What’s hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is derived from the Greek word hypokrisis, which meant playing a part on the stage, or putting on a mask to misrepresent reality. In the ancient Greek theater, actors were known as hypocrites, without any negative connotation. Kudos to my people – we did everything right until the rest of the world had to come and mess it all up! Kidding! All joking aside though, in the real world, being a hypocrite was and is definitely viewed as wrong, since it’s a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles that one does not really possess. In matters of religion, I think it's downright evil.
So, what’s my beef with religious hypocrisy? Simply stated, it stinks. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s inappropriate in religious settings. It does more harm than good. Perhaps it’s because I’m a fan of consistency, or perhaps it’s because I think that religious hypocrites are the most dangerous types. Why? The wound genuine religion receives from hypocrites and hypocrisy is far more dangerous and incurable than that inflicted on it by the open and scandalous sinner. The hypocrite lays a stumbling block in the way of others and tempts them to think that all religion is but mockery, and that all believers are but hypocrites.
The classic image of a hypocrite is one of a person who relentlessly pursues his or her own self-interest, and who appears to endorse other-regarding moral principles only as a ruse to further that self-interest. This rational estimation and pursuit of self-interest seems to suggest that hypocrites are also egoists, since they are guilty of allowing self-interest to win out over their altruistic obligations. Hypocrites need not be cynical, isolated, scheming villains – they may be members of a religious community who have been socialized into its ways. As a result, the role that self-interest plays in hypocrisy becomes very complex and subtle. “Do as I said, not as I do.”
When I mentioned in my previous blog post, “Cheers to Her!,” that I was preparing a new writing on religious hypocrisy, I received some e-mails from friends and readers asking if there is a difference between sinners and hypocrites, for as the old saying goes, “All hypocrites are sinners!” TRUE. However, not all sinners are hypocrites! Let me explain while I take out my handy dandy Bible. [Warning! If you aren’t a fan of religious posts, then you should stop reading now and come back when I post a new blog! No hard feelings.] The answer is that while no sin is to be condoned, hypocrisy really is worse. According to the New Testament, Jesus was angered far more by public hypocrisy than by private sin. Consider His warm gospel outreach to tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus welcomed poor sinners. He gladly shared meals with them (Matthew 9:10), and He eagerly responded to the way they acknowledged their sin and came to Him for mercy. But Jesus’ reaction to self-righteous, hypocritical people was beyond scathing. “Woe to you…hypocrites!” He cried (Matthew 23:13). A Christian sinner recognizes his sinful nature, acknowledges it, and repents of it (daily, even hourly), while a hypocrite says one thing, believes another, and at the end of the day doesn’t know nor notice how much harm he/she inflicts. All hypocrites are sinners, but not all sinners are hypocrites.
My favorite biblical passage that addresses hypocrisy is the following:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)
Hey, ultra-fanatical-conservatives, this paragraph is for you! In the past couple weeks, I remember reading an article on how much religious and political organizations have spent in the past year to promote anti-homosexuality. Instead of spending billions on disingenuously denigrating same-gender loving people and spreading intolerance and hate with double standards, I would like to see religious groups spending that money to feed the poor, helping kids develop a healthy sexuality and outlook on the world, helping the sick and those in crises. Because, at the end of the day, there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’; there is no sole saint or sole sinner. So, why do we insist on superciliously discriminating by race, color, creed or sexual orientation when it was the same God that made us all; when we are all part of that one God – no matter what name you call Him by? Aren’t we calling the Creator’s perfection into question when we declare a part of His creation as ‘not good enough’, or ‘flawed’ or ‘intrinsically disordered’? Think about it. There is so much hate towards homosexuality within a specific type of religious conservative; they think it’s okay to belittle, chastise, and mock homosexuals. As Christians, aren’t we taught to love our neighbor? Where is the love?
My opening paragraph mentioned different scenarios that showed hypocrisy; one of those instances was publicly chained with one word: “KARMA.” I don’t believe in karma; I think it’s silly. “Karma’s gonna bite you in the ass!” No, that isn’t quite how life works. This isn't about some sort of metaphysical or mystical register on which the gods keep track of your merit points, it's about the cumulative effect of your actions in determining the conditions of your future -- through ordinary cause and effect in an utterly commonplace, science-compatible way. I do believe, though, that we reap what we sow. Hey facebook friends, check out my “favorite quotes” and you’ll see what is at the core of my beliefs: “A tree is known by its fruit; a man, by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” [Shout-out to St. Basil the Great.]
I believe that if you sow love, you’ll reap love through interactions within friendships and relationships. If you sow mercy, you’ll inspire others to be merciful and perhaps receive mercy during struggles and hardships due to your virtuous example. If you sow friendship and stay with someone through the good, the bad, the ugly, carrying your friend’s burdens, then you’ll reap never-ending friendships not only from your closest friends, but from acquaintances and random strangers who get inspired by your faithfulness in a friend. All these things are precious treasures that we should all strive to have and inherit. If one sows anger and violence, will one reap good things? Probably not. If one pretends to be a good friend yet on the flipside does nothing but chastises, warns, fathoms up lies and stories, then what will this hypocritical person reap? Loneliness….Not only from the affected friend, but from others who hear about these vicious acts. ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ Perhaps one of the most insidious mistakes is to believe that you do not reap what you sow, but what you think you sow, or what you say you sow, or what you wish you had sown, or what you want others to believe you have sown. But realize this: You reap what you actually sow. How ridiculous it would be if a farmer planted a field full of wheat, thinking he was planting carrots. Would he receive carrots instead of wheat merely because he was innocently mistaken, or because he wished he had planted carrots, or because he told his neighbors he had planted carrots? Of course not.
As always, thanks for reading. :) I hope all of you had even half the amazing Thanksgiving that I had! :)