(Hypocrisy, The Enemy of God)
For too long, we have debated the question of whether morality is relative or absolute. Like so many things in our polarizing society, we often take the stand that it is either one or the other. Most of theology favors absolutism over relativism.
But if we are following the ideas presented in this text, very often, religious truth lies in a paradox of opposition. There is just no demonstrable argument that God's world is directly founded upon either state; but rather, our reality demonstrates that God's truth and Will are both absolute and relative, working in harmony at the same time - just as "Now" brings together the past and future in the same instant.
And, even the absolutists have to yield to relativism in making many of their so-called absolute pronouncements. For example, they tell us that killing is a sin, one of the absolute commandments of God; but, they offer many exceptions to this commandment such as war, capital punishment, and self-defense, which makes killing relative to intention. And many theologies become even more relativist's in their so-called absolute truth, such as when the killing is the act of a disturbed mind considered to have no control over their actions or any awareness of the evil in such an act. So evil, even in absolutism can be relative. Factors that make it relative are most often intention, consequence, awareness and control.
Evil has been defined here as that which infringes upon the rights of another, causing them pain or hurt for one's own selfish gratification - or, the abuse or exploitation of the Sacredness of creation. But even in those terms, evil becomes relative because we must always look at the intention, the consequence, one's awareness of the evil and their control of the situation.
We started talking about relativism here, because of all the moral teachings of Jesus, none stands out as being more of an abomination to him than hypocrisy, which is about the most relative of all immorality. A noted historian who studied the life of Jesus sums this idea up very nicely:
But the fault he [Jesus] particularly charged them with was hypocrisy. The word occurs no less than fifteen times in Matthew, but is also found in the other gospels as well. Jesus' principal indictment of the Pharisees and Scribes, then, was that they were only acting a part, behaving dishonestly and pretending. As we have seen, the Pharisees did not escape criticism from their fellow Jews for this particular fault of lip service and insincerity. But it infuriated Jesus very greatly; just as (he pointed out) the same vice among earlier Jews had incurred the anger of Isaiah. HYPOCRISY SEEMED TO JESUS A TERRIBLE FAULT, because it annulled the whole intention of the Almighty, blinded man to his own failings, making it impossible for him to experience the repentance, the total change of heart, which was needed before he could be admitted to God's dawning Kingdom.
(Michael Grant, AN HISTORIANS VIEW OF THE GOSPELS, C1977, P119)
The odd part about this observation is that it
turns up in a historical context, rather than, being a religious one. We find
in the Gospels little criticism, if any, of sinners, the
Alas, alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees hypocrites that
you are! You shut the door of the
Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over the land and sea to win one convert; and when you have won him you make him TWICE AS FIT FOR HELL AS YOU ARE YOURSELVES.
And Jesus had more to say:
Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, which you have filled inside by robbery and self indulgence! Blind Pharisees! Clean the inside of the cup first; then, the outside will be clean also.
(Matthew 23: 25-26)
Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like tombs covered with whitewash; they look well from the outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all kinds of filth. So it is with you: outside you look like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and crime.
(Matthew 23: 27-28)
Jesus actually tells them that they will never see the Kingdom of Heaven, that they cannot lead anyone else to it, and, because of their hypocrisy, they corrupt those who follow them. This is quite a condemnation from the prophet who preached love, mercy and forgiveness; the same individual who forgave prostitutes, tax gatherers, and thieves. A. N. Wilson comments on this fact in his scholarly work "Jesus a Life":
Why, in Jesus' story about the tax collector and the Pharisees praying in the temple, does God favor the tax collector and fail to listen to the Pharisees? Because the tax collector allows God to be God. He takes no moral initiative himself. He is merely a passive instrument into which the forgiveness of God can be poured.
It should be clear to the reader, by now, that Jesus was outraged by hypocrisy, and targeted, what he considered to be the worst offenders - those claiming to represent God's truth.
