Holier than Thou: The Scourge of Religious Hypocrisy

I am sick to death of religious hypocrisy. It’s a widespread, ever-burgeoning malady that infects our relationships, communities, institutions, politics, and even our families.

I first experienced this ungodly paradox while attending a parochial elementary school in the Midwest. A cadre of old ladies, mostly widows I assume, were regulars at daily Mass. And without fail, this group of lonely, bored biddies would gather in front of the church after Mass and gab. They’d gossip about other parishioners, neighbors, even the priest himself, using language that was judgmental, meanspirited, and cruel… right there at the front steps of the churchfrom which they had just emerged.

The pre-pubescent me couldn’t understand this phenomenon then, nor can the adult me understand it now. Yet this same scene repeats itself over and over with women and men of all denominations in every part of the country. When my kids were in school, the actors were different but the hypocrisy the same. Parents acted holier than Thou all the while judging the shit out of everybody.

Today I live in the South, where religious zealotry flourishes. It seems like every other institution, school, or business includes the word, “Christian.” There are legions of private “Christian” secondary schools and universities. There are “Christian” authors and bookstores, “Christian” musical artists and concerts, “Christian” singles, “Christian” residential complexes, “Christian” media companies, and even “Christian” psychotherapists. Does that mean they won’t counsel Jews?

A friend of mine was told in order to be extended a job offer at a private “Christian” university, she would have to join its affiliated church as a condition of employment. Likewise, another acquaintance received an automatic rejection to his job application because he wasn’t a member of a church sanctioned by the company at which he had applied. It took a mere five minutes for him to receive a rejection email from the company’s In-human Resources Department. Sounds like religious discrimination to me.

And now Christianity is even being used as a business development tool. Somebody I know took his car to a repair shop named “Christian” something. Well, these good “Christians” charged him an arm and a leg and never did fix the problem. They use the word “Christian” as a marketing gimmick to attract the many God-fearing, church-going people in this Southern community. I don’t doubt the owners of this shop go to church, but invoking the name of Christ to attract business is certainly disingenuous if not sacrilegious.

And, we can’t forget politics, a ripe breeding ground for hypocrisy. A wealthy Nashville businessman who ran for Governor of Tennessee touted his Christian faith first and foremost in his campaign ads. Will someone please tell me how being “a good Christian man of faith” qualifies him to be governor? But I guess you can’t argue with success. He won. I don’t doubt his sincerity, but he knew exactly what he was doing, riding those “Christian” coattails to get elected.

Have you ever heard the term, “separation of church and state?” The first amendment to the constitution states unequivocally that the government must maintain neutrality with regard to religion. In other words, religion is off limits in City Hall, the Statehouse, the Capitol, and the White House. But is it really?

And, NO, God did NOT want Donald Trump to be President of the United States. What an insane notion Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, and other lunatics have professed. The very utterance is blasphemous!

I believe God loves us and wants what’s best for us. So why would he have us endure this Donald Trump shitstorm? A cruel joke? A comeuppance? No, that’s not the way he works.

Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty pushed back at such nonsense when she told Politico, “People of faith know that God is much larger than any one candidate, party, election or country.”

Even Trump supporter Jerry Falwell Jr. dismissed this illogical thinking. “I don’t think you can say that God gives us good leaders,” he said. “What do you do when you get a bad one, say, ‘God messed up’? That’s silly.”

Yet Falwell, the moral compass of Liberty University, has said the country should toss out the twenty-second amendment to the constitution: “Trump should have 2 years added to his 1st term as payback for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.” (Mueller investigation I presume.)

Meanwhile, another famous mega-preacher’s son, Franklin Graham has called for a special day of prayer for Trump: “President Trump’s enemies continue to try everything to destroy him, his family, and the presidency. In the history of our country, no president has been attacked as he has. I believe the only hope for him, and this nation, is God.”

I will support and even embrace a day of prayer. But, the prayer should ask God to give the citizens of our country strength to survive the Trump presidency and the legion of sycophants who have abandoned their values to follow him like lost puppy dogs.

Can someone explain to me why all of these evangelical right-wing Christians continue to provide dutiful support to a selfish narcissist? He is a congenital liar, cheat, thief, bully, racist, and misogynist. His myriad misdeeds and hateful rhetoric are well documented and yet, the man hasn’t offered up one iota of remorse. He’s blatantly unrepentant. He continues to say and do the same things over and over again — because he gets away with it and hasn’t experienced any consequences — yet.

So, why do so many self-described Christians give Donald Trump a free pass? If Barrack Obama had acted this way they’d be condemning him to death. Remember Bill Clinton? So, why the double standard? Our values are our values, period. We can’t pick and choose who they pertain to. They apply to all people, every day. If they don’t, they aren’t values.

Tim Farron wrote recently in The Guardian, “In his private life the president has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the dignity of others, an utter contempt for equality, and far more concern for his own rights and reputation than the wellbeing and care of others. The politicization and tribalism of Christianity is dangerous and, in the case of Trump, stands in direct opposition to the values of the savior who Christians seek to follow. One who gave up his rights to save others rather than trampling on the rights of others to promote himself.”

Here, here!

And Trump doesn’t stand alone on Mount Narcisse. He’s joined there by so many obscenely wealthy “men of God,” who unashamedly rejoice in their multi-million-dollar vacation homes, Lear jets, and off-shore bank accounts. Televangelist Mike Murdock bragged to his congregation about paying cash for a pair of Cessna Citation luxury jets. From the pulpit, Murdock proclaimed, “Act happy over my blessing, folks.”

Are you serious? Why on earth do church members foot the bill for such extravagance? Why do they enable omnipotence in their leaders? I guess they rationalize. They might even find some justification by taking a Bible passage out of context.

Many of these holier than Thou Christians can recite scripture at the drop of a hat. What they can’t do is talk about their real human emotions. They lack empathy and can’t coax themselves to peer out somebody else’s window. They don’t understand the circumstances or true meaning of these scripture verses. Quoting Gospel is an avoidant crutch that allows people to avert their eyes from seeing the truth. Why? Because the truth can be uncomfortable, scary, hard to swallow, and difficult to comprehend.

Merriam Webster defines Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Well, okay. Christ never lied, cheated, bullied, hated, or bragged. He loved all people. He sacrificed for others. So, people who loudly and gleefully flaunt their Christianity should really understand the namesake of their faith and act accordingly.

Indian philosopher Bara Dada said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.” Sadly, that statement rings true for so many un-Christlike Christians. War, murder, and mayhem in the name of God? I think not.

God made each and every one of us exactly the way we are. He made us unique individuals, complete with an astonishing array of gifts and yes, flaws too. It’s always been up to each of us to recognize and develop those gifts and mitigate the flaws. And in spite of our imperfections, God and Christ love us anyway. All of us. All colors, creeds, faiths, genders, sexual orientations, occupations, and socioeconomic classes. He even loves immigrants who come from “shit-hole countries.”

Surely, we all know this. Maybe we get so caught up in material wealth, competitiveness, anger, politics, and sanctimony that we forget the essence of our faith. We lose our way. But this is a problem we can solve simply and easily. Just resolve here and now to put “Christ” back in “Christian?”

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