Christian Hypocrisy in Examining the Word of God and the Words of Politicians

Word Of God And Politicans
First off, before the strident atheists out there start lifting this post up as a “See, even, so and so, says Christians are a bunch of hypocrites!” let me be the first to stipulate that all people of faith are, at some level, hypocrites. Because we understand that we are not perfect, there will always be inconsistency. Of course, depending on one’s context, some Christians are more hypocritical than others, but in the end, very few people actually do walk the talk in totality. This reality doesn’t lessen faith for me, rather it is the way in which I hold myself accountable and am challenged to keep striving to live a life that is consistent God’s calling and claim on my life.

With that disclaimer, out of the way, as part of Patheos’s 2012 election coverage and in response to this week’s questions, What’s wrong–and what’s right–with the role of faith in American politics today? I offer this min-rant.

Like many of you out there, I am both frustrated and fascinating by the election season. Truth be told, I love it: the strategizing, the sociological implications and the constant challenge to be community. I do my best not to add to the negativity and unhealthy interactions that are in front of us all the time, but sometimes, like so many of you, I just want to scream/tweet out, “You are mean, lying poopy face . . . oh why do you hate America so?!?!?”

One of the instigators of my frequent potty mouth moments is seeing how supporters of both main presidential candidates* respond to one another and the claims that each campaign makes. It seems that supporters of both parties are pretty inconsistent when it comes to examining what the campaigns are putting out there about the economy, healthcare, foreign policy, taxes, poverty, etc. Generally speaking, when we like and support a candidate, we believe them and if we don’t support a candidate, we find every way to discount their every claim as an utter lie.

Seeing as many of the people who show up in my various news streams are of the Christian variety, I have noticed the same patterns when we approach Scripture. Now don’t worry, I am not trying to equate our political system and God’s movement in the world. I am only pointing out  how we tend to approach our beliefs in times of disagreement. These are the things that I have noticed:

When we read the Bible, The Word of God . . .

  • We lean into and take at face value passages that reinforce our already held beliefs.
  • We dig deeper into the history and context of the passages in order to discount any that call our beliefs into question

When we hear words from politicians . . .

  • We lean into and take at face value the words that our preferred politicians says.
  • We dig deeper into the words from politicians we don’t like in order to discount their version of the truth.

In both of these cases we are basically doing two things: one, finding all the support we can to affirm our already held beliefs and, two, finding anything we can to discount the beliefs that others might hold as true. In the end, we are more concerned with making sure that we are right, rather than being open to the possibility that our beliefs might need to change, shift or . . . heaven forbid, be scrapped in totality.

Of course there are always exceptions to these two extremes and I would even go as far as saying that these approaches are not always “wrong,” ways to approach politics and faith, for sometimes when we dig for one truth, we unexpectedly discover another. At the same time, I think it’s fair to say that, at some point, each and every one of us falls into the trap of not thinking critically about our politics and our faith. Truth is, it’s exhausting to engage in the self-reflection and relationship building that might lead to a change of our hearts and minds. Despite what some might like to believe about themselves, NO ONE LIKES CHANGE. The only change any of us really champion is change . . . for other people.

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Now I am not sure what we do about all of this other than try and be more consistent. I try to remain diligent in not always discounting everything that any candidates says, nor do I take, at face value, the truth that any candidate claims. I have found that following people on twitter with whom I disagree, while excruciating at times, has been helpful in maintaining perspective. I have also found that Politifacts, especially on twitter, seems to be a very helpful truth-o-meter for campaign claims.

In the end, there are no easy answers and I find strength in the fact that we will always fall short of perfection. But if we can all acknowledge these realities of shared hypocrisy and extend a little grace towards our enemies in these times of battle, maybe we will all see the other side of this election season a little less bruised and battered from the fight.

A small hope for sure, my hope for us all nonetheless.

* I will save this topic for another post, but I am seriously considering a vote for the Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala Green Party Ticket.


