12 Meanwhile, when many thousands of the crowd had gathered so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known. 3 So then whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom you should fear: Fear the one who, after the killing, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 In fact, even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Gospel of Luke 12:1-7 (NRSV)
Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”. We can too easily dismiss the Pharisees. The Pharisees were seeking the renewal of the people of God, and in comparison, to the likes of the Herodians they took the high road. The ideals of the Pharisees were closely aligned with that of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ metaphor of hypocrisy being like yeast indicates that we are to be on our guard for what is hidden and isn’t obvious. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees is something that is subtle and unseen except ultimately in its effect.
The hypocrisy of the GOP and the Religious right has been brought to light. The choice of Donald Trump with so many republican and religious leaders stumbling around to get behind him, when for years the GOP and the Religious Right have talked of the personal and moral character of candidates for high office criticizing at times their opponents for not being such persons of character. The GOP’s hypocrisy is easy to see it has leavened the whole loaf, but we must be on guard for hypocrisy before the dough starts to rise. In the case of the GOP and its presidential candidate this election, the dough has risen!
A subtle yet largely unnoticed hypocrisy is already needed into the dough of U.S. history. For his own hypocritical ends Donald Trump has used this hypocrisy in attempts to justify restrictions on Muslim immigrants and tracking Muslim U.S. citizens by appeal to the use of concentration camps of Japanese during WWII along with the restrictions and surveillance of Germans and Italians during WWII by FDR’s administration.
The administration of FDR with the approval of the U.S Supreme Court in prosecuting war for “Freedom” and human rights, without cause robbed Japanese Americans of their freedom and violated their human rights. We compound and perpetuate this hypocrisy by attempting to justify or explain away the hypocrisy by excusing it or claiming they didn’t know better at that time. We let our guard down when we for the sake of our ideals and our mythos of America pretend that the U.S. Government and a great number o its citizens have hypocritically held to its own ideals. We further compound this when we do not admit that the seeds of this hypocrisy, are needed into the dough of our national life from the moment of our revolution and founding. As the founders of this nation wrote and spoke eloquently of Freedom they were also slave holders or those who in some way benefited from slavery or at least tacitly approved of the enslavement of Africans. To be on our guard for the the yeast of hypocrisy is to be conscious of this radical hypocrisy at the founding of the United States.
At the Democratic Convention where we at last have a woman for presidential candidate of a major party, we also extolled how we are the greatest nation in the world surpassing all others yet, ignoring a failing that doesn’t fit with our national aspirational narrative of being a leader of the nations, of being out in front. Women have been at the helm of Government in nations all over the world, in growing numbers over the years, since at least the 1980’s. On this we haven’t been a leader in the world nor in line with America being the best and greatest. In not looking closely at ourselves and the narrative we use here is another place where hypocrisy can slip in. We aren’t even the only nation to have the aspirations to freedom and democracy and equality. France too has it’s mythology and believes itself to be a beacon in the world to freedom and democracy, after all “LIberte, Egalite, Fraternite” is its national moto. We should be on guard for way our positive and aspirational story of America has this leaven already within it.
What this means for us as member of Christ and citizens of the U.S. is to be aware of the ways in which hypocrisy can invade and appear even in our desire for the moral high ground. Especially if that moral high ground is identified with a particular nation and when those aspirations are also human aspirations shared beyond the boundaries of the nation. We may even say that the leaven of the Pharisees was precisely; in this area: They were good people devoted to Gods law and ensuring that the people of Israel stay true even under a harsh occupation when the occupier sought to dissuade their unique devotion to their god and customs (because it excluded paying fealty to the occupier’s ways and God.) Even thought there was much good in what they did, Jesus calls them out for their hypocrisy. Good motives even seeking the Good of your group doesn’t prevent the yeast of hypocrisy.
To be on guard in this manner means not resting in party religious or national loyalties. To be on guard means to be attuned and open to God’s work of building up the Beloved Community which transcends and transgresses national and other boundaries we draw and write and put up. To be on guard in this way is both positive and negative. We are to be aware of where the reign of God is popping up and to be aware of the ways in which simply resting in our sense of Good or being part of the right group can lead to a hypocrisy that can choke out. member of the body of Chris be on your guard hypocrisy is rampant it is in us, it is in the stories we tell ourselves.
In the next two weeks I will continue with this reflection on these words of Christ, part two “Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed…” and part three “…do not be afraid …”