Hi and welcome back! Of late, we’ve been talking about hypocrisy. Weirdly, the very people who claim to have a stranglehold on morality — to possess, in fact, the literal only valid moral system in human history — seem also to be the least capable of behaving morally. Not only do toxic Christians not live up to their own code of morality, they can’t even live up to the standard of human decency. Today, let me show you why rampant hypocrisy represents such a massive dealbreaker for Christianity itself.
(Morality speaks to a system of differentiating right from wrong, good from evil. Ethics speaks more to a culture’s or society’s externally-imposed code of behavior. For example, someone might work in a professional field asking them to adhere to a code of conduct that violates their own sense of morality. Or perhaps someone belongs to a church waging a culture war on something that person doesn’t see as evil in the first place. In this post, we’re talking more about morality than ethics.)
Hypocrisy in Morality as Inauthenticity.
I’ve been thinking about hypocrisy lately, if nobody’s noticed.
Hypocrisy represents a break between our sense of morality and what we say about our morality: our stated morality vs our lived morality. And as such, hypocrisy reveals a person’s inauthenticity.
Authenticity is the state of being true to ourselves. We all, to some extent, present a face to the world. The closer that face is to our actual personality, the more authentic we’re being. When we have to pretend to be someone or something we’re just not, it wears on us. Grates on us. Makes us feel like poseurs and imposters. We want to blurt out the truth — or leave that whole situation so we can present ourselves more in line with how we really are.
It can be very stressful to live inauthentically. Generally speaking, such people want to ease that stress however they can. If they can’t blurt out the truth or leave the situation, they seek to finesse the gap between claims and reality. Antiprocess helps there.
One popular way to resolve that stress involves playing the from a certain point of view game.
Stated vs. Lived Morality.
If people have a stated morality that they’re not actually living, then they’re being inauthentic. Inauthenticity is not a symptom of sin nature. It’s just being human. For such people, the real morals by which they live can be found elsewhere. Whatever they’re living day-to-day, that is their moral code — not what comes out of their mouths. That’s why a lot of people say to watch what people do, not what they say. Words mean nothing if they’re not lived out in reality.
Changing that actual lived morality is hard, too. Anyone who’s tried to reform a selfish git knows that. No gods are standing by to make it happen for us. It takes work, very hard work, to retrain how such a person sees the world and the other people on it.
When the payoff for selfishness and unkindness is very high, with perceived risks and penalties being very low, people with an essentially immoral worldview won’t change. They don’t even really want to change. The best we’ll get from such people is an endless string of failed, halfhearted, balky attempts. Any shifts in behavior are quickly followed by reversion to the mean once they’ve procured whatever they wanted from the attempt.
As an example, consider the endless fights over housework that so many couples face. In such situations, one person always seems to prioritize their own leisure time well above that of their partner. Heck, maybe both partners are like that. Their sense of morality says it’s A-OK to leave more work for the other person and relax at their expense. After a huge blowout fight, things usually improve a little. That slight improvement lasts about 3.2 nanoseconds, after which tasks start piling up again.
So immoral Christian hypocrites don’t change because the rewards for immorality are too high — and the risks and penalties too low — to make that kind of effort worthwhile to them.
To see people’s true morality, just watch them. Do they lie? Then their morality says that lies are fine. Do they neglect their partners and children to play video games all day? Then their morality puts their own pleasure above family.
And in the case of all those criminals in Christian leadership, their morality is darker still. Their morality tells them to value themselves and their own comfort over and above the protection of children and abiding by the law. Such criminals and their peers may preen and warble, all rosy-cheeked pious pretense, about how their morality is the best ever for humans.
But it is not. It is anything but. Instead, it is actually what these criminals do under cover of darkness that tells us what morality truly guides them.
Never forget: that high-flown morality is just a 1800-year-old cloak of invisibility. It exists solely to allow wrongdoers to follow their real code of morality. Those are their morals, the ones that drive them to destroy lives and steal innocence to gratify themselves.
Without any gods on hand to make these hypocrites’ system of morality function, and without actual people willing to go to work to make it a lived reality for the organization and all of its members, that idolized morality might as well be a commercial jingle that the group likes to sing together every week.
It doesn’t matter how sublime a moral code sounds. If nobody’s following it, not even the people holding it like a cudgel over others’ heads, then it isn’t for us. Something is wrong with it. We don’t need to know exactly what its malfunction is to know it’s not for us.
What Hypocrisy in Christian Leaders Really Means.
And when we encounter an organization riddled with predators in leadership ranks, that’s a huge, glaring red flag that we cannot afford to ignore.
People gravitate to groups that work for them. If a hypocrite somehow gets into a morally sound group and acts out, the group ejects that person in short order, then tightens their procedures to prevent any other people from disturbing their peace. (Like this one church did.) If not ejected first, the hypocrite gets frustrated by their lack of advancement and leaves.
They certainly don’t get into high leadership positions within the group, especially not in religious groups. Those groups promote along lines of affiliation and networking. So a hypocrite who achieves real power has been acting out for a long, long time by the time they move into their new role. And their peers and superiors have been covering up for them and making excuses for them all along the way.
That sublime, high-flown spoken morality becomes a mutual admiration society for those who like to pat themselves on the back for having such oh-so-great morality while not living out that morality at all.
Hypocrisy in Morality: the Red Flag We Can’t Ignore.
Christian morality is an excuse. A permission slip. A facade hiding misery.
That’s all it is.
So when we discover that a startlingly high percentage of that organisation’s leaders are actual sex predators (here’s a huge report (see p. 10) detailing the numbers for Catholics, ranging from 2.7% to 6% of various priests facing allegations of abuse, plus who even knows how many other clergy helped conceal those crimes), then that points to the organization itself sharing the predators’ morality to at least some extent.
The other leaders around these predators would rather shield predation than face exposure of their organization’s true face to the world. They’d rather preserve their own worthless hides than pretend to care about the morality they say they treasure so much.
Listen to that red flag.
Don’t ever overlook hypocrisy in a group, especially among leaders. It’s one of the biggest red flags there is. If those leaders say to do one thing, but they do another thing entirely, like Mike Stone is doing with his lawsuit against Russell Moore, that’s a good sign that their group is going to do you some harm if you get too close to it.
NEXT UP: LSP! See you tomorrow!
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