Posts Tagged ‘Hypocrisy’

Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4.5: P.S. On Dealing with Stereotypes

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

I had a couple more thoughts to add to my last entry on dealing with stereotypes.

1.) The best place for talking about stereotypes.

I said:

And the best way to defend ourselves is not to have to.  For our message and our lives to be so clear and so well-known, that we never have to try to defend ourselves.

The idea there is that we’re inoculating people against the stereotypes.  (When they’re not true, anyway.)

But that has a major exception:  People who don’t know us at all.  People whose perceptions are formed by what they see on TV or read on the internet.  And something about those venues seems to propagate stereotypes.  For instance, “Christians being Christ-like” isn’t likely to make the news.  (Even Fox News.)  What’s more likely to make the news is when a prominent Christian sticks his foot in his mouth.  And then there’s the Internet, where what sticks out are the flame wars and loudmouths.

That’s probably the best situation for pointing out the stereotypes, assuming we can do it without whining–when we’re dealing with people who just don’t know conservative Christians.  (Inoculation works better to prevent stereotypes, than to cure stereotypes.)

Still, though—as much as possible, I want to fix the stereotypes simply by being clearly Christ-like and Christ-honoring in our words and deeds, pointing to Him and the truth He taught.

2.) “Bad” stereotypes that aren’t really bad.

Sometimes, the “bad” stereotypes are true—but they’re not actually bad!  That happens in two ways:

  1. Christ offended a lot of people.  If we’re doing everything exactly right, and communicating Him well, then He’s going to offend them through us.  Sometimes.  (And other times, His goodness & love overwhelms.)
  2. Misunderstood or poorly-done truths.  Take evangelism.  We’re stereotyped as being into “proselytism”.  Which is true. (Depending on your definition of “proselytism”.)  But sometimes, the”bad” stereotype comes from evangelism done poorly.  Or evangelism misunderstood.  (What if people see evangelism as, “Join my religious club” instead of “Know and understand Christ, and the stunning grace of what he has done”?  What if they see televangelists inviting people to receive Jesus and send in their money?)

So the answer here is pretty much the same.  Speak and live clearly.  And make sure that if people are offended, they are being offended by Christ–not by us.

Further Reading

Summer White, And Then I Got Punched In The Worldview

Summer White is the daughter of Dr. James R. White, of Alpha & Omega Ministries.  She recently blogged about an experience at her college, dealing with stereotypes. You might check it out–how well do you think she handled it?

Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus, But Not the Church

Dan Kimball comes from the more conservative wing of the Emerging Church.  The title is pretty expressive.  I liked this book, though I’m not claiming it’s perfect.  (It’s been a while since I read it, so I don’t clearly recall what there might be to criticize.)  It’s worth reading, especially if you keep in mind a couple things: (1) The “Jesus” people often like is a watered-down Jesus—a pop Jesus who only ever says nice things, except when he’s cutting down religious conservatives.  (2) When Kimball talks about areas where people “like Jesus but not the Church”, he is not saying that the church is necessarily doing something wrong there.  He does advocate correcting misunderstandings.

Update: Here’s the entire series:
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 1: Slogans & the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 2: The Gospel in Romans
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 3: Hypocrisy, Stereotyping, and the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4: Dealing with Stereotypes
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4.5: P.S. On Dealing with Stereotypes

Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4: Dealing with Stereotypes

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

In the previous entry from this series, I mentioned stereotypes—in this case, how conservatives are stereotyped as narrow-minded, as selfish, as hateful, or as smug, Pharisaical, self-righteous  judgmental jerks.  So… What do we do with that?  How should we respond? (Edit: I’ll say up front that sometimes the stereotypes are true. And I should add that this would apply to dealing with any kind of stereotype–including conservative stereotypes about liberals.)

I have a few thoughts—an overarching perspective, and then a list of miscellaneous points.

It’s going to involve a combination of words & actions.  Words to point out the stereotyping, words to communicate what we mean & believe, and actions in keeping with what we say.  I’m not precisely sure what the balance should be between them, but I suspect it should and lean toward latter two.   (“They’re stereotyping us” isn’t an inherently interesting or helpful subject.  Talking about Christ, the Gospel, and the Scriptures is—along with acting like Christ.)

And the best way to defend ourselves is not to have to.  For our message and our lives to be so clear and so well-known, that we never have to try to defend ourselves.  For people to be so familiar with us that they know who we are.  For us to be so pervasively, consistently Christ-like, clearly communicating the Gospel, that we cannot be unjustly stereotyped.

