Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Tax Collector and the Pharisee – Love and Authoritarianism 6

Let us see if we can give a definitive analysis of the American Christian Right Wing and move on. It seems to us that the basic spiritual problem behind all the very odd manifestations of Christianity in the American Christian Right Wing is self-righteousness.

The people on the American Christian Right Wing believe that they can interpret the truth by themselves. This belief that they can interpret the truth by themselves leads to self-righteousness.

This self-righteousness leads these people to raise themselves up higher than the Church. From the Orthodox point of view, people with the views of the American Christian Right Wing are not members of the Body of Christ. They lack integration into the Church. They are not properly joined to the Lord. Their lack of integration into the Church reinforces the disturbances in these peoples’ understanding of the truth that arise from their self-righteous reliance on their own reasoning.

The belief of these persons that they can interpret the truth by themselves leads, as we said, to self-righteousness. From this self-righteousness flows their ability both to mix political positions with the Gospel, as if those political positions were part of the Gospel, and to distort the meaning of the Gospel in order to bring it into line with these persons’ political positions and taste for violence. The lack of a proper integration into the Church leads these people to disregard the wisdom of the Church about what the Gospel means as they put forward their own views or the views of a sectarian author.

These peoples’ lack of integration into the Church also leads to disturbances in their spiritual relationship to Jesus Christ, even and especially despite a born-again turning to Jesus. (However, we understand that an actual spiritual ‘born again’ experience among these people is rather rarer than one might believe.) This is especially true when these people are also involved in Pentecostalism, especially of the ‘Third Wave’ or ‘Latter Rain’ variety. Lacking spiritual integration into the Church these people lack the corporate discernment of spirits of the Orthodox Church that would to protect them from spiritual delusion.

The lack of a proper integration into the Church, and hence the lack of a proper relationship to Christ and the lack of a proper corporate discernment of spirits, causes these people to be susceptible to spiritual temptations connected to pride. There are a variety of temptations that one can succumb to that are related to pride. One is self-righteousness. Another is the acceptance of false doctrine. Another is fanaticism. (One can easily see that the spiritual temptations of pride that arise from the lack of a proper integration into the Church, and the consequences of these peoples’ self-righteous reliance on themselves in the interpretation of the Gospel, mutually reinforce each other.) Once the demon of pride has found its home in the soul, it brings into the soul the demon of anger. From there it is easy for the person to pass on to vindictiveness and hatred and violence. And when these people get involved in Pentecostalism without the spiritual discernment of the Church, they are exposed to spiritual delusion and deception on a grand scale.

It might be useful to repeat here the Parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee:

Two men went up to the Temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Having stood towards himself, the Pharisee prayed these things: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of Mankind, swindlers, unjust men, adulterers—or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of 10% on everything that I own.’ And having stood far off, the tax collector did not even want to lift his eyes to Heaven but beat his breast saying: ‘God, have mercy on me a sinner.’ I say to you, the latter went down justified to his house rather than the former. For everyone who raises himself up will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be raised up. (Luke 10 – 15.)

Note that the Gospel states that the Pharisee ‘stood towards himself’. This phrase is clear in the Greek but hard to render in English. Although the Pharisee was a least superficially and externally devout, he did not turn to God in prayer; he turned towards—depended on—himself.

Let us add to the Pharisee’s boast: ‘I am not like the rest of Mankind, committers of abortion, homosexuals, believers in Islam, drug users and spongers off the Government dole. I pay my own way, collect guns to protect the American Way of Life and help organize my local Tea Party Movement.’ Perhaps the point we are trying to make is now clear.

The Lord said that the leaven of the Pharisee was hypocrisy.

Let us who are Orthodox Christians say with the tax collector: ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner.’

May all have a blessed Lent!

–Orthodox Monk

No comments:

Post a Comment