Self-Righteousness

Updated on February 23, 2017

Self-Righteousness

I remember watching the hilarious video of Ray Stevens titled “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” and one of the poignantly funny pieces of this video was as the video panned to the name of the church over the archway, whereupon we read the words - “First Self-Righteous Church.” What follows is a comedic send up of a holier-than-thou art bunch of “stiff necks” getting into “revival” mode when an errant squirrel gets set loose under the pews. If you want a good laugh, search the internet for the video. It’s still up and running, and I still get a chuckle when I watch Ray Stevens in his mischievous antics. But one thing about that video always causes me to pause and sort of say an “Amen” as I watch...the words “Self Righteous Church.”

There is not one single sect of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and all the rest, that does not have adherents who tend to get religiously smug. But, since I am a Christian, I am just going to focus on us, we Christians. All religions claim to be “the only Way,” and they can all come together to discuss the problems with that exclusionary mindset and how it divides perfectly good human beings from one another someday . I am not going there in this one. What I am going after are the public figures who wrap themselves in Jesus, God and the Bible, all while acting like they speak for God, and God backs their prejudices and bigotries. And if you think by bigotries I mean homophobes, racists and xenophobes, yes, I will get to them, but I am more concerned with those who are as starched as the Pharisees of old who were so “pure” and “righteous,” that there were members of their society with whom they not only could and would not associate, but with whom they actually refused to be touched by or spoken to, as such would render the Pharisee “unclean.”

Loving Our Neighbors As We Love Ourselves

I see politicians and televangelists acting like these very same Pharisees, perfectly coiffed hairdos, immaculate suits, fake humility and even more fake “holy” speaking manners, as they cluck their tongues, wag their heads in fake dismay and self-righteous shock, and list the horrible things that they see wrong with everyone and everything else...everyone, that is, who does not become a carbon copy of them. And while they look down their noses at the “unclean,” they pontificate about why God backs their bigotries and absurd prejudices. I have mentioned in another article about the time I was sitting in church, and the preacher screwed up his face with repugnance and said the following: “Rock and roll music will take your soul straight to Hell.” Then, unscrewing his face, he went into “benign mode,” as a nearly angelic expression came across his face, and he said, “But country music, now, that’s God’s music.” Really?! We now know what God listens to? This is just ONE example of how Christians allow themselves to be spoon fed bigotry and prejudice, all in the name of God and Jesus, when neither of these two is the author of any of this. And because it comes from the pulpit, we create this false illusion that it thus comes from God, when we should really be remembering that it is a fellow human being, complete with all of the same warts as the rest of us, who stands there behind that pulpit. We should remind ourselves that this person is a product of his upbringing, of his environment, and most importantly, his theological training (or lack thereof). Sadly, we have a religion that is based on a collection of writings called the Bible, but to understand the Bible properly, much training is absolutely necessary...and many preachers are woefully under-trained when it comes to such a powerfully important challenge. But, one thing should be abundantly clear, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. God is written in our hearts and souls, He exists in our very DNA, and even if we did not have the Bible properly translated for us, if we looked at the words of Jesus when He recited the two most important commandments, one was to love God with all of our hearts and souls, and the second was to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we would then see that true Theology does not allow us to judge others, nor does it allow us to show bigotry and hate of any type. Why? Because we don’t direct this same harsh acid-bath against our own selves. Why does this second part, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, get lost in Christiandom? How does anyone get so self-righteous that they thereupon determine that they have gained an edict from On High to select various passengers to throw off the ark? Who built the boat? Who created the passengers? Yet the self-righteous begin to think that they are both builder and captain.

Religious and Wicked

Can we be “religious” and wicked at the same time? Absolutely! In Isaiah 64:6, we read the words of the prophet as he pleads with God and discusses how Israel has become self-righteous, filled with all of its phony, man-made observations of religious tidbits that had nothing to do with actual spirituality and genuine love of God.

“But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

Does Isaiah mean that we can never achieve righteousness? No, but what he is saying is that you can be lost in your own religious conceits, so much so that you can become self-righteous and completely miss the mark. This is vital to understand, because I see so many politicians and televangelists who put on airs of righteousness, therefore, they expect no one to be able to speak against whatever bigotry or prejudice comes out of their mouths. They like to wrap themselves in their fake piety, and few there are who will call them on this. Instead, it works like a charm. Who would dare challenge their piety, their sacredness, why, the very rightness of everything they therefore say? And the mindless minions go right along doing their bidding. I find this just as repugnant as the methodology that Hitler used to demonize innocent Jews and turn an entire nation against fellow human beings. Hitler pointed to, and extolled, his genetic superiority, and people bought it. Why? Because it came from higher up than their own lives, their own lives being the commoner and Hitler’s level being “the pulpit.” What comes down from “higher up” has to be correct, especially when we fail to examine it against what is spiritually correct, what is written in our hearts and souls...and any inhumanity to other humans is always, always, WRONG! Funny how Jesus’ teaching of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves gets lost once we start wearing those self-righteous sunglasses.

