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Gamaliel's Desk
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Gamaliel The Sadducee

Howzit goin?

Gamaliel isn’t gonna be posting this week because I hacked into his site to let y’all know how big a Sadducee the G-man really is. See, I went to visit his church last week and thot I would tell what happened. It was an eye-opener.

So I go into this church cuz they have a sign out front that sez “Everyone Welcome.” Well “everyone” must not mean everyone since I wasn’t. This big old dude comes up to me in the foyer and sez, “Can I help you, son?” He was definitely not my Daddy so I wasn’t about to be up with that “son” bizzness, so I told him I was there to go to church, did he have a problem with that? And he cops this ‘tude like he’s all better than me by asking if there’s somewhere else I could go where I’d be more comfterble. “I dunno,” I said, “Am I supposed to be comfterble in church?” He sez he don’t want no trouble and I told him I didn’t either So, like, he leaves me alone and I find a seat.

Now, if a church sez, “Everyone Welcome” on the sign, you’d ‘spect they’d make you feel glad to be there, right? Well, not at Gamaliel’s church. The only people that made me feel welcome were the kids and not all of them. This one cool kid comes up to me (I knew he was cool cuz you could see where he had his ears piecred but he took all his posts out and stuff for church) and sez, “Nice tat,” looking at my arm that shows three nails circled by a crown of thorns and “John 3:16” under it. “That’s nothing. Look at this one,” and I show him my other arm with a sword that says, “Behold I Come Quickly” on it when his mom tells him not to talk to strangers. He gives me wink and I smile, but his mom looks like she was sucking lemons.

And then we go through the whole service and no one else comes up to say hi or shake my hand or nothing. And then it turns out that the big scary dude I had already met was pastor Gamaliel. And like he preaches this sermon about “separation” and how we need to not be like the world and need to live for God and I’m all about that but when I say, “Amen,” like in my old church you’d think I’d swore or something. Everybody gets all stiff and uncomfterble and everything so I don’t say that any more.

So when the service gets over and we’re on the way out, I shake hands with the G-man to tell him I was down with his sermon but he acted like he wasn’t cool with me. So I ask him wassup with that. And he sez he thinks I’m a fine young man but I’m not a very good representative of Jesus Christ, which is not a cool thing to say to anyone. So we get into it right there in the foyer.

“How can you say that, dude? You don’t even know me,” I tell him.

“I know a great deal about you already, just by looking,” he sez.

“What? You judge by appearance? Whassup with that? Doesn’t the Bible tell you not to do that?”

“I did not judge you,” he sez. “I merely drew a conclusion based on the message you are sending me with how you look. You are saying that you are a rebel and a worldling and that you want to have nothing but the most superficial of relationships with Jesus Christ.”

“You could tell all that just by looking, could you? Well let me tell you something. You are a pompous, judgmental Sadducee who looks down his nose at people. If we don’t look like you and talk like you then you don’t want anything to do with us. Just because I’m wearing leather and you got a suit doesn’t mean you’re better than me. So chill out, dude and get a grip. That ain’t what Jesus is about.”

“I don’t need to you inform me about Jesus,” he said in a voice cold as ice. By now we had quite the crowd gathered around. “I have been a follower of Him all my life and real Christians do not get tattoos, or all those piercings you have or listen to that godless rock and roll music. You are trying to resemble the world and not Jesus Christ.”

“So, like people in the world don’t wear three-piece suits? Gimme a break. The biggest crooks and thieves and liars I know dress like you and sit in boardrooms, lawyer’s offices and government. Is that who Jesus wants you to dress like?

“At least I’m not a big hypocrite like you. You preached today about love and grace but all you’re giving me is grief. You said Jesus loves us all but you don’t want anything to do with people like me because we don’t fit your nice, neat definition of what a Christian is. Your last song was, ‘Just As I Am’ but there’s no way you want to accept me just as I am. You only want to accept me just as you are. That’s not cool.”

And that’s why I am hacking into the site – to let y’all know that Gamaliel is a big ole hypocrite. He’s always preaching love and grace but he doesn’t practice it. He only loves people who are like him or fit his opinion of what a Christian is. Anyone outside his comfort zone is just so much trash to him. As far as I’m concerned he is nothing but a big Sadducee who wants to just judge people. He is cold-hearted, mean-spirited and as far from what it means to be a Christian as you can be.

My advice is to not bother attend his church because Jesus certainly doesn’t.

