Dīvide et Impera


The Readings for  in the 4th Week of Easter (B2)

Viri fratres, ego pharisaeus sum, filius pharisaeorum, de spe et resurrectione mortuorum ego judicor.
Men, brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees: concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

Philip of Macedonia, father of one of my political heroes, Alexander the Great, said διαίρει καi βασίλευε diairei kai basileue Divide and Rule. This political tactic is often deployed to bloody ends: any well written book on Irish history will be filled with the British using it to keep the Irish fighting the Irish. They have their own phrase for it: Playing the Orange Card. Sometimes, though, Divide and Rule can be used to humorous ends, as here in Acts when St Paul plays the Afterlife Card and gets the Pharisees and Sadducee into fisticuffs. The Pharisees believed in the Resurrection of the Dead (and in spirits, angels, miracles, the gradual development of the understanding of religious doctrine, and several other ideas we might recognize from Christianity. The Sadducees, contrariwise, did not believe in any of this codswallop. They thought, like moderns, that you live, and you die, that’s it. Be moral. That total lack of hope in the future life is why they were – like moderns – sad you see? Sorry. Well, #notsorry.

Paul is not afraid of playing political cards at all: in 22:25 Paul says he’s a Roman Citizen to get out of a scourging. Later he will appeal to Caesar. Paul comes out in front of the council and says, The only thing I’ve done wrong is believe in the resurrection of the dead. This riles up both sides of the room and gets him out of the middle. It’s very well done. It’s actually kind of funny.

Paul’s experience is echoed today by Catholics and Orthodox, who report (online and off) that they are too conservative for their liberal friends and too liberal for their conservative friends. We find ourselves defending the homeless, no Muslim ban, no wall, and actions of peace rather than violence, and, at the same time, voicing opposition to abortion and the other fallout of modernity and post-modernity; all in the name of faithful adherence to our religious teachings. While being opposed to unrestrained capitalism, we must also voice objection to Marxism. While finding benefit in a well governed state, we must stop police brutality against those cited as “other” by our dominant culture. While praying for our leaders, we must adamantly oppose some of their favorite, vote-getting policies. And with nary a look back, we must break with party or politician when they cross the line into opposition to the revealed moral order.

Which makes us fickle as all get out. 

Except that’s the exceptions, rather than the reality. You can’t tell a Catholic Senator (of either party) from the others of the same party. You can’t tell many Catholic voters from any other voters in their world. I know one man, leaving mass, who said he didn’t care at all about the homeless in this city. It is sad but true that some in the church are more concerned with the wealthy who pay the bills than with the faith that will save them.  But I know, also, a lot who try to hold the fort down. I know a lot of Catholics who refused to vote for one or the other candidate in the last presidential race. But I am blessed to know a good few – including clergy – who refused to vote for either.

Those are the Pauline folks and I hope to meet more of them. One day I may even be like them.

As Christians we should be the cultural/sociological versions of hunter-gatherers: grabbing what’s needed to advance the kingdom, but leaving behind anything that’s too heavy to carry for fear it would weigh us down or, to horribly mix the metaphors: we need to drop anything that’s going to make the oil in our lamp run out before the Bridegroom gets here. I, for one, needn’t look to hard for other ways to be foolish.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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