In the olden days, say 50 years ago, it was common for people to critique Christians as being hypocrites. The Dictionary defines hypocrisy as: The pretending of having virtues, principals, or beliefs that one does not in fact have.
Back in those days’ preachers used to quote Jesus and what he said to describe Christians who puffed themselves up to impress others.
For example, in Matthew 23 Jesus says: (27) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. (28) So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Powerful words. Thankfully, in The Brave New Christianity of the 21st century, we no longer hold anyone to such strict adherence to these old scriptural references. We have finally outgrown hypocrisy.
As a young seminarian and then a young preacher, I was always conscious of avoiding words and actions in clear conflict with what I professed to believe. Most of the time I was successful, but I was hard on myself and others of my group when I failed.
Many modern Christian leaders are now quick to find simple answers that prove that lying, adultery, theft and other seemingly common sins are of no consequence when they are used to further the higher purpose of creating a Christian government.
Many of today’s modern Christian leaders are solidly sure that what used to matter no longer counts. Jerry Falwell, Jr. has celebrated Trump as a “dream president” and Franklin Graham said “God’s hand intervened” to elect him.
At the 2018 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., several speakers said no President in American history has done as much as this one to promote “religious freedom.”
And why would people who claim to stand for family values so uncritically fiercely support a thrice-married man who, according to Ronan Farrow’s reporting for the New Yorker, set up complex legal arrangements to cover up multiple affairs throughout his current marriage?
Well, that seems to be a good question.
And the answer from megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, who declared that Trump is “on the right side of God” and that “evangelicals know they are not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president” is a dramatic statement of how the church is no longer willing to recognize its own hypocrisy.
They must be right. This is a new day, a new century and a new set of values that are ‘Making America Great Again.’ These old ways of understanding the Bible are finally passé and we live in a newly liberated Christian environment.
They are a strangely welcome relief for those of us who still catch ourselves being hypocritical on matters of morality and following Jesus’ words.
But I cannot stop wondering what happened to those old-fashioned Christian values. George Washington could not tell a lie. Thomas Jefferson insisted on the separation of church and state. And it was that old soldier, General Dwight D. Eisenhower who, as President in 1959, warned us about the spiritual damage to our country that would result if we followed the wrong forces at work in our society.
— Chuck Robison is the former Protestant Chaplain at The Church Center of The United Nations in New York. He is a graduate of Austin College and Princeton Seminary and co-author “The Quantum Conspiracy” available on Amazon.