Bruce Reyes-Chow is a native Northern Californian and third generation Chinese/Filipino who has been living in San Francisco since 1998.  Until May, 2011 he was the founding pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, a church of 20/30-somethings in San Francisco, CA and from 2008-2010 was Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is currently one of those “consultant” types who makes his way, writing, speaking, teaching and drinking coffee. His social networks of choice are  TwitterFacebook and his Blog

This article originally appeared on Bruce’s blog at Patheos.com

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About the Author

Bruce Reyes-Chow

Bruce Reyes-ChowBruce Reyes-Chow is a native Northern Californian and third generation Chinese/Filipino who has been living in San Francisco since 1998. Until May, 2011 he was the founding pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, a church of 20/30-somethings in San Francisco, CA and from 2008-2010 was Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is currently one of those “consultant” types who makes his way, writing, speaking, teaching and drinking coffee. His social networks of choice are Twitter, Facebook and his BlogView all posts by Bruce Reyes-Chow →

  • cardcreek

    people believe whatever is convenient. but just because they are believed do not make them true. and if they are not true, then they are lies. my great angst is that we don’t seem to care that our politicians are lying. we seem to be more interested in style over substance. which candidate appears more conciliatory and smiles more. a ten point swing over a debate filled with lies – by both sides. it’s scary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DeepNarcosis William J. Green

    There may be no hierarchy of sin but ought not God’s people safely eliminate candidates who not only endorse sin but legislate it? IF sodomy is sin and killing babies is sin then why any Christian would even give a candidate in favor of legalizing both and solemnizing the former by marriage a second look is beyond me. What’s the point of professing a TRUST in God — which de facto asserts that if God calls something sin it is a sin, no exceptions — and then abandoning that TRUST in the ballot box?

    We are NOT a theocracy but our founders and framers, men of faith of the Theist and Deist variety, almost exclusively Judeo-Christian in their morals and values, made it abundantly clear that their, and now our, experiment in Limited Government, Federalist, States’ Rights, Constitutional Rule of Law Republicanism (NOT pure Democracy) would FAIL without Religion and Morality. They even went so far as to say that the Constitution neither mandates nor authorizes the federal government to usurp one of the responsibilities of churches and synagogues to care for the poor by being a primary conduit for benevolence.

    Let’s listen to them again:

    “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.” — John Adams, 2nd president of the United States of America

    “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents…” — James Madison, father of the Constitution.

    Our current leaders are failing miserably in their responsibility to engage in and succeed at the Constitution’s Enumerated Powers to the State from the sovereign States which requires moral and virtuous leadership from out in front. And so they try to compensate for their Constitutional failures by confiscating more money from tax-payers living and future via proxy loans from the Chinese and others in order to spend money on programs NOT authorized by the Constitution while leading from the behind of the Democratic Party’s mascot.

    In short, solemnized sodomy by marriage, filicide by abortion, wildly profligate annual $1.1 Trillion deficit spending adding to our $16,200,000,000,000 National Debt, Marxist class warfare via higher taxes ONLY on the rich, usurping the role and responsibility of churches and synagogues to care for the poor, and Lies, Deceits and Cover Ups of Fast & Furious and now Benghazi Gate ought to be MORE THAN ENOUGH for CHRISTIAN voters to turn away and consider candidates with far fewer Biblical sins and fewer anti- and a-Constitutional political-economic philosophies and history of legislating.

    A vote again for Barack Hussein Obama is a vote for solemnized sodomy, filicide, profligacy, godless Democratic Socialism derived from Karl Marx, ecclesiological usurpation, mendacity, and punishing in advance the futures of future generations by loading them with debt they’ll have to repay with interest in order to provide current Welfare Queens who demand and receive annually up to $32,000 worth of transfer payments in the forms of Obama phones, Welfare, Food Stamps, section-8 subsidized housing, mortgage bailouts, CHIPs, medicaid, 2-years worth of Unemployment checks for not working, disability checks even when NOT disabled, etc.

