coupled

Because I am an immediate devotee to anything Mark Burnett produces, I suffered through an entire season of Fox’s Coupled this summer. If you aren’t familiar with this romantic tale, then pat yourself on the back for being a better person than me. The premise is simple: twelve single women get to filter through a lot of men to see if they can ultimately be “coupled” off. You know the drill: island location, loads of Mai Tais, one affront to feminism after another.

There was one character that had me rapt for the entire season. Her name is Alexandra “Alex” Clark, a 24-year-old radio DJ from Indiana. She is loud and prone to falling in love very easily. And Alex, bless her heart, embodies everything that the general population despises about Christians. She let it be known that she was “very conservative” by telling everyone that she loved Fox News. She cried constantly. Also, she was clear with every man she was into that he had to be a Christian.

Incidentally, Alex was also the only girl to “get busy” with a gentleman caller within hours of being introduced. There was actually footage of her doing a pretty heavy makeout session with him in the shower. There was some over-the-swimsuit heavy petting, and more tongue than a Zoo giraffe at lunchtime.

Her parents must have been so proud. I had to watch it with a blanket over my head. Not because I was morally aghast, but because I was truly mortified for her. This whole episode became particularly painful when her three-hour boyfriend decided he would go with a different girl who he had not swapped spit with.

Eventually Alex got a man. He was not her original choice and their pairing was unconventional for the plotline. But this nice guy named Jeffrey just went for it. He treated her like a princess. Which, according to Alex, is the highest iteration of romantic love. She also called him “the nicest guy she had ever met,” which is a phrase, I am sure, she does not throw around casually.

alex and jeffrey

There was only one problem with this fellow. He refused to call himself a Christian. In our current era of “spiritual but not religious,” Jeffrey is a byproduct of a generation that, for many understandable reasons, is not interested in using religious labels. He actually said he hoped love would “be enough” to bring he and Alex together. Well, it was not enough. Alex ended up leaving his butt at the helicopter so Prince Jeffrey, the Incredibly Charming, had to ride off into the sunset by himself.

Personally speaking, I wanted to kick Alex out of the Christianity Clubhouse. What a ridiculous person she is. One minute she appears to be filming a Rihanna video in the bathroom with some random suitor and the next she is piously telling a really lovely man that because he is not a Christian this relationship thing they have been doing was just not going to work out.

In a word, Alex is Exhibit A for Hypocritical Christianity.

poor-alexI want to judge her harshly. I want to bask in the righteous feeling of my distinctively bad behavior being solely my past. I have not made out with a random guy in ELEVEN YEARS. Of course, I have been married for ten, so there’s that honest math.

All too often, I want to distance myself from the likes of Alex. I want to make it very clear that I am not that kind of a Christian. When I look at Alex I think back to my high school days when I used to stroll by all of those Fellowship for Christian Athletes meetings on the way to my (less good looking, way nerdier, and much less Jesus-y) International Thespian Society Meetings. I would glance into the cafeteria full of football players and think to myself, “Those dudes look mean.” I would go on to think how wonderful I was to be avoiding these large groups of Christians who bonded over touchdowns and Bible Studies. I was far too serious and politically correct for that kind of nonsense. I was an elevated and enlightened Christian who really got it.

Our current political climate is constantly demanding that American Christians do what is right as defined by whoever happens to be holding the bullhorn. For as much as I want to join their proud world changing brigade of hymn singing, I find myself just being incredibly grateful that none of these “prophetic” leaders are actually Jesus. They do not get to say who is in or who is out. Because, on their terms, and on the terms of humanity in general, I would always be in the “discard” pile.

I long to make it to that elusive Level 10 of Christianity. I want to be so spiritually sound that there will be no mistaking me for some hypocritical Christian woman embarrassing tom'sherself on national television in a bikini. People will look at me and know I am Christian by my love IN ADDITION TO my sparkling moral judgement and my Tom’s shoes.

In so many ways there are no hypocritical Christians. There are just Christians and the hypocritical aspect is a given. When we read St. Paul’s incredible assessment of his own faith in Romans 7, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do,” what we are reading is a concise statement on what it means to be an authentically neurotic Christian aware of his or her own hypocrisy. We are powerless over ourselves.

While our misdoings grieve the heart of God, they do not make us unlovable to him. They do not undo what Jesus has done on our behalf. The death of Christ on the cross is the proof text that binds us together. As much as I want to deny this fact: Alex from Coupled, all of the yahoos running for President, and Sarah Taylor Condon, are all in the same, not incredibly exclusive, group. We are hypocrites day in and day out. We do things that we hate to do. Our salvation is absurdly unfair. We are ridiculous sinners who God has chosen to love through the person of Jesus Christ. They will know we are Christians by our hypocritical sinfulness and the Rescuer who pulls us from our wretched estate.