The Anti-Sadducee
I don’t know how this young man happened to hack into my site but I can tell you that he is nothing more than a Sadducee himself. He came into our service to spy out our liberty for no other purpose than to criticize us. He wore an attitude of superiority, cloaked in malicious intent and surrounded by a spirit of criticism. Nothing we did was going to be good enough for him and no amount of good will on our part was going to satisfy him. He had no desire to accept us as we were, so his criticism that we weren’t willing to accept him was unfounded. If anything, he is a big Sadducee for calling us Sadducees. He is just as guilty of being judgmental as he accuses us of being. My only retort is to quote a school yard chant – It takes one to know one.
I used to be the guy that punk met in the church lobby. Thank God, I'm now the punk.

Good stuff, Gammie! I nearly wet my pants reading it! Keep up the good work!
I think deep down, we all are the punk. We look to be accepted, and once we are, we forget what it felt like to not be.

Great post G
Excellent expose on the Pharisee/Sadducee arguments!!
I think I really tried to go to this church one time. It is the most beautiful building, I wanted to see how beautiful it was on the inside. So one Sunday I put on some nice clothes and walked up the steps. I was stopped at the door by a woman. She said that I was welcome to come into the church but not today, because I needed to be wearing a dress, to come in.(I am a woman) As I stayed outside in front of the door, craining my neck to get a look at the church's inner beauty, she quickly asked me to move away from the door, because she was going to close them. I left feeling bad that I would never see the full beauty of this church, because it rejected women for not wearing dresses. I guess I was unworthy of even a peek.
Wow, Sable!

I thought I was just making it up and here you got locked out for wearing pants!

That's pretty bad when Gamaliel is a toned back version of reality.

Good to hear from you.

Are you seriously trademarked or just yankin' everyone's chain?
sad, but true. I think it was a Russian Catholic Church. I watched it being built. It was small, beautiful, and way out in the country. I would drive out of my way to see how the work was done.

I did not understand how the Catholic faith was differant from the Christian faith, back then. That was about 15 plus years ago.

I think I would like to plan to go back and see it, I bet it is still there...This year I will go back... I will admire its beauty, while standing outside.. wearing my nicest pants.
I'm simply a random net wanderer, but I just wanna make a couple observations...

I was raised Catholic (although I'm not Catholic anymore), and the only person who ever gave me trouble for dressing sloppily to go to church was my mother. And eventually, she gave it up and learned to simply appreciate the fact that I was there. Nobody else ever complained, no priest, no door greeter, nobody. Well, a couple old ladies mighta sneered, but they didn't say anything either. Implications that Catholicism is on average any more or less superficial than any other Christian denomination are simply not true, and strike me as somewhat bigoted, whether they're intended that way or not. :/

(I parted ways with the Church for entirely different reasons, the primary one being that I don't agree with a darn thing they believe, but I have similar disagreements with other Christianities too.)

My second comment is that the colloquial use of ancient Jewish sects as symbols for hypocrisy and superficiality and other such badness seems to me to be a result of reading the Greek testaments without a full understanding of the historical context in which they were written. The Christian gospels were composed during a time of intense factional dispute *within* Judaism (as the Jews tried to understand what Roman occupation meant to their religion), with MMLJ actually having been written after the shattering destruction of the Temple.

After that catastrophe, all Jews had to reshape their understanding of their religion, and different people responded differently, some following the messianic line proposed by the followers of Jesus (replacing the destroyed Temple with the person of Jesus as the center of worship) and others coming to focus their religion instead around what they knew as the Word of God (and so mediating their connection with the divine primarily through study of the Torah and practice of the Law).

Naturally the disputes between these two groups were bitter, since each group's choice of a new center for the religion seemed to implicitly devalue the other's choice. So it's not surprising that religious literature composed at that time by those who would eventually become Christians would focus heavily on the debate between the future Christians and their rivals at the time, the Pharisees and Sadducees.

But it's likely that initially the two groups had more similarities and differences -- after all, they were all from the same Jewish culture, and certainly all thought of themselves as Jews. Of course these similarities aren't discussed in the Gospels. They hardly *needed* to be discussed, since everybody involved in the argument would have considered them so obvious as to not bear mentioning.

It took *decades*, possibly even centuries, for the stark demarcation between modern Christians and modern Jews (the theological descendents of the Pharisees and Sadducees) to become crystallized. And only after those same decades or centuries did Christians begin to see the Pharisees and Sadducees simply as caricatured opposition to Jesus, instead of as partners in a debate about the future of Judaism. (The demarcation and caricaturing was of course helped along by the Christian acceptance of and eventual domination by Gentile converts, who were never really able to see that Jews as anything but an incomprehensible "other".)

