Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ancient Pharisees, Modern Politicians, and Enduring Problems

   At the time that Jesus was engaged in ministry, there were varying philosophies within his own Jewish faith. Four predominant religious groups had emerged from the circumstances that pressed in on the little nation of Israel: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots.  Jesus likely interacted with all of them, touching the hearts of some and sparking violent hatred among others.(1) This first group, the Pharisees, has become a bad word to many of us who grew up attending Sunday School or reading through the stories of Jesus. There is another side, though. They descended from brave freedom fighters who died trying to resist tyranny, like our early American colonists. They were Middle-class merchants. They believed in the entire Old Testament as law, believed that studying the Scriptures was the highest act of worship and had even believed in bodily resurrection and life after death.
   Modern politicians share some of these common characteristics. Most of them rose from humble beginnings and serve as a response to the way they were raised. All of them hold certain values above all others and these values serve to guide them in their actions and speech.  Many of them believe that, even after the worst of moral or ethical defeats, they can resurrect their political aspirations in miraculous ways. (I’m thinking about Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, and Mark Sanford to name but a few.)
   But Jesus did take issue with the Pharisees on a number of occasions. In Luke 12, he warns that the active ingredient in their behavior was hypocrisy. He believed Pharisees often said the right things, but did not do them. They were more interested in appearing to be right than actually doing right.
   To be honest, I think of American politicians today on a number of issues, not the least of which is that of children and immigration on our borders. Since last October, 52,200 children have entered the US unaccompanied. They are fleeing the absolute chaos of their home countries - primarily Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador - created by gangs and the drug industry. If they didn’t leave, they would be forced to enter the gangs or be killed. This current crisis is driven by a host of underlying causes, not the least of which is that our US laws and our morality require us to care for these children when they arrive until a better option can be found.
   Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, our modern politicians (on both sides) are more interested in winning points by ‘sounding right’ than by doing what is right. Every one of them, from Texas to DC, is offering quotes and soundbites to make themselves look better. Political posturing has become their measure of success. The problem is that the real enduring problems - poverty, fear, scarcity, child abuse - are not solved with posturing. The real problems of today require people who are doers of what is right and not hearers and speakers only. Jesus instructed his followers to be doers.
   What can I do? To be honest, there are not easy answers, right now. We can pray for wisdom for our leaders. I think we can also discern which leaders are doing what is right and which ones are satisfied with only looking right. Finally, I think we can care for children here in our community on behalf of those in Texas. We can engage even more with Open Door to help families find their way out of poverty and with the Wynnton Neighborhood Network to help feed families. One of our core values is simple: we serve to make the world better. That is what it means to follow Christ. Grace and Peace, Scott
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1 comment:

  1. How old are these "unattended children" 1000+ miles from home?