The first problem we have in avoiding this immorality of hypocrisy is in its relativism. To avoid hypocrisy we need to be objective and honest with ourselves. When we profess to believe in something; it becomes nothing more than empty words if we do not live what we proclaim to be. Our judgement, however one might define it, is based at least in part on what we preach, profess to believe, and what we as individuals expect from others.
This is a real problem for Christianity. For to say that one is a follower of Jesus, one must strive to live their life in the ethics which Jesus taught. These ethics are primarily based on our interactions with others as both his teaching and example reflected. But in a sense, under this real moral ethic, being a Christian can make one a hypocrite. To profess a belief in Jesus that does not include a striving toward the virtues he preached, is hypocrisy. In today's religion, we are so caught up in creeds and belief structures, or our worship, or in fund raising, The actual teachings of Jesus, in practical terms, are lost in a sea of complex theologies, which draw more upon outside sources than they do Jesus.
The problem with most Christian theology is that it is based upon the "faith and redemption" concept that was given to us by Paul; rather than, the gospels and what are reported to be the teachings of Jesus. The wise theologian would keep in mind that this Paul was a man who never knew Jesus! Paul preached faith in Jesus; but Jesus preached the expression of our love for God manifested in our actions toward others.
The concept of hypocrisy, defined as saying one thing and doing another, is in fact relative in many ways. Yet, objectively, one only needs to look at the collective of our society to see the hypocrisy in a country claiming to be founded upon Judaic-Christian concepts. A society, which reflects hypocrisy, can only do so if masses of individuals are hypocritical themselves.
Let's start with the many churches that put more emphasis on the "Spreading of the Word" than on the living of it. Carl Jung states in his "Psychology and Alchemy":
The great events of our world as planned and executed by men do not breathe the spirit of Christianity but rather of unadorned paganism.
And on page 7 of the same work:
I am speaking therefor not of the deepest and best understanding of Christianity but of the superficialities and disastrous misunderstandings made by this imitatio Christi - that we should follow the ideal and seek to become like it - ought logically to have the result of developing and exalting the inner man. In actual fact, however, the ideal has been turned by superficial and formalistically minded believers into an external object of worship, and it is precisely this veneration for the object that prevents it from reaching down into the depths of the psyche and giving the latter a wholeness in keeping with the ideal.
As a result of this objective ideal, people can quote you scripture left and right; but how often is what they profess to believe the guiding factor in their lives? Individuals proclaim God to be the most important aspect of life; but it seems most people are much more devoted to making money
than to God. Religious people proclaim the sacredness of human life; but remain silent about the poor quality of life for so many. Ministers preach Jesus' "Gospel of Love" while often feeding bigotry, intolerance, and condemnation for those outside the so-called chosen.
Then we can go to our political spectrum. Telling people what they want to hear in an effort to get elected. Christian politicians calling for capital punishment, yet, their religious belief promotes the sacredness of life. We have political and public outcry about the state tending to the needs of the underclass; yet, this is the basis of the gospel that Jesus preached.
While the state should not legislate based
upon religious ideology, the state should reflect the common sense ethic of
taking care of its people. In the
Then we have churches of vast wealth in this nation, while children go to bed hungry. One might say that the church that Jesus would have envisioned, if that were his aim, was a living church that ministered to people tending to their physical as well as spiritual needs. Our religions profess to believe in the Gospels, but are often devoid of the meaningful social/economic teachings that characterize the teachings of Jesus. While some religions do have social programs, they seldom are the priority. Most often, those programs take a back seat to faith and worship, when in the reality of the teachings of Jesus, they should be the highest priority of any church for these other things have little meaning if we are indifferent to the needs of others.
