Religious Conservatives Why are the villains in the greatest story ever told a group of religious conservatives? Written by Mark DeHaan The question is personal. I am a religious and biblical conservative. I believe in the importance of the family and am convinced that our children need to learn the dangers of Darwin, aborting, and same-sex marriage. Theologically, I’m a fundamentalist. I believe in moral absolutes, the authority of Scripture, and the uniqueness of Christ. What I can’t shake, however, is the thought that the most dangerous group of people in the New Testament were not atheists, secularists, religious liberals, or advocates of sexual freedom. The most dangerous group in the New Testament were: Politically active Religiously conservative Protectors of a spiritual heritage. One thing that made this group dangerous is that they looked so good when compared to others. Pag a n neighbors used male and female prostitution as part of their religion. Roman patriots worshiped Caesar and named him among their gods. Occupying forces were brutal in demanding unfair taxes at the point of a sword. The current king of the Jewish people was a madman who used slave labor to build enormous fortresses for his own protection but killed anyone, even wives and children, who got in his way. Yet none of these were as dangerous as the Pharisees because none of the others were as zealous for the Law and rule of God. (Matthew 23:15). No one else spoke as loudly on behalf of Moses while calling for the death of Christ. A defining moment. Although they had to fight dirty to get rid of Him, the religious right got their way. They swung the vote of the mob and pushed the buttons of government. A few hours later, the pride of Isreal had their man. The Teacher they hated was hung on a tree like a predator on a fence post. The would-be messiah from the back roads of Galilee was no longer a problem – until rumors of His reappearance began spreading like wildfire. First a group of women reported that the Teacher’s tombstone had been moved and that His grave was empty. One woman reported seeing Him alive. Then others said they too had seen Him. Groups of men and women who had been cowering in the shadows came out with a story they were willing to die for. In the hours that followed, some of Jesus’ enemies admitted they had been wrong. Others were enraged at the spreadin g opinion that the moral elite of Israel had just killed their own Messiah. How could it happen? How did the most conservative group in Israel become the villains of the Bible? What were these m en thinking? How could they allow themselves to be a cast in this role? How c ould people who had been waiting hundreds of years for a Messiah end up killing the very One they had been waiting for? Because “it takes one to know one,: I think I can understand some of what was happening. Religious conservatives knew they were right. They knew the dangers of pagan influence. They understood what happens on a slippery slope of compromise. What they didn’t see was that their strength had become their weakness. There good had become their god. Their light had become their blindness. Could it happen again in me? As I read the New Testament, I see myself not only in the disciples who loved Jesus but also in the religious conservatives who hated Him. I have been a friend of Israel at the expense of Arab people for whom Christ died. Blinded by my desire to be amo ng those who bless the “chosen people,” I have forgotten that God chose one nation for the sake of all. I have also ignored the example of the prophets. From Moses to the Son of God they remind us that a friend does not flatter (Amos 3:1-8; 7:14-17). Neither does a real friend of Israel encourage her to find her security in military strength or international allies. I have made gods out of biblical accuracy, doctrinal soundness, and moral absolutes. To my deep regret I have often been more concerned about being right than in showing the compassion of Christ to those who know how wrong they’ve been (Matthew 12:9-14). I have honored men to the loss of women Christ loves (John 12:1-7). On too many occasions I have underestimated the contributions of women, and disrespected my own wife with foolish, self-centered talk about male leadership. I have aligned with political conservatives to the detriment of my own principles. While pointing out the sins of the left, I have ignored sins of the right. I have forgotten that political alignments are temporary while people on both sides of the aisle are eternal (Romans 1:13-16). I have deferred to the rich at the expense of the poor. I’ve forgotten that even the best arguments for capitalism do not justify oppression, mistreatment, and disregard for those in need (James 2:1-9). I have deferred to self-appointed protectors of American culture at the expense of internationals. While much can be said for the spirituality of American founders, I have too often aligned with those who use historical, Judeo-Christian roots to support political efforts that alienate others from the gospel. Seeing my mistakes renews in me a desire to know not only the truth of Christ but also His attitude. On that road I haven’t traveled very far. But of this I am sure: If my son or daughter were to convert to Judaism or Islam, to join another political party, to identify with the unchurched or unreligious, or even to renounce their citizenship and salute the flag of North Korea, Syria, or Cuba, I would be building bridges rather that burning them. Father, please help us to avoid the mistakes of those who defended Your Word, Your people, and Your laws while unintentionally and unknowingly hating Your Son – and those for whom He died.