    As the great Dr. Thomas Sowell, Ph.D., stated,

    “I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you’ve earned, but not greed to want to take someone else’s money.”

    Christians historically have NOT been greedy with the money they’ve earned — they’ve given liberally and nominally more than Liberals to charity.**

    President Bill “Bubba” Clinton told America toward the end of the last century,

    “Big government doesn’t have all the answers. There is NOT a program for every problem. We’ve given the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people a government that LIVES WITHIN ITS MEANS. THE ERA OF BIG GOVERNMENT IS OVER!”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piKLeC_dwGw (see the 5:48 mark)

    It is time we hark back to this wise and prescient words. Our current regime is ignoring them at our national peril.

    Let’s close with some of the maxims and admonishments of the greatest political philosopher our nation has ever produced:

    1. A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.2. I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
    3. It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.4. My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
    5. The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
    6. To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.7. That government is best which governs the least.
    8. But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years?9. I place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.
    – Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our 3rd President

    ** http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/conservatives_more_liberal_giv.html

    • S. Wood

      As
      quickly as one reads the article, rather than citing scripture, we selectively
      pick and choose quotes of the Founding Fathers, ignoring context, to support
      our preconceived positions. Jefferson most definitely hated debt; however, in
      spite of those core beliefs, he purchased the Louisiana territory, adding
      significantly to burgeoning country’s national debt.
      Additionally, making the purchase was an expansion of government and certainly
      violated point #3. Again, the same Jefferson who asserted that labor should not
      be wasted by the government (under the pretense of taking care of them) owned
      and, shall we say, “took care of” slaves (political hypocrisy).

      I think it would be wise to take the
      article’s purpose in account before declaring our allegiance to any position;
      to look at the positions of others, to take context into account, and to make
      an effort, ever so small, to see issue from the other side of the aisle.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucas.a.hammer Lucas Hammer

      William,

      While I understand your point, it sounds as if you are arguing that people should vote for Mitt Romney without saying it. Sure, Obama approves of abortion and gay marriage, but in what way does Christianity teach us that using the force of the government is the way to try to convert people to “morality”?

      On top of that, if you advocate for the Republican party, then you are advocating for a group of people that have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents over the last decade without so much as an apology, which in my humble opinion, is worse than allowing people to do what they want behind closed doors.

      The debt problem has been going on for both parties for a very long time and the only president not to increase it in the last 30 years was a democrat.

      I’m not advocating either party, because honestly I’ve learned to see the flaws in both and will, in fact, not be voting for either, but as S. Wood says, you’re picking and choosing specific things that you can twist into fitting with your political position. If you look at both parties with the scrutiny that you put upon the Democrats, I believe that you will see that they are both irreparably damaged.

      Finally, you seem to want small government, while at the same time, wanting the federal government to regulate what people do behind closed doors, and I apologize, but you can’t have it both ways.

      I said all of that to say this: the negative commentary in politics in this country has become astounding with your comment as a shining example. It is very easy to point out flaws in someone else’s behavior and beliefs instead of offering the solution. You pick out the things you don’t want in the opponent, but what about your own candidate? You have to equally look at both sides very carefully and then see if you’re picking and choosing the values that are easiest for you to swallow.

    • Jake T

      LOL… someone missed the entire point of this article. Instead of trying to argue with you, I’m just going to politely recommend that you reread what Mr. Reyes-Chow wrote. Also, I want you to realize that it’s Christians like you that make many people leave the religion and made me leave the religion for 10 years. Your ire keeps people away from Jesus instead of bringing them closer.

  • otrotierra

    Of course the concern extends far beyond politicians. Focus on the Family has yet to apologize for their false prophesies in 2008 about Obama. Will Focus on the Family seek forgiveness and begin seeking truth?

  • SamHamilton

    I’m also seriously considering voting third party as well Bruce. Both of the major candidates have serious drawbacks from this Christian’s perspective.

  • SayNoToReligion

    Grown ups should not have make believe friends.

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