Beware the Leaven
Here's the TL;DR version for those with little time to read the (admittedly brief) article:
After feeding the four thousand, Yeshua went to Magdala. When some Pharisees there asked Him to repeat the miracle, He refused; “leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side” (Mark 8:13). [...] Yeshua sat in the stern of the boat, still reflecting on His acrimonious encounter with the religious leaders in Magdala. He turned to the Twelve and said, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6).
Luke’s version of the saying offers a further insight: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). [...] Hypocrisy means “acting.” It refers to putting on a performance. [...] The three parties of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians represented the Jewish religious and political leadership of the age. The Master saw through their façade of piety. He warned His disciples against the leaven of engaging in religious pretense and disingenuousness. He did not want to see His followers become a new breed of elitists and corrupt politicians masquerading behind a veneer of religious piety.
Too often we focus on the ritual and pageantry of religion while forgetting that, at their core, all religious tradition is meant to inspire adherents to be better people. This isn't just at the individual level, but at the institutional level as well; almost every major religion has, at one time or another, been corrupted by social/political power or grown so accustomed to seeming pious by their rituals and customs that they lose sight of the meaning of the rituals and forget to actually be pious.
This is part of what the philosopher Jean Baudrillard referred to as the "decay of meaning": ritual simulates spiritual reality and creates a sort of "hyperreality" that becomes more exciting and idealized to the adherent than the truth that ritual is supposed to represent. We spread the myth of Saint Nicholas because we all want to be as generous as him, but that myth gets chewed up by civilization's capitalistic commercial machines until Saint Nicholas becomes Santa Claus, then the act of "being" Santa Claus for whoever you're buying gifts for eventually becomes a social obligation at work parties, so on and so forth until Santa Claus becomes part of a mass marketing strategy to con consumers into buying more useless crap bearing his image around Christmas time. Saint Nicholas -- a mythic symbol of generosity -- has now become a symbol of corporate greed due to the glitz and glamor of holiday ritual. That's just one example, a relatively harmless one at that.
The fundamental shift in Christianity from persecuted Jewish sect to powerhouse principal Roman religion to conquering Medieval dogma, however, was not so harmless and flew directly in the face of what the rabbi Yeshua / Jesus taught. I reiterate from the article:
[Jesus] warned His disciples against the leaven of engaging in religious pretense and disingenuousness. He did not want to see His followers become a new breed of elitists and corrupt politicians masquerading behind a veneer of religious piety. (Emphasis mine.)
That's exactly what happened, though, and it only took a few hundred years to make that happen.
Though the Jedi are depicted as the protagonists of the Star Wars films, they aren't immune to this, as this article at CBR by Bella Vigliotti illustrates. (It was something that was also mentioned occasionally in the Clone Wars era Legends/old EU material, but all that was rendered non-canon, so I suppose mentioning it is moot.)
The hypocrisy of the Sadducees and Pharisees -- and the hypocrisy expressed by the leadership of the later Christian institutions, from the Roman Catholic Church on down to its Protestant offspring -- is something we must avoid in our daily lives as individual adherents. Institutions don't grow corrupt and hypocritical overnight; it happens the first time we as adherents allow it to happen in our lives, and it grows like yeast with each allowance and each adherent until the entire organization has been overtaken by it.
Beware the leaven, my friends!
Live long and prosper, and may the Force be with you.
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My father always says "The person who prays you the hardest on Sunday screws you the hardest on Monday." This can be chronic in the Catholic church, where there are so many ways to "show" your faith, such as praying the rosary or carrying icons. Churchgoers will judge other churchgoers on their attendence. Some people make a show out of kneeling, crossing their arms, and receiving the eucharist on the tongue (which is technically appropriate, but extremely weird nevertheless, and I can't help but think it's done more out of a need to look holy rather than be holy).
We also see this here in the temple. Some people get caught up with labels - either by pursuing knighthood too quickly, or assuming that being a knight automatically makes one's opinions worth more. Fortunately, it seems to be a small problem, and most knights are barely affected by their (well-deserved) labels.
Lastly, we see this outside religion. I think the "warning of the leaven" is true in politics as well. The need to appear sustainable, or equity-minded is sometimes greater than the need to be sustainable and equity-minded.
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