THE BLOG
11/21/2011 12:03 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Hypochristians

More learned people than I claim that William Shakespeare originated more than 1,000 words of the English Language. The fact that Shakespeare (c. 1564-1616) predated Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of The English Language (published in 1755) undoubtedly helped cement his reputation in this regard. Nowadays it's much harder to create a new word that catches on.

Huffington Post blogger and author Mark Simpson succeeded in this regard when in 1994 he coined the term "metrosexual," a term once reserved for the likes of David Beckham, but which can now be used to describe almost every man in every mall the world over. It's one of those things that I wish I'd thought of. It seems so obvious with hindsight, and yet to have spotted the trend, coined the phrase and watched it go viral requires pinpoint accuracy and not a small amount of luck.

In 2003, Dan Savage famously created the word "santorum." If you're not familiar with its meaning, I'll let you look it up rather than describe it here. In doing so he has effectively neutralized one of America's most enduring homophobes. It was a masterstroke that still fills me with awe.

My most recent why-didn't-I-think-of-that moment came recently while watching Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. During a scathing report covering ridiculous Republican amendments to the Michigan Senate's anti-bullying bill (SB 137), Stephen and his writing team coined the phrase "hypochristian" as a joke. The report was clever and scathing, but the word "hypochristian" hit my ears like a kipper soaked in rubbing alcohol being slapped across my face. What an amazingly powerful word! What a great invention.

"Hypochristian," derived from "hypocrite" and "Christian," is a word I would encourage you all to use in future. If I may, I would like to provide you with my proposal for its definition:

"A hypochristian is someone who claims to be Christian but fails to follow the principal teachings of Jesus Christ (hereby summarised as love, tolerance and forgiveness), preferring for selfish, cultural or political reasons to selectively emphasize passages from the Old Testament instead."

Allow me to give you two examples so you'll know how to spot a hypochristian in future. Let's start with Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich claims to be a Roman Catholic. He opposes same-sex marriage, believing that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. As Speaker of the House he pushed the Defense of Marriage Act through the House of Representatives in 1996 when it looked like marriage equality might be won in Hawaii. Despite opposing marriage for same-sex couples, he has taken full advantage of his right to marry: he has married three times.

Gingrich married his first wife, Jackie Battley, in 1962. In 1980 he had his first affair with a woman called Marianne Ginther. He divorced Battley in 1981 and married Ginther, who became his second wife. Not having learned his lesson, he then began an affair with Callista Bisek in the mid 1980s. He finally divorced Ginther in 2000 and married Bisek, who then became his third wife. Not only did Gingrich clearly misunderstand Jesus when he said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," but he also appears to have ignored what the Bible says about adultery. Without a shadow of a doubt, Gingrich is a hypochristian.

Texas Governor Rick Perry also claims to be a Christian. Yet in spite of being "pro-life," he is a strong supporter and celebrator of the death penalty. This may very well be in accord with the Old Testament's "an eye for an eye" view of crime and punishment, but it's hard to believe that Jesus Christ would have allowed 234 people to be executed by the state of Texas had he been governor. It's also worth emphasizing that "thou shalt not kill" covers criminals just as much as it covers their victims. Oh, and before anyone points out, I'm well aware that the people of Texas would never actually elect Jesus Christ as governor. Perry is undoubtedly a hypochristian.

I, for one, am fed up with hypochristians denying gay men and women their human rights in the name of "God" through some kind of selective amnesia of what Christianity is about. These people are taking the Christ out of Christianity and replacing him with their own right-wing agenda. Put simply: Jesus did not preach hate. Those who use his name to justify their own hate and ignorance need to be called out. We now have the perfect word with which to do so.