pharisaical: (adjective) characterized by hypocritical self-righteousness;
putting emphasis on strict observance of rituals unrelated to the spirit or meaning of the ceremony.
Somehow this word feels appropriate in today’s political arena. I’m always so horrified when a religious leader finds it okay to drive children to suicide. Or invade funerals with so-called religion. Or kill unbelievers. Or persecute people of different faiths. I don’t see that in any of the original wisdom texts. But we all know it happens. Witness Nigeria’s bloody war on gays, sanctioned by many American Christians.
Where did it start, this hatred of others, those who are ‘different’? Is it ‘just part of being human’? Maybe it’s what killed out Neanderthals ~ maybe it’s that old. Perhaps the Cro-Magnons all ganged up on the Neanderthals, driven mad by their prominent supraorbital ridges, and killed them. Just because they looked different.
We know very little about Neanderthals now. So it’s ignorant (literally) to say Cro-Magnons killed them off. But it certainly isn’t impossible, and it may be likely. Neanderthals were bigger, possibly smarter. And the current evidence is that there was interbreeding between the two until fairly late in the genetic game. So why did they die out?
The hatred of the ‘other’ is as prominent today as that Neanderthal brow bone. But lately it feels like that fear/ hatred of others is on steroids ~ a fitting analogy, given steroidal rage syndrome. If you believe in a divine order, and most folks do, wouldn’t you believe that everything shares that divinity?From the smallest living being to any other human? Then why is it necessary to claim superiority, ‘chosen’ status?
When I see this hatred masquerading as religion, especially those predicated on love (Christianity, the one I’m most familiar with, for instance), I feel sick. It’s such a violent rejection of everything that the Jesus part of the Bible ~ what my sister loves, what my old ladies taught me, my cousins’ faith & lives as ministers ~ offers. Nowhere in the Christian part of the Bible does Jesus preach hate. You have to go to the Old Testament, or Paul or crazy John, for that. Jesus wasn’t a hater.
Same goes for most other wisdom traditions. The originators? Not haters. Only the organised followers centuries later have that dubious distinction. The ‘fundament’ — the foundation — of almost all wisdom traditions is charity. The doing good to others. Not feeling superior, but careful remembering that we are fortunate, more fortunate than most. That’s the logic — and mercy — behind Lent, behind Ramadan.
Ironically, the Pharisees began as an alternative to an elitist religious aristocracy, the Sadducees. The Pharisees were ‘more democratic,’ at least one source tells us. Now? Their good intentions are obscured by their later capitulations to power, to pressure. As many good faiths are tarnished by their followers. Just look around at how little many ostensibly ‘fundamental’ versions of a faith have in common w/ the original texts.
A foundation should last — witness Karnak, in Egypt. The earliest stones of that temple complex were first laid no later than 4500 years ago. The actual site — and some of the non-restored areas — are beyond ancient. Still strong, still visible as a pattern of weight and accomplishment. Unlike the original intent of the Pharisees — to be more inclusive, more ‘democratic’ — and the various wisdom traditions corrupted by followers filled with hate.
If you call yourself a true fundamentalist ~ of any religion ~ you are pharisaical if you aren’t following the beauty way, as the Navajo say. Even if your ostensible intent is good? The ends doesn’t justify the means, when hate is involved. If you aren’t trying HARD to be a good Samaritan — loving the stranger, helping the hurt — I’m not very interested in your ostensible faith. Because it obviously isn’t fundamentally about love.