Bankruptcy vs Hypocrisy

Christianity is bankrupt…

Christianity is bankrupt when it has insufficiently developed the humanity of its congregations to be able to carry the moral and spiritual weight of its rhetoric and beliefs. Historically, such lack of structural integrity is evidenced by the many Christians who were complicit in genocide, slavery, misogyny, systemic poverty, discrimination, crusades, violence, and more. Simply put, Christianity lacking deep spiritual formation, leaves its members unspiritual, inhuman, and fails to develop the ability to “love our neighbor as ourself.”

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  -Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5:16 

Woe to you, [Christian pastors and politicians], hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. - Matthew 22: 13-15

The Christian light is no longer a beacon of hope in the world but a searchlight for finding faults in everyone else. The lack of interest in Christianity by many is not because outsiders to the faith “don’t get it” - but because Christians have failed to evidence enough human goodness to make them worthy of notice. Ignoring the raging fires in their own houses of worship and institutions, Christians fixate on how the outsiders are ruining our country and world and more. Thinking themselves the special enlightened ones who alone can clearly see, tragically they are unable to see the giant timber lodged in their eyes.

This phenomenon is often labeled crudely as hypocrisy.

The reality is worse than mere hypocrisy - it is evidence of widespread bankruptcy, a more brutal indictment. The whole system - of American Evangelical Christianity at least - appears to be ‘writing checks its morally insufficient to cash.”

“Son, your ego’s writing checks your body can't cash!”
- Stinger, Top Gun (1986).

I find the distinction between Hypocrisy and Bankruptcy helpful. It helps me better understand the behavior of Christianity in America.

Hypocrite: “a person who *pretends* to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles…”

Bankrupt: “A person or institution *intends* to have virtue, but whose moral or religious practices are insufficient to produce the virtues, morals, worldview and lifestyle promised by the tenants of their faith system.”

Hypocrisy PRETENDS -  Bankruptcy INTENDS.

Tragically - good intentions are not enough. Good intentions are but one ingredient in the development of deep faith and moral courage and clarity. A Christian with good intentions who has not experienced a true enlightenment of soul, will happily baptize the life of Cain (violence and retribution) with Christian vocabulary, and the blood of our brothers will cry out in anguish even as we rapturously sing Hallelujah with #allthefeels each Sunday.

A sobering historical example of the effects of Christian bankruptcy: 

Facing the rise of the Nazi rule, the German church offered little resistance. Worse than hypocritical -  the acquiescence and eventual collusion with Nazi nationalism and the Jewish genocide revealed the bankruptcy of the Church in Germany. At a critical moment in history, it lacked the necessary moral funds to resist lure of nationalism - and instead became part of the propaganda and war machine of the state. While the world watched the Bankrupt German church collapse, the German church continued to squabble over petty technicalities and carpet color:

“Remarkably, internecine debates over ecclesial principle... would continue to be waged in the regional churches well into the war years. (Strange Glory - C. Marsh)

Full Disclosure. I am, and have been my whole life, a Christian.

Where does this bring us?

What does this bankruptcy mean and how do Christians move forward?

I am very interested in these questions and hope that every Christian is also asking these questions of themselves and of the faith communities they are part of. We must learn to be as honest about our own faults as we have been about the perceived faults of our “enemies.”

"Jesus the Jew criticizes his own religion the most…!"
- Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

Photographer + Storyteller. Pastor + Advocate. Schemer + Party commencer.