The Tyranny of the Righteous

I have two aunts on my late father’s side. One lives in Syracuse New York and once dabbled in Christianity of the Presbyterian sort. The other lives in Washington state and is a Southern-Gospel listenin’, Bible smackin’, crew-cut wearin’ Baptist hippie type who I think shelters herself in the biggest quasi-religious Jesus bubble of all time. She “unfriended” me on Facebook after reading a statement by an acquaintance of mine who happens to be an atheist. This was his comment: “Maybe humanity doesn’t need saving. Maybe it needs to be wiped out so we can start over and build something that doesn’t suck.”

I laughed because God once expressed a similar sentiment. I “liked” the comment, which is a way of giving a thumbs-up to an item someone posts on Facebook. I don’t agree with his viewpoint, but every so often in the less inspired moments it makes sense that mankind is unsalvageable. My aunt made the first comment in the thread: “God could have, but He sent Christ my Savior, His only Begotten Son to die for humanity instead.”

She wrote these words, my acquaintance pointed out that God actually DID destroy humanity and start over, and in the face of a challenge my aunt chose to simply ignore what he said and subsequently unfriended me, her blood kin and a fellow believer. And I was left wondering how anyone can say she believes in a God who works miracles — who walks on water and moves mountains — but is unable or unwilling to give her Divine strength to love or show any kind of grace or care or affection for the members of her own family. I mean seriously, what the hell is up with that?

My one and only childhood memory of my Aunt is that she and her brood were supposed to meet my family and my Grandfather (her dad) for lunch somewhere and she stood us up. No phone call. Just empty seats at a table in the restaurant. Maybe she went to church to dance around and shout herself silly and thump a Bible. I don’t think I’ve ever met her: she knows me and is as close to my world as Pluto. So since she doesn’t know me and doesn’t WANT to know me, it’s no big loss really that she cut off our one and only tie ever.

Anyway, the unfriending of Steve Hobbs occurred sometime in the past 24 hours and it jogged thoughts I’ve had lately about a dynamic I will call the Tyranny of the Righteous. The Tyranny of the Righteous is what Jesus Christ had to buck up against for his entire time on earth: it was His primary adversary. It was like an infection in the minds and spirits of everyone — especially His disciples.

Put simply, the Tyranny of the Righteous is the opinion of religious people concerning what you should be doing with your life, how your talents and abilities should be used, and a formulaic, static approach to understanding “how God works” and the final destination of His purposes. (Some folks believe they can figure that out.)

The Tyranny of the Righteous is what made children seem like a waste of time to the disciples. It’s what made the populace try to force Jesus to be king of Israel. It’s why the religious leaders could not accept the words or work of Jesus. It’s why the two men on the road to Emmaus were so sad and disappointed in Christ because, they said, “we had hoped.” It’s why, after all the blood and tears of the crucifixion and the wonder and shock of the resurrection, the last question the disciples could muster before Jesus ascended was about their perception of what He should be doing concerning the little earthly kingdom of poor lonely Israel. Everyone had hopes and expectations that Jesus would be a certain way and work towards obvious ends but over and over He let them down. It wasn’t until after He was physically gone that anyone got a clue.

I’ve encountered it myself from Jessica and from friends and folks from church. People think, “You’re a teacher, Steve. You should be teaching a Bible study.” And the underlying sentiment is that if I don’t teach a Bible study I am somehow missing the purpose of God for my life. But this short-sightedness precludes the fact that I have been a good teacher elsewhere, for work. I’ve been paid for teaching. I have had university professors tell me that I should do whatever is necessary to become a teacher at the collegiate level. Perhaps teaching is supposed to be my career. Or perhaps the purpose of God is that my gift for transmitting ideas and emotions will reach a broader audience through my writing: after all, writing is and has always been my preferred vehicle for communicating.

Here’s the deal: there’s only one form of work I’ve ever done that hasn’t felt like work. That’s the process of writing. It’s not that I’m following a dollar, or even a dream. True, I think it would be nice if I could support my family doing something I love. But the primary reason I write isn’t because I think I’ll ever be able to quit my day job; it’s the pure joy of creation, of conjuring up characters and settings and making them think and move and breathe. It’s magic. Pure magic.

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