Where the Hypocrites Are

Tell me if you’ve heard this one: “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites.” If you’re a Christian, your first reaction is probably to try to defend the nice people in your church. Sure there are some hypocrites in some churches, but most Christians are good people, etc. But I would say that’s the wrong approach, because – let’s face it – people who say the church is full of hypocrites are actually right.

The flaw in their logic is not in their assessment of the people. No, the logical flaw is in thinking that this observation somehow exempts them from the label hypocrite. As if you’re automatically not a hypocrite when you point out others who are hypocrites. And therein lies the real hypocrisy, because the word “hypocrite” comes from a Greek word which literally means, “under judgment.” But who among us always practices what we preach? Who can ever claim to live up to the highest standards of humanity? No, the judgment is not on us because we fail, the judgment is on us when we claim to be better than we are.

To me, saying you won’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites is like saying you won’t go to the hospital because the hospital is full of sick people. That’s where they are supposed to be, because that’s where they go to get better!

It’s the same with the church. The church is not a club for like-minded people (in fact, often we are not like-minded). The church is a hospital for the soul. So who’s the hypocrite now? At least I admit I need healing.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one: “Religion is a crutch.” My response: You say that like it’s a bad thing. Again, the problem is not that religion gives us something to lean on. The problem is when you think you don’t need anything to lean on. Everyone needs something (or Someone) to lean on. (Cue the song: Lean on me…)

Hebrew wisdom literature proposes an interesting paradox: If you think you’re wise, then you’re foolish. But if you admit you’re not wise… now that’s wisdom. To paraphrase, if you think you don’t need God in your life, that just proves you do. There are only two kinds of people: those who need God and admit it, and those who need God but live in denial of the fact.

I heard there’s a movement to create a new version of atheism – one that includes the community and ritual that even the atheists admit everyone needs, but without having to believe in God. (In know, you can name a church or two that already offers this.) But that’s like admitting that people are hungry, and proposing to give them a plate, knife and fork – but without the burden of food. It would be just another club to belong to. Actually, it would be worse because it would advertise a false substitute for the real thing. Like putting a band-aid on cancer. What people need is more than the community, and more than the ritual – they need the purpose behind the ritual. They need connection with the Divine.

However, the benefits of a relationship with God are hard to describe. In many ways, you would just have to experience it. I can’t adequately describe the comfort, assurance, empowerment, enlightenment, forgiveness, relief, love, and general warm fuzzy feelings that come with a connection to God (and the attendant connection to others who are connected to God). Not to mention eternal life… And I certainly can’t prove it to someone who has not experienced it. I can only say that I know it’s real from my own experience, and anyone who doesn’t know it’s real simply hasn’t experienced it (yet). If that describes you, I would say – don’t be a hypocrite – use that open mind you claim to have and open yourself up to the experience of a connection with the Divine. Stop looking for an easier and watered down substitute, push past your fear and prejudice, and just go to church. See what happens. I dare you.

Jim Papandrea

Wedding of the Lamb

Spiritual Blueprint



About Jim Papandrea

Jim Papandrea is an author, educator, and singer/songwriter. Visit his website at: www.JimPapandrea.com
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10 Responses to Where the Hypocrites Are

  1. “saying you won’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites is like saying you won’t go to the hospital because the hospital is full of sick people.” Like this very much. Hope you don’t mind if I borrow it for a homily one of these days.

    • I don’t mind at all! While the analogy is mine, I can’t claim to have invented the idea. In the early church, the theologians talked about the church as a hospital, and the sacraments were the medicine.

  2. I concur, Jim! It’s terrific to be part of a church if only to feel love from your community if you are not a believer in a God. Having been without a car for a few months I really miss going- I never joined one yet in our area- but your message inspires me! I’m not a club-goer, either. I definitely get you there- spiritual support is absolutely necessary for everyone. Unfortunately, my eldest child is completely disconnected from this- we’ve taken her to UU church, but I have been a miserable failure in getting her to study any kind of organized religion- if just for the sake of keep an “open mind” about the ideas they espouse. Well, I’ll keep trying – haven’t given up yet!

    • Thanks, Emily. In the first draft of this blog, I talked more about the community support, etc., but the more I think about it, the more I want to emphasize the deeper spiritual benefit, which is connection with the Divine. This is why Jesus came – not to give us advice, or show us how to be good people (though he did that) – it was to give us a way to connect with God, through him. Personally, I think the Unitarians lack this connection because they lack the Trinity. That’s what it’s all about.

  3. Lorainne Soderlund says:

    Jim– i’ve always loved your writing and insight–you’re so counter-cultural!

  4. Ricky Jones says:

    It’s so true. Very well put. This is the first time I’ve read your blog, but I will definitely be following your future posts. Thanks for putting the truth out there in an educated, well-thought-out way. We don’t see much of that these days, especially online.

  5. Kim B says:

    I love that warm fuzzy, and everything else that comes from God. Thank you for the reminder that I am so grateful for my relationship with the Divine, and with His lambs. Without God, my life would be in shambles. We are so blessed! And I do chuckle a bit thinking about atheists ‘needing’ community & ritual, when it’s the Divine imprint on their heart that produces that need to begin with. Brilliant! Thanks for your wisdom and fervor, Jim. God Bless you!

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