So, today we’re going to talk about one of the things that most pisses me off in religious circles: Hypocrisy.
I got into it a bit recently with another blogger about how he “wondered about the souls” of people who would vote for Barack Obama, particularly if they knew he had been against a bill that would have guaranteed medical care for fetuses that survived the process of late-term abortions. What got me mad wasn’t that he was troubled by the practice of late-term abortions (which are pretty freaking rare, by the way)…because frankly, I’m not really a big fan of abortion either, though I stand by a woman’s right to choose. I wasn’t troubled that he thought this particular decision by Obama was perhaps morally wrong. I wasn’t even bothered that much by the fact he is firmly in that McCain-Palin is good and their opponents are evil camp, because I expected it.
What cheesed me off was when I point out to him that plenty of right-leaning politicians have made decisions related to the environment that allow toxic crap to be spewed out and cause all sort of health-related harm, included lethal cancers in children and their families, and in larger numbers than are affected by late-term abortions. He basically brushed me off with a comment that environmental controls are bullshit and I was being a fearmonger about bringing up fantasy scenarios about the environment while ignoring the plight of the unborn.
That pisses me off because I wasn’t ignoring the plight of the unborn but pointing out that all politicians have stains, and many of them have at least one pretty severe stain (if not many) in their pasts. I was pointing out that it’s easy to focus on an issue you feel close to and ignore the fact that people you support have done things equally harmful in areas you don’t consider valid. I was pointing to hypocrisy.
And the hypocrisy point was reinforced for me today at church when my pastor preached from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, verses 1-12:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
What really got me about that passage from Matthew was this part:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
In other words, do as they say, but for God’s sake, do not do what they are doing.
It is interesting, because it is so close to that comment so many of us have gotten from our parents and/or say to our own children: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
That’s an important sentiment. It is not, however, a hypocritical one in many cases. It is a often recognition by the person saying it that they know they are doing wrong, and they want the person they are chastising to be a better person. There is a lot of positive value to that.
Likewise, when Jesus told his disciples and others gathered around him to listen to the words of the Pharisees and scribes, but not to emulate them, he was giving good advice. The Jewish church was teaching things according to God’s will, and those teaching were valuable. But at the same time, many of the priests and others in the temples and synagogues were dirty and sinful to the extreme. They were full of themselves and not full of the spirit of God.
How does that apply today? For you? Simple: There’s a good chance that what folks might tell you from the pulpit or sometimes even from religious blogs has at least a kernel of truth or goodness to it, but try to focus on the real message and on the Word of God, and not on the person giving you the message.
The blogger I argued with was right that we should question Obama’s judgment and motives on that legislative decision. But where he was wrong was to suggest that somehow supporting Obama (especially if you knew about that decision) was something that put your salvation in jeopardy. Hell, it wasn’t even appropriate for him to suggest that Obama was evil for that one decision. That blogger had an agenda, and a perfectly good respectable message about considering the sanctity of life was utterly corrupted as he carried out an agenda instead of trying to raise awareness.
In churches, preachers sometimes preach from their own motivations and beliefs and let that cloud their sermons. They also might act in ways that are counter to what they preach. That doesn’t mean what they have preached is wrong. But it might be skewed. It is incumbent upon us to be in the Word of God ourselves, and to use our brains, to sort out the message from the messenger.
Because the words given to us by those who are in religious circles might be good ones, but the people themselves might be hypocrites. And the worst hypocrites sometimes twist those good words to foul purposes.
Don’t be led by men. Be led by prayer, by the Word of God, by Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. You may still get it wrong or misinterpret or misstep, but at least when you do, it will have been because you made a mistake or got lax. But if you just let people force-feed you your dogma, and don’t ever question the value of the source, you are letting God down. Connect to Heaven, not to earthly agendas. Get in touch with your soul, and not other people’s prejudices.