Religion and Spirituality

Josh Duggar and the Only Part of Christian Hypocrisy that Really Upsets Me

A standard charge leveled against Christians is that they are hypocrites, and a standard talking point by Christians in response to this is that of course they are hypocrites, that’s why they have to go to church.  This is often a bridge into a speech on how wicked we all are, there is none righteous, and we’re all struggling together to be better people by following Jesus.  Any conversation with Christians about atheists and morals is almost certain to lead to the impression that think everyone is a ravening beast barely restrained from rape and murder by the thought of god, and sins are times when those thoughts aren’t sufficient but can be fixed by groveling prayers for forgiveness.  This tendency to regard even Christians as totally horrible people lends itself to having the set of Christians who like to tell atheists how it is they really think usually have the atheists rejecting Christianity because of all the hypocritical Christians, and this is accompanied by a huge set of rationalizations about why Christians are hypocrites.  In fact, when I was still a good Christian girl, I had my rationalization to comfort me (I’ve always been too much of a social coward to be good at proselytizing, so my rationalizations were mostly for me)  in the face of Christians doing awful things, which was “I can’t blame people in pursuit of perfection for not having attained it yet.”  I’m fairly sure I stole it from somewhere, because I’m not typically that pithy.

Honestly, however, now that I’ve been an atheist for a while hypocrisy doesn’t usually bug me that much.  Most people, myself included, aren’t consistent about absolutely everything, and people do change their minds. What blatant and widespread hypocrisy illustrates, I think, is a failure to think too closely about one’s inherited beliefs, which is bothersome, but generally not as bothersome as what Christians actually really seriously believe.  E.g. we’re all horrible and are going to burn in hell without slavish devotion to an authority who defines morality.  So if that authority says one particular tribe in Canaan needed to be genocided down to the sheep, then by god that was moral.  God’s ways, my darlings, are not our ways, and if God had it in for those Amalekite sheep, then we shouldn’t question unless we canst draw out leviathan with an hook.  In comparison with such an attitude, hypocrisy is the least of my problems.  Sure, it’s a fun target, and it’s way more socially acceptable than criticizing actual Christian beliefs, but most of the time I’m fairly ambivalent about the topic of Christian hypocrisy.

There is an exception to my ambivalence. Christianity lends itself to being a toxic environment that enables toxic people to pursue felonies relatively free from reprisal.  Meanwhile, Christians tout the church as a safe place.  I remember as a child, my mother reading (I think) Northanger Abbey to me,  and there was a scene in which the protagonist and her mother were at tea (? some social event) in a large crowd, and they could not talk to anyone because they had not been introduced. I asked if they were unable to talk to anyone around them, and my mother explained that you can’t just introduce yourself, because you have no idea where people come from without an introduction.  I then asked about church, my one real social experience in which people can and do introduce themselves, and was told that the church roof served as an introduction and guarantee for people.  In other words, I was explicitly told that the church served to ensure that the people I met were safe. At the same time, church is the only place I have ever had my boundaries physically violated on a regular basis.  I used to think I hated being touched, but in retrospect, I just hated that the older men of the church would come up behind me and grab and hug me, often pulling my long and braided hair, without me knowing necessarily they were there, going to do that, or honestly who they even were.  I’m bad with both names and faces, and adults have a tendency to assume that if they know a child’s parents that serves as an introduction to the child.  However, putting up with unwanted physical contact was something I had to do or be rude.  The church roof may have been a guarantee of something, but bodily autonomy for children (or at least female children) wasn’t included in that something.

Then incidents like the highly televised Josh Duggar’s confessions of child molestation occur, and Christians continue to claim that church is safe place welcoming of everyone while at the same time touting our fallen nature and how we’re all sinners and we need god to help us.  A community is never better than the people inhabiting it, and saying we are all terrible people even with god but a community of people who are terrible is magically always safe is a hypocrisy that leads to people getting hurt.

Featured image is William Strut’s Peace, via Wikimedia

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Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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