Cross Examination: Inspecting the Fruits of Theocracy
jhutson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 11:54:13 PM EST
"How can you tell if the little voice that you hear inside your head is God, or just your own thoughts and ideas?"

That's the very question that theocrat and billionaire businessman Pat Robertson has answered for the Christian Broadcasting Network, in a Q&A called "Pat Answers Your Questions About God's Guidance."

Pat Robertson: You read Hebrews and it says, `Those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil' (Hebrews 5:14). There is no substitute for working and practicing and practicing the presence of God. And when you do that after a while, you know what's God and what isn't. But our voice is very deceiving. The voice of Satan is very deceiving, so you have to be careful in this....But as I say, objective confirmation, circumstances and so forth, along with that sure does help."

Robertson's answers differed from those of Talk to Action readers, who recently tackled a similar question in the first Cross Examination essay, which explained the aim of this series and asked: How does one figure out whether the self-proclaimed "representative" of God is really speaking for God instead of his own personal and highly subjective political agenda that has little or nothing to do with the example and teachings of Jesus?

The Bible offers some answers -- and they're more specific than Robertson's muddled admonitions about "practicing and practicing" (which we thought was actually the way to get to Carnegie Hall). But Pat may be onto something big when he warns about being "careful" not to be deceived, and when he advises that we look for "objective confirmation." Yes, actual proof of what is being claimed "sure does help."

'In Sheep's Clothing'

The prophet Jeremiah cautions the faithful to beware of false prophets who claim to speak on behalf of God: "Then the LORD said to me, 'The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries, and the delusions of their own minds.'" -- Jeremiah 14:14

Jesus also warned about false prophets, and gave a measuring stick to test their words and deeds.

Jesus said, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" (Gospel According to Matthew, 7:15)

And Jesus said, "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Gospel According to Luke, 6:44-45)

So apparently, it's not just the prophet's claim that counts, but what comes about from his or her words and deeds, and the effect that those words and deeds have on other people. The New Testament speaks of specific "fruits" by which a follower of God may be recognized. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Jesus taught that false prophets put on a big show of religiosity ("sheep's clothing") but that followers of Jesus should look out for the false prophet's wolfishly ferocious motives, words, behaviors, and effects. And the Letter to the Galatians quietly points to the authentic fruits of the Spirit, a list of virtues that leads up to "self-control," not state control.

1) What kinds of things do theocrats speak about? What kind of heart do those things reveal?

2) What kinds of fruit do theocrats produce? What kind of fruit fills you with the bitter taste of intolerance, then leaves you with the emptiness of divisiveness? And how do such fruits compare with the "fruits of the Spirit" named in Galations?

3) If members of a community decided to seek not money, status, and the ability to command and control others, but the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), then what would that community look like? How would community members behave toward one another?

4) Bonus round for five extra points and the right to do a "Church Lady" superior dance. Which "Flip" is known for saying each of the following:
a) "The devil made me do it!"
b) "The devil is strutting his stuff with impunity in the streets of America, while Christianity is rapidly being reduced into something that can only be practiced at home or in the safety of a church sanctuary."
c) "I shoulda listened, when you said, 'Forget the money, put God first,' so that's the way I gotta end my verse."

I've always been wary of the motives of self-proclaimed prophets and preachers. I learned the hard way, through direct and unhappy experience, that such people rarely have anyone's best interest in mind... except their own.

Christ was right in having people examine the fruits of such people and the organizations they create. My encounters with the walking wounded who have escaped from some of these sects have demonstrated to me that the 'fruit' of these 'prophets' has been bitter and toxic.

When I hear someone flinging hateful phlegm about 'homos' and 'pagans' and 'feminazis' and other such stuff, I know that I have found a sower of poison, someone who might preach Christ's words, but who does not practice them.

I know people who practice generosity, are truly humble, and who actively seek to leave the world a better place than they found it. They do not go to church, believe in the Bible, or call themselves Christians. Instead of a cross, their sacred symbol is a cornocopia. That, by itself, speaks volumes.

by Lorie Johnson on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 04:20:22 PM EST

in every faith community (even christians!). They don't stand out because they are humble.

by moses freeman on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 05:03:31 PM EST

Lorie writes: "I've always been wary of the motives of self-proclaimed prophets and preachers."

Exactly! That's following Jesus' example. Today, theocrats would have you switch off your brain and just do whatever some self-appointed religious authority tells you to do. "God said it, Brother So-and-So claims to fully understand it, and so I believe I'll resign my God-given duty to think critically for myself."

Jesus didn't say that we should defer to self-proclaimed religious authority; he said we should question them even more closely, and inspect their fruits, especially when they claim to be speaking for God.

by jhutson on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 05:08:29 PM EST

Such people come to dominate every religion sooner or later, at least until the next phase of renewal or reform.

Jesus' words in Matthew 23 sum up these folks pretty well.

What would a community look like that possessed the "fruits of the spirit"? It would be a Grateful Dead show of course, well except maybe for the self-control part.

by moses freeman on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 04:19:02 PM EST

Matt. 23 reads like a laundry list of what the 'HypoChristians' practice. Fancy temples, altar gifts, zealous converts...

Too bad it seems that these verses have been somehow made invisible to their eyes and hearts...

by Lorie Johnson on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 04:25:37 PM EST

Hey, if you can envision your ideal community, then you can help build it. The first step to transforming your society is envisioning the change you seek. What would a peaceful, loving, forgiving, and mutually respectful world look like? If you've ever had a taste of that, if you've ever wanted more, then grab your tie-dyed T-shirt and get on board the peace train... Everybody's welcome, even those like me, who've got "a touch of grey."

by jhutson on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 05:13:56 PM EST
Yep, I'm building it as we speak, and apparently so are you.

Just a brief introduction, I am an ex-deadhead, a veteran of a couple of decades of peace work, an amateur Islamic cleric, and a member of the Bush diaspora (those of us who have packed up and left the US rather than live under tyranny). I am also active on Daily Kos, but came to this site from a recommendation on Street Prophets.

Thanks for your help in getting this site going.

by moses freeman on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 05:42:02 PM EST

Having read much of the MoJo contributors comments and subsequent reader comments I want only to add a few of my own thoughts...

The separation of church and state is not that hard if you follow the teachings of Jesus. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me" The state is ostensibly representative of our collective will, 'we the people' band together to meet our basic needs--I grew up believing this in spite of the world around me, it is somehow fundamental to who I am. The decisions I make on a day to day basis for the most part reflect these beliefs--call it faith if you choose--yet I have resisted defining myself in religious terms. Have I surrendered morality to the `religious wrong' because I neglect to define myself in religious terms. In my view my politics more closely reflect those I attribute to prophets like Jesus and yet I am deemed the enemy.

I think progressive democrats and many garden variety people of faith do fundamentally subscribe to basic goodness and love for their fellow man and act out their own core beliefs secularly as I have tried to describe the previous paragraph. Unfortunately the zealots have been organizing in a very deliberate way right under our noses and we have only just now awakened to the nightmare that our country has become.

Finally, this URL offers a perspective worth considering--suggesting we may have become complicit to our nations shift to theocracy.

by mari irwin on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 06:55:24 PM EST

Many possible reasons. But, the solution remains the same - political re-engagement, especially at the local level.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Nov 30, 2005 at 10:48:15 PM EST

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