We tend to call it “evil,” but it comes in various forms.
It’s been long taught the opposite of goodness is badness, or evil. That’s not precisely true. The proper opposite of goodness is non-goodness. Which can take the forms of active evil, apathy (i.e. standing around doing nothing when we could be doing good—or stopping evil), or hypocrisy (i.e. pretending to be good when we’re not really).
We humans don’t like to think of ourselves as evil. Even when we totally are: We seek out ways to justify our misbehavior. Good excuses, like “It wasn’t my responsibility,” or as Cain ben Adam put it, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The usual route I find Christians take when it comes to fake goodness, is misdirection. Misdirection’s what stage magicians use when they want you to stop paying attention to what they’re really doing, and focus instead on something interesting or distracting—like a pretty assistant, sharp knives, or a white tiger. We Christian misdirect by pointing away from our own lack of goodness… and point at someone else’s lack of goodness. You know, like when Adam was in trouble and pointed to Eve, or Eve passing the buck to the serpent.
Matthew 7.1-5 KWL
- 1 “Don’t criticize. Thus you won’t be criticized.
- 2 For you’ll be critiqued by the very criticism you criticize with.
- The measurement you measure with, will measure you.
- 3 Why do you see the wood chip in your brother’s eye, yet not notice the support beam in your eye?
- 4 How will you tell your brother, ‘Let me get the chip out of your eye’? Look, there’s a beam in your eye!
- 5 You hypocrite, first get the beam out of your eye!
- And you’ll see straight enough to get out the chip from your brother’s eye.”
But you’ll notice there are a number of Christians who’ve made it their mission, their ministry, their calling, to criticize everyone else for their sins. Christian political pundits are an obvious example: They’re so quick to harp on the sins of their opponents, but utterly blind to the many misdeeds of their own party. They’ll try to pass off those sins as “good stewardship” or “pragmatism,” or some other virtue. But yeah, they’re just hypocrites.
And you’re gonna find a lot of the things these pundits object to—and for that matter, the subjects a lot of preachers rail against regularly—have nothing to do with Christianity. But they have plenty to do with Christianism—with a socially acceptable, exterior façade of Christianity which grows us no closer to Christ Jesus. It’s dead religion. Holding it up as a standard by which all true Christians ought to live, is dead religion. Yet Christianists use their beliefs as a form of peer pressure, trying to get Christians to believe and behave as they do. Christians who fall for this, wind up with divided loyalties. Sometimes they eventually side with Jesus. Sometimes not.
Obviously the path of goodness is to obey Jesus. Read his teachings and stick to ’em. Hopefully your church provides help and support, and when they do, accept their help. When they hinder, don’t: Never assume everything in Christendom is a help. Too often, it’s just repackaged pagan pop culture, coated in a thin coat of Christianity-paint so they can sell it easier.
Politics of course: While the various parties embrace some of Jesus’s views, they embrace plenty of views Jesus clearly opposes. The Christians in both parties have made a great effort to justify their antichrist policies to themselves and others. They really want it to look like Jesus endorses them, in part so they can sleep at night, and in part to get Christians to side with them. They easily take advantage of Christians’ unfamiliarity with Jesus, and our eagerness to embrace fake goodness instead of the hard work of true goodness.
Politics is an easy target to pick on, but we don’t only find it there. Many Christian self-help books are straight-up pagan pop psychology, again with a Christian veneer to convince Christians to buy and follow them… and often fall headfirst into bad advice. Prosperity gospel books will tell us it’s okay to be greedy: Jesus wants us to have the desires of our hearts!
Men’s movement books will tell men it’s okay to be “wild” and “free.” (And never let your wife hold you back, ’cause patriarchy’s in the bible, so it’s okay to be sexist and chauvinist.) In defending their prejudices, they twist the bible in such ways that Jesus sounds quite a lot like they imagine themselves to be.
Christian pop music will simply replace “baby” with “Jesus.” (And Christians will totally miss how homoerotic it now sounds when male singers talk about how they really wanna cuddle Jesus.) Third-rate Christian movies and art, which only sells because it was made by Christians, is everywhere. Third-rate Christian businesses, which only have customers because Christians forgive them for inferior products, work, and the way they exploit their employees, abound.
Yep, it means we have to be on our guard against everything in Christian culture. Seriously everything. We can’t blindly accept anything marketed to Christians. All it guarantees is they’re after our money and loyalty, two things which rightly belong to Jesus, not them. All the labeling guarantees, is they might be Christian, but might be Christianist, and therefore no more righteous than any pagan. Sometimes less righteous, ’cause they’re trying to scare us into following them blindly.
Count on it. Watch for it. And when you find Christians practicing true goodness, who really do want to love their neighbors and do for them, and aren’t angling to harness your power, take your money, or rally you to denounce “sins” instead of concentrating on defeating your own sins. Follow people only as they follow Jesus.