Christian for about 20 years. The number one thing I’m tired of hearing?

“Christians! What a bunch of hypocrites!”

When I hear this or read it in a dreaded Internet comment, I want to raise both fists in exasperation and say, “Exactly!”

Because here’s the thing, smug Internet commenters: Christians are hypocrites. I know I sure am.

My dad directs food services at a hospital. On surveys, over and over, people would insist on “more healthy options” in the hospital cafeteria.

That is, until the hospital took Mexican haystacks off the menu. In case you don’t know, a Mexican haystack is a pile of Fritos covered in chili and nacho cheese (to be clear, it’s not a healthy option). There was basically a riot.

People are walking contradictions. We say one thing, we do another. We applaud a plus-size model one day and fat-shame someone in the name of health the next. We talk big about equality but make sure our own children get a leg up. We exalt tolerance while denying grace to whoever left their dirty mug in the lunch room sink.

There are only two ways to avoid hypocrisy: be perfect, or claim absolutely no standards for the thoughts or behaviour of yourself or others. I have yet to meet someone who has pulled off either one.

Christians, as it happens, are exclusively people — and therefore the dirty hypocrites we’re accused of being. We seek to be like Christ, but we make choices that are far from His example. I speak often of the importance of reaching my community, but I cannot for the life of me remember my next door neighbor’s name. I store up treasures on my wish list at about the same rate as I store them up in heaven.

I, like all Christians, like all people, am totally incapable of doing all the things I intend to do. I am totally incapable of living perfectly. I am totally incapable of being Jesus. Only Jesus could be that — and that’s why I so desperately need Him, and why I’m a Christian in the first place.

To be sure, there are dangerous forms hypocrisy found in many churches that deserve a healthy critique: false positivity in the face of life’s complexities, manufactured perfection that comes from pride, legalism masquerading as righteousness, or an unwillingness to acknowledge doubt are all unfortunately found (and sometimes fostered) in church settings. And there are certainly people in churches who see themselves more as the saviour than the saved.

These are problems that need addressing, but I’m weary of the insinuation that Christians are somehow cursed with something beyond standard human nature. Yeah, we’re hypocrites. But at least we’re in rehab for it.

As Christians, let’s not be defensive, but own up to our hypocrisy, humbly acknowledging our desperate need for help.

My suggestion: the next time someone says, “Christians are the worst hypocrites,” just smile and say, “You nailed it!”

Photo (Flickr CC) by David Butcher.