Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Righteousness and Piety

A righteous person or cause is morally upright, virtuous and wholly justifiable. A pious person or cause is dedicated to duty. Certainly some element of piety is desirable among our people, our clerics and our political leaders. There should be a strong commitment to duty among them, but if they do not seek righteous goals, their piety is squandered on unworthy goals. Shifting from the theological to the political context, we can observe that pious politicians are dedicated to their visions or their views of what our societal goals should be whereas the righteous among them yearn for an honest virtuous nation that rewards individual initiative. The problem is that too many of our political elites trumpet their piety but ignore the righteous pursuits. False piety is a sin. We are all familiar with the Sadducees and Pharisees who visibly seemed pious but may have lacked righteous hearts.

The parallels between our political elites and the ecclesiastical class are eerie. The politicians say the right things time and again. They pledge their undying devotion to personal liberty and constitutional government. They are piously devoted to saying what they believe the people view as righteous sentiment. False piety, void of righteousness leads to hollow shells of politicians…no cores, no serious convictions, no center of true public service. They mouth the platitudes and simultaneously push our buttons as they attempt to lure us with their piety and devotion to principle. The pious ones always know what to say and how to behave when the people are watching them. It’s under the cover of darkness and behind the marble walls that their true unrighteousness becomes apparent. They worship themselves and government. Just as the priestly class has been called to serve but succumbs to the glamour and trappings of privilege so too has the political class been summoned to serve as leaders for our Republic but nevertheless fall under the spell of power and advantage.

Priests who are pious but unrighteous are treated deferentially by the worshipers who respect their positions. For the most part the people are unaware of the carnal nature of the clerics’ personalities. The priestly piety fools the parishioners for a time. Eventually, however, the trappings of grandeur and the vestments of self-interest become apparent and the credibility and character of the pious priest are exposed as shams. Politicians who hold office are treated as infallible wizards who understand the mysteries of the governing process….who can fathom the incomprehensible depths of complex legislation….who seemingly have their fingers on the pulse of government. We ultimately discover, however, that their wizardry is deficient, their knowledge is lacking and their fingers are often misplaced. They are fallible, but nevertheless continue to impress us with their government-induced piety.

The trappings of piety are often impressive. The priest or the politician fits the mold of the true believer as if they were selected by central casting. As many of us have learned, first impressions are sometimes deceiving. Through experience we may have discovered that airs and appearances do not fully expose the character of a person.

He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hands from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil--- this is the man who will dwell on the heights…
Isaiah 33: 15-16 (NIV).

When we encounter a righteous cleric or politician, our amazement is merged with fear and awe. Someone whose life is reflection of his beliefs and his faith often intimidates us (See Tim Tebow). We envy his passion, his courage and his self-certainty. We may even be afraid of someone whose passion, integrity and righteousness makes us feel inadequate. The person whose principles are non-negotiable earns our respect, but sometimes they become targets of derision. In the church such a person is branded as a zealot. In the vineyards of politics she or he is described as an extremist. The True Believer will never yield, never compromise. The righteous believer marches on through the catcalls and the name calling and never flinches. The righteous person is at peace with herself or himself, and doesn’t cut deals or corners to reach an objective.

The time has come for our people to identify and reject the false trappings of piety. If we are to save our Republic, we must select leaders who have a passion for our Constitution and our liberty. We must choose an extremist who is extremely committed to freedom.


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