‘Tis the Season: Hypocrisy, the Church, and a Song

Now the valley cried in anger
“Mount your horses, draw your sword”
And they killed the mountain people
So they won their just reward
“One Tin Soldier,” Lambert/Potter, 1969

Hypocrisy is a strange attribute. We easily see it in others, yet overlook it within ourselves.

That said, I am a hypocrite and a sinner. I do not state this as a point of pride, or even as a way to justify my actions. I simply note that I am as fallen as the next guy, manifested in my tendency to live out hypocrisy. Nevertheless, I do have eternal salvation through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.

Youth questions age. It has always been that way. With growing maturity comes a keener sense of clarity. And with clarity comes the need to question that which was once given. So it is no wonder that in the late 60’s and early 70’s, many of those coming of age looked at their elders with questioning eyes.

Those were turbulent years, with wars, both hot and cold, and threats of utter annihilation. It was also the end of what some have painted as a simpler time, a Norman Rockwell life with Sunday church and family dinners. But for the youth in those churches and around those dinner tables, their lives were not painted in pleasant shades of Americana. The draft and the war loomed over every thought of a future.

As expected, the youth questioned the actions of their elders – the youth were bound to suffer the consequences. They questioned the war. And they looked for an explanation.

Many explanations were offered by those driving international agitation and violence – with the US government taking the lead role. Those explanations, lacking any truth, were repeated by many adults who served as role models for the youth. This was true inside the church as well.

In many churches, adults claimed salvation through the Prince of Peace while actively encouraging war and other provocations, an hypocrisy not unnoticed by youthful eyes. For those young adults still searching for truth, and still familiar with the pews, a song like “One Tin Soldier,” with its blend of Christianity and counterculture ethos, easily upended their view of church as a place of peace.1

The hardened hearts in many churches were for war. They were the blood thirsty, pugnacious hearts of the Valley People in the song. The youths who heard the song understood that “Peace on Earth” was not the message preached from the pulpit or the pews. So they left the church in search of peace. Many of them never returned, and so never found peace, because peace can only found through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I see this aspect of history repeating itself. The conservative church has rallied around torture, war, and violence. Just today, a popular Christian source stated that any vocal challenge to actions of government is sin.

In the end, the US will not win its eternal war for eternal peace. And if it continues to champion vile actions of the state, the conservative Church not win, for Christ, the souls of subsequent generations. The only question that remains is which future song will openly expose this hypocrisy in the Church, the song to be hummed by the youth on their way out the door.

‘Tis the season of Peace, my Christian brothers and sisters. We know the hypocrisy of following Jesus while defending the vile actions of the state. Therefore, it is time we soften our hearts to the message of our Savior. And become the Mountain People willing to share Peace on Earth with all.


1) Of course, “One Tin Soldier” was just one song. And it did not damage the Church alone. But it is indicative of the divide between the Gospel of peace and the advocacy of violence that permeated His Church then, just as it does today.