Jun 21, 2005

What he said.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus spent a lot of time warning us about the "love of money" and criticizing the Religious Right of his day. He didn't cut the Secular Left any slack, either, but he wanted the people to understand the twin dangers of money and law.

The Pharisees of today are clearly the GOP, and they have made their god Mammon into an idol disguised as Yahweh. If the Sermon on the Mount were delivered in Congress today, it would be denounced as an "un-American and unpatriotic appeasement of terrorism". The Democrats are happily playing the part of the Sadducees to the Republicans Pharisees, so there's not much comfort to be found in that camp.

But why did Jesus single out the Pharisees and money for special warnings? The Pharisees greatest fault was their hypocrisy. They used the Law to point out (and punish) the faults and shortcomings of others, while touting their own "obedience". But of course, they weren't obedient. They only tried to make it appear as such. All the more reason to sanction public stonings and crucifixions, as that underscored their own "lawfulness", while distracting attention from their "unlawfulness".

The danger lies in their sincerely felt, but false, piety. The Pharisees had created a new god to take the place of Yahweh. This was clear to Jesus. It was also clear to Jesus that by wrapping oneself in the self-righteousness, the Law, and money, one could safely insulate themselves from the demands of Yahweh. The early Church exploded among the Gentiles because the Jews weren't convinced they needed Jesus. They had their reward. The radically good news of Jesus was the last thing the self-righteous Pharisees wanted to hear. The Gospel threatened their position, their power, and their wealth.

As it did then, the Religious Right stands against the Gospel of Jesus Christ; promoting a self-filtered "Law" that applies to the public sins of others, while conveniently ignoring our own "private" sins. The chief threat to the Gospel comes not from the Sadducees, those outside the Law, because they are the open mission field (well, most of them... I don't hold out much hope for Dr. Dean). The chief threat to the Good news of Christ comes from the Pharisees, those claiming to obey the Law.

By proclaiming the Law over Grace, they thus claim that they have no need for the Gospel. They then lay an unbearable burden upon others for whom they are unwilling to lift a finger, while engaging in a blatant and destructive "Christian" hypocrisy invisible only to themselves (see Dr. Ron Sider's, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience").

By the Religious Right's hypocrisy, many of those outside the Church who are in need of Jesus Christ are turned off from enquiring about him, while many of their own followers are deceived into thinking that their brand of Law-governed and "Mormonized" Christianity somehow is salvific. Self-satisfied as "Christians", they lead pious lives that are pristine on the outside, but full of all manner of filth and decay on the inside (greed, hatred, violence).

White-washed tombs.

1 comment:

Cat said...

yes. tragic.
i recently learned about something called, well, i don't rmember, "timeline" theology or something??
anyway, it basically means that we are allowed to hord earthly treasures and have vast wealth because Jesus wasn't talking about US. no, no, no, someone else on the line. we can have all there is to get.
i think my mouth was hanging open for a full 5 minutes when i heard about this.