The New Pharisees

Let me make this clear: My problems with Christianity (and in particular, the Roman Catholic Church, which I nominally belong to) are problems not so much with the core theology.

It’s problems with people.

Let me make it clearer: I don’t mean that I have problems with Christians that sin; I do not expect anyone to be perfect. Instead, I have problems with people who force their religious intolerance in my face, or who insist both that they are right – and that everyone be like them. It’s the parishioners who get offended at people who don’t wish them a “Merry Christmas” back. It’s the parishioners who judge status by where you are in the building, what service you go to, and what you wear. It’s the Knights of Columbus shifting its focus from taking care of its member’s families towards enacting political gains (like abolishing abortion, supporting proposition 8, and even historically having “under God” added to the Pledge). It’s the friggin’ Pope – yes, I realize it’s not ex cathedra, but still – denouncing gender studies and talking about the homosexual menace. Sure, he talks about peace in the middle east for 197,090,443 people – but (even with pessimistic estimates of 5%) – simultaneously condemns 330,111,208 homosexuals. (6,602,224,175 * 0.05) It’s likely that because of his ideological adherence to the “law”, that this far greater number of people will experience more biogtry, hatred, and violence.

Pharisees. Sadducees.

They weren’t horrible people. They were – and still are, for many people – portrayed as the selfish, shortsighted, and (vaguely or not) evil priests and scholars that crucified Yeshua. But they weren’t, not really. Just like any group, there were people who were more interested in selfish gain. There were others interested in preserving the status quo for themselves.

But I believe they predominately were people who truly thought they were doing the right thing. They were following the Law – or at least, were trying to. They were keeping an abusive dominating power from smashing them again. So they obsessed over cleanliness, and when to do what. They focused on the rituals and the mechanisms – the “sure things” that simply weren’t going to change.

And they were wrong.

In any caring system, in any system of mutual support, it’s easy to be taken advantage of. Con artists of all types – whether corporate hacksters, Wall Street financiers, or street-level card sharps – manipulate and abuse that trust. All too often, they “get away” with it – especially the white-collar crime types – because they aren’t that far outside “the rules” (or it is completely legal as well).

Yeshua – along with other rabbis at the time – had a wonderful insight. That the rules don’t matter. All the codified commentary on the Torah is extrapolation on a simple, single rule: Love the Divine, and be excellent to other people.

If you do those things, you fulfill the rest of the Law. If you stop, if you reflect, if you consider other people, you can fulfill the Law even as you break it.

It’s interesting that commentators spring up to say that Yeshua wasn’t “really” breaking the Law by healing on the Sabbath, because admitting such undermines their own authority. It’s interesting that commentators (both Christian and not) point out that “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” doesn’t work for people with differing aims, because such arguments show that they don’t “get” what Yeshua said.

It’s interesting that we have preachers and prominent Christians, that we have scholars and priests who are following the Rules of the Law to the best of their abilities.

And they – whether scholar or preacher, priest or pope – apparently haven’t understood it yet.

Merry Christmas.

(In case you’re wondering, Yeshua ben Yosef is the best guess we have as to the real name of the man we call Jesus Christ. Christ is a title that means “lord”. And yes, it is finally now just beginning the Christmas season, even though everyone’s taking the decorations down.)

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