Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hypocrite!

We can hardly go a few days without the news broadcasting some scandal about how someone was publically against something, but then were found to be doing the same act in private. All of us are familiar with the word hypocrite, but there are a few strange peculiarities about the concept that I think are interesting.

I don’t remember where I saw someone point this out recently, but the author was saying that the word hypocrite has been hijacked. Before looking up the definition, my initial understanding of the word was that someone acted hypocritically when they claimed to do/think/believe one thing, but then did the exact opposite. The article I read pointed out that the word has been strangely limited in scope. If some weight-loss guru suddenly went through something and gained a bunch of weight, we wouldn’t call them a hypocrite, would we? It seems like the only time this term is brought out is when it is applied to politicians or religious leaders, on issues of morality. This smelled a bit fishy to me, so I went to the dictionary.

The word hypocrite, as defined by Webster, is as follows:

hyp·o·crite

noun \ˈhi-pə-ˌkrit\

: a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs

Full Definition of HYPOCRITE

1:  a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion

2:  a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

— hypocrite adjective

I found this to be rather interesting, if a bit convenient. By convenient, I mean that you hear all the time that people don’t want to be a Christian or go to church because of all the hypocrisy. It’s convenient because you can only seem to apply the term to religious/moral people. Perhaps, then, my earlier thought about the weight-loss guru might not be proper to use after all. But wait a second, is there more to this? A word that is designed to flare up the emotions, so that there is a “reason” for not doing something? Something that can apply only to morals, religion, virtue, or belief, but not to our bodies? Sounds an awful lot like Schaeffer’s two-stories, doesn’t it? However, there is an even stranger issue about the word, given it’s spectrum of applicability and the culture we currently have.

In an age of relative morality and truth, the charge of hypocrisy should have no weight to it. If we call someone a hypocrite, we are claiming to have the moral high ground to do so, and to say that what they are doing is wrong, and that something (probably the opposite thing) is the right thing to do. But in order to do all that, there needs to be some sort of objective moral standard, the like of which requires us to do certain things and not others. It would not only have to be objective, but it would also have to be binding on us, so that there are certain things we should or should not do. However, to have an objective moral standard or law that requires that we have certain duties would require a lawgiver. We don’t want to think about Who that lawgiver might be, so we came up with the idea of relative truth and morality to shelter us, as Schaeffer would say, from the truth of God.

This is one of the many examples of how secular beliefs betray the people who hold to them. Paul understood this when he was writing his letter to the Romans. He wrote that “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:14-16).

Without an objective, moral standard, the charge of hypocrisy should only be a statement of fact, without any negative connotations attached to it. Obviously, nobody lives like this, and that’s actually a good thing. We all intuitively know that objective moral values and duties exist, and should be acted upon, for the betterment of ourselves as individuals, and society as a whole. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were doing horrible things to people, and Jesus knew that, and took more than one occasion to call them to task for their behavior. The particularly relevant time is recorded in Matthew 23:13-36, where He pronounces woes (prophetic proclamations of judgment) on them. In the passage, He calls them hypocrites or full of hypocrisy 7 times. Not only does He merely call them that, but He also justifies His doing so by pointing to their actions and tells them what will come to them if they continue on their present path.

This is an example of practical apologetics. How we can take a very common phrase, and think through it, back to the necessity of God. Also, we can talk through how the objective moral system that Christianity provides is also good for society, as it provides the foundation for justice etc. Hopefully this will be helpful to you.

SDG

The World I See

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There’s a scene in the movie Fight Club, where Edward Norton’s character is recuperating and Brad Pitt’s character gives him a short “pep talk” about the world he sees (in the future sense). While there’s a ton to say about Fight Club, the main point of connection I want to make is the fact that Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, sees the world very differently from most people. I feel like I can relate to this aspect, because it seems like I see the world very differently from most people, also. Obviously, I have a very small circle of reference in terms of people to compare, but I think you’ll see what I mean as I try to explain some of the things that I see in the world around me.

One of the main things I see is a palpable sense of confusion. My generation is lost/directionless, and we’re starting to realize that. We try to placate these feelings with articles that say things like “when you’re younger, you think grown-ups have it right, but when you grow up, you realize that nobody knows what they’re doing.” The problem with these articles is that it’s simply not true. There are people, perhaps even a great number of them, who know exactly what they’re doing in life. Let that sink in. This is actually a good thing, and isn’t necessarily them just being arrogant or narrow-minded.

