In today’s Gospel (Luke 9:51-62) Jesus’ disciples are upset that some folks won’t treat them as they felt they should be treated, so they asked to call fire down upon them. Jesus rebuked them. In our modern day parallel, some religious institutions, decrying the terrible state of affairs around not getting their way, demand that civil laws be passed to impose their viewpoint on others, and punish any who do not agree with their point of view on, currently, marriage equality, among other issues.
It is common these days to assume that anyone who does not agree with a given set of values is wrong. This is unpleasantly obvious in the blogosphere, op-ed pages, and some church managers. Succinctly put, “I am right and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong, and should be punished” is a fairly common attitude. This was the position of the religious establishment in Jesus’ day, and it is the position of religious establishments in our own day, as is reflected in the current institutional reactions to DOMA and Prop 8. Some religious traditions and institutions go so far as to say that they are the only way to God, and thus folks who do not agree with them cannot get to God. As one bishop put it, a community who does not knuckle under to him does not have the real Jesus, whatever that means. This self-righteously judgmental attitude is painful on many levels. Often folks who act this way feel they are speaking on behalf of Jesus, who himself did not treat folks this way.
Something that also seems painfully obvious these days is management’s use of threats and punishment to enforce a given “party line” on whatever topic is under discussion. One favorite approach is to demand that folks who espouse a given viewpoint be denied Communion. Folks who follow this approach claim to be acting in the name of Jesus, who made himself available to everyone.
From one perspective it seems there are two churches these days: the church of the hierarchy and their loyal minions; the church of the folks who really don’t pay much attention to the hierarchial rantings and threats. In general the former come across as angry and judgmental, while the latter just ignore a lot and try to do what they think is right, often by walking away. As an institution the hierarchy is becoming ever more distant from, and less influential with, the folks. They don’t seem to get this. Jesus spent time with people, talked with them, ate with them, especially with those the religious institution of his day declared as outcasts for one reason or another. These day’s management’s idea of spending time with folks and listening is along the line of “we’ve listened to you now do what we tell you”. Sounds to me like religious leaders in the gospel stories.
We all follow Jesus in fits and starts, not always getting what he is trying to teach us. We might give some thought to being a little more understanding and less self-righteous with each other. We are all, on all sides of every issue, good folks trying to make the best of life that is not always easy. We need each other together helping, not apart judging.
Just sayin . .