As much as we love the story of some sort of superhero who doles out justice and fairness to the bad guys there has been a recent surge of anti-hero affection within our culture.
We love the anti-hero. The anti-hero has way more moral flexibility than the traditional hero because they aren’t constrained by social restraints and expectations. They are free to be themselves, flaws and all, and we appreciate it. They liberate us and allow us to feel like something is being done to make things right even if it might be illegal or morally questionable.
What the anti-hero highlights is the human desire for things like justice and retribution. We are hard-wired in such a way that what becomes the most important to us is to make things right.
We will tolerate a nearly endless list of the questionable and possibly wrong for the sake of right.
This deep desire we have to make things right is a double-edged sword.
The positive side is that it shows humans will go to great lengths to restore and bring equality and fairness to a particular situation should they deem it worthy.
The less than positive side of the conversation is that it also shows us it’s possible that the desire for the right is so great it’s entirely possible to accept and even support the wrong for the sake of the right.
If you ever caught yourself rooting for Walter White or Wade Wilson then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
When it comes to the Bible and God and churchy stuff our brains work the same way. We’ve allowed our desire for someone to make things right to drive our understanding of the Bible.
Let me Explain……
There’s this verse in 2 Timothy that has to do with doctrines and teachings and truths, it says…..
3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
This verse has forever been used by Christians to prove their right-ness. It gets flung like darts at people who may hold a different view, opinion, or interpretation other than the one that I deem acceptable.
Christians say things like “they’re watering down the gospel” or “itching ears! itching ears!” anytime they come across something that doesn’t line up with exactly what they believe.
For example, in the parable of the vineyard worker, Jesus talks about how the kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who is unfair in his generosity. He pays the guys who worked for one hour the exact same as he pays the guys who worked all day.
This causes a problem for the guys who worked all day because they need things to be right, fair, just, or whatever you want to call it.
Although most Christians accept this story I’m not sure we really accept this story or any of the other parables either.
Like the one that Jesus says the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who forgives his servant the modern equivalent of a 14 billion dollar debt ….. just cause.
The servant didn’t do anything and the servant didn’t deserve anything and yet the king sets him free because he felt for him.
Although we accept this we don’t really accept this.
Here’s what I mean… we are hardwired for justice and fairness and for things to be made right and we will go to great lengths to accomplish this, just like in our love of the anti-hero.
So when Jesus tells a story about perpetual generosity, or unmerited favor, or unfathomable forgiveness it becomes very difficult for us to hear and accept. We’re looking for somebody to pay the price, we’re looking for justice, we’re looking for retribution.
Somebody has to pay, somebody has to pay, somebody has to pay.
We feel this deep within us.
This is how the Old Testament people understood the gods to work.
This is how we understand the old testament to work.
This is how we understand the life and work of Jesus.
This is why we think God had to murder his son.
This is why we root for the anti-hero.
It’s not really the way of Jesus or the Bible or God.
Richard Rohr talks about how Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about us he came to change our mind about God.
Jesus came to show us a different way.
He showed us a way of non-violence.
He showed us a way of Peace.
He showed us a way of Love.
He showed us a way of forgiveness.
Maybe the reason we believe God needed to kill his son is because it satisfies our need for justice and has little to do with him.
So when Christians and preachers preach or teach that the message of God is a message of wrath and retribution. Or when churches applaud and cheer on people who teach condemnation and they grow massive institutions based on who’s in and who’s out. Maybe this is what they whole itchy ears things is about.
What if the bit about scratching the itchy ears isn’t about people changing what we think the gospel message is now.
What if the bit about scratching the itchy ears is about us. What if we’re the ones that he’s talking about.
What if we’re the ones, modern American Christian people, who have bent the teachings of the Bible to our own desire.
We’ve gathered the masses to us to teach about a God who meets our requirements, who fills our needs, who fits our description, of a God who will judge, condemn, punish, or otherwise destroy those who are not like us in a way that makes us feel good about who he is.
The Bible says God is Love, we must view the entirety of the scripture through this lens.
If the God you believe in looks like something other than pure love then maybe we’re the ones who’ve turned away from the truth for sake of scratching our itching ears.
Kind of makes your Christian, we’ve got it all figured out, brain explode.
In pursuit of Heterodoxy.