Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Pharisees of our Post-Modern Age

When I was a young man I heard it said, and repeated it myself, that when Christ walked the earth His enemies were not sinners and the unchurched, but religious people.   By now I have realized the error of this view.   The common thread of those who opposed Christ was not their religiosity, but their self-righteousness.   Christ's enemies were those who, for various reasons, felt that they had no need of God.  Their response to His message that they did was anger, outrage, intrigue and eventually, violence.

The Pharisees for example, had their own man-created code. In Mark Chapter 7 the Pharisees question Jesus as to why His disciples don't follow the traditions of the elders as regards to outward cleanliness.   Jesus answers them by describing the Pharisees relationship with God thusly:
7 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' 8 "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." 9 He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.'
They had their own rules, their own system, and their own program, which they were trying to shoe-horn God into.    But God was not interested in being an icon for their program, He had His own, and this fact outraged them.     This Pharisaical spirit is not limited to any part of the political spectrum.  It can be found anywhere people are so self-righteous that they are just sure it is OK to put their own agenda ahead of God's as revealed in scripture, sometimes even while trying to use Him as a figurehead.

The left for example, is just so sure that "social-justice" is the gospel that they don't even want to talk about the actual gospel in the scriptures.    Never mind that scripture never advocates the use of government force to re-distribute wealth.  Charity is always presented as an individual and voluntary admonition, never something for which God prescribes civil penalties.   This is so even in the Old Testament, where there were stringent civil penalties for all sorts of things most of us would not favor punishing people for now.  Yet proponents of socialism re-branded as "social justice" are just so sure they are right that they brush aside the biblical context for charity and use the name of God to advocate for more government force.

The same is true of environmental questions.   The left is so adamant about protecting the physical earth from perceived threats that they set aside the actual commandments of God in favor of a new set of commandments that they consider "earth friendly".   They cast aside the eternal in favor of the temporal.   It is more important in this new doctrine to love "mother earth" than it is to love one's own actual mother!

These and other trendy cause celebres have been taken up by leftist churches, but notice that one does not even have to be "religious" in the conventional sense to make these causes the basis for one's self-righteousness.   Even atheists use these and other issues as the basis for claims to be morally superior to those who hold other views.   Again, Christ's enemies were not necessarily religious people, the common thread is that they were people who felt that they had no need for God, other than perhaps as a mascot to sell their own program. In their own eyes they had nothing to repent of and thus no need for cleansing. In this case of the New Pharisees it was because they had their own code which effectively replaced God.

This code might not even pose as a spiritual code.  Secularists also set up their own standards for "righteousness" which are separate and apart from God's. The Romans for example were not Pharisees, but they shared with the Pharisees the idea that God was not the highest entity in creation.  In their case, they worshiped the state. Religion was of value only when it served the state.  What glorified the state was good, and what weakened it was bad.    If the Pharisees were an early form of the post-modern trendy churches of today then the Romans were a preview of today's secular pragmatists.  

While they may not have had the visceral revulsion toward Christ that the Pharisees had, the Romans were not going to let Him get in the way of State Business.   Justice, even justice to God, was secondary to the political needs of the state.    If an innocent Man had to be thrown to the wolves to preserve the Status Quo, then they would toss Him to the wolves.   We find their spiritual descendants today in the D.C. beltway, and in the associated business interests who want to keep our present financial system going, no matter how crooked and unsustainable it might be.   Today's New Romans, like the Romans of old, will cut a deal with the post-modern Pharisees in order to advance their mutual interests.

And make no mistake, their interests do coincide.   Since the New Pharisees have given up on repentance and renewal of the inner man through faith in God, they are left only with a focus on external behavior and material circumstances.   This dovetails nicely with the interests of the New Romans who are desirous of the further expansion of state power.    Thus the New Pharisees constantly call for more government intervention to compel the desired external behaviors and bring about their preferred material circumstances, much to the delight of the New Romans.   Big business funds them both, because they find it is more profitable to lobby government to mandate that people purchase your products rather than use traditional marketing which appeals to people to buy what you are selling of their own free will.

The last category of Christ's true enemies are the railers and mockers.  These are those who have no agenda at all beyond their own appetites.   They don't worship the state, or some code of their own making, but only their own immediate needs and desires.   The closest they have to a god is themselves and their own bellies.

The second thief on the cross, the one who joined in railing against Christ once he realized that Christ was not going to save Himself and them as well, is an example of this type.  These people are in our culture, messing up their own lives and the lives of others.   They don't control anything though, not even themselves.  They are used by the other two factions for "rent a mob" functions.   They are reliable votes for socialism because they are very quick to vote to have the government take stuff from other people, including the unborn via deficit spending, in hopes that they might get in on some of the loot.

These three groups were the enemies of Christ when He walked the earth, and their spiritual descendants oppose Him still.   These are the New Pharisees, the New Romans, and those whose god is their own belly (GITOBs).   The call for forgiveness through repentance and faith is lost on them, for they are offended at the idea that there might even be anything which they need to repent of.  While they don't see any need for themselves to repent, they do have some things in mind for you to do.

What "duties" will those who reject the duty of God attempt to place on you their fellow man? If the New Pharisees, they will want you to "save the planet" or support political candidates who advance their idea of compulsory redistributive programs in the name of "social justice."  And the New Romans will be all too glad to "serve" as the administrators of those programs, deciding who should get what. And the GITOBs?  They will expect you, or someone, to provide them with "Free Stuff."    They will continue to demand bread an circuses from the state, thus serving as a client base for both groups.

This is not to say that one must be a Christian to be a localist.  Rather, I am saying these three groups are incompatible with both Christ and Localism.    The New Pharisees have a works-based moral code, and like the old Pharisees, they are so sure that their self-created set of grand ideas is correct that they are willing to encourage the government to impose them by force nation-wide.   The New Romans don't care for any moral code that claims to be higher than the state, but are quite partial to those which are of use in expanding state power, such as environmentalism as an excuse to regulate private property or "social justice" as an excuse to re-distribute it.  And the gitobs?  They are a threat to whatever free society they are in, because they cannot or will not morally govern themselves.   When they become a voting majority, self-rule will vanish along with all rule of law.

These three classifications of persons were Christ's opponents when He walked the earth.  They are also the types of persons one is best protected from in Localism.   Interventionist government programs posing as a new religious morality will be stymied by government decentralization.   So will would-be New Romans.   In Localism, men who dream of building vast empires will be frustrated, while those working to build good communities will be rewarded.  And of course, the down-sizing of political units and other features of the philosophy will mean that the gitobs will very much sooner butt up against what Margaret Thatcher described as the true problem of socialism- that pretty soon, you run out of other people's money.

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