from guest writer Chris Brenna: the yeast of the Pharisees

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : September 20, 2004

For a while now I’ve been authorized to post something on this blog, but wasn’t able to decide what my first blog should be. In keeping with my identity as a New Testament studies super-geek, I decided to talk about something Jesus said in light of a new breed of Christian I’ve recently become aware of. LIBERAL ANABAPTISTS. This is not a very good term, because some of the people I’ve met that fall into this category aren’t anabaptist and don’t identity themselves as such. The common characteristic to the species is a combination of moderately liberal political beliefs combined with a belief in personal status as a completely dispassionate observer of national and world events. Such a person says she is equally critical of Republicans and Democrats, but if someone prods her to explain her political opinions, she will betray herself as a moderate liberal. She may even admit to being ‘liberal,’ but not so vehemently as to necessarily revoke her status as dispassionate. You may also be encouraged by such a person to vote, though since she opposes both Republicans and Democrats (ostensibly), your powers of meta-communication recognition need to kick in to determine where your vote should go (jk).
Jesus’ vitriolic response to the Pharisees is often explained by portraying the Pharisees as legalistic and unyielding. But we know that the Saducees and the Essenes, two other Jewish sects prominent to the period, were more conservative in many ways than the Pharisees. In fact, the Pharisees seem to have been more involved in political life than any other major group, and comparatively more liberal in some respects. If this is the case, we have to throw out the “legalistic” theory as an explanation for Jesus’ opposition to them and consider that perhaps it was their simultaneous claim to be righteous teachers while failing to remain truly faithful to the Law that Jesus reacted against. In other words, they presented their own skewed political beliefs as truly Jewish. It is in this sense that I see no difference between politically inclined Christians pretending to possess no political bent, and Pharisees.

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