We don’t really like talking about ourselves, at least not our weaknesses, and especially to people who wouldn’t immediately be able to relate. Instead of taking the time to phrase our uniqueness in such a way that people different from us would be able to understand or empathize with, we let snarky or satirical articles do the work for us. Don’t believe me? How many times have you seen articles on your various social media outlets that have the title of “___ things that only ___ will understand”? What is the meaning behind these articles? In one way, I hear that what they are basically echo chambers, or a means of being reassured that you aren’t the only one that ___. But if that’s all they were, emotional buttresses, we would simply read them and get the “feels”, and move on, but we don’t. Instead of that, we share them for all our friends and family to see. Why do we do that? I think it’s just what I said above, a sort of impersonal “here’s me!” set of points that be put out there at a relatively low cost to us, while still getting vague things about us to others. Why would someone bother taking the time and effort, and possible hurt, to explain their various social anxieties and how they view other people, and their need to be alone, when instead they can simply share an article about 9 things you need to know about introverts? We don’t want to take the time to read any of Carl Jung’s or even Briggs/Myer’s research, to understand the point or foundation of their tests, but we’ll dang near live by the cheap, 15 question, internet representations of said research.

Another interesting sign of the confusion of my generation is the number of bizarre things we dabble in. We’re still not too fond of “organized religion” or Christianity in particular (in my American-centric experience), but we’ll try just about any sort of “spiritualism” that comes down the pipe. This includes anything from the ignorant phrase of “Native American spirituality”, to tarot cards, a misunderstanding of any and all eastern religions (we’ll just leave aside their organized nature), all the way to the supposedly mystical power of positive thinking. Now that things have been separated into two stories, anything is up for grabs in the realm of possibly “true”. Don’t believe me? How many times have you seen someone on social media (does anyone say this in person?) request for positive vibes to be sent their way? Even leaving aside things like yoga, the idea is that positive vibes, or good thoughts, or whatever, is just as valid as prayer. Having a discussion of each of these things, comparing and contrasting their epistemological foundations, would just be narrow-minded, hard, and probably also regressive and bigoted, somehow. Since truth is relative, and the two story divide is firmly in place, who am I to suggest that all these forms of spiritualism are different, and that one might be better than another?

Unfortunately, we don’t have the foundational support of a solid worldview. We claim to be Taoist, without ever reading the Tao Te Ching. We claim to be Atheist, without thinking beyond “god doesn’t exist”. We claim to be Christian, without reading the Bible, or ever bothering to understand how that applies to life, or reading any Christian author much older than we are. We quickly run to bulverism, without thinking of the alternatives. The Modern Thinker’s Creed by Steve Turner is still the best summation, in poem form, of the way we think. Mix in an unhealthy dose of apathy, and that’s a spicy meat-a ball. The confusion of all this, mixed with a general ignorance of philosophy, politics, and theology, as well as the washout from the self-esteem movement seems to all be coming to a head. Perhaps it is merely a collective quarter-life crisis, but it seems more like pandemic life burnout. I think there will come a time in the not so distant future that many people will be desperate to latch onto something solid in a world that has seemingly become increasingly chaotic. My prediction is that at some point, Islam will be in America in a big way (perhaps something like Dearborn’s Arab festival, on a large scale) and many people will convert (however sincerely) because in the raging torrent of confusion, Islam will appear to be a solid foundation. Islam may be a fist, but at least that fist is made of iron. 

Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe I am thinking too much, and thinking wrongly, about the things I see. This is only a small area, and I am prone to both cynicism and error. If I’m not, what is there to do about it? To be honest, the whole thing seems overwhelming to me at times. Say I’m right. What can 1 guy do? I don’t have much of a platform, any relevant degrees, or experience in dealing with these sorts of things. The good news is that I (nor you) don’t have to try and start from myself and figure everything out on my own. The Christian worldview has the tools to both understand the human condition, and the solution for its ails. The gospel of Christ is at once both blessedly simple, and yet incredibly profound and deep in a way that is helpful to all of life. Christ is Lord over all of life, and is sovereign over all of creation.

This means that as Christians, we need to do the heavy lifting of understanding and reading the Bible. We need to know how Scripture speaks to life’s multi-faceted conundrums. In this information age, we have the benefit of thousands of years of material from faithful Christian men and women, who have thought through many of these same issues. To borrow a Biblical phrase, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This is hard work, but doing this work is one of the ways we love our neighbors as ourselves.

Continue to fight the fight, run the race, and keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7), and know that the God who will never leave nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5) is the same God who is in you, both to will and to work, for His good pleasure (Phili. 2:13).

SDG