Lord’s Day 43

I love the Heidelberg Catechism. Even as I’ve left once and for all the denomination I grew up in I maintain a preference for its confessional standards over against the Westminster tradition. Lots of people have Lord’s Day 1 memorized; I myself ended up memorizing Lord’s Days 9 and 10 a couple summers ago as my father was undergoing his third set of cancer treatments. That was a very hard period for me. Little did I know that as that trial passed another, much worse one would arise–and that one has yet to abate.

But today I find myself thinking of Lord’s Day 43. A number of events have brought it to mind. For one, I was falsely accused of something. The person making the accusation was a church officebearer and there was no evidence, no basis on which to make it. Yet he made it, not to me, but to a group of denominational officials, who then passed it on to another such group, who then gave my father the third degree about it. These men are all leaders in a Christian denomination. Unfounded accusations, gossip, and rumor-mongering should be beneath such, no? But apparently not.

So. From the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 43.

112. Q.
What is required
in the ninth commandment?
I must not give false testimony against anyone,
twist no one’s words,
not gossip or slander,
nor condemn or join in condemning anyone
rashly and unheard.
Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit
as the devil’s own works,
under penalty of God’s heavy wrath.
In court and everywhere else,
I must love the truth,
speak and confess it honestly,
and do what I can
to defend and promote
my neighbour’s honour and reputation.

In the aftermath of my father’s clergy killing (calling it an aftermath seems wrong now, as it’s clear his character is still being assassinated), I am not the only one being gossiped about and accused of things behind my back.  It’s happening again and again to others who have been victimized throughout this ordeal. In fact, I found out secondhand a year ago that I was being negatively talked about, and more recently than that that I was deliberately excluded from helping out in a church function which was also last year. All this has been going on that long.

The Catechism enjoins Christians to love the truth and show love for their neighbor by promoting his good name. It also says rightly that “lying and deceit” are “the devil’s own works”. What that says about the churchy, kind people where I live, I leave to the reader to decide.


Yes, Churchgoers Are Hypocrites

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!