Duplicity

So, I’ve started writing a novel . . .

How I Killed Nietzsche & Became the New Übermensch

great awakening

The congregation raved about his eloquent homilies, his intellect, his moral fortitude, his perfect family . . . I remember their words as if it were yesterday:  “Just look at how well he manages his household. His children are so perfectly behaved!”

“Oh what a blessing it must be to have a minister for a father!”

“That man is a prophet.  You hear me boy?  A genuine prophet!”

How pathetic and blind they were.  They couldn’t see through his disguise, they couldn’t feel the truth as I did when he went into a rage.  My father, the great prophet . . . the great lie.  Let me tell you about his righteousness.

At church he could maintain the facade, he could preach about the judgement and fire of a holy God, he could pat the children on their heads and smile, he could quote you an encouraging scripture, he could…

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Hypocrisy, Stupidity, Dishonesty, Ignorance, and Evil in the Bible

noah-drunk One reason I find Christianity believable is the hypocrisy, stupidity, dishonesty, ignorance, and evil in the Bible.

Take, for instance, those remarkable individuals who made it into the spiritual “hall-of-fame” in Hebrews 11:4-38.  A list of some of the most important saints who ever lived; individuals God worked through to accomplish incredible things; individuals whose lives were built on faith.  Yet, every one of them were hypocrites–that is, their lives did not always match up to the values they cherished most.

Consider Noah, one of the only men to remain faithful to God in his lifetime–“humanities last hope”.  After the flood, whilst in the primordial stages of building a new civilization, he gets wasted and exposes himself to his sons (Genesis 9:20-23).  Or take Abraham, for example, who, out of fear, led a king to believe his wife was actually his sister; thus allowing the king to take his wife into his harem (see Genesis 20).  And who can forget King David who lusted after a married woman, committed adultery, then had her husband killed so as to take her hand in marriage (see 2 Samuel 11)?  This is only a sample of the hypocrisy, stupidity, ignorance, and evil in the Bible. There’s so much more.

The Bible is simply filled with greedy, selfish, double-crossing, murderous, people (many of whom are the saints).  In one moment they are the epitome of virtue; demonstrating unwavering trust in God.  In the next, they are fearful, doubtful, conniving, lying, stealing, cheating, coveting, misfits.

The Bible is a remarkably authentic book.  It doesn’t seek to hide or distort the reality of life.  Namely, the reality that everyone is inconsistent; everyone fails; everyone gives way to anger, fear, envy or lust; everyone is a hypocrite.

From the biblical framework, even the most extreme nihilist, who rejects objective values completely, is a hypocrite.  Nietzsche, for example, was a hypocrite.  He exercised his will-to-power to create his own values; but failed to live up to his own standards.  We all fail to live up to the values we cherish most; we all fail to live consistently.

The Bible doesn’t overlook this aspect of human nature.  It doesn’t try to hide it or pretend that life is clean, or pretty, or harmonious–it doesn’t pretend that everyone gets a fairytale ending.  The saints are not depicted like Joel Osteen.  This is why I find it so convincing. The biblical authors could have easily overlooked the embarrassments and failures of the saints in order to create a more pristine and tidy view of the past; but they didn’t.  Instead they were honest and objective.

In so doing, the Bible teaches two things: (1)that the problem of evil is intractably human and (2) that we are in dire need of help.  Irrespective of one’s culture or nationality or race or gender or ideology anyone can be evil and everyone, at some point or another, is.  We are all imperfect and limited and, thus, unable to save ourselves from this awful mess.

For this reason, I find it odd that so many people leave Christianity on the basis of hypocrisy.  Christians, like everyone else, are inconsistent, imperfect, and prone to make major mistakes.  In fact, this is one of the core messages of the Gospel: that we are sick, that we are broken, that we need help, and that we can’t solve the problem on our own.

The Church, like a hospital, is a place for those who are spiritually sick to be made well (not a consortium of already perfected people).  We are not surprised to find unhealthy people in a hospital; neither should we be surprised to find unhealthy people in the Church.

What is surprising, however, is when we encounter someone truly pure, innocent, honest, trustworthy, and loving.  People of this sort do exist, but are very rare; and our reaction to such people is complex and more often than not negative (see Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot for an exploration of this).

