Pastor, sociologist and author Dr. Tony Campolo recorded this special message for JCC. The “epistle” was shown during the Friday night service on May 24th, 2013. Following the video, Jason Denison read a response to Dr. Campolo’s message. Below are the video and Jason’s letter.
I thank you for sharing your heart with us. Your words for me personally have been at the least inspiring and at the most paradigm shifting. I still remember being on a long trip with my parents when I was only 9 or 10 years old. Even then you spoke to my self-loathing tendencies. Your words that I was not accident but a winner—ONE in a race of 250 million sperm, and I was the one who got there first! Your cosmology, one which includes Einstein’s theory of relativity and through it paints a picture of a God who exists in one eternal now, made me deeply aware, at a new level, of a God who is intimately and profoundly at work right this minute. And of course, you never stop talking about Jesus. You take Him so seriously. I want to take Him seriously, but alas, I am a hypocrite.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t embrace my hypocrisy by saying, “We’re all hypocrites so everybody just chill and hypocrite out.” Part of what I find so compelling about Jesus is that He offers a way out of my hypocrisy, greed etc. That doesn’t change the fact that the person I am right now, though I can talk it up about Jesus and His sacrifice, is a deeply selfish person. And that’s an improvement from last year.
I have many friends who have in their effort to not be hypocritical simply swept under the rug the ways their belief and behavior fail to line up, hoping nobody will see. One friend in particular (me) tends to challenge the people around him to high-risk type scenarios challenging them to take risk, when he himself is about as comfortable and safe as a Raider fan at a Raider game.
Luckily, or maybe I should say, unfortunately, I think you’re right—hypocrisy is not unique to Christian people, just people. One of my particularly angry atheistic friends claims religion is oppressive. You should hear his angry diatribes directed at organized religion. And yet, his own quest for the almighty dollar often causes him to cut legal corners and exploit his work force. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists alike, we all wear the mask of hypocrisy.
Interesting word, hypocrisy. It seems to beg an etymology search on the internet. So, that’s what I did. The word turns out to be a combination of the Greek prefix hypo (which means under—as opposed to hyper, which means over) and the Greek verb krinein, “to sift or decide.” In short, a hypocrite is someone who under processes (under decides_ who is something, “but only up to a point”. Who doesn’t do this? We all struggle with a little bit of “under decision” – deflated conviction, half-heartedness. I still remember talking to one of the students of my youth ministry during some pre-marital counseling with him and his soon to be wife. I always thought, (we’ll call him Jon) was a deep kid, convinced that God was real and central to his life. He went on every mission trip, came to every event, showed up and even brought friends to every weekend gathering. That’s why it blew my mind when one evening while my wife and I were counseling him and his fiancé he described his faith in God as “something he never wanted to get too fanatical about”. Granted, I don’t like fanatics as much as the next guy. Their odd hair dews and body paint are obnoxious. But still something sat wrong with me. It seemed to me that someone truly in touch with God’s Spirit, understanding His love for them – someone really aware of the love of God – would never voice something like “I never want to get too fanatical about it”. I guess it’s always seemed to me that a person who has experienced the reality and love of God in their life would be willing to risk appearance and brave the women’s support group like Jerry McGuire, or stand outside in the rain with a ghetto blaster blasting “In Your Eyes,” or even sell everything, and leave behind the family business, to follow Jesus, all at the risk of looking a little fanatical.
I don’t know about you, but when I go to the doctor for a surgical procedure, I am not interested in a doctor who half decided to be a doctor, or who under studied. A doctor “up to a point.” I like my doctors like I like my musicians, fanatical, sold out, all out, HYPERcrites.
And yet, if I’m honest, I know halfhearted. Rolling out of bed – getting by – amusing myself to death. I personally hate my under decidedness. Perhaps that’s why I liked Braveheart so much. There was nothing “under decided” about homeboy. He was all in, even to the point of death.
I guess that’s what it boils down to. What am I willing to die for? I live a comfortable life – perhaps that’s the most hypocritical thing about me. I speak with conviction to a church family, that risk is the lingua franca of the Kingdom of God. Without it, we are puppeteers, controlling a man made religion that has little to do with the wild God of the Bible. The God who rebuked his people many times for having a “form of godliness but denying it’s power”. How often I have spoken in a service while leading worship that the Jesus we worship is not just a figment of our weekend imagination but is the person/God which Colossians 1:17 says, “He was before all things and in Him all things hold together”. And yet, a couple hours later I pray a prayer over a young woman just diagnosed with cancer – a prayer of escape, a prayer of no faith, and scant conviction, that God can actually do something to heal her body. All the way making a way out for God just in case he never turns up – as I, If I’m honest, often suspect he won’t.
Tony, I have to confess, what I am most hypocritical about is the size of my God. I claim He’s BIG and REAL, but I live hypo (under) crite (decided) in both.
