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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

World's Wisdom | Tuesday of Holy Week 2020

Rembrandt van Rijn, Saint Paul, oil on canvas, c. 1657
The reading for this Tuesday of Holy Week contains within it some of the seed of what afflicts the United States culturally.

"The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. It is written in scripture: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent. Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."1 Corinthians 1:18-31 CEB

There is so much wrong here. The blatant anti-semitism that's typical of the New Testament is screaming in our faces, for one thing. Sure, the Greeks were criticized too, and the author was probably Paul the Apostle, a Jewish man. The sum total of the anti-semitism in the New Testament, or any of its parts standing alone, were enough to bring suffering on the Jewish people through the centuries at the hands of Christians. 

But wait, there's more.

If you know any Fox News viewers and/or Breitbart readers, you may have noticed they often have a deep suspicion of experts. Particularly experts who disagree with the ideology they have adopted. This is found in conservative Christian churches where parents try to avoid their children going to a 'secular' university not just because of the presence of alcohol and the relaxed attitude around sexuality, but perhaps especially because they don't want precious Jimmy or Jane getting a head full of crazy ideas from some godless professor.

Such people end up weirdly echoing another part of the New Testament: "...after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." 2 Timothy 4:3b-4 KJV

"Oh no, Mr Professor, don't show Jimmy the evidence that the universe came into existence billions of years ago, and that life on earth evolved. Please, Ms. Professor, don't get Jane thinking that she'll truly be the equal of the man she someday marries...what do you mean 'or woman'?!"

What Paul was apparently trying to get at in this part of his letter to the Christians in Corinth was that the power of the Good News about Jesus is demonstrated in its declaration, not in signs or with convincing arguments (sorry Pentecostals and apologists). That's not what evangelical believers take from it. This becomes part of their worldview, along with the narrative construct of collective guilt, defeat, bondage, and return from exile that's baked into the Hebrew Scriptures. That has these folks commenting about JESUS IN ALL CAPS ON FACEBOOK and believing that the United States is somehow ancient Israel in a covenant with Yahweh. It has them voting for the corrupt, the deluded, and the foolish because they believe their lies and distrust people who actually know things. 

We need more science and insights from the humanities, not less.