The Self-Righteousness Compulsion (1)
The destruction and despair to which self-righteousness leads is not limited to the Christian experience. However, it is particularly tragic that Christianity as practiced in the West has been so completely consumed by this false doctrine. Could Jesus Christ have been any more direct on this point than in the following parable.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
Does this Parable of Christ not embody the “rejection, isolation and condemnation” of this post’s top image? The Pharisee “stood by himself” in splendid moral isolation; from which position he spewed condemnation on everyone else in general and the tax collector in particular. The result was rejection by God Himself! And yet, even Christian denominations theoretically founded on Reformed theology are dominated by self-righteous leaders and laity. This is to say nothing of the rampant self-righteousness in our secular culture used to seek raw power over others.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Self-righteousness is an unavoidable compulsion caused by our fallen state of sin. I am guilty of it, you are guilty of it. We all are guilty of it. But there is something at work in our contemporary Western culture that has supercharged this compulsion to create a particularly powerful weapon of destruction.
I believe that this self-righteousness supercharger has two primary components, those being:
- The osmosis of postmodernism from the universities into our general political, educational, legal, media and cultural institutions;
- The power of social media to enable easy creation of “social justice” mobs that can in just a few days destroy the character and livelihood of their targets.
I will discuss these two components in the next post.