CommunityFDL Main Blog

Modern-day Pharisees Try to Claim the Mantle of Jesus

Murillo’s “Return of the Prodigal Son”

One of these days, I’m going to get a soft, nerf-style desk. That way, when I beat my head against it after reading rightwing TheoCon posts like Bryan Fischer’s “Firefighters did the Christian thing in letting house burn to the ground,” I won’t hurt myself.

That was a couple of days ago, and ordinarily I’d let this go as old news, but then Fischer stepped up yesterday and tried to defend his views again. Sure, the left doesn’t get it, he says, but he’s flabbergasted that anyone on the right would disagree with him:

The odd thing is to see conservatives in the faith community essentially arguing for a mushy-headed liberal and secular-fundamentalist solution to this problem. They seem to be taking the position that the left has always adopted, that government has a moral obligation to protect people from their own folly no matter whose pocket government has to pick along the way, and no matter whom they endanger while doing it. It’s a strange thing to hear evangelicals saying we ought to take resources without permission from responsible citizens (the ones who had been faithfully paying their fire protection premiums) and use them to bail out the irresponsible ones.

Hmmm . . . Fischer’s views sound awfully familiar . . .

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” . . . [Luke 15:1-2]

Can’t you just hear Fischer’s voice here?: “How dare he! The nerve of that guy! Welcoming sinners? Why, those sinners ought to man up, take some responsibility, and clean up their act. Then they might be worthy to dine with him. But eating with them before they do that . . .  it’s irresponsible. It’s like he’s approving of their sin!”

Fischer’s post yesterday ends:

What would Jesus do? That’s easy. He’d tell Mr. Cranick, “Man up, accept full and total responsibility, and don’t blame anybody but yourself for what happened. That’s the Christian thing to do. And next time, Gene, pay the 75 bucks, all right?”

And he’d say to my Christian critics, “Hey, it’s time to realize that Mr. Cranick has no one to blame but himself. And nobody’s stopping you from sending him a contribution to help him build a new home. What do you think about that? Instead of whining about how hard-hearted everybody else is, why don’t you man up and send the man some money to help him rebuild his house? That’d be the Christian thing to do right there. Any takers?”

For all of Fischer’s imaginative thoughts about what Jesus would say to the guy whose house burned down and to all of Fischer’s critics, notice who Fischer doesn’t envision Jesus talking to — Fischer himself.

Maybe I can help with that one. After Jesus heard the grumbling of the Pharisees, he told this little story:

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’

What? Irresponsibility is rewarded? A foolish son is welcomed back with a party? What ever happened to holding someone accountable when they squander their property in dissolute living? The nerve . . .

That’s the voice of the Pharisees, the voice of the elder brother, and the voice of Bryan Fischer.

Fischer and those who follow him don’t seem to get Jesus. Jesus was forever welcoming strangers, embracing foreigners, curing lepers (outcasts from society), healing on the sabbath, dining with tax collectors and thieves, even conversing with . . . ahem . . . loose women. When a lawyer asked Jesus about what a person needs to do to be saved, Jesus was pretty blunt — show mercy to anyone in need. Anyone. Don’t check their insurance card, don’t check their voting record, don’t check their sexual history, don’t check their bank balance — check their need, and show them mercy. When you do this to them, says Jesus, you do it to me. (See Matthew 25, if you want the long version.)

Fischer’s bio at the American Family Association’s website says he is the “director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at American Family Association, where he provides expertise on a range of public policy topics.” If this is an example of his expert analysis, the AFA is in serious trouble.

His expertise seems to be in self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. That might make Ayn Rand smile, but not Jesus.

Previous post

Weekend Art: The Myth of the Bear: Artemis and Callisto

Next post

Bullies And The Bullied



I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.