Who can blame me. I don’t need a big God, I have most everything I need. I more or less need a pocket sized God that will go with me throughout the day, blessing my agenda along the way. I’ve got a question Mr. Campolo, has our pursuit of comfort created an environment where God is both irrelevant and even offensive? I recently heard Kay Warren share a story about a woman from Kenya who visited their wealthy Orange County Church to speak one Sunday. They were back stage, and Kay mentioned to the young African woman that she felt conspicuous about all the money they had in their church. The woman’s response blindsided Kay, she said “I feel sorry for you. When you get sick you go to the doctor or the drug store. When I or my child gets sick, we turn to God, and through that turning, experience that he is not only real, but generous, and loving. I know an intimacy with Him these people normally do not know.”
Perhaps that’s why we are hypocrites – our belief in him is half hearted because we’ve been lulled into thinking we don’t need Him.
Or have we just lived in Jesus’ backyard too long such that he is more of a kind-hearted hippie who likes to speak in parables and spiritual platitudes.
Has he been domesticated to look more like us than the wild God/man who walked stirred up socially unacceptable situations over and over again only to purposefully introduce mankind to an all together revolutionary way of relating to God and man. Has he died the death of a thousand qualifications and become just another one of us, as Alan Hirsch suspects.
Or perhaps it’s not that we’ve messed up the identity of Jesus but rather, that we’ve lost the essence of our own identity. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of who we are—that we are God’s children. “The American Dream,” as nice as it is, is not what we were created for. We were created for the culmination of creation – to be God’s hands and feet, joining with Him in the work of calling creation back to it’s original intent – its WITH GOD intent.
Or maybe we are under decided, hypocrites because we don’t want any truth besides the truth of what we want. Desire dictates truth – no, desire is truth. We are halfhearted and hypocritical because our hearts have been spread thin across the vast field of Madison Avenue promises and dreams. We waffle between Sunday and every other day living two lives, one sacred, the other secular, one useful in calming the angry God down, and the other useful in calming our veracious appetite for MORE.
I think it was Marshall McCluen who said, “the despot of tomorrow will be the kind we give ourselves to.” This seems to be coming true. I’m sitting in front of my TV—giving myself to it’s noise and narrative when I could be experiencing God. I spend and I spend, I give myself to the despot that is MasterCard and Visa. And these totalitarian rulers are the most evil of all. They come guised as angels of light but they leave dead mans bones behind.
Which brings me to my point. I was walking in the parking lot of Target the other day and all of a sudden I had a foreboding phrase pop into my mind “mene mene tekel parsin”. It did not take me long to remember the origin of this phrase. This was the infamous “writing on the wall”. The writing written on the wall by a disembodied hand during one King Belshazar’s parties. With none of his officials able to interpret the strange script the King sent for Daniel who interpreted the writing as such.
And this is the writing that was inscribed: mina, mina, shekel, half-mina. This is the interpretation of the matter: mina, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; shekel, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; half-mina, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. — Daniel 5:25-28
Why the stern judgment? Upon further investigation it seemed to have something to do with Belshazar’s behavior earlier that same evening. As I am sure you know, earlier that evening He took the gold, silver and bronze vessels from Solomon’s Temple, that were set apart for worship of YHWH only, and he did something absolutely wrong, he used them during his party as tools to worship the god of gold, the god of silver and the god of bronze.
What I sensed God saying to me was this. “I am the God of gold, I am the God of silver, I am the God of bronze, I am the God of the sea, I am the God of the air, I am the God of the volcanoes, the leviathan, all the creatures that run upon the land and the ones that crawl on the surface of the deep, I am the God of you, your friends, your family, your money, your home, the sun rise, the breath you just took the items you just bought, the lyric you just wrote, the building you just built, the person you cut off, the child in your womb, the sun, the moon – I am the Creator of all these things – they point to me. They are not ends in and of themselves. They are pointers to me. So seek me through them. Realize your girlfriend, your studies, a good song, your husband, wife, kids, job, resources, responsibilities and relationships are not ends. These dots of your experience can all be traced back to me, their Beginning and their End. Let it all point back to Me. When you worship other things, when you make other stuff ends in and of themselves, you look half hearted, under decided – you look like a hypocrite, claiming God as ultimate and living as if he’s non-existent. Like a flirtatious husband or wife who claims love for their spouse but only gives attention to everyone else, your profession of love is vapid and unconvincing—fake.”
Of course I am back at the beginning. What do we do with this propensity to run away from the God of the Bible who is powerfully, and presently at work?
My hunch, for now, is a word – worship. Alan Hirsch defined worship as giving our world back to God. So, as I do battle with my inner hypocrite I plan on giving God that battle. The guilt that comes with it, and the victory too. My wife, my kids, dreams and aspirations, it’s all going back to Him. I envision moments of frustration and fear. Some give backs will not be easy. They will undoubtedly be accompanied by a ripping sound. Nevertheless, I sense that this is the way my fragmented heart, that has been spread thin amidst the amalgam of life’s experiences will eventually return to you – not half, but whole, one item at a time. Then, maybe then, in the realization of myself in God – real community will just HAPPEN as we no longer seek to possess one another, but love one another. And then maybe then, the goodness inside of us and a unique community of us will spill over in the form of love for the unloved. Then maybe then, Jesus will say, well done good and faithful hypercrite. You have cared much, now enter something like rest.