The Criminal as Metaphor for Religious Hypocrite


Megalomaniacs. Control freaks. Irresponsible citizens. Uncompromising. Tyrannical. Destructive. Chase down kicks at any cost. Play the world and people like a chess game. Exploit kindness and insecurity.

These are words that describe criminals. And according to some psychologists its behavior that is unique to an individual as early as four, five or six years old. It’s what informs the idea that you don’t rehabilitate criminals–you habilitate them.

Rehabilitation suggests a criminal was once pro-social. The truth is they never were in the first place. They never learned of ways of getting along in this world most of us learned as children. They’ve only known anti-social behavior.

I needed to share that to put what I’m about to say in context.

The Criminal as Hypocrite

Reading the back half of Samenow’s book on rehabilitating criminals suggested this: many therapists, psychologists, counselors and sociologists are duped by criminals in rehab.

In treatment the criminal is well-groomed, polite, neatly dressed and productive most of the day. He contributes during group therapy. Excels in his work programs. Taps into creative talents.

What he doesn’t tell you is that there isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t think, “I’m here picking up things to tighten my game up.” By this he means he is learning to be more cautious so he can avoid getting caught in the future.

And he’ll only confess to one failure: getting caught.

The Criminal Adapts to Get His Way

The lesson is this: compliance doesn’t equal internal change. A criminal simply adapts to his confinement.

Upon release, however, his reformed attitude will be corroded. Having a taste of prison, he may become shrewder and more cautious, but he continues his exploitative way of life, abandoning the entire effort to be responsible and commits more crimes.

It comes down to a question of his choice and his will. He prefers it his way (prefers being his own god)–not their way. But if he is in prison or treatment he is willing to do it their way so he can get back to doing it his way sooner.

So he plays the game.

The Religious Hypocrite Adapts to Get His Way

This is no different from religious hypocrisy. A man is crushed by some event in his life–he is caught in a string of adulteries and his wife threatens to leave with the kids.

The man promises reform. He promises to break old habits. Attend church. Read his Bible. Join a men’s accountability group. Pray. Volunteer on a short-term missions trip.

He plays the game.

Over time his wife begins to soften. To relax her guard. To trust him. She and the kids move back in. And everything seems fine. Eventually the man sees that he’s got what he wants–his family back. So he begins to slide back into old sin.

I know this behavior personally. I played this game for ten years.

It started when I crashed hard after a life of hard living. I wanted things to change. So I attended church every Sunday and Wednesday. Taught in Sunday school. Tithed (actually, it was my wife who tithed). Volunteered in drama events. Prayed hard. Hung out with Christian people.

But I hated it. Every moment.

I wore the perfect mask: a man who appeared to be devoted to his God and family only to have his heart wicked and deceptive. I was a rebel in disguise. A hypocrite of the first order. Criminal playing the system so I could get out of trouble and get my own way.

Litany of Questions for the Religious Hypocrite

Are you playing the game so you can get your way? Are you adapting to your religious environment, but not changing on the inside?

Are you indulging in a secret sin? Excited that you are getting one over on your friends? Spouse? Children? Are you justifying your lies? Are you convinced that moral rules apply to everyone–but you?

Do you fling your self only at sins that become grossly apparent and disturb your peace or reputation? Is the only reason you flee from trouble and suffering is to get your peace with God back?

Are you doing good deeds so you can persist in sin? Are you abusing –examining your good deeds so you can justify your sins? Are you seeking other ways to repent of sin than running to the lordship of Christ?

Are you wrestling to get out from underneath the yoke of God’s discipline? Are you behaving like the rich young ruler who was willing to abandon it all–except for this one sin?

Are you indulging a sin on account of God’s mercy? Do you have a secret wish for a sin and would indulge it if guaranteed you wouldn’t get caught? Are you eager to finish a sin? When you lose a battle with a sin, do you delight in it? Are you constantly surprised by sin?

Do you hate the negative consequences of sin–but not the sin itself? Do you use the fear of hell and death to fight sin? Are you resisting God’s chastisement?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are in a dangerous sort of sin. You don’t love God. You love your peace. You love your self. And you love your sin.

You are a religious hypocrite. Repent. Confess your sins. Run to Christ.

As John Owen said, “The foundation of true mortification is based on a hatred of sin and a sense of the love of Christ. A hatred of sin is grieving over what grieves God. God will not relieve you of lust or sin or their consequences if your motive for killing sin is self love.”

Don’t play the game.

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6 thoughts on “The Criminal as Metaphor for Religious Hypocrite

    1. DemianFarnworth

      I don’t think this is where you were going, but your comment reminds me of 1 Corinthians 5:12-13: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “’Purge the evil person from among you.’”

  1. ali pajoohandeh

    Hi dear DemianFarnworth

    I’m ali pajoohandeh. a psychologist who has been interested in research on hypocrisy. I read your amazing idea about it and I admired it so much. So I request you to guide me for another references or your full text articles. Thanks so much!


    Ali Pajoohandeh

    Educational Psychologist (Ph.D)

    1. DemianFarnworth

      Hi Ali, Thank you so much for the kind words. I’d love to be able to help you. My main text was the book Inside the Criminal Mind by Samenow. But I’m not sure that’s going to help you with your research on hypocrisy. Let me know if I can do anything else. Demian

  2. Anonymous

    Wow … I popped in here to add a reference to your site on an influencer marketing article, and to my surprise … you’re posting again! At least, the date stamps look like you are.

    1. DemianFarnworth

      Dude, thanks for the love. Super happy to see you here as well. ???? I love that Chalmers book, too. Pivotal piece for me.


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