And of course, that assumes that the stereotypes are unjust.  Which isn’t always the case!  (We all live out stereotypes, sometimes.)

Thoughts to ponder:

  1. How often is there truth in the stereotypes?  How often are there real negative experiences behind people’s bad perceptions of Christianity and/or conservatives?  How compelling will such people find it when we simply insist that we’re not really like that?  (Counter-thought: How often are people oversensitive about their past experience? How often do they use it as an excuse to broadbrush?)
  2. Talking about the stereotypes is limited in its usefulness.  “They’re stereotyping us” is helpful if done right, but we have to be careful that it doesn’t become complaining or whining.  After all…if the stereotypes are true, we’ll spend a lot more time & energy decrying “them dang lib’rals & the lib’ral media” than we’ll spend talking about Christ and bearing fruit in service & love.
  3. It will be hypocritical for us to complain about the stereotypes, if we don’t do a good job of cleaning house, seeking to be above reproach.  I don’t know if actions speak louder than words, but they’re sure important for backing them up.  (Along those lines, see the previous entry on service.)
  4. We need to be clear that we truly see ourselves as fellow sinners in need of a savior. We need to be clear that the Gospel is not, “Become a church-goer—be better, like us.” That the Gospel is what Christ did for us—the gift of redemption, received by simple, humble, repentant, God-seeking faith.
  5. We need to act like we speak. To be humble & loving.  To soak in the spirit of Phil. 2:1-18.  That means heart transformation–we need to pray for God to change our hearts to be more like Christ.  So that we will do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly.
  6. We all need to watch our own tendencies to stereotype & categorize.

Update: I added a “Part 4.5” to my series, with a couple more thoughts on dealing with stereotypes.

Update: Here’s the entire series:

Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 1: Slogans & the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 2: The Gospel in Romans
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 3: Hypocrisy, Stereotyping, and the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4: Dealing with Stereotypes
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4.5: P.S. On Dealing with Stereotypes

Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 3: Hypocrisy, Stereotyping, and the Gospel

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Pt 1:  Slogans & the Gospel

Pt 2: The Gospel in Romans

Paul said in Romans 2, “you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.“  He’s talking about hypocrisy–doing what you criticize in other people.

Recently I’ve become increasingly aware of how often and how easily we fall into that.  With the best of intentions, we can wind up being hypocritical in practically everything.  It just slips in under our radar.

Examples

1.) Charity Police

In a post from October, I said:

If you read many blogs on the internet, you will find people who speak very uncharitably–they’re constantly unnecessarily harsh in tone and unreasonable in how they interpret others.  You will also find people who are obsessed with accusing others of being uncharitable.  You can call them charity police.  And those guys can be some of the least charitable people around–accusing others of uncharity at the drop of a hat or the slightest hint of language that isn’t excessively polite.  Majorly unreasonable & oversensitive.

We should be gracious with each other in addressing their mistakes–including mistakes of style.  And we shouldn’t be too quick to assume the worst.

Charity police can be the least charitable people on the internet.

2.) Liberals & stereotyping.

(Note: Everyone does this kind of thing, but there’s an extra element of hypocrisy when self-professed liberal people do it.)

As a general simplification:  The Liberal Ideal includes being open-minded & tolerant.

So it’s particularly unfortunate when a self-described liberal broadbrushes conservatives–as narrow-minded, as selfish, as hateful, or as smug, Pharisaical, self-righteous  judgmental jerks.  When a liberal thinks in stereotypes, seeing us through the filter of their preconceived ideas about us–without engaging & exploring & knowing us.

It’s frustrating being pigeonholed by someone who tells you how open-minded they are.

(I think the Prop 8 Musical is a good example of this.  More about that in…Uh, I think it’ll be Pt 5.  And I think my next entry will discuss what our response should be to this kind of stereotyping.)

Underlying Problems & Solutions

In a general sense, this happens because we’re messed-up, sinful people.  Even in our attempts to be good or identify good, we get twisted around.  And the solution will involve prayer, and humility, and being graceful toward each other when we screw up like this.  But I want to try to be a little more specific.

Problem #1: A comfortable lack of introspection

We start to rest on our laurels.  To be comfortable.  We form an image of ourselves, and live in the image, unaware of whether we’re living up to it.  We stop examining ourselves for consistency.  We begin to live without integrity.

If you haven’t yet, listen to the mp3 of Carson talking about integrity–our struggle when we see that who we are on in the inside isn’t the same as who we try to be on the outside.  Here’s the mp3.  Go to 1:05:20, and listen for about 4.5 minutes.

