Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Smile of a Pharisee

I see them all the time, those knowing, Gnostic grins, condescending and self-serving, and I guess the reason I notice and react, badly, is that more times than I would like to admit I sport the same, think the same, communicate the same: if only you knew as well as I, if only you believed as I believe, if only you had the kind of relationship with Jesus that I have (when I, at least, know far better than any of that; which admission is in its own way Pharisaical; is there no escaping the trap?). And we Pharisees have our proof, God knows: texts and tracts, diplomas and credentials, statistics and long-range plans.

Nouwen says that Prodigals cannot help becoming Elder Brothers, and perhaps disciples cannot help becoming Inquisitors, or at least "experts." The fundamentalists on the right and the fundamentalists on the left are all of them Fundamentalists. Pharisees, all.

And so the Will Graham crusade is coming to town. Will is the son of Franklin, the son of Billy. And though our UM churches have as a stated goal (as if it needs to be said), "Intentionally relating unchurched persons to Jesus Christ," we look down our collective noses at this form of evangelism, content ourselves that we are not emotional or manipulative or whatever--as if all crusades are created equally--and meanwhile we languish. We are adrift between prosperity and damnation, not wanting to preach either, not sure what to preach to invite others into the fold. The Baptists and Wesleyans are on board and the Methodists are not, all of us looking at each other and all of us smiling the smiles of Pharisees...


R.G. said...

Oh my, Tom, I have missed your writing. I'm going to have to catch up. Another week to go on this book I'm writing. Hopefully you won't read a newspaper headline -- "Impossible deadline kills woman writer." I will resurface soon, God willing, and will have more time to consider all your thoughts here.

From one Pharisee to another (or is it one Elder Brother to another?) -- I hope you have a blessed week.

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