I think most Christians today love to hate legalism, Pharisees, the word “religion,” and anything reeking of institution — not because they’re worried that these things dehumanize us or diminish us or divide us, but because it’s cool to look really relevant and revolutionary.
Yelling “Pharisee” is pretty much like yelling “Nazi” or “skinhead” or “bigot,” and it’s a buzz word that instantly conjures up the middle-aged, Bible-thumping, suit-and-tie white guy who weaponizes Scripture and prays for the demise of Hollywood and Rob Bell.
Certainly some of these kinds of people exist in the church. Surely there are fanatical extremists who fit most of our one-dimensional caricatures. Of course there are mean religious people who do atrocious things in the name of a loving God.
I just think it’s too easy to dismiss them to appear like we are better — and the second you compare your faith to someone else, even if it’s a Pharisee, you’ve instantly become a Pharisee.
Actually, it’s very rarely that I meet black-and-white dichotomous people who funnel their hate into a dogmatic shotgun. Mostly I meet people who do black-and-white actions as opposed to being “those kinds of people,” and those awful church-people also usually have children, insecurities, dreams, desires, hopes, tragedies, losses, and really neat hobbies, like we all do. They enjoy ice cream and hamburgers and even the same TV shows and movies and fandoms. In other words, they have layers, and they’re people too. They’re not monsters.
But we tend to rally around a binary-battle faith because when you can demonize a certain type of person, you can mobilize a large quick movement for profit and influence and power. It’s harder to fuel a gathering out of love. Hate is easier. And so when a supposedly nuanced, hip, relevant, postmodern Christian says “I’m not like those other Christians,” he’s simply fallen into the same default depravity of our reactionary nature and bought into one more dividing line of the in-house fighting. And I’m doing the same thing with the previous sentence.