Gabriel Garnica
The left's manipulation of scripture is no secret
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By Gabriel Garnica
March 12, 2011

The Gospel reading this past Ash Wednesday hit a nerve in my memory. The reading, from Saint Matthew 6:1-6.16-18 touches on a topic which is a hotbed of contention between those in the Left who want to defend and promote their mythical Constitutional Separation of Church and State and those who simply want to discourage hypocrisy.

The reading above contains a number of famous lines, but perhaps the most famous is:

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

I have heard and read many in the Left argue that this passage promotes separation of church and state since it encourages private prayer away from the public forum as that carrying the most merit and benefit. This is a classic illustration of the Left's manipulation of words and meanings to fit its purpose. As usual, these people conveniently cherry-pick the words and passages they wish to twist to suit their agenda without consideration of the whole passage and meaning of the text.

This passage is a perfect illustration of such selective manipulation, for the very next passage in the reading says:

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,

so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.

Thus, we see that this reading condemns hypocrisy and praying merely for show. It criticizes using religion merely as a tool to further one's secular and personal agendas. It does not speak against public prayer but, rather, public prayer used for show or as a decoration. This should be contrasted against public prayer which is offered for a noble, unselfish, and greater purpose and good beyond mere superficial and selfish gain. Anyone wishing for an illustration of such selfish manipulation and hypocrisy need only look upon those politicians who claim to be Christian while carrying their Bibles and attending services despite the fact that most, if not all, of their actions reveal such attendance a lie. I think that present circumstances make searching for hypocritical liars and pretenders in our government an easy task, much like picking up a Bible and strolling into services as a pathetic show of alleged Christian beliefs all while attacking, ignoring, and mocking those same beliefs the other six days of the week.

God's Word is not about pretending, showing, or acting. It is not about being charismatic, intellectual, or passionate. Rather, it is all about being genuine, selfless, humble, and dedicated to doing good. It is about having the courage to model one's faith in public without bashing the public over the head with that faith. It is not about hiding one's faith lest someone be offended or inconvenienced. It is not about concealing what one is out of political practicality. Above all, it is about having true Christian convictions and the courage of those convictions to stand proudly by them in a society which increasingly ignores, mocks, criticizes, or even persecutes them.

Another example of this kind of manipulation occurs in John 8:2-11, where Jesus dares a crowd about to stone an adulterous woman to throw their stones if they are without sin. Many in the Left argue that this passage promotes the idea that Our Lord accepts and tolerates individual behaviors that many righteous find offensive. Others argue that this reading reminds us that Our Lord loves everyone, regardless of their actions or conduct, and that we must therefore tolerate and accept unconditionally.

Again, these people conveniently forget to bring up the rest of the passage, where Jesus tells the woman, already penitent, to sin no more. We are thus reminded that we must love those who offend us, but that does not mean that we have to love or accept or tolerate what they do as acceptable. We should pray for them and try to model within our own imperfections as best we can an alternate path. We may even inform them of our views and why we disapprove, but that is a far cry from persecuting or, as the Left loves to argue, hating them.

Shakespeare once told us that the devil can quote scripture, and that one can smile and smile, and yet be a devil. It is easy to quote scripture, and anyone can do it to suit their purposes. It is much more difficult, however, to live and model scripture, and that is where one can separate those pretenders from the intenders.

© Gabriel Garnica

 

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