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The Disconnect Between what Christians Say and How They Live

christian hypocrisy

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Several years ago, Chikirin asked:

Jesus said that if someone asks for your coat, to give them your cloak as well. Shouldn’t Christians therefore not only cater gay weddings, but cater gay birthdays as well? Why are Christians so stinting and stingy when Jesus said to give without thought of reward? Why are Christians always outraged when they are supposed to have peace and meekness?

The short version of this question is this: why are many Christians hypocrites?

Evangelicals frequently demand that everyone live according to their interpretation of the Bible. Evangelicals believe that morality is derived from the teachings of the Bible — God’s absolute standard for behavior. Pastors spend significant amounts of time preaching sermons on living the Christian life, reminding parishioners of what God expects of them. Despite all the preaching, videos, books, and conferences on living the Christian life, Evangelicals are unable to live according to the teachings of the Bible.

In Galatians 5:22,23, the Bible says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

How many professing Christians do you know whose lives demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit? Supposedly, Evangelicals have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), and the Holy Spirit lives inside of them (1 Corinthians 3:16), teaching them everything necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Yet, there is no difference between the way Evangelicals and the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world live their lives. Why is this?

Christian apologists will likely say that many “Christians” are not True Christians®; that they have a cultural form of Christianity. When pressed to give a clear statement of what a true Christian life looks like, most apologists quickly appeal to “grace” or suggest that every Christian is a work in progress. Sometimes, apologists say non-believers are hypocrites for demanding Christians live according to the teachings of the Bible when they themselves are not willing to do so. However, it is Evangelicals who claim the high moral ground, and in doing so, they shouldn’t be surprised when non-Christians expect them to practice what they preach.

How many Christians do you know who live according to Galatians 5:22,23 and Matthew 5-7, the sermon on the mount? I suspect you’ll have a hard time coming up with anyone who actually lives their life according to these two passages of Scripture.

How about pastors? In 1 Timothy 3, Paul gives the qualifications for being a pastor. Note that he says a pastor (bishop/elder) MUST be, not hope or aspire to be:

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be

  • blameless,
  • the husband of one wife,
  • vigilant,
  • sober,
  • of good behavior,
  • given to hospitality,
  • apt to teach;
  • not given to wine,
  • no striker,
  • not greedy of filthy lucre;
  • but patient,
  • not a brawler,
  • not covetous;
  • one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;  (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
  • Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
  • Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Do you know of ONE pastor who meets these qualifications? I certainly didn’t when I was a pastor, and neither did any of my fellow pastors.

Now, to answer Chikirin’s question. Christians are human just like the rest of us. They are capable of doing good and bad, and on most days their lives are an admixture of good, bad, and indifferent behavior. They are not morally/ethically superior, regardless of what their pastors, churches, and Bible tells them. They are, in every way, h-u-m-a-n. When the news reports stories of Christian malfeasance, infidelity and criminal behavior, we should not be surprised. Humans can, and do, fail morally and ethically. None of us is without fault and failure.

Christianity would be better served if believers dismounted the moral high horse, returned it to the barn, and joined the human race. As long as they continue to think they are morally superior and demand others live according to the moral teachings of the Bible, they should expect to be mocked and ridiculed when they fall off the horse.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Daniel Wilcox

    Some excellent points. One of your best posts in my opinion.

    I agree that most, probably all, members of the Christian religion don’t live up to its ideals of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,” etc.
    And as you explain, it is very frustrating that often Evangelical leaders seem to go out of their way to behave exactly the opposite.

    And I am glad that some non-religious people seek to live according to such humanistic ethics.

    Probably the most difficult ones for me have been patience and joy.

    What troubles me the most though (as much as all the Christian hypocrisy) is how many people vocally reject many of those ethical standards, even claim they aren’t true:-(

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      Daniel Wilcox said: …What troubles me the most though (as much as all the Christian hypocrisy) is how many people vocally reject many of those ethical standards, even claim they aren’t true:-(

      Well, Daniel some are not true. For instance the bullshit about a man ruling over his own house and children as subjects. Disrespectful patriarchal nonsense.
      And blameless means to me that this person is hardly human. None of us is blameless in a life. We all carry responsibility for our actions. To be blameless is to be a king with no clothes, to be wrongly idloized.
      Why on earth would you wish for the malarchy of patriarchal rule to continue and why do you wish to fantasize that someone worthy of responsibility among others be blameless?
      Perhaps I am too harsh in taking on these brittle old texts but it saddens me to hear scripture plopped down as if it was worthy of belief when it is full of obscenity.
      And Bruce, I disagree with your conclusion to a very powerful piece of writing. I think you fall into being a bully with your last statement. It sounds like you are pissed and need to kick somebody. In my experience, when some fool falls after blowing hard and long on his own stupid trumpet, there are more useful ways to engage if possible.
      My wife works with families having some trouble. It always strikes me that she aims at making a strong distinction between a state of reaction and that of respectful engagement. (I don’t do this so well myself 😉 She is really quite brilliant in allowing this room-to-be, if you would allow that expression. Now, that being said, if little Jimmy Bakker ever fell of his miniature pony right in front of me, I think, honestly, I would REACT.
      Christianity demands that we believe the lie, that we seek baptism in falsehood. When preachers get aggressive about this crap, it makes me growl and mimic them, shout around my life, my home. I break into a hollering Just as I Am or Power in the Blood! Then I change the channel and engage in something worthwhile.

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        After twelve years of being condemned, attacked, and brutalized by Evangelical moralizers, I hope you will forgive if I don’t find a bit of smug satisfaction when said blowhards get their dicks in a vise, Worse yet, a sizable number of these moral high horse riders are repeat offenders — learning nothing, yet still telling atheists they are the ones lacking morality. Just read an article today that stated Jim Bakker is a good man; a man who sincerely and fully repented of his sins. To that I say, bullshit.

        That said, I am cognizant of the fact that preachers have families, so I am sympathetic to their plight. Not for the offender himself, but his wife and children.

        I hope you’ll rethink your claim that I’m a bully. Definitely not my style.

        • Avatar
          Brian Vanderlip

          Agreed, not your style… You have every right to push back and I regularly read along here because you most often engage with your commenters in a reasonable way and Reason is very hard to come by where evangelicalism is involved. (And I kick against the pricks myself sometimes!)
          I withdraw ‘bully’ and feel that I have used it incorrectly here. A bully persists and habitually acts in harmful ways, disregarding the rights and needs of others. That is not you at all. Apologies for the clumsy expression.

  2. Avatar
    Howard Grant

    Excellent article. I come from the CoG (anti-Anderson movement) where living “free from sin” was taught and expected. It amazed me how people would have to continually go to the altar to “get right with God” because every little thing was considered sin. The basic principle of having human emotions such as anger towards a situation, would have people running to the altar to repent.

    I think the continual drumbeat of being told that you’re not good enough, sets an internal mechanism in the minds of people that they’re unworthy. No matter what they do, they’ll never measure up to the requirements of this deity of theirs. I think these people just go and do whatever they want because they’ve been taught that they can be forgiven. They have an Express Lane to forgiveness….aka “an advocate.” Yeah, total BS.

    I’m to the point now, where I can barely stomach seeing all of the religious posts on FB because I know the people who are posting those things! I know their lives! And it always shocks me like……really? They’re posting this?

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