Monday, November 06, 2006

Finger Pointing

Two situations. . .

(1. Last week, evangelical leader Ted Haggard, pastor of a 14,000-member church, admitted to purchasing methamphetamines and receiving a massage from a gay prostitute. He denied using the drugs or having sex. Who knows what the truth really is, but when methamphetamines, ministers, and media all come together, it's enough to make one say, "Geez."

2. Also last week, a co-worker explained to me how she had grown up going to church "3 times a week," then gave up on it because of perceived hypocracy. Another co-worker had recently invited her to attend church, and she initially accepted. . . until she learned her ex-husband's mistress attended that church. She told me, "I just can't sit in the same pew with people like that.")

. . . last week made me feel like I'd been punched in the stomach.

Each of these situations left me disappointed, angry, and helpless. I found myself wondering how such a prominent member of the church could mess around with drugs and prostitutes with so much at stake. I inwardly scorned this woman for pushing my co-worker away from God through her actions. I gave up trying to speak truth in love to my friend who is hurting beyond my comprehension, a hurt that is currently linked with the church.

Ugh. Right in the stomach.

These two situations are first and foremost sin issues that must be worked through by the individual within community, but they relevantly confront my life because they are image issues. These people represent the faith which I claim, so, on some level, they affect me. People have consistently labeled the church as a place full of hypocrites, people who don't practice what they hear preached. When folks do things like that described up above, it seems to give validity to the charges.

Try as they might, all organizations deal with this image stuff. Borders asks that I not arrive to work sporting a neck beard (or "neard" to all you facial hair afficianados out there) and avoid saying anything that might remotely sound like "dang" or "shoot." Yet, even my manager gets short with customers on occassion. (As a side note, my manager recently filled out a Transaction Abort sheet after a frustrating interaction with a customer that read: "Transaction Abort - Reason: Bitch." Probably my favorite thing that will happen in my tenure at Borders. But I digress.). UNC basketball exudes an image of class and integrity, a culture instilled by the impeccable Dean Smith. Yet, the players still show up to Matt Doherty's firing announcement in casual, indifferent dress. And Miami University football. . . . well, they don't even try when it comes to image. Just win (or go .500), baby.

In today's world, image issues must be confronted, and how Christianity deals with these image issues makes it utterly unique. The world tries shaving, clothing, punishments, seminars, rituals, anything to try to make its people perfect, to try to fix its image problem. Christianity does not exhaust a package of blue Bic razors on my neck. It does not demand formal attire at the hiring of the new coach. It does not "punish" fighting football players for 1 game. It does not base its image on its people because it knows that sins are unavoidable, given the imperfection of man.

Christianity simply points to God.

So while situations like 1 and 2 are disappointing and tough to swallow, they are not deadly because we don't follow men. God is always at the center, regardless of what man may do, which is good because the Father is everything that man is not. The situations of last week clearly show this. Man sins. God is immaculately holy. Man is fickle and untrustworthy. God is eternally faithful. Man is greedy, driven by self. God is perfect love. That which is based upon human efforts will ultimately fail - even image correction. That which is based upon God's character will stand forever.

So what do I do when confronted with situations that seem to make Christianity blush, that seem to verify our hypocracy, that seem to show people that faith doesn't change anything?

Keep pointing to God and away from us. Like I should've been doing all along.


Jeff said...

you're right.

And try to practice what YOU preach.

Jenn Pappa said...

I thought the whole idea of a church was it is a place for sinners to come to and get help.. a hospital for the sick, as JD would put it. I think the world has a wrong idea about Christianity. They think we are trying to say we are better and we have it all right, when really, real christianity is saying "we need help!"

We should pray for Ted Haggard and I hope his church will be there for him.

Brian Humphries said...

The hard thing about this is that how we act doesn't matter so much as how the world reacts. It's not our duty JUST to know that we are sinful. We also have to convince the world that we think that way. We may be open and honest within our communities, but until we can tell non-Christians about sin and convince them that we have owned our brokenness, we'll always be perceived as "hypocrites", no matter how much we know we aren't.