Sunday, March 30, 2008

Response to: "All religions are hypocritical"

"All religions are hypocritical."

This comment was directed to me a few weeks ago and the ensuing conversation has been bouncing around in my head ever since. I asked what she meant by this so I could respond to this statement more effectively, and qualification was obviously necessary. The half-formed answer was something getting at her belief that all religious people think that they are better than everyone else. Now, I can no more speak for "all religious people" than anyone can be correct in saying that "all religions are hypocritical." This is a huge generalization that would never hold up in any sort of formal argument. This isn't about formal argument. I was struck by the idea that someone, especially someone close to me, raised in the Catholic faith, could believe that Catholicism is hypocritical because Catholics think they are "better than everyone else." Anyone who believes this is missing out on the central aspect of the Christian faith: that God became man and died on the cross so that humanity's sins could be forgiven. Christ's death was necessary because of our sinfulness. In order to be Christian, you must recognize that you are a sinner and are in need of a savior. Anyone who doesn't is in danger of losing his or her soul. Consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector found in Luke 18:9-4 :

He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this:
‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying,
‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

We have to be like the tax collector, conscious of our sins and our sinfulness, knowing that we need Jesus to be our Savior. Christians with inflated senses of self, viewing themselves as better than others because of their "faith," are like the Pharisee, praying to themselves instead of to God, and are therefore not true Christians. I know that I don't want to be like the Pharisee. So I guess I have to be like the tax collector, conscious of my sinfulness, and constantly asking for God's mercy.

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