The Tragedy of the Self-Righteous Christian
I am sure 99.57% of my non-Christian readers will never believe this, but…
…to be Christian and self-righteous at the same time is a contradiction in terms…
It ought to be a paradox.
The Gospels are quite clear. Besides depicting Jesus dining with “prostitutes and publicans” without feeling any urge to lecture and condemn them, references abound on concentrating on one’s own real problems instead of anybody else’s purported issues.
41 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
42 How can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s.
Also the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector from Luke 18:10-14 could not be clearer:
10 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.
13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
And yet obviously the vast majority of Christians prominently appearing in pulpits and news do indeed sound a lot more self-righteous than the average person.
Take for example the whole debate about homosexuality as a sin.
As a RC myself, it is not yet clear to me if the Vatican takes that view, or restricts the “sin” to the actual sexual intercourse between consenting adults of the same gender. Officially, they say the latter is true. However, this would clearly contradict Matthew 5:27-28:
27 “You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.’
28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart
Personally I don’t think God pays any interest in the sexual mores of a person as long as there is love behind them (with consent, adulthood, etc etc).
Anyway, centuries ago actors and non-baptized children were not deemed worthy of Christian burials, and attitudes have (slowly) evolved beyond that.
So it can be expected that in two or three hundred years all the “Christian” debate about allowing homosexuals as bishops, or in a Church at all could be seen as a giant waste of time, as puzzling as early-Church discussions of the existence of a soul in a woman’s body.
Unfortunately, self-righteousness is much more than that: it is a tragedy and a scandal.
- It is a scandal, as by shouting out (in the example above) against homosexuality, priests and Christians of all kinds of denominations are actively trying to deny other people the possibility of Salvation.
It would be like asking a person to choose: either eat or love God. I am afraid most would choose the former.
And so who knows how many people have been persuaded by their local priest or bishop… to become atheists!
- It is also a tragedy, as the recurring appearance in history of a certain kind of rigid, unloving and definitely uncharitable attitude of self-righteousness among the Christians, leaves the nagging doubt: is there something intrinsically un-Christian in Christianity itself?
It has not to be that way. After all it is hard to hear about Christians that truly keep to Matthew 6:3-4:
3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The best Hope and strongest foundation is the work of thousands of less publicity-prone people that actually do love God and their neighbours.
ps Am I suggesting Christian Churches should stop talking about their beliefs? No, I am saying Christian Churches should concentrate on the souls they’ve been gifted with, rather than pontificate about the ones they are currently refuting to accept. The commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself carries no conditions.