In my last blog. I explored the ability to hold contradictory beliefs simultaneous and the ability to choose your “alternative facts” over facts. Fundamentalist Christian sects often require this sort of suspension of disbelief in their followers. They are able to simultaneously hold a regimented view of the literal Bible and are able to disconnect completely from the words out of the dear Lord’s mouth. The problem, I think, is context and application.
Where was Jesus born? When? He was born in a time TOTALLY unlike our time, in so many ways. The myriad ways are not particularly important if we can all get behind the notion that the life that Jesus and his followers lived was radically and crazily different than ours. Cell phones…globalization….heck, electricity…computers….instant access to information….power/knowledge fulcrums displaying a new way to discipline the population….need I go on? This disconnection to our society and the needs of our society has led us down a precarious path, as Christians. How it is panning out is that these Fundamentalists end up looking and acting a lot like the Pharisees of the Gospels. In all their piety in the “laws” Jesus spoke, they find it hard to move the message of Jesus beyond the four walls of the
Think about it, who were the Pharisees? The Google Definition that immediately popped up is:
A member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity.
What do the Gospels say about the Pharisees? Well the Pharisees are mentioned 77 times in the Bible. I won’t list them all but I will give you the flavor:
- They refused to see the signs of the times…what was to come. Matthew 16:1-4
- They repeatedly tried to catch Jesus up with their religious “facts.” Matthew 19:3-9 Mark 10:2-9 Matthew 22:15-22 Mark 12:13-17 Luke 20:20-26 Matthew 22:34-40 Matthew 12:1-2 Luke 6:7
- They held strictly to the law in their testing. John 8:3-11 Matthew 12:1-2
- They are hyper critical to those they consider “sinners”. Luke 7:39-40 Luke 6:6-11 Mark 7:1-2
- They turn their criticism to Jesus when he won’t rebuke the “sinners”. Luke 19:39 John 8:3-4 Luke 11:53-54 Luke 5:29-32 Luke 15:1-2
- Jesus calls them hypocrites. Luke 12:1 Matthew 23:1-36
- They needed a sign that Jesus was the Messiah and then repeatedly disbelieved His signs. Matthew 12:38-42 Luke 11:29-32 Mark 8:11-12 John 9:13-16
- They made a big deal of praying in public and made a gesture of their piety. Mark 12:38-40
- They are self-righteous about their place of abiding by the law. Luke 18:9-14
- They have no problem hurting those that defy their position. Mark 3:6 Matthew 12:14
What was Jesus’s response to all this heckling and trickery? Repeatedly, he rebuked them. Did he ever back down? Even at the end? Nope…he was RADICAL. He openly defied convention and told these self-righteous hypocrites that just because they followed the letter of the law, didn’t mean that they were spiritually close to the Father. In fact, their strict adherence to the letter of the law, instead of the spirit of the law was their entire problem. It was what caught Jesus up in the end. They felt righteous in their judgment. They felt righteous in their critique. They were God’s chosen, after all.
So…who else does this description look like? I’ll tell you who…Intransigent Christian Trump Voters. I’ll tell you what, they are dug in and entrenched every bit as much as their Pharisee counterparts. However, instead of holding tenaciously to the old testament and its laws, admonitions, and rituals, they have given this very same treatment to the Gospel of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, face to face and in small groups they are kind and gracious and they would never be “bigoted.” If a Mexican man asked for the coat off their back, they would likely give it. To the people they know that they consider enemies, they try to bring love and reconciliation. Don’t hear me say that the Intransigent Trump Voter is anything but adherent to the teachings of Christ.They hold them sacrosanct. Whatever Jesus said to do, they do. I had a friend lend a critical eye this direction but it is true. If I asked any of these people I know for anything, they would give it if they could. They volunteer and smile and are all around good people. I am their neighbor. They love “their neighbor” as themselves. Well, if that is the case…how can we compare them to the Pharisees?
Part of the problem is their neural superhighway to suspension of disbelief. It keeps them blind. They can cast a vote for a man who has promised to hurt many many people in the name of…what? Rigorously holding to the abortion issue or the belief that the LGBTQ community are “sinners” or that certain people are not “saved”. They can ignore so much hurting in other people in the name of their business interests. The other is the language of the Bible, itself. Because it was written for such a different time and place. It doesn’t make the direct connections between the Gospel of Christ and today’s world. It allows a person to vote for a madman because he vilifies the people that are outside of their neighborhood. These folks are decidedly not their neighbors. They are not chosen by Christ. The duty imposed by Christ is beyond this purview. The Bible doesn’t call out today’s Pharisees the way the Bible did to the Pharisees of old. Why? It isn’t that Jesus’s message is outdated. That is for sure. It is more in need today, than ever. What it needs is application. What it requires is that somebody does to the Gospel of Christ precisely what he did to the law of the Old Testament.
What if The Holy Spirit whispered in the ear of a person today? What if what she, the Holy Mother, whispered was a radical application of Jesus’s message. What if Jesus is still calling Pharisees to account and we just can’t hear Him because what He said is so easily dismissed as inapplicable today, especially in our time of “alternative facts” and suspension of disbelief? Maybe she is whispering.