Righteousness and Its Imposters
MAYBE YOU’D like to know what’s wrong with the world — to hear it summarized in a few words. Okay.
The fear of reduced circumstances will induce nearly anyone to live falsely. A threat to the paycheck will make most people pretend to believe every lie they ever heard. But though almost everyone puts his own social status first, it is a faux pas to be seen as doing so, and therefore people are generally hypocrites as well as liars.
As a consequence, nearly every passionately supported cause “just happens to be” one that doesn’t get the supporter fired, sued, foreclosed on, lynched, thrown into jail, or shot. And that creates the illusion that righteousness consists of supporting established norms and the powers that currently be.
The reason that people don’t call each other down for falseness and hypocrisy is that nearly everybody is playing the same game, and it is most socially profitable for each person to turn a blind eye, lest one accusation lead to another.
As a man spends money that was created from debt and hopes to escape an accounting and dispossession during his lifetime, he also lives a lie and hopes to evade the dishonor thereof, at least until he dies. That’s ironically true for Christians, even though Jesus himself was the sort of fellow who didn’t mind doing what would cause himself to be spurned, harassed, impoverished, or lynched.
I remind everyone that I am not religious. But I was raised so, and I know that one thing every honest religious person should acknowledge is that God will not ward his truly faithful against poverty, pariahdom, imprisonment, or a violent death. The social conditions that required Jesus to endure such things exist also today, and living with the kind of virtue that Jesus did will still, inevitably, have the same results: If you aren’t poor, outcast, frequently in jail — and if you are still alive — then you probably aren’t anything like Jesus was, and the idea of explaining yourself to God on Judgment Day should make you tremble. That it doesn’t says much.
* * *