Thomas Merton once wrote, “All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything in the universe is ordered.”
If you are truly a skeptic, you likely repel at the thought of a concept like sin. But maybe you’ll entertain the concept of hypocrisy. You know it. You’ve seen it, time and again. And you’ve noticed its peculiar redundancy among us – Christians. I’d like to say, in fact, that you’re very right in noticing it.
Hypocrisy. Its roots run deep. It was a word applied to Greek actors – people who played a part. Hypocrite. Pretender. Actor. The false self.
You might be encouraged that Christians call this sin. But it doesn’t keep us from engaging in it.
I heard it said recently of Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann, both who’ve spent many hours on stage. But I’ve also heard it said of John Edwards, who called himself a Christian before his own stage-act was exposed. False selves can be found in Democrats and Republicans, in theological conservatives and theological liberals, in pastors and in plumbers. Truth is, we’re all so good at playing the part.
So, I ask, “Who are we?” Who are you? Can I trust what I hear and see from you? And can you trust what you hear and see from me? What we can agree on, at the outset, is this: I agree that Christians are hypocrites. But hear me out. I’m quite sure we all are.
I don’t know a person without a story, and I don’t know a story without some conflict, confusion, struggle, fear, or shame. How we cope defines our stories, their trajectories, their plots, their highs and lows. I know a Christian who coped with his tragic sexual abuse by becoming a six-figure success. On paper. In reality, his life was a mess. Just ask his three children who no longer know him.
Oh yes, we’re guilty of hypocrisy. In fact, I’m going to argue that we, Christians, don’t know how deep the rabbit hole goes. Sure, we say we believe in sin, even in a concept called total depravity. We believe in a false self, “the self that exists only in my egocentric desires.” But we’re utter failures at seeing our own false selves. Ideas are easier to see than human realities. We’re fearful, scared of looking within.
Who am I? Who are you? We have much in common. I look forward to exploring all of it with you.
Yours in this journey of human curiosity,