A lot of them, anyway!
A Facebook friend of mine shared this meme a week and a half ago and I felt compelled to point out that it’s a bit idealistic. Edit: The URL no longer works. Here is the text of the quote, attributed to Rich Mullins: “I never understood why going to church made you a hypocrite either, because nobody goes to church because they’re perfect. If you’ve got it all together, you don’t need to go. You can go jogging with all the other perfect people on Sunday morning. Every time you go to church, you’re confessing again to yourself, to your family, to the people you pass on the way there, to the people who will greet you there, that you don’t have it all together. And that you need their support. You need their direction. You need some accountability, you need some help.”
I made not one, not two, not three, but four comments. The text of each of those, slightly edited, follows.
“Hopefully that’s true of many churchgoers, but I know plenty who go because it’s what’s expected of them in their community, because it’s a social event, because they’ve always gone and it’s cultural, etc. And when they’re confronted in the preaching about sins they harbor, or are reminded that ongoing confession and repentance is an essential part of growth in the Christian life, they openly chafe and oftentimes resent the preacher. The experience I’ve had in the last year and a half with churchgoers where I live–seeing the way they abuse their pastors and treat other people–has shown me that all too often the criticism responded to in this meme is valid.
“Linking here because it’s relevant:veritaspraebita.wordpress.com. A blog my sister compiled (and is still updating) about the clergy-killing our father was subject to. Some “Christians” really are hypocrites, and others–far too many–may be sincere in their faith but they don’t want to pursue the truth in events like this because if they know what happened they might have to do something about it, and that might mean calling out friends and family on wrong, even evil, behavior.
“I’ve thought to myself a few times in the last few months that I’m a lot more sympathetic now, both to non-Christians who think Christians are hypocrites and to Christians who are reluctant or even outright refuse to attend church due to really bad experiences they’ve had. All because of what I’ve seen, the way people have treated and turned on my family. (And incidentally, the churchy people in this very homogeneous community have a bad reputation with people in the neighboring areas, and sometimes for good reason. I’m finding that out as I connect with other people around here post-clergy-killing.)
“One more post before I stop monopolizing here: How can claiming to be a Christian, a follower of the Man who said the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another, while treating other Christians like dirt be anything BUT hypocrisy? No, going to church doesn’t make a person a hypocrite, and people of the world shouldn’t make such a judgment about all Christians. But there’s a reason the perception exists.”
My comments received no acknowledgment, whether in the form of agreement expressed in “likes” or disagreement expressed in follow-up comments. Instead I apparently prompted the friend who shared the meme to send me a private message in which he expressed condolences for the misery my family is undergoing but ended by admonishing me to love and forgive. I have a problem with his saying that under the circumstances and in the way he did, but that’s a private matter.
What isn’t private and what really irks me is how no one expressed agreement with my comments on the original meme. Not just because of my experience but also because what I said is so blatantly, obviously true.
Of course if someone used the “churchgoers are hypocrites” line on me I’d correct his thinking with words similar to those of the meme, but I would also readily and unequivocally admit that he’s right to an extent, that way too many churchgoers really are hypocrites.
I’d tell him that the conscientious churchgoers realize they need the fellowship of the saints but that many of them aren’t so conscious of their need. Those are the ones who don’t go for the right reasons and whose attendance and profession of faith often do not match the way they live and treat people.
Back to the Facebook meme. To make that point as I did very clearly and receive no acknowledgment from anyone else, and not only that but to receive a private note that has nothing to do with what I said and therefore also isn’t an acknowledgment, is not only insulting, it also makes me worry about just how self-aware some Christians are. It doesn’t help that the post received 13 likes, and some of them after I made my comments.
Like I said in my last comment, there’s a reason that the perception exists. And ignoring or not thinking about that reason, refusing to acknowledge that maybe the outside world is somewhat justified to look askance at us, isn’t going to do any good. In fact it’ll probably do harm, because if we don’t acknowledge the problem we’ve no motivation to fix it. Which makes me wonder: had some of the people who liked that post been in my previous church, would they have been able to take a stand against my father’s abusers? If they lived here and saw how the church people, elders even, are apathetic if not downright mean to people like the single woman whose house my dad and I are renting—a woman who is being undeniably harassed by a (sociopathic?) neighbor—would they take some kind of action? Or would they look the other way?
Perhaps I’m assuming too much, yes, but I don’t imagine the place I live is really that unique. The “churchgoers are hypocrites” line sure gets repeated enough and in disparate enough places!