Christians opposing healing for other people on moral grounds sounds righteous. Should Christians receive the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Johnson and Johnson because of how it was developed? Should we oppose other people from receiving it? The experience of our history shows trends from mere opposition to prohibition. And so, the step toward self-righteous accusation of others crops up in our dialogue.
Healing In The Synagogue
It was all right for Jesus to teach in the synagogue. I bet the synagogue attendance had never been better. Celebrity preachers are a mixed blessing. The crowds show up. You just can’t control what the preacher says. It makes one anxious. Not only that, the unwelcome riff-raff tends to show up at those times. Someone needs to keep these people in their place.
A woman approached Jesus for healing. “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman you are set free from your infirmity.” The custom of separating men and women in the synagogue was violated! The prohibition of working on the Sabbath was violated! Something must be done!
“Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on the Sabbath.” (Luke 13:14) Honestly? Did this guy even hear himself? Luke says the ruler was upset that Jesus healed. But that is not what he says.
The man does not direct his words to Jesus. He says them to the crowd. The ruler admits the synagogue is a place for healing and wholeness. But he must defend the rightness of Sabbath observance. He won’t attack Jesus. He attacks the woman who is healed. Why? She is an easier target for his indignation. There is a better than good chance that someone will agree the woman was out of line.
The ruler commands the crowd to respect the Sabbath. His piety is a tool for him to hold onto his authority…his power. Who is going to return when Jesus leaves? Doubtless, it would be the usual congregation. His power was never in doubt. However, that fact does not keep him from being anxious. Jesus is a life-altering event.
The ruler uses righteousness and piety to promote his own power. He exploits the woman’s need to maintain the appearance of righteousness. He is self-justifying. The ruler is the example of self-righteousness.
Refusing Healing in the Name of What?
Tennessee, my home state, likes to elect committed Christians to office. We aren’t the only one to do this. It sounds like a good way to keep corruption and unrighteousness away from the centers of power. But in 225 years, that has not happened. We have a regressive tax policy. Tennessee is ranks low in education. And we don’t do a good job at providing care for our fellow citizens.
The legislature begins each day with Christian prayers. One prayer leader explicitly opposed expanding Medicaid to help the poorest citizens of the State. Why? Because the money was provided through the Affordable Care Act. It was not because Tennessee could not afford it. The money to do this was given by the Federal government to the State. But it was Obama Care. Our good righteous leaders could not stand to let the citizens receive needed medical help in such an “unrighteous” way.
No good rationale can be given for this except to solidify power. Southern white identity politics masquerading as Christian morality is at work.
The unfortunate truth is that such politics do not help all white people. The white working class is told by these leaders that undeserving people would benefit too. Did I mention our state has one of the lowest incomes per capita? Did I also mention it is increasingly difficult to get loans for purchasing “big ticket” items? It is no wonder that working class people have strong resentments about these things. But the claim that lazy and undeserving people are receiving something they don’t have is false and believed.
How many times have I heard these claims.
- The Government builds homes for illegal aliens.
- People on Welfare drive cars working people can’t afford.
- Unions ruined cities in the North, do we want that happening here?
- We are the good guys. Our guys will look out for us.
None of these claims are true or prove to be true. I have learned to ask so-called “eye-witnesses” to these sort of abuses of the system why they never report it.
The means to heal from this unrighteousness is to get beyond the identity trap. False claims are believed because of this trap. Church leaders seeking to follow Jesus should preach and teach these truths. There is no other way to overcome the phony self-righteousness of people only interested in their own power.