Many people who say they have a beef with Christianity, more often than not have a beef with the people who PROFESS to hold to Christianity.
They have been offended by these Christian folks who (they say) are mean, small-minded, hypocritical, and just plain bad.
Some – many – (most?) – of the time, they are correct.
There ARE plenty of folks who call themselves Christians who are all kinds of not-good.
And of all the not-good characteristics, the one that rankles the most is hypocrisy.
It’s bad enough if someone hurts you, and they admit to doing it, even if they’re not sorry for it.
It’s worse when they pretend the hurt never even happened, and try to gaslight you into thinking you’re the one who has wronged them.
Believe me, I get it. We all do. We’ve all been hurt by hypocrites at some point or other in our lives, and the complicated, pus-infected nature of that hurt is unlike any other kind of “cleaner” pain.
But as they say, people living in glass houses should not throw stones.
Many who stumble away from Christianity or attack God, Christians, and the Church, are every bit as mean, blinded, and hypocritical as the ones they say have wronged them.
Take the liberal anti-Christian writer Bart Erhman, for example.
He claims that the reason why he turned against the God of his youth is (partly) because he saw a picture of a grieving woman clutching a starved-to-death baby in the pages of a glossy magazine.
At that moment, Ehrman says, he could not imagine a God who would allow this baby to die, when all that was needed was a little rain to stave off a famine.
A romantic story, to be sure, but it rings all kinds of hypocrisy bells.
Really, Bart Ehrman? You think you, a fallible human, are more compassionate and loving than the God who IS love? And you demonstrate this so-called compassion NOT by going over there yourself to serve these people, NOT by giving up your own life and comforts to make their lives a little better, but by complaining about it in your cozy first-world home and selling books about your complaints in order to make others as disillusioned as you are?
You blame the lack of rain for the death of that baby. And rain is obviously under God’s control, not humans. Therefore, the death of the baby, in your mind, is God’s fault.
But what about the corrupt politicians who diverted resources from the mouths of the people they are supposed to lead and care for? What about the previous generations of people in that country who could have planned ahead, built roads and infrastructure, stored up food and useful knowledge to help their children and grandchildren in cases of draught or other challenges? What about the wealthy, well-off people living in other parts of the world, the country, or perhaps even in that little region, who had more than enough to share…but didn’t?
What about the evil in the hearts of every human that always seeks its own sustenance without considering the needs of others? What about the evil in your own heart? Are you so blind to its existence?
One of the memories that sticks with me from childhood is the time my mom came home and told me that a friend’s friend had died in a freak accident on the beach.
This friend’s friend left behind two children who were now completely orphaned, after their dad (her estranged husband, whom she had been on the verge of divorcing) had died only a short while earlier, of an unexpected heart attack.
As soon as I heard what had happened, I went into my room, closed the door, and knelt by my bed to pray.
I was trying to pray for the children, that God would comfort and protect them, but within a few seconds, my prayers morphed into prayers for me – I knew that I should feel moved by this story, should feel some kind of pity, compassion, what-have-you. But all I felt was numb.
There was something wrong with me, I was sure, that I did not tear up or feel any kind of throbbing in my heart for these two newly orphaned siblings.
So I started asking God to make me feel more for those children, to be moved with compassion as I should be, asking why I didn’t naturally feel for them.
I knelt there for who knows how long, and then I got up and went about the rest of my day, faintly disturbed by the hardness of my own heart.
Which is why you’ll have to excuse me when I seriously doubt the main excuse I always hear from the more intellectual of the God-deniers: the idea that they “simply can’t believe in a God who isn’t loving enough to save poor orphans.”
If you don’t think God is “loving enough,” what makes you think you are?
Granted, it could be true that I am simply more hard hearted than most, and that I am merely projecting my own hardness of heart on others who are more compassionate than I, (much like how writer Robin D’Angelo’s racism manifests itself in her insistence that everyone white like her is racist – misery loves company, I guess? Or more likely: if everyone else has the same sin as you, your sin doesn’t seem so bad, does it?).
But I’m not so sure about that.
I believe in original sin, the idea that humans are NOT perfectly good by nature, unlike what socialists/Communists/utopianists believe. And that our evil selfishness manifests itself in various ways:
Sometimes in cold emotionlessness, sometimes in feening displays of indulgent emotionality that serves as a counterfeit compassion.
I may be hard hearted in one way, but I think everyone is hard hearted in their own ways…unless and until that heart is softened by God (because goodness knows we can’t do it ourselves).
But back to the topic at hand:
I suspect that those who complain that God is “mean” to starving orphans and whatnot, are really complaining that God is mean to THEMSELVES.
But it looks bad to say “I suffered, and therefore I hate God.” (Especially when it doesn’t look like you have suffered all that much *cough* educated middle-class first-world-ers *cough*)
Much more impressive to show off your compassion for the “starving orphans of the world” and argue on their behalf that a good and loving God cannot exist.
That’s just like the extreme animal rights activists who would do anything for the animals…including hurt fellow human beings.
The animals are just an excuse to exact their unhappy revenge on people who have wounded and disappointed them.
I realize I write this in a perturbed spirit. The reason is because I am angry at hypocritical self-blinded people who malign God and try to turn people away from the one source of hope that can actually help them.
Bad theology, a worldview divorced from reality, can do incalculable damage, not just to one person or two, but nations and generations.
And it’s time to stop treating the anti-theists as “neutral, secular folks” who don’t believe in anything one way or the other, and the Christians as kooky and/or malevolent evangelists trying to “shove their worldview down other people’s throats.”
The reality is, in the mainstream culture, most of the throat-shoving is actually done by the anti-theists who clamor loudly about their resentments toward God, Christians, church, and Judeo-Christian values.
If you truly believe something, you have to share it, and it’s the height of hypocrisy to blame someone for doing something you yourself are doing.
But to be a little kinder to Bart Ehrman and those like him:
I get it.
I understand how irresistible is the temptation to blame a Father for the wounds we receive when we are young and vulnerable.
I do understand what it’s like to be betrayed by someone who should have loved and protected me and taught me to love and trust God.
I do understand what it’s like to be disappointed when God doesn’t shield me from pain.
Growing up, I got both love and hatred from a person who was supposed to be there for me, someone who treated me alternately with kindness and meanness, and seriously confused me.
I wanted to love, but also felt resentment and bitterness. I wanted to have a better relationship, but also wanted to shut out not just this person, but ALL people, for fear of being manipulated again. (And I haven’t fully gotten over this myself, which is in part why I write this article – to remind myself of what NOT to do)
This kind of story is not uncommon story I bet.
I once saw an interview, where the speaker said something like:
“It’s interesting to me when I interview soldiers who have witnessed atrocities. And some of them come back and sink into depression and trauma and lead dissipated lives, while others become stronger and better, reach out and help people and start organizations to serve others. And when I ask them why, the answer is always, ‘you know what happened to me. How could I do otherwise?'”
I wonder about this myself. Why is it that some people, having gone through hell, come out bitter, resentful, and worse for wear, while others come out grateful, loving, and full of joy?
I don’t know the answer, or how to make myself the latter rather than the former. The only thing I can think of to do, though, is to know that those two choices are always before me, and whenever I am tempted to slip into the first, to ask God to give me the insight, courage, love, whatever it is I need to choose the second path.