A young Facebook friend (and fellow Christian) posted a status the other day, expressing his frustration with some legalistic Christian brothers who were giving him grief, telling him he was going to Hell because they deemed some of his speech and musical taste as unredeemably “unChristian”. One of those who (eventually) came to his defense was a non-believer whom I will call “Brent”. Before offering any words of sympathy or encouragement, though, Brent posted the following comment:
“There’s no such thing as a real Christian these days. Christians I’ve come to find are the MOST judgemental and hypocritical people on the planet.. Hearing Christians talk has literally made me look into Muslim faith…. [T]he bible says you should act a certain way. 99.9% of Christians completely ignore what their holy book tells them. That book you’re supposed to live by, right?”
This was both sad and frustrating. The former, because far too many Christians are judgemental and/or hypocritical, which is indeed contrary to the attitude and behavior the Bible tells us Christ’s followers should exhibit. I hate to think of how many people are “turned off” to Christianity due to the poor example set by some people. The latter, because not all “Christians” are true followers of Jesus and because what constitutes “judgemental” and “hypocritical” is, you might say, up for debate. Also, I know that skeptics like Brent often speak from (partial) ignorance, particularly when it comes to biblical teaching and the “big picture”.
In any case, I thought about it awhile, wrote a response, then let it sit for a bit, while I went off to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, by the time I came back to FB, the discussion had branched off (as they often do) into many sideline topics/claims with multiple contributors. They involved Bill Maher being “pro-death”, what Islam is capable of, further claims of inconsistency on both sides, displays of confusion about the Bible, etc. So, ultimately I decided not to contribute my two cents there, as they would probably be either dismissed with a laugh or lost in the shuffle.
Luckily for you, I chose to treat my blog readers to my words of profound wisdom. (Hey! Stop laughing at me!!) While hardly everything that could have been said in response to Brent’s statements, this is what I wrote:
“Of course, there are *real* Christians, Brent, but there are no *perfect* Christians. That’s not a cop-out. It’s just what’s to be expected of imperfect people — we’re only “human”. This is what Christian doctrine teaches, after all. Even when one chooses to follow Jesus Christ (as per the Bible), while there *is* an immediate change of heart and of sensibility toward spiritual matters, no one becomes a “perfect Christian” overnight. We all struggle and wrestle with different issues — pride, lust, anger, gossip, envy, etc. Also, once we are “saved” and reading/studying the Bible and getting (hopefully) good teaching/discipling, we begin to get a better understanding of what God says & does and why. We may even realize that some of the things we used to see as hypocrisy or inconsistency in Christians were due to our own inaccurate or incomplete understanding of what it means to be a Christian.”
In general, I was saying that Brent may be expecting more of Christians than is fair to expect. That last bit was meant to imply that his imperfect understanding of Christian doctrine — which he further demonstrated in later comments — may lead him to think the proper “Christian” response to a particular issue is X, when a fuller understanding of biblical principle shows that Y might be a better solution. (The things I have in mind are in regards to dealing with war, poverty, life & death issues, “tolerance”, etc.)
“So, yes, there are ‘judgemental and hypocritical’ Christians, just as there are ‘judgemental and hypocritical’ people that identify with other religions and worldviews. But,… and this is key… you can’t judge the validity of a religion/worldview by the inconsistent behavior of its followers — and certainly not by its heretics! Instead, you must try to get the most accurate & complete understanding of the view/system as you can, and then assess its validity according to things like internal coherence and explanatory scope & power, including how well it corresponds with reality and how well it addresses the BIG ISSUES.”
Of course, I could have also gotten into the issue of “judging” versus being “judgemental”, which I blogged on a few months ago. And the difference between mere inconsistency and true hypocrisy. I was also tempted to pursue the “Muslim” comment. But, I let them slide, for the time being. Instead, I decided to end with this challenge:
“I believe Christianity is *the* most reasonable world-and-lifeview there is, and I encourage you to do some serious study by reading a few books on Christian apologetics. (I can recommend some authors, if you like.) If/when *you* become a follower of Christ, I trust you will try to be the best, most faithful and consistent Christian you can be. But, you will falter and slip up time and time again, like the rest of us. And you can thank God for His mercy, grace, and forgiveness, just like the rest of us poor sinners, while asking Him to help you learn, grow, and serve Him more faithfully. 🙂
P.S. I hope you were kidding about considering Islam. Seriously, dude?!”
It is true that we Christians — real Christians — can be our own worst enemies. We are called to be ambassadors of Christ, pointing non-believers to the Truth and the Hope that we have in Jesus. So, when we do things that are inconsistent with that mission and the character we are called to have, the world notices. But, of course, Christians also get a bad rap due to ignorance and misunderstanding — both ours and others’. Fake “Christians” are a big problem, too.
It would have been interesting to see where the above conversation went from there, provided Brent was of a mind to engage in serious, rational, and respectful discussion. Unfortunately, he did not seem to be at the time, which is all too often the case with skeptic and believer alike.