Our hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of other’s makes us cold and cynical–we are suspicious and doubt the sincerity of sanctitude.  In fact, due to our pride, we usually lash out at such individuals.  Or, at least, over scrutinize their lives and hold them to such high standards that the slightest lapse causes us to throw our hands in the air and proclaim, “I knew  it! I knew he was bluffing!” (sorry for the shameless Princess Bride allusion). We then use their apparent failure to justify our “doubts” about Christianity and play the hypocrisy card.

Yet again, I say, this is odd. Like the saints in the Bible, the saints living in the Church are merely broken people in dire need of help. This help is what theologians call God’s grace.  The failures of others are meant to remind us of our own fragility, and hypocrisy, and draw us closer to the God who can repair our damaged souls.

So, what’s the conclusion of this meandering post?  It is this: If authenticity is part of the litmus test of truth then the Bible passes with flying colors! . . . and this: If you’ve read and thought deeply about the Bible, you won’t be surprised when you find hypocrisy, stupidity, ignorance, and evil in the Church.

Christians Are Like Drunken Idiots

A drunk driver drove off the road and landed in a ditch about ten feet from my neighbors house last night.  Several minutes after the wreck his vehicle erupted in flames and our hero barely made it out before getting any serious burns . . . All of this excitement took place a couple of minutes before I arrived home.  As I got out of my car, I couldn’t help but notice the enormous flames lighting up the night sky from the church parking-lot (we live in the parsonage).  Upon closer inspection, it became clear that this was not a bonfire.  I immediately called 911 and alerted the local fire department who had, thankfully, already been dispatched.  Within five minutes the volunteer fire department, an ambulance, and a couple of sheriffs pulled up and began to contain the fire and assess the drivers wounds.

As I stood watching all of this I suddenly noticed a group of guys across the street filming the event with their iPhones.  Out of curiosity, I wandered over to their side of the road and struck up a conversation.  Before long, I realized the entire group was drunk out of their minds.  The gentleman recording the event was especially hammered.  I asked him if he had witnessed the accident?  In his, rather comical, state of inebriation, he was elated to recount the nights events with excitement and gusto.  His concluding remark (which he shouted while standing next to his truck) was perhaps the best part of his vivid account: “Annnnnd dis is why you sh-should NEVER EVER . . . DRINK and DRIVE!”

It took everything in me not to burst out laughing.  The expression on my face must have given this fact away because a minute after this exclamation he looked at me and said, “Well . . . I-I mean, I’ve been drinken tonight . . . but I’m on f—n eight acres of land . . . ya know?”

I think Christians are often a lot like my drunk iPhone videographer friend.  We stand on the side lines, guilty of all manor of sin, and chastise others for their mistakes.  This is why so many people think Christianity is a joke.  This is why they don’t take anything we say seriously . . . we seem just as absurd and hypocritical as a drunken fool lecturing on and on about not drinking and driving; or like someone with a plank in their eye trying to remove the speck from their neighbors.

Jesus teaches that we should be careful not to judge — i.e. look down in condescension upon — others.  He says:

“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”  (Matt. 7:1-2).  

Ironically, Christians are some of the most judgmental people on the planet.  We rail on and on about traditional marriage and sexual ethics and yet, statistically, there is no difference in our rate of divorce or in the number of men and women watching pornography or having affairs, than with the rest of society.  The pastor of a mega church teaches that homosexuality is an abomination and is caught paying for gay prostitutes at a seedy hotel.  Another pastor preaches passionately about good stewardship while absconding with church funds.  One could go on and on explicating example after example . . .

The problem is, in our fervent desire to proclaim God’s law, we have forgotten one of Christ’s most profound teachings:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:3-7).

Humility should be the default attitude of the true follower of Christ.  For it is only when we are “poor in spirit” and when we “mourn” and when we are “meek” that we can recognize our own failures and limitations as a fallen human beings.  It is only then that we are able to understand that we, like everyone, are in desperate need of a savior.  It is only when we look at the other drunk drivers with pity and brokenness of heart that we are able to obtain mercy and forgiveness for our sins.

When we look upon others with pity and meekness of heart – when we recognize our own failures and our own finite nature – we are then and only then in a position to stop looking like drunken idiots and start looking like Christ.