Piety for the Sake of Being Seen by Others

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 9 March 2015.

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus Christ

Everybody thinks I'm crazy.  They say, "You take the Jesus thing too seriously".  Well I don't know, but Christ took me pretty seriously when he died for me on the cross.  (Cross Cards, via Facebook)Facebook is the new bumper-sticker faith. It is an easy way to show your religious piety to everyone, you know? Just slap a slogan on the ass-end of your automobile, or litter everyone’s Facebook feed with sappy, sentimental hackery.

Everybody thinks I’m crazy. They say, “You take the Jesus thing too seriously”.

Well I don’t know, but Christ took me pretty seriously when he died for me on the cross.

Or He took Himself so seriously.

What? What’s that? It wasn’t hubris? He had direct word from God? Well, you might notice that the rest of us don’t get such direct notice; nor does the sky itself come down and cuss us out during our most trying times, as Job experienced. There is a difference between the mysterious bubblegum faith of the twenty-first century and an act of faith that involves paying attention when the sky chews you a new one.

But, as such, we must remember how all this is according to God’s infallible plan; from the outset, the Son had to die, and that was His only reason for living. And the Kid’s Father knew He would be back Home in three days, a comfort other parents are not afforded upon learning of the horrible, tortured death of a child. So, you know, since everyone was in on it, and it was a setup to begin with, we can expect that some will occasionally make the point that even the faithful can’t decide just how big a deal the crucifixion was. Ever recite the Nicene Creed? It is a statement of faith composed around the fourth century of the common era because one faction of Christians wanted Jesus to be seen as big and powerful and divine, because, you know, the Son of God can’t be dirty and frail and human, while another insisted that the crucifixion itself was undermined by Christ’s divinity. So they came up with a middling statement to honor both His divinity and humanity, and then set about prosecuting as heretics those who denied His pure humanity.

It seems worth considering; after all, this cheap, easy faith that can be printed on a t-shirt, stuck to your bumper, or mass-fed to people one calls “friend” is, ultimately, nothing more than showing off their piety for the sake of being seen by others.

And, yes, we know affirmation is generally healthy, and recognize the impulse to self-affirm. But the faithful also need to understand that was never the point.

____________________

Image notes: Top ― Detail of Bug Martini, by Adam Huber, 9 March 2015. Right: Facebook post and comments showing Christian piety for the sake of being seen by others, 8 March 2015.

Weigle, Luther, et al. The Bible: Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1971.

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