Monday, June 2, 2008

Sad, you see

My earliest run in with the Sadducees was at youth camp. I did not want to be a Sadducee "'cause they're so sad, you see," I sang. Apparently, being a sheep was preferable.

Since that little ditty, my experience with Sadducees has expanded. I met them again, though not at church pot-lucks, that is more a haunt for Pharisees ("'cause they're not fair, you see"). Sadducees hang out at smoke shops and universities. They wear tweed jackets, smoke pipes, sip espresso from 4-ounce mugs, and discuss God like a recurring archetype in Joyce's short stories.

Josephus tells us that Sadducees were boorish (The Jewish War). Rabbis recount their numerous debates (e.g. Yadaim). Jesus said they were greatly mistaken (Mark 12:27). God must be more than a conversation topic.

That Sadducees denied the resurrection puts them in a similar category with today's secular humanists. Life is material, they argue. The here/now is all that matters. Meaning is coterminous with brain function. They might order a second shot, relight their pipe, and discuss the virtue of abortion, carbon credits, and standardizing sex education.

They would call these 'honest opinions.' C.S. Lewis, in his brilliantly composed The Great Divorce, calls them 'sins of intellect.'

The damned man argues: "[My opinions] were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it."

Like Jesus, C.S. Lewis' glowing protagonist calls this thinking a mistake. Honest mistakes about God, when they move God from the object of our affections to the topic around the table, are inexcusable. He summarizes:

Having allowed oneself to drift, unresisting, unpraying, accepting every half-conscious solicitation from our desires, we reached a point where we no longer believed the Faith. Just in the same way, a jealous man, drifting and unresisting, reaches a point at which he believes lies about this best friend: a drunkard reaches a point at which (for the moment) he actually believes that another glass will do him no harm. The beliefs are sincere in the sense that they do not occur as psychological events in the man's mind...But errors which are sincere in that sense are not innocent.

For many people Faith may be nothing more than routine, vocabulary, or drifting opinion. How sad, you see.

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