So, accept that you’re going to be a hypocrite sometimes.  Commit to finding out where it’s happening.  Commit to the struggle.  Keep examining yourself against the principles you claim to follow.  Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, and commit to the humility of Christ.

Problem #2:  Keeping score vs. the Gospel

The more we compete & try to keep score—winning arguments, or proving our worth—the more likely we are to form lying images in our minds.  The more we think that our salvation depends on keeping the rules & being “good people”, the more likely we are to cling to a positive image of ourselves.  And the less likely we are to probe our own life & heart, to find the inconsistencies.

If we live in a place of freedom—knowing that our hope is based on what Christ did—then it becomes easier to admit the problems, to look for more failures, and ask for grace from God to help us change.

And our lives proceed from our hearts.  So when we pray for change, we have to pray for a change of heart.  It means looking more to the life of Jesus, and falling in love with what we see.  The change grows from the longing that God gives us to see his goodness, and taste it in our own lives.  The change grows from the belief that it will be worth it to change, even when it’s hard & involves sacrifice.  “He who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

And the change will come from God’s strength & goodness, not ours.  “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13)  I started this series from Romans 1-2; when we get to Romans 7, we find Paul talking about this kind of struggle with inconsistency.  And in Romans 8, we find the words of blessed assurance that if we are in Christ, we will be made more like him–that he will be the firstborn of many brothers.  He searches our hearts, and knows what is there, which should be scary–but he is bending all of history, everything in our lives, to change us.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”  (Rom. 8:26-30)

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Update:
Here’s the entire series:
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 1: Slogans & the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 2: The Gospel in Romans
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 3: Hypocrisy, Stereotyping, and the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4: Dealing with Stereotypes
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4.5: P.S. On Dealing with Stereotypes

Integrity & Struggle with Sin (Plus awesome mp3s! More D.A. Carson!)

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

While we’re on the subject of hypocrisy (I’m not done with the series yet), I’d like to share some awesome mp3s.

Last night in my small group, we listened to D.A. Carson answering a question about progressive sanctification, and sins that don’t seem to get better.  This was in the context of talking about pastors whose ministry collapsed in sin & scandal.  He talked about the concept of integrity in Scripture, and our struggle when we see that who we are on in the inside isn’t the same as who we try to be on the outside.  Open this mp3, and go to 1:05:20.  It lasts about 4.5 minutes.  (We listened to the second part of a 3-part answer.)

Background:  The mp3 comes from a conference for Christian ministers in South Africa.  The two speakers were D. A. Carson (the guy we listened to) and Mark Dever.  I love both of them. Here are the Q&A sessions:

Q&A Pt 1
Q&A Pt 2 <– the one we listened to
Q&A Pt 3
Q&A Pt 4

More about the two speakers:

D. A. Carson:  Probably my favorite guy to listen to.  He’s a NT professor at Trinity seminary in Illinois.  He manages to combine being very intellectual, very academic, very theological, and very pastoral.  There’s a lot of heart in what he says, and a lot of application.  (He has some really good stuff on evil & suffering.)  And he does a great job of being biblical when he’s doing theology–he’s not just talking about ideas, he’s not being dryly academic.  He’s teaching the Word.

I’ve had a link on the right to some Carson mp3s.  But there is now a massive collection of Carson mp3s available, at his page at the Gospel Coalition, so I’m changing the link.  443 files, at the moment.  It’s organized by topic.  That’s where I found these Q&As.  (If you listen to many of the mp3s, you’ll start to recognize illustrations & stories he uses a lot.  They become very familiar.  :) )

Mark Dever: He’s the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C.  He has an organization called 9 Marks, named after his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.  The description of the organization says, “9Marks wants to help local churches re-establish their biblical bearings and re-think their ministry methods. We exist to help local church pastors and leaders in the discovery and application of the biblical priorities that cultivate health and holiness in the local church.”

Anyway, they have a page of mp3s, too.  Most (all?) of the mp3s have Mark Dever interviewing someone about some topic. Or group interviews.  I haven’t listened to all of them, but there’s some pretty interesting stuff.  So, look through the files, and if you see a topic that interests you, you’ll probably profit from it.

One more recommendation about Dever:  This year, he spoke at a conference called Together For the Gospel.  The other speakers included John Piper, Albert Mohler (of SBC’s Southern Seminary), John MacArthur, RC Sproul, and CJ Mahaney (who is from a charismatic quasi-denomination called Sovereign Grace Ministries.)  There was also a guy named Thabiti Anyabwile, who gave a really interesting message on race & ethnicity.  Anyway, here are the mp3s.  There are the sessions themselves, and then panel discussions.