An Exclusive Club For Hypocrites

On a daily basis, I encounter smug, self-righteous Christian zealots who think that their religiosity is what Jesus had in mind when He taught about the righteous inheriting Heaven. But in Galatians 3:11, we read: “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for the righteous shall live by faith.” Further, in Galatians 2:16 we read this admonishment: “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” This flies in the face of those who think that their religious strictness in clothing choices, hairdos, even what type of vehicle they use for transportation, such as buggies versus cars, all creates a private and exclusive club of people who are going to Heaven, which they conveniently inhabit, while the rest of us are all left behind, thrown off the exclusive ark, because of our filthiness. We are, of course, filthy and unworthy, simply because we do not adhere to their religious doctrines, and here is the kicker...they cannot have an honest discussion with you about where their “doctrines” come from. They “think” that they know where their religious beliefs come from, but in the majority of cases, they use a standard cop out with, “Well, we believe in the Bible, and the Bible tells us these things.” Really? So millions of others who read and interpret the Bible differently are all wrong? And another innocent person is pitched off the ark.

Condemning Those Who Are Different

I have lost count of how many people I have talked with who are former members of various sects of Christianity. They all have one thing in common, they had questions that were not being answered, the internal conflicts of what they were taught when it seemed to run counter to what was written in their hearts and souls, and they had problems observing the strict rituals ordered by their “teachers” when these rituals did not make sense either morally or just logically. As one young man who is former Amish told me when I asked him why he left the Amish order, “Too many man-made rules!” Some people can think for themselves, and some people begin to understand that God is in our hearts and souls, that it does not take ritual to commune with God, or even to comprehend the simplicity of the words of Jesus when He told us to love one another as we love ourselves. Is there a place for religious ritual? Absolutely. Many rituals lead us into contemplation of our faith and of our search for a closer walk with God, but when those rituals are required for permission to approach God, and when they become a substitute for actual spirituality and begin to make us think that we are superior to those who do not observe these rituals, we can become self-righteous. Self-righteousness stinks. Everyone can see it except the person wearing it. And the self-righteous person has become so blinded by his need to add badges of religious accomplishment to his puffed out chest that he becomes blind to just how unspiritual he really is.

Thus, when I hear anyone denigrating a fellow human being, because that person is a different skin color, a different ethnicity, a different religion, a different sexual orientation, or any of the other “differents,” I choose to follow my heart and soul, the place where I know that my Creator wrote a special knowledge of loving Him and loving His children whom He created. They must be special, if He took all that time and effort to make them. Clever people will always be among us to tell us who we can hate, and they can preach it from their pulpits and congressional platforms, they will even tell us the Bible gives us permission to engage in these bigotries. After all, they are members of the “First Self Righteous Church.” Trust them. They built the ark.

Questions & Answers

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      • Hanavee profile imageAUTHOR

        Brian Gray 

        17 months ago from Pennsylvania

        Alan,

        Thanks for reading that one. I always welcome and enjoy your comments. It is so true that the more people strive to be "religious," the more they need to be aware of the tendency to become judgmental of others who do not observe the same "religiosity." It makes all the more profound the words of Jesus when He said, "Judge not."

        Brian

      • jonnycomelately profile image

        Alan 

        17 months ago from Tasmania

        Great writing, Brian....some truths that each of us can contemplate and atune to. Alas, befor the mirror is a place for doing such contemplation. I have even found that using my cell phone in "selfie" mode is better than a mirror, because it gives the true rendering of "Me." Try scratching your nose while viewing your selfie...it's like someone else is doing it for you!

      • Hanavee profile imageAUTHOR

        Brian Gray 

        18 months ago from Pennsylvania

        always exploring,

        Knowing that we are flawed is the beginning of humility. It is only through God's loving grace that we have the promises He gave us.

        Enjoy that video. It is one of Ray Steven's best.

        Brian

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        18 months ago from Southern Illinois

        This is such a great message! I am so very in tune with your observations. People who can not see the good in others who are different, yet they believe God created man and the universe. I attend church. I love to sing and listen to God's word, yet I know I am flawed. I am human. The self righteous display little love for others. I am going to find that video, I know it will be hilarious. Thank you..

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