“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother.”
As humans, we tend to view the world through a binary dynamic: everything is good or bad. Right or wrong. Us or them. In some respects, this makes life easier; our ability to separate groups into two distinct categories must have been of tremendous use when distinguishing friend from foe back in the days of our evolutionary history. Yet this tendency of generalization also prompts dangerous thinking, especially in perverting the words of possibly the most influential man who ever lived.
This ideological deformation cuts in at least two powerful ways. We’re all aware of one way, in which His followers employ teachings of Jesus to encourage homophobia and contempt for sinners. This mindset, broadly and often un-fairly categorized as the “evangelical right,” encourages the people of God to legislate according to morality, associate with other moral people, and preach the Gospel with an unwavering sense of determination. Many members of this mindset would fairly scoff at the idea that this is a “perversion,” of Jesus, as these ideas do come directly from the Bible. But they come, I trend to remember, more from the writings of St. Paul than the mouth of Jesus.
I consider the above mindset to be a twisting, or certainly a significant re-framing, of the words and teachings of Jesus, but they are not a perversion, and it is not with these thoughts that true danger lies. I disagree with all of the above thoughts, but they are at least slightly in line with the Good Book.
My contempt, and revulsion of the perversion, actually comes from the people with whom I agree. The people who say that “the whole point of religion is to be kind to one another,” and that “Jesus wasn’t about judging people,” and “religion is about including everyone.” Should all of those things be true? 100% yes. Did Jesus ever espouse any of those ideas? No.
We tend to forget that Jesus saved the adulterer from sinning, but he also admonished her to “go and sin no more.” Some of us, myself included, fall prey to the idea that Jesus taught tolerance and hippie-love for everyone. He wanted us to all get along.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
He did not. If we need a new religious icon for the 21st century, then we need to find and embrace one. But it’s unfair, and untrue, to suggest that Jesus wanted peace and harmony at all costs.