As I read Jack Hitt’s LA Times op-ed this morning I found myself first nodding my head in agreement then rolling my eyes in frustration. Hitt accurately points out a major problem in today’s politicized view of Christianity: Jesus was not a lobbyist. Hitt decries the fact that Christianity has become little more that a "right wing values [political action committee]" and that it is treated as "just another special interest group, like the Teamsters or neocons." I absolutely agree. Jesus has to weep that the extent of his Kingdom is now widely judged in terms of votes and legislative bills passed.
Hitt is also correct in assailing the current focus on the Ten Commandments at the expense of the Sermon on the Mount. "Why don’t we ever hear about nailing [the Eight Beatitudes] somewhere?" he asks and again, I say "Exactly."
However, as right as Hitt is at pointing out the problem, he is equally wrong is suggesting a solution. Hitt understands that Jesus was not a political hack, but he doesn’t quite get what he actually was. According to Hitt, Jesus was some kind of self-actualization guru that taught his followers to find their own path to truth rather than accept it from some authority. Hitt claims that Jesus told parables rather than espouse propositional principles so that his listeners could decide on the meanings of the stories for themselves. The parables are not teaching tools in the sense of containing objective truth to be learned. Rather they are tools to help people make up "truth" for themselves. In speaking about the parable of the two servants in Matthew 21, Hicks explains:
Taken as a whole, it’s not a parable with a clear and right answer.
None of them are, and that is the point. You have to sort of toss it
around in your head, think about people you’ve dealt with who’ve said
one thing and done another, and then try to come to some answer.
Basically, in Hitt’s view, Jesus was fighting not against the lies of Satan, as has been traditionally understood, but against traditional moral authoritarianism. The problem Jesus would have with the current political religiosity, in this view, is not that it teaches objectively wrong morals, but that it claims that objective morals exist.
This is patently absurd. Jesus came claiming to not only teach the truth, but be the Truth. And not some subjective, wishy washy "whatever you want it to be" truth, but the One Truth, universally applicable to all mankind. Jesus spoke in parable to make specific points about truth, not to leave the interpretation of truth open.
The ironic thing about Hitt’s thesis is that if Jesus actually did intend to leave the meaning of his parables and his ministry open to personal interpretation, on what basis could Hitt chastise the religious right for interpreting Jesus as a political lobbyist?