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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Dad Could Spot a Hypocrite a Mile Away

When I was growing up we had a Sunday routine. Mom took us kids to church, and Dad stayed home drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and sometimes fried the Sunday dinner chicken. Dad stayed home because of all the hypocrites.
I’ve been thinking a lot about hypocrisy lately. And whether or not I truly think people who give fake smiles and empty compliments are hypocrites or simply good people, wanting to make the crazy, screwed up people who stay home most Sundays smoking and drinking coffee feel like they’re wanted and appreciated when they do actually pull their heads out and show up. I think that’s more likely than the former hypothesis of hypocrisy. ☺

Hypocrisy is a really strong word. Dad shot it out of himself like Spiderman shooting a strong web and swinging from building to building. Alone, above the fray with his superpower—spotting all the hypocrites when no one else, least of all Mom, could see the truth behind the nefarious lies. He had the spidey sense the rest of us lacked—well, not me—he passed the superpower on through spidey DNA.

I think Dad might have had a good reason for the labeling. Church folks had defined what he thought about himself. They thought he was a no-good coffee-drinking, cigarette smoking, sometimes chicken-frying, home-from-church-stayer. And he began to see himself as not as good as the Christians who went to church. I don’t know why he didn’t just switch to the Baptist church. Half the men spent half the service smoking outside the doors. He’d have fit right in. Plus, he could have taught Sunday School which was the whole thing behind his decision to stay home and smoke and drink coffee on Sunday.

Dad knew his Bible, at least intellectually, but they wouldn’t let him teach a Sunday school class because he smoked. Smoking is something you aren’t allowed to do in a lot of churches, or if you do you shouldn’t admit it—which makes you a liar (maybe even a hypocrite)—but that’s better than smoking.

But really, puffing on an expensive, life-threatening tobacco stick is a sin the same way drinking coffee and eating cheesecake are sins. They’re self-indulgent—sort of like blogging ☺ --but won’t keep you out of heaven—if that’s the only goal for accepting Jesus.

Though he never said it in so many words, my dad's point was that you can’t teach a Sunday School class or lead songs if you smoke, but four-hundred pounds of fabulous can belt out How Great Thou Art and bring the preacher’s eighty-year-old mama to tears.

There is a little bit of double-standard involved, but it’s not the church’s fault, it’s just the way it was raised. A long time ago, someone decided certain things were sins, like showing a woman’s ankles, or listening to rock music, or smoking cigarettes and it just got passed on from one generation of church leaders to the next. Obviously some sins, those that aren’t practical—like ankle showing—even rock music since most churches use it for the jumping up and down songs—haven’t endured. Others have. You can’t blame people for that, or label them such a strong, horrible thing like: hypocrite. You have to decide what’s most important. Dulling the spidey senses, following Jesus into the fray.

Anyway, I always liked that Dad didn’t go to church. First of all, he couldn’t sing and we went to a small church of great harmonizers so when he belted out Salvation Has Been Brought Down (and the men) From Heaven. His off-key From Heaven made me want to disappear From my seat. But most of all, I liked coming home to the house smelling like fried chicken because that meant we didn’t have that long to wait before we could eat. Maybe I was the biggest hypocrite of all. Saying, “Gee, Mom I wish Dad would go to church and quit smoking and be Christians like us,” while secretly happy he stayed home—what with the bad singing, but good cooking.

I don’t know. Most important, I wish he could have let God’s love for him define his sense of self-worth instead of well-meaning folks who were just doing the best they could to follow Jesus. It’s what I’ve been trying to do as I think about the way God loves me. Passionate love, deep, bloody love that isn’t about what I do as much as how my heart aches for Him. How his presence fills me up over and over again.

As I’ve been meditating on that love, it makes me grateful, makes me want to be better, love better, serve better. Maybe give up smoking once and for all instead of grabbing it back up every ten years or so—but then I figure I’ll have to stop drinking coffee and eating cheesecake too. I’ve been thinking I should stop thinking about what other people think and try to remember they are just doing their best to serve Jesus the way they know Him—even if their opinions hurt me sometimes. I should love them better whether they love me or not. And I should obey Jesus better. Wholly. Do or don't do things that are actually in the Bible. Love thy neighbor, honor thy father and mother, Love the Lord Your God with everything in you (paraphrased because I got tired of the thys, don't covet your neighbor's wife (as if!).

So this Sunday when I go to church I will close my eyes (even though it’s dark so you really don’t have to), worship, listen to a good word, go home and maybe fry chicken and remember that the other Christians are just like me—God-lovers, family people, hard workers. All who just want to be accepted and not defined by wrong opinions from other people and maybe I can see them the way Jesus sees them. With deep, passionate, bloody love that gives and gives and gives.


Carol said...

Your friend Jill recommended your blog. I really enjoyed this one about hypocrisy. Thanks for sharing, and thanks Jill for the recommendation.

Jill Stengl said...

I think my favorite response to the "Churches are full of hypocrites" line is "True, and there is always room for one more."
Thanks for sharing from your heart and for being real.
And you're welcome, Carol! :-D

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