Religionism (We the Pharisees)

phariseeMatthew 5:20, “For I word to you, That unless your justness abounds more than the scribes and pharisees, you enter not the sovereigndom of the heavens.”

The issue: hypocrisy – being dishonest, elitist, and breaking the rules, including the rules we set for ourselves.

It’s a real challenge to find religious people on earth who do not act like two-faced Pharisees, acting one way secularly, and then speaking another way in matters of religion.  I do it all the time, and then try to rationalize it as personal growth.  But I figure ‘we the pharisees’ don’t ultimately know what we’re talking about at least half the time in either category (religion or secular), and yet we feel it’s so very important to instruct one another, and lavish praise upon ourselves for our humility, grace, insights, etc.  In reality, we don’t even know what we don’t know!

An example of the need for reproof: the apostle Peter had been convinced from his childhood that the Messiah would never die (Matt. 16:22), and had to revise his theology when the Messiah Yahshua (whose name is spelled in Aramaic: yod-shin-vav-ayin) corrected him on it shortly before the crucifixion.  It seems people should always be ready and willing to do an about-face regarding the false doctrines of men whenever and wherever we are confronted with truth.

My least favorite thing about ‘religulousness’, is all that awkward behavior and speech we tend to put on, like a mask, once we’re in religious mode. For example, see Matthew 5:22 regarding the danger of calling another person a fool. I must admit I’ve written some seriously lame admonitions.  In my experience, elitism (lack of humility) in religion tends to make people act awkward, illogical, and righteous.

Yes, religious behavior among men is primarily elitist behavior, even when the doctrine at issue is being humble – man routinely corrupts it and makes it awkward.  An example: most Christians are cool with admitting they’re “sinners” – we’ll even bend over backwards to tell you that you’re a sinner too – but ask us for details about our sins, especially in the sexual area, and in return you’re likely to see the eyes of a “Christian” who hates and hides from the light.  (As a side note, to be fair, often it’s rude to ask for details about another’s sins, as it can promote extreme awkwardness.)

So, the more I see self-righteous behavior among the self-proclaimed “chosen” people among all religions (Jews, Muslims, Christians, New Agers, etc), the more likely it seems like ‘religionism’ – a bunch of sinners starring in a reality show, as people die all around us and crime and pollution abounds.

How often do we distinguish between loving our creator versus just wanting to be on the winning team?  Cookie-cutter religion is routinely about trying to draft yourself onto the winning team by putting on a uniform.  Love should be different than that – somehow.

Okay, I’m a sinner obviously, so why would the creator of earth want to forgive my sins just because I think the creator is powerful and interesting? Matthew 6:14-15, “For, if ye may forgive men their trespasses He also will forgive you — your Father in the heavens; but if ye may not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Why is this moral?  Perhaps the answer can be found by analogy – teachers forgive students; parents forgive children; judges show mercy on defendants.  One might say: the greater the forgiveness, the greater the love.  Consider for example whether this passage from Luke 7:47 is consistent with the messiah’s teachings,“Her many sins are forgiven because she loves much: but to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Teachers want to forgive students because failure is part of the learning and growth process.  Parents want to forgive their children for the same reason teachers forgive, and because it’s healthy for families who live together to avoid excessive grudges, and to enjoy new beginnings.   And judges offer forgiveness to defendants as a vote of confidence in their reform. See, Revelation 21:5 “Behold, I work all new.”

If my sins are forgiven, am I purchased like a slave?  If so, how am I supposed to love my master?  Baaa?  Some Christians answer this question by saying that we should both fear and love our creator, who is a loving parent that threatens to kills us if we fail to meet the standard of conduct, regardless of whether that standard appears vague from the human perspective.  It makes more sense to me that whatever standard you personally use to judge, that is the same standard that will be used to judge you.  Matthew 7:1-2, 26:26-27.  The golden rule may even be inherently known by all people – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Additionally, I find helpful the analogy on earth that superior species (like humans) often live congruously with lower order species (like sheep or strawberries), but will readily extinguish problem members of the lower order species to maintain order.  I tend to think of earth’s creator as non-human, and I suspect that I am only part human. To the extent I think and act spiritually and upright on earth, then I am like a son to my creator, or perhaps a well-behaved student, or maybe even a fig tree. But to the extent I act badly and without reform, then I may be like a pest that risks being destroyed as I draw attention to myself and burden the creator and his family while they work and play.

If a superior being can never prove that he is the omnipotent Authority over everything, then perhaps he cannot fairly require his subjects to completely surrender their choice (free will) to reject one of his orders.  As a hypothetical, let’s take this quote from Ezekiel, Chapter 9:

4  And [God??] said to him, Pass through in the midst of the city, in the midst of Jerusalem, and mark a mark on the foreheads of the men who are groaning and are mourning over all the abominations that are done in her midst.
5  And [God??] said to those in my hearing, Pass over in the city after him and strike. Do not let your eye spare, and do not have pity.
6  Slay the aged men, the young man, and the virgin, even children, and women, all to destruction. But to every man who has the mark on him, do not come near. And begin from my sanctuary. And they began with the aged men who were before the house.

For purposes of full disclosure, I must admit that I have killed many aged and young insects.  Additionally, I strongly suspect that it is not YHVH or El speaking in Ezekiel 9:4-6, but rather some ancient priest wrote that into the bible for some reason. See e.g., The words in the bible are often analogized to food.  The messiah instructed to test fruit to determine if it comes from a good tree.  Matthew 7:16-20.  That’s logical. And he also provided a parable of Satan sowing weeds (obstacles) among wheat (useful), and a rationale for why they should grow together for an age.  Matthew 13:24-30.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume each one of the humans that ‘failed to groan and mourn at abominations’ in Ezekiel Chapter 9 were like diseased strawberries or perhaps would later go on to murderous careers, and even the children were future Hitlers.  Perhaps a superior being with foreknowledge of this future would be justified in giving the advance kill order.  The superior being may even be justified in killing or appropriately punishing any solider who disobeyed the kill order. But, why order soldiers to do the killing in the first place?  Is a valuable lesson being learned here about idolatry, or species dominance?

Passages like Ezekiel 9:4-6 make me wonder about the possibility that a false choice is being presented: biblically jealous Yah Veh or murderous Satan?  Do I have all the facts right?  Is this some kind of test where I’m supposed to select another option?

When should a man surrender his moral compass to the will of a superior being?  It seems the values produced would be faith and efficiency.  Do these trump the value of choice, even the choice to be wrong?

As things stand, it appears that YHVH works his own will on planet earth, and there is no other being that intercedes, because he complies with his covenants.

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