Let me start by saying I am now on location for my full-time job in Dallas, TX. It is not the first time I have been here: I met my future wife here on a job in 2002, and our second date was church (Eirene Christian Fellowship), leading me to getting saved.
I also returned for more work in 2003 and 2004. But at that time I had not attended the seminary, had not even read the entire Bible, and certainly was not qualified to write about faith. I was, however, plenty qualified to see hypocrisy.
There are over 40 scriptures in which Jesus criticised hypocrisy--His top issue of the day. He fought against the spiritually dead but legalistic religious leaders of His day, the Saducees and Pharisees. If you want a taste of how He viewed them, read Matthew 23: 2-39--it is 38 verses of some of the strongest condemnation He ever issued.
Verse 28 sums up the problem I see in the city often described as the "buckle" of the Bible Belt: "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
I bring this up because I am reluctant to tell strangers I live in San Francisco. There is not only a rivalry among Texans with California, but in many cases outright despising. It is as if many see the state by the name of the cable program, "Californication."
Several years ago, the animated television show "King of the Hill," set in a fictional Dallas suburb, had a season cliff-hanger centered around the potential Hank Hill would have to go to California. His response: "Over my dead body!"
California is seen by many in the Bible Belt as the centre of debauchery, and not without reason: Hollywood marriages are a joke, with shorter life spans than many of God's creatures. In San Francisco, the city I love, Christianity is just about the only religion not accepted by many, it is not uncommon to see partially or fully nude patronage at some events. For those who cling to old-fashioned philosophies that homosexuality is in and of itself perverse, the State of California and especially the city of San Francisco have more of that than anywhere else in this country.
But San Francisco has nowhere near the proliferation of strip clubs that exist in Dallas. You cannot go ten miles down any Dallas freeway without seeing multiple billboards for "Gentlemen's Clubs." (As if any gentleman reduces women to such a value system that judges them entirely on appearance. The women participating and profiting from it may not be exploited, but womankind is by the mere propagation of this attitude.)
This does not make San Francisco superior to Dallas. Every city has its problems, and of the major cities I spent significant time living in, Dallas and San Francisco share an unusual compassion for the homeless: Nowhere have I seen so many car windows roll down so people can give to those on the street. And Dallas residents have shown me a remarkable hospitality and willingness to help that does not exist in other cities I have lived.
Those are Christian values. But passing judgment is not.
I expect as much from those not calling themselves Christian, because it is a human flaw. But the many Christians in Dallas (and indeed, in the church itself) should remember that judgment starts in the House of the Lord, and "Judge not, that ye be not judged." (Matthew 7:1).