And what of our business World? Where are the honesty, integrity and compassion that Jesus preached? Look at our advertising, and ask, where is the religious protest about the hypocrisy in so much of it? The aim of advertisers is to sell at any cost. Image and slogan mean far more than product quality, fairness to employees, or the real need for the product. So many businesses claim to be customer oriented, but the truth is they are profit oriented. To give an example, when a bank, or an insurance company, advertise that they are interested in the welfare of the customer more than the money flow - isn't that hypocrisy? And what of the professed moral beliefs held by Christian individuals who own and represent these businesses? Some of the very same companies, whose Christian owners condemn the exploitation of human sexuality, use sex to sell their products.
Society, right down to so much of the Christian Church is full of hypocrisy, and yet, it would seem in reading the gospels that hypocrisy was the most frequent and outrageous flaw of humankind in the eyes of Jesus. It seems ironic that a so-called Christian based society should reflect so much of the vice, which Jesus detested! Christian ministers make all sorts of moral pronouncements; yet, there seems to be a silence in the churches about the most prevalent.
Faith as an abstract (that is, all the belief focused on a supernatural principle), has little effect on our everyday activity because the supernatural world is not observable in the experiences of our daily living. This polarity leads to hypocrisy, for how can our belief structure be effective in our lives if it is not readily available to our experiences?
Theology becomes irresponsible when it implies that things (such as prayer or the reading of scripture), are more powerful than action. For example, people are often urged to pray for world peace; instead of, working toward that goal. While there is nothing wrong with prayer, if we were contributing according to our ability to the cause for which we are praying, we would have a greater potential of seeing the actualization of the prayer. There is a great deal to be said for the old adage "God helps those who help themselves." What the faithful often fail to see is that God can work Her miracles through human hearts - God can work a miracle through us!
Words: words of prayer, words of faith, the words of scripture etcetera - often stand out theologically as the priority of religions. If one reads the Bible, recites a prayer, or makes a declaration of faith, they are led to believe that they are adhering to God's Will. But Jesus actually taught differently! He stated in a hundred different ways that our treatment of one another is what defines our relationship with God - that what we deal out is what God will deal back to us.
We often ask what is so wrong with the youth today? Well, we might examine the practical wisdom of the psychology of Jesus. In our social reality; the very things that we often proclaim wrong are all acceptable in our everyday society. Government, business, and even some churches actually partake in dishonesty, greed, and even encourage persecution of those who differ in ideology.
Elementary psychology teaches us that we lead best by our example, and that sending mixed messages to our youth is not necessarily conducive to good mental health. The eminent psychiatrist and author Scott Peck tells us:
The most basic culture in which we develop is the culture of our family, and our parents are its "cultural leaders". Moreover, the most significant aspect of that culture is NOT WHAT OUR PARENTS TELL US about God and the nature of things but rather WHAT THEY DO - how they behave toward each other, toward our siblings and, above all, toward us. In other words, what we learn about the nature of our world when we are growing up is determined by the actual nature of our experience in the microcosm of the family. IT IS NOT SO MUCH, WHAT OUR PARENTS SAY THAT DETERMINES OUR WORLDVIEW AS IT IS THE UNIQUE WORLD THEY CREATE FOR US BY THEIR BEHAVIOR.
("The Roadless Traveled",p189)
Yet, despite this psychological observation, our social structure and religious platitudes appear to be at odds with one another. Parents, civic and religious leaders continue to expound all sorts of moral virtues without any effort in applying these virtues in their everyday lives.
As some examples of these types of double
messages about which we are talking, consider the following. Parents, Churches
and civic leaders pronounce all kinds of sexual moral platitudes. But in the
everyday lives of people, sex is used to sell and entertain. Half of
Children are educated by what a grownup IS; and not what he says. The popular faith in words is a VERITABLE DISEASE OF THE MIND, for superstition of this sort always leads farther and farther away from man's foundations and seduces people into a disastrous identification of the personality with whatever slogan may be in vogue.
(C.G. Jung & C
Kerenyl, "Essays on a Science of
Responsible theology needs to move away from the ideas of abstract faith and the power of the "word". Faith is only as powerful as its manifestation in our daily lives! Words are only a reality and meaningful when they become actualized. The idea of God sitting on a thrown in heaven does little to influence the everyday, and sometimes mundane, living of life. It becomes hypocrisy to draw upon the words of Jesus to support our faith and then fail to live up to the message he delivered and the example he gave to us.
