When we hear Glenn Beck call for Americans to “Turn to God” as the answer to our problems should we rejoice that finally someone understands or should we be concerned that this comes from a Mormon? Is it relief or concern with which we should greet Sarah Palin when she says…
What our culture does when it translates religious values into secular terms and applies them to useful ends isn’t about brainwashing or trying to convert anyone – quite the opposite. It’s a way of conferring a rich moral heritage while respecting everyone’s religious freedom. America By Heart, 240.
Perhaps we have an easier time discerning what to do when we hear about stars like Katy Perry who claim to be Christians but whose actions are totally opposed to Christianity like Perry’s single “I Kissed a Girl” or her recent marriage in a Hindu ceremony.
This crisis of hypocrisy runs rampant as we delude ourselves concerning those whom we most admire. When I read Peter Guralnick’s two volume biography of Elvis Presley, I was forced to compare the man I read about to the heroic Southern Christian American icon I constructed to look much like I wanted to be. It took nearly two years for me to grudgingly have the persona of a man I respected and admired, especially for his gospel music, destroyed page by page as I read of his hedonistic lifestyle, devotion Eastern mystic books like The Impersonal Life, as well as his knowing deception through a carefully maintained conservative Christian façade. I was greatly tempted to make nothing of my new knowledge. After all who hasn’t believed what they wished concerning a hero or political candidate despite evidence to the contrary.
Thus far the question of hypocrisy has centered on those whom we know. What do we do when the hypocrite happens to be us? Despite the fact that there is no work that can be done to ensure our security for tomorrow don’t we slave away trying to provide what only God can provide? How many of us have determined to do what we know is wrong using the flimsy line that we’ll just have to make it right with God? If we know what is right, then the way to make it right with God is to do what is right! Worst of all how many of us offer God such wonderful words at church or among other Christians but give him no worship day by day. So what hope is there?
Think with me about the temptations of Jesus found in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus’ temptations came that he might prove to pass the tests that Adam and Eve failed. Adam and Eve chose a good thing, their own desires for the fruit God created over what was best, obedience to the Lord God himself. They failed to discern what was praiseworthy. Jesus did not fail to discern that it was faithfulness to God that mattered most. He would not gratify himself with food apart from God’s will (4:3-4). He would not test God’s revealed Word concerning the Messiah, which said in Isaiah that he must suffer and be crushed to pay the penalty for humanity’s transgressions (4:6-7). Finally Jesus would not allow Satan to forfeit worship in deeds in favor of worship in words. Jesus was not tempted to have his faith merely be words and neither should we.
When we discern this hypocrisy between what someone practices and the faith proclaim, then we must be very careful to reject the failure of Adam and rely instead on victory in Jesus. Glenn Beck is correct in his assertion that we should turn to God, but we cannot allow anyone to think it is the Jesus of Mormonism to whom they should turn. Thus we might admire or even repeat his call but we must define which God to whom people should turn. Sarah Palin’s call for a return to faith that informs our society’s values is a noble call, and one we might share. Even so, we must be clear that moralism is fruitless if to respect everyone’s religious freedom we ask no one to seek Christ for transformed desires of the heart. Katy Perry and Elvis both have a Christianity that appears to be skin deep, and when we say we appreciate their art, we must mention their confused faith. Especially when it comes to our own hypocritical hearts, we must put off the wicked desires we pursue and become just as satisfied as Christ was with God’s provision, His Word, and being what He said we should be. If we put on Christ then we too can enjoy the same freedom from Satan in Matthew 4:11, and a supernatural comfort better than angels offered by the Savior in the person of his Spirit.