(The book "Constantine's Sword", by James Carroll has a pretty good discussion of this subject. Granted, he's Catholic, so I don't know how y'all would feel about him, but even as a non-Christian I found the book fascinating. And hardly tells the Catholic party line -- my mother has so far refused to read the book for this reason.)

Sorry, I guess this got really long, but my point is, all that missing perspective makes me unhappy to see people using "Pharisee" or "Sadducee" as an insult. In addition to this, the fact that the Pharisees in particular were the originators of modern rabbinical Judaism makes it seem to me almost like unconscious antisemitism to cast these people and their commitment to what they believed was God's Word as hypocritical. (Note the term "unconscious" -- I'm sure nobody here would do it on purpose.)

So, I dunno. I present this mostly as something to think about. I'm not really trying to be judgemental or offensive or intrusive. I guess it just struck me in passing and... *shrug* I hope it's okay.

So good to hear your comments. Are you acquainted with Dav Pilkey's collaborator on the Dumb Bunnies projects, Sue Denim? You may have noticed our good friend Harry Tick here as well, a Gamaliel reader from waaaay back. Nomes de plumme are some of my favorite wordplays.

I appreciate the serious consideration you've given the labels we employ so cavalierly (not meaning to offend any Royalists who are still holding puritanical [another labeling faux pas] grudges against the Roundheads). You are correct that our intent is not to offend the Hasidim today by casually tossing around their forefathers' names. The difficulty is in finding a Christian denominational name that carrys the same instant understanding of what I'm talking about without singling out any one group. There are plenty of extinct Christian denoms but none of them carries the instant name recognition of the Pharisees. We all know the charicature and know we don't want to be like what we think they were.

You are also spot on about them being more similar to the Sadducees than different. My experience has shown me that there is more vituperation and venom between those who are closely allied than those who diverge widely. One of the most well-known rivalries is between the Churches of Christ and the Baptists. They are so similar that to all but insiders and experts they are indistinguishable in doctrinal positions. There is more variation within either group than there is between the groups. Yet they tend to militantly oppose one another.

In all honesty, there is a lot more resemblance to Jews and Christians in attitude that probably either side is willing to admit. I would STRONGLY recommend The Chosen by Chaim Potok, particularly the section where Reuven's dad explains to him how the Hasidim came into being.

Once again, thanks for contributing and taking the time to stop by and peruse our little diversion here. I wish you well on your faith journey wherever that takes you.
Heh, I picked this nick when I first started occasionally commenting on blogs. I was still uncertain about what I was doing, so I commented anonymously. But when I got in an argument with somebody he asked me to give a name so he could keep track of who he was arguing with. It was my way of being helpfully unhelpful. ;) (My real name *is* Anne, though.) Of course, then my husband's grandmother started dying and I kinda got maybe just a tiny bit distracted and never finished the argument. But ah well.

I understand your point about the instant name recognition. Even taken simply at face value (as I did for so many years), the Jesus story is a compelling narrative, and his debates with and condemnation of "the Pharisees" provide clear illustration of the notion that being too judgemental and narrowminded makes the world a worse place. I guess it's kind of a metaparable. ;) (The problems, of course, start when people take parables literally, which has been an unfortunate thread in Christian history.) It's pretty cool that the story has so many different levels that you can still learn new things from it even after having known it for many years.

Also, thanks for recommending "The Chosen". That's been on my reading list for a while, but I haven't actually got around to it yet. I think it's time for me to bump it up the list.

I wish I could claim that I was the first person ever to come up with the nick "HarryTick", but I am not. So, to distinguish myself from any other HarryTick, harrytick, Harry Tick, etc., I put the ™ to distinguish just which incarnation of HarryTick™ I am.


You can liken the article to all the arguments about Jesus faiths between liberal and conservative Christians or Catholic and Reformed churches.

I've seen references that claimed that only the Sadducees were painted consistently in a bad light, and I think that until now Rick hadn't really addressed that.

Despite any label we attribute to it, self-righteousness is not restricted to any one group, however, Christianity has traditionally utilized the title "Pharisee" based on the understanding that the depiction of the Pharisees in scripture is one of hypocrites; hypocrisy being one of the main ingredients in self-righteousness-- "What's okay for me is not okay for you," etc.
I don't know. I see such petty silliness in both directions. I mean, I was unwelcome in certain "traditional, Protestant" gatherings back when I was a punk kid; now I'm a grownup and find myself unwelcome in certain "traditionally emergent" circles because I am woefully uncool.
I don't care much for either camp.
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