He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector…” – Luke 18: 9-11
Last week, CNN anchor T.J. Holmes caught the attention of the blogosphere when, in honor of Earth Day, he publicly confessed that he drives a gas-guzzling Chevy Tahoe just because he can, drinks bottled water without recycling the bottles, and uses old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs. “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!” he cried, beating his penitent chest. Okay, no — that last part didn’t actually happen. But the quasi-religious nature of Holmes’ statements prompted Ed Morrissey to snark:
Er … say five Rachel Carsons and sing three Bob Dylan songs, my fellow planetary traveler, and go thee out and sin no more.
Meanwhile, Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, is once again begging for higher taxes. He and his (also wealthy) allies, who call themselves the “Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength,” have even written up a petition asking the government to repeal the Bush tax cuts. How special.
What do these two gestures have in common? They are both textbook examples of the political theater put on by our modern-day Pharisees.
As noted in the verses from Luke that I quoted above (and as noted elsewhere in the New Testament), the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were the ultimate attention-whores. They ostentatiously displayed their righteousness by praying where everyone could see them, “sounding their trumpets” whenever they gave alms, and “disfiguring their faces” whenever they were fasting. On the other hand, Jesus counseled his followers to pray, give alms, and fast in secret so as to draw the attention of the Heavenly Father only:
“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6: 3-4
These days, I have noticed a consistent pattern among leftists: They love to talk the talk, but they frequently behave as if mere talking gives them carte blanche to be assholes. One example: A few years ago, Amy Alkon, an advice columnist who describes herself as fiscally conservative and socially libertarian, made the mistake of noting the blindingly obvious fact that single-parenthood is destroying the black community. For her Thoughtcrime, representatives of the “tolerant” and progessive left filled her blog with trollish comments claiming that Alkon was secretly a transexual.
A second example: While I was away this past week, a leftist at Wonkette decided it would be HIGH-larious to make fun of little Trig Palin on his birthday. Fortunately, enough people found this attack on a disabled toddler so disgusting that Wonkette eventually lost the backing of several of its advertisers. Score!
A third example (this time from my personal experience): Back in 2009, a meme in which the participants admitted their unconscious racism and their “privilege” spread like wildfire throughout Live Journal. Over and over again, I saw leftist individuals publicly flagellate themselves for the sin of being white. Why did this suddenly become all the rage? Simple: These Live Journalers needed a license to bully. You may think that’s harsh, but consider what happened when science fiction author and avowed Democrat Elizabeth Moon put down her customary carafe of liberal Kool-Aid and challenged the hard-left orthodoxy on immigration and Islam. Instantly, Moon – who frequently irritates me with her uncritical regurgitation of the usual leftwing talking points on a host of other issues – was mauled by the anti-ist hounds. She was disinvited from a feminist science fiction convention, and many threatened to boycott her books.
It’s not for nothing that Thomas Sowell once declared leftist politics the “politics of self-congratulation.” As many other bloggers have pointed out, Warren Buffett is certainly free to write out a check to the U.S. Treasury. Nobody’s stopping him. But Buffett is a modern-day Pharisee. He knows that making a quiet donation to the government is not going to bring him half as much attention as a dewy-eyed declaration – in front of the news cameras, of course – that he wishes to be taxed more. Leftism, you see, is all about kicking up a lot of sound and fury to demonstrate to the watching world how oh-so-compassionate you are — sound and fury that ultimately signifies nothing.