Monday, February 2, 2009

Blindness or Absolute Hypocrisy?

[Episcopal Church Executive Council] member Ted Mollegen, who has been advocating...a [planning] process during his term on the council, said strategic planning is "an urgent need" for the church.
"We are at a watershed moment in the Episcopal Church and do not want to lose this moment," the resolution's explanation said. "It is a time that we have the opportunity to become the truly multicultural church about which we dream and we seem poised as a denomination to effectively reach the 'spiritual but not religious' in new ways, but it will require nimbleness to adapt to our rapidly changing social context. We must be focused and intentional to do so. And we don't have a year to wait."

  • + "multicultural" - the denomination's own stats will show that it is old, white, affluent, female and/or gay all out of proportion to the general population. (There is a sad snap shot of the reality right here if you read the whole thing).
  • + "spiritual but not religious" - where to begin? This is a bunch totally mired in the least attractive aspects of "religion." Long, cumbersome conventions marked by procedural manipulation and legalism. Top-down leadership that is top-heavy with bureaucracy. Ever inflating titles and entitlements for clergy. Distant, elitist leadership. The highest ever rates of church "punishment" for dissenters. A constant flood of statements about every "issue" with no transcendent spiritual insight beyond the usual political platitudes. Endless fighting over buildings and money.
  • + "nimble" - mired in layers of multimillion dollar litigation that will tie up resources and leadership effort for years to come.

Whether blindness or hypocrisy, Jesus addresses religious leaders' antics (and warns that these can put them in hell) in

Matthew 23:

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The
scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.

For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them
on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their
phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’

But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.

But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever
exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the
kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is
nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’
Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters
of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse
the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and
self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.

Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

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