To be effective, theology needs to encourage images of God more useful in terms of recognizing Him in our everyday reality. People need to be encouraged to see the wonder, the complexity, and the mystery of God in the diversity of Her natural creation. Only when the idea of God is compatible with reality does a religious faith come fully alive. You can see examples of this in the ministry where one cleric works with the downtrodden and the problems of people, while another preaches about such things from an affluent church pulpit.
When we see God in the all, the actual experiences we have in the course of a day become experiences of God. With such awareness, hypocrisy becomes less of a likelihood because our daily experiences are experiences with God; our interactions with one another are interacting with God. With such wisdom, we come to realize that when we inflate prices - we're actually cheating God. When we misleading in advertising - we are deceiving God. When we take for granted or abuse the creation - we are taking for granted and abusing that Creator. In is not so much what we say about (or even to) God that matters; but rather it is the actualization of those words, When God is seen as the all, both seen an unseen alike, than the actions of our very life become a living praise or a terrible hypocrisy.
Jesus tells us, "You cannot serve two Masters". One cannot serve God by acclamation. Words mean nothing if they are not backed by deeds. We cannot speak moral platitudes and ignore them in our everyday affairs. A Judaic/Christian society, for that matter, a Muslim, Buddhist or any other religion, should reflect the highest priorities of their scriptures. The most universal of these are: love, equality, tolerance of those who differ, not sitting in judgement of one's fellow human being, compassion, forgiveness, unselfishness, concern for our fellow man, respect for individual rights and self sacrifice for the good of the whole. These are the universal concepts of all religions and no society can claim to be based upon Judaic/Christian, or any other religious ideal, if that society does not reflect these priority values. To do such becomes hypocrisy.
The myths and scriptures, almost on a universal scale, also warn of the greatest dangers to one's spiritual fulfillment. These include: judgment of others, greed, selfishness, indifference, deceit, violence, inequality, bigotry, hatred and Jesus' pet peeve - hypocrisy. By its very nature, when a society reflects on a massive scale those things that revelations tell us to avoid, the society becomes a hypocrisy.
Outside a misguided faith, the greatest contributor to hypocrisy is our rationalizations of our actions. For example, our excuses for indifference toward the needs of others range from "we cannot do anything about it" to, "those people really don't want to help themselves". We rationalize that we are good because we go to church, believe some religious precept, or pray. We think we are charitable because we give money to the church or a few causes; seldom offering a self-sacrifice that reaches out to those who may need something other than financial help.
Such rationalizations, accompanied by self-righteous beliefs, turns otherwise good people into hypocrites. The salesman who lies to sell his product - The grocer who inflates their price The doctor who cheats the insurance company - The misleading advertiser - The greedy stockbroker - The self righteous law maker - The condemning clergyman: all become hypocrites because they have no objectivity in their heart and rationalize their own shortcomings instead of trying to overcome them. The same people who can often so clearly see the faults of others have "planks in their eyes" when it comes to their own hypocrisy and their own faults.
Religion is probably the worst group offender of this rationalization. They justify many shortcomings by claiming a few charitable resources, or, pointing out all the positives of their organization. But to God, pointing out positives is unnecessary, it would be much better to look at our shortcomings and strive to overcome them.
In order for religion to give meaning to life, it must concentrate its effort on helping men to recognize the reality of God in the living creation. Theology should act as a guide to the living of an honest life; rather than, interpreters of a world beyond. Clergymen should encourage an honest self-judgment, teaching the dangers of rationalism of one's own acts so that individuals can be objective about their own state - thus, avoiding hypocrisy. If theology were effective, religions would not have to declare morals, for the faithful could determine their own morals. A clergyman should not be telling people how to live - they should be showing them!
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