I was reading my Bible today. Yes, I own multiple Bibles, Torahs and a Qur’an, and I do read them to catch up on the world of the Believers. This time, however, the causation of my research was initiated by a member of LinkedIn’s Freethinkers group response to my column concerning Governor Rick Perry’s August 6 revival – The Response.
Uncle Mythman Jay wrote “I want to GO to [Governor Rick Perry’s] meeting just to run up on stage, knock over everything up there and give him a bunch of JESUS’ OWN WORDS on how what he is doing is WRONG (‘hypocrites … offering false praise on the street corners … hypocrites!)”
The reference is made to Matthew 6:5 – “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.” (NIV)
Uncle Mythman Jay is right. Perry is wrong.
The Believer should be more concerned with Matthew 6:1-10 in total. This passage not only concern Perry’s revival but all tent ministries and mega churches. I limit it to churches because I have never heard of a mega-temple, and because this is part of the Christian Bible, I will not discuss Islam. But I can if you would like.
Matthew 6:1-10 talks about personal belief, virtue and altruism. It is telling the world how good we are, something we have all been guilty of. More importantly it is a story we need to take to heart. This may be especially true of the right-wing, right-winger Christians.
OK, let’s include the ultra-conservative Jews and Muslims as well.
All three Western religions tell their followers to give to the poor, to those who are ill, and to those who can no longer help themselves. It amazes me that those who claim to be the most devout Christian conservatives seem to want to take away the federal and state programs that protect the poor, the ill, the hungry and the disabled. That seems to be contrary to the holy messages the conservatives say they observe.
Matthew tells the Believer that public revivals, the large groups of those who pray together in mega-churches, those who wish only to be seen in church in their Sunday best, who pray for only personal gain, to be heard saying the words in a meaningless form, will not receive the “rewards” promised. That men and women like Perry and others who call attention to themselves as “devout” are actually the hypocrites that the New Testament warns the Believer not to become.
Matthew tells us “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” he is warning that public display of belief is equated to a sin and, therefore, is a mark against the individual to receive the “reward.” Does this mean that those who attend the Perry backed revival are diminishing their chance to be “rewarded” by their God? I certainly do. That is if I believed in a god. I am, after all, an atheist with a religious education.
This is more than a question whether Perry has violated the First Amendment that says the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This is more than the governor of Texas used his official office to support and advertise The Response.
This involves the picking and choosing passages from the Holy Books that seem to support their personal egos and professional gains. That if Christians allow people like Perry to continue their misguided use of faith, in this case the Christian faith, they are not considering the bigger purpose of these stories. If they, like Perry and others, are finding the single stanza to support their personal egos, then Believers will never gain what they believe is true.
This is more than the conflicting stories in the Torah and New Testament. This is more than a supernatural overseer who knows and sees all, who controls out daily lives. This goes to the soul of the Believer who wants to accept the biblical “truth” so much that she or he believes what modern soothsayers say; just as long as the words come from God as soothsayer claims.
Where is this leading? That depends on what direction you see this situation and the words of the Christian Bible. For me, it is when politicians use their religion to openly and publically pray for the market place, for only the American government and people. It when politicians use their religion as a qualifier for office.
Perry is not the only contrarian using myth and superstition to his advantage. The Garden of Eden was not in Jackson County, Missouri. The original occupants of North America were not the lost ten Israeli tribes. Jonah was not swallowed by a large fish. And to say that God blesses only the United States of American over every other nation and Americans over all other people may be the most unholy things I have ever heard. And I have heard this.
A Christian who truly takes the word of their Lord as the word of peace and justice, that religion is a personal choice, including the choice not to believe at all, will know the words of Matthew 6:9, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like [hypocrites], for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
The Lord’s Prayer (regardless of the version; Luke or Matthew, Modern, Catholic, Traditional or King James) is short, focused and personal. Real Christians will keep it that way. That prayer, giving to the needy, the ill and the hungry is a personal choice and should not be “trumpeted” for all to hear. That altruism is the basis of all world religions. That, if there is a God, that god would bless all people, not just a select few and definitely not for political purposes or gain.