Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the majority of what you stand for. Your message of love and unity is exactly what the world needs right now. And I’m thankful to see your stance toward oppressed peoples on the margins of society. They deserve to have more good men like you standing with them.
So understand that my criticism is coming from a place of general agreement with you. I just feel that your platform would be a lot more effective if you toned it down a little bit.
Perhaps some examples would be helpful. In a single diatribe, you lambasted the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites,” “sons of hell,” “blind guides,” “fools,” “greedy,” “self-indulgent,” “whitewashed tombs,” “lawless,” “murderers,” “serpents,” and “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:13–36)!
Look, I understand your frustration. I really do. And, you know, if this were a one-time incident—if you had simply lost your patience on a bad day—I wouldn’t even bring it up. But the thing is, your speech is full of this kind of rhetoric.
Most of these accusations are repeated elsewhere in your talks. You’ve additionally claimed that the Pharisees are sons of the devil (John 8:44). You say that they, as well as King Herod, are tainted with leaven (Mark 8:15). And the latter you even called a fox (Luke 13:32).
Jesus, your own disciples have an awful lot to say about respecting authority, and I have a feeling they got that teaching from you. Maybe it’s time to start listening to this advice? Like it or not, Herod is our king, which means his authority comes from God, so what good will criticizing him do?
As for the Pharisees, honestly, Jesus, you should consider the possibility that you’ve latched on to them as a scapegoat. Read some René Girard, and I think you’ll see what I mean. You have to remember that they’re not the enemy; God loves them too.And then there’s your protest incident in the temple (John 2:14–22). I get that you’re a prophet and that you wanted to make a big gesture to get your point across, but was the destruction of property really necessary? Don’t you realize that such actions render your protest illegitimate?
And what about the merchants and money changers in the temple? They were just trying to feed their families. What are they supposed to do about the lost income you caused them? And the same goes for those pig farmers who lost their entire herd thanks to your careless exorcism (Mark 5:1–20).
Jesus, I’m afraid you’re getting so caught up in your activism that you aren’t taking the time to think through your actions.
For all your grand talk about unity, what you’re actually doing right now is creating division. You so strongly oppose groups like the Pharisees, but you’re really just switching to a different kind of Phariseeism. That’s not very progressive of you.
You’re even on record as saying,
You must not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man will find his enemies under his own roof. (Matthew 10:34–36, REB)
Can’t you see how divisive that is? What you need to do is find common ground with your opponents.
Don’t worry so much about the people they’re oppressing or the harm they’re causing. Just focus on healing the wounds of division between the entrenched camps of your followers and theirs.
A Concerned Friend
In case you haven’t picked up on it, this letter is satire. Let the reader understand.