Update: Oh, cool!  For some reason I didn’t think to check Dever’s page at the Gospel Coalition.  They’ve got a lot of mp3s for him, too.

Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 2: The Gospel in Romans

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

In the previous entry, I talked about how the Gospel should be at the center of anything we say about homosexuality–and this includes stressing the point that we are all sinners, and no one has the right to feel self-righteous. It’s interesting that Paul makes precisely that point when he talked about it.

Romans 1

Paul talks about homosexuality in Rom. 1:26-27, and then lists other sins in Rom. 1:28-32–like gossip and disobedience to parents.  So, I started pointing that out, when I wanted to show that–biblically–homosexuality is a sin among other sins. To show that everyone–including me–stands condemned in the same way. No one can be self-righteous.

It’s odd. For some reason, I didn’t notice that Paul seems to be making exactly that point. Then recently, it clicked.  When he lists “big” sins with “small” sins, he almost seems to bait a trap for the smugly self-righteous–letting the readers feel comfortable for a moment, before cutting them low.  (Though… See the P.S. at the end of the entry.)

(more…)

Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 1: Slogans & the Gospel

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Lately, I’ve been encountering the combined subjects of homosexuality, hypocrisy, and shallow interaction. I started writing one entry on homosexuality in Romans 1-2, but it ballooned, and became too much for one post. So this will be the first in a small series. (Hopefully, I can keep each post terse! It’s hard for me to be brief.)

The major theme will be “going deeper”. Which is pretty tough to do, consistently.

The Bible & Homosexuality

The biblical passages on homosexuality evoke strong reactions. Many people see them as harsh & mean-spirited. They’re associated with a self-righteous attitude of condemnation–a mindset that looks down on homosexuals as the worst of all sinners. A mindset that ostracizes and rejects. A mindset that doesn’t understand, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

Slogans

There are standard evangelical responses. The most common soundbite is, “Love the sinner, and hate the sin.” Unfortunately, it has two major problems.

  1. It’s a slogan–one that’s easy to spit out, regardless of whether there is any love in your life. It’s something Christian kids learn to say, without necessarily learning what it really looks like. So it can sound empty and hollow. Especially if people have been hurt by those who say it without living it.
  2. More importantly: It almost implies a lie. It almost implies that gay people are sinners–unlike us. It does nothing to counteract the bad assumption that gay people go to hell, but straight people are fine.  As though gay people are unique, as sinners, instead of everyone being in the same boat. Self-righteous condemnation.

Canned Answers

There are better slogans, maybe. (“We’re all sinners in need of a savior.” “Jesus said, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged,’ but he also said, ‘Go and sin no more.’”) Pithy statements can be useful. Canned answers can help. But not when the canned answer reflects canned thinking. Not when the deeper truths aren’t deeply grasped, and lived out. Not when the only thing people hear is canned answers.

So we need to make sure that we know the truths behind the slogans, and that we live in accord with them. Our lives should be adorning the gospel.

Responding With the Gospel

When we talk about homosexuality, at the very core we need to be communicating the gospel. We need to be pointing to the universal need for salvation, and to the work of Christ to save us. To the need for repentance, to the need for trust in him, and to the power & sufficiency of trusting him, apart from any of our efforts to live well.

We’re sinners in need of a savior. Christians shouldn’t view ourselves as “righteous”, and scorn homosexuals as lowly sinners–everyone is together a sinner. And “not judging” doesn’t mean that we never say, “That’s wrong.” Rather, it means not condemning–we speak God’s grace to fellow sinners. In love. There’s no place for self-righteousness. When Christians understand Christ, then we respond with humility and grace and love and the free offer of the gospel. We look with love and care, in part because we know that we ourselves have been forgiven much.

When we understand the gospel, we cannot look down on anyone.

Wrap-up

We need to get past slogans. Or we need to put meat on the slogans we profess. It includes communicating the gospel more clearly. That includes rooting out any hint of self-righteousness. It includes avoiding the perception of being noxious, holier-than-thou “Religious Types”, by living out lives of Christ-like, loving, humble service.

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Update:
Here’s the entire series:
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 1: Slogans & the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 2: The Gospel in Romans
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 3: Hypocrisy, Stereotyping, and the Gospel
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4: Dealing with Stereotypes
Homosexuality & Hypocrisy Pt 4.5: P.S. On Dealing with Stereotypes