Andy Bannister explains that, contrary to Christopher Hitchens’s claim, religion isn’t what poisons everything. The problem is much deeper, more pervasive, and far more personal.
The problem is us. We poison everything. And, as it happens, that is precisely why we need Jesus. Far from contradicting Christianity, the existence of sin in the world (even in the church) confirms this central truth of Christianity. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “if we say that we have no sin, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).
At root, the objection that “Christians are hypocrites” comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity. It is widely believed (sadly, even by some who claim to be Christians) that Christianity is mainly about becoming a good person, and that being a good person is the way to heaven. This belief only glorifies the churchgoer, not God, for such a person is his only savior. It also inevitably leads to disillusionment and cynicism because it is false. No one is sinless, and anyone who expects otherwise of Christians will be let down sooner or later.
Christians, we openly recognize our sinfulness, so when someone accuses the church of housing sinners, that’s an opportunity to explain that our sin is the very reason why we go to church. We’re Christians because we know we sin. A Christian’s sin doesn’t contradict Christianity; it confirms it. It’s only more proof that we all need Jesus to take our sin and give us His righteousness. You can turn this objection on its head by explaining that Christianity is all about Jesus’ work for us, not about our work to become good enough to eliminate our need for Him.
God saved us “to the praise of the glory of His grace,” not the praise of our own righteousness, so don’t hide your sin. Be open about your failures and need for forgiveness, because that is how people will see and glorify Jesus’ grace.