Thursday, November 11, 2004

Lecturing People of Faith

I was watching Dr. James Dobson being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” It’s no secret that Dobson is a conservative Christian who has set himself up as an icon for evangelicals. His organization “Focus on the Family” gives advice to millions of Christians and his books have been read by millions more.

On the show Dobson was questioned about his comments regarding Patrick Leahy. Dobson was quoted as saying, “Patrick Leahy is a ‘God’s people’ hater. I don’t know if he hates God, but he hates God’s people.” I found this rhetoric a little strong from a man who is supposed to be representing Christ and Christian values. Apparently I wasn’t the only one a little confused because Stephanopoulos asked “Isn’t that sort of an anti-Christian thing to say?” Dobson, who could have explained for the benefit of non-Christian viewers why he felt so strongly, replied coldly, “George, do you really want to lecture me on Christianity?”

Apparently since the sweeping Republican victory on Nov 2, credited largely to the mass voting of evangelical Christians, people like Dobson are now riding higher than ever. Consequentially in the course of the interview I detected no trace of Christ’s humility, no trace of Christ’s compassion on “lost” people, and no trace of Christ’s view of faith as an individual decision—not mandated by organizational controls. The audacity of someone like Stephanopoulos, a man who as far as I can tell makes no money off other people’s faith, to question someone like Dobson who has dedicated his life to telling Christians what to do. If I believed I had just helped turn the tide of the election I wouldn’t want to be lectured by anyone either. The proof is in the pudding—but that goes both ways.

Dobson is obviously a Gnostic, someone privy to secret knowledge the rest of us have no access to. Most of us simply have not been blessed, or—as they probably want us to think—do not love God enough to have Him speak to us. If I had such omniscience I don’t think I would like to be bothered with petty questions about my thought process either. My replies would probably be along the lines of, “I’d explain it to you but you just wouldn’t understand anyway.”
And that was what he was telling Stephanopoulos, and the rest of us, wasn’t it? Yes, once again we were given “The Christian Finger” by an evangelical who claims to have the answers but doesn’t really like to be criticized. This is why they should be questioned all the more. They put themselves up as answer men and all they’ve done is produced indolence, ignorance, and irrelevance in the church.

Dobson seems to know who ‘God’s people’ are. And just who are they? The Christians who dutifully attend church? The ones who buy his books? The ones who subscribe to his newsletter? The arrogance involved in judging anyone as in one camp or another when Jesus’ own disciples couldn’t tell is arrogant enough. I have had many Christians come up to me and simply assume I am an atheist because I don’t attend church regularly. How nice to be stereotyped before the conversation even starts. Did Jesus act this way? I don’t see it anywhere in the Bible.

And what exactly is a ‘hater of God’s people’ anyway? Someone who feels people should have equal rights regardless of how closely those people follow the Bible, or how often they attend church? I wish God spoke to me in such clear and concise ways. But he doesn’t. And so I guess I’ll have to use the example of Jesus and some common sense on how to treat others. It’s much easier to label people as ‘haters’, that type of tough talk always attracts a nice crowd of followers. But I guess I’m just not able to judge who to vote for by virtue of which congressman loves God’s people more, and which one is worthy of heaven or hell. But thank God we have tuned-in Christians like Dobson who will show us the way with books, newsletters, and interviews. Because, Lord knows, people like me need it.

Jesus loved to “lecture” those who claimed to have inside knowledge about what God wanted and who loved God the most. They were called Pharisees and they stood on the street corners, adorned with religious symbolism, faces ashen from fasting, to show everyone how much they loved God, and to give all the more credibility when they told ‘God’s people’ what to do. But Jesus saw through all of this and lectured the Pharisees because they had set themselves up between man and God and therefore Jesus wanted to shed some light on them. They were hypocrites playing a role. In fact the Pharisees loved the attention, they loved the respect, and they loved being questioned, but not lectured or challenged. They weren’t helping anyone get closer to God with their hollow rituals. Jesus lectured them and they crucified him.

And today we have Pharisees among us. They claim to know better than the next person what God wants. They have 101 ways to show that they love God more than the next person—from stuffing their Bible covers with church pamphlets, to the silver fish symbol on the back of their car. And they know who ‘God’s people’ are. They are the ones who are just like them. They are cloister of people who come together every Sunday morning to do exactly what they did last Sunday. They know who is going to heaven, and who is going to hell, and exactly what to do on the road along the way. And they can label people as ‘haters’ and they can be indignant when questioned about it because they love God more than you or me.

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