Stan (speaking of those who'd accuse conservatives of being Pharisees) said...
"I'm a pharisee because I believe Scripture teaches X and we ought to do it. They don't think we ought to do it, so I'm the pharisee.
I'm a pharisee because I take Scripture seriously and they don't.
I'm the pharisee because when God speaks, I intend to listen. They're not because when they speak, the listen intently. I'm the pharisee because they perceive an hypocrisy that isn't actually real."
So, I'm really trying to deal with this one point, so let me make it clear:
It's not (NOT NOT NOT) because you "you take Scripture seriously and we don't..." That is NOT IT. Let me say it again: It is NOT because we think you take Scripture seriously. That is just laughably NOT the point.
It is because, like the Pharisees, you miss the point of Scripture.
The Pharisees WERE good people, well-intentioned men who tended to live very moral lives (at least at a shallow level). They were rule followers and rule teachers. The Pharisees' sin (and it was huge) was in approaching the bible as a magic rule book. IF you just understand all the rules and apply them correctly, THEN you will be good with God. IF you FAIL to read the magic rule book correctly (at least on some key points), you were a sinner bound for hell.
So, to make even more explicit what rules we need to follow (this, according to the pharisaic interpretation of the Scripture), they "clarified" by adding rule upon rule to make it clear what it means to "observe the Sabbath" or to "honor your parents..." So, while the number of steps you could take without dishonoring the Sabbath was never told to them by God or the Scripture, they "clarified" the matter by defining how many steps one could take. It was a Pharisaical rule THEY ADDED that said, "No more than 3000 steps on the Sabbath..."
I would say that the point of Scripture/ethical living/morality/Godliness is grace, or at least Christians and reasonable people believe. That is the starting place for understanding. Scripture should be read by and in grace. Morality should be understood within the confines of grace.
But for the Pharisees (modern and ancient), the point of Scripture is that we have a list of rules that we can follow so that we can "know" we are living God's way. And some of these rules are serious as hell... you break the sabbath and you should be killed, says the OT ruling (taken literally). There was a death penalty attached to failing to honor the Sabbath. So, the Pharisees reason, we need to take these rules seriously and literally and, if we need to add some "clarification" to take it literally, so be it.
So, the reasonable moral person looks at two loving people wanting to get married, committing to a life of mutual love and respect and support, and we see that as a clearly moral good.
But the Pharisees look at two GUYS wanting to get married and they say, "Ah, but God has a rule prohibiting that."
Of course, the Bible has no such rule and God has not told them that. It's a ruling they added to "clarify" what the Bible says and, thus, what God thinks (they say).
So, there you have the first major sin of the Pharisees: "adding ruling upon ruling upon the backs of others..." a grace-less life of rule following. Missing the point of the Bible and morality.
And there you also have the second sin of the Pharisees... Arrogance and presumption. THEY are the ones who can rightly read the Holy Scripture and rightly tell everyone else what these various rulings mean and offer rulings that apply to everyone else.
This was true of ancient Pharisees and it is true of the modern evangelical/fundamentalist sect of "christianity..." a sect that completely misses the point of Scripture even with Jesus' help to make it clear.
Oh, and I would say that the third sin of the Pharisees (modern and ancient) was that they neglected the weightier matters of the law.
God, in the Bible, as Jesus in the NT makes clear, was a God of grace and justice. A God who, in his grace was concerned about specifically justice for the poor and marginalized. God was/is a God who sides with the poor, the immigrant, the stranger, the orphaned, the sick, the oppressed and the marginalized. God and Jesus teach throughout the Bible that THIS was the point of true religion: Aiding/siding with the down and out. In grace, working for justice.
But the Pharisees have always been more about a simple-minded, limited "morality" that was concerned especially with "sexual sins" and an outward appearance of cleanliness and "holiness..." but such a religion misses the point and, thus, walks by the neighbor in need, rather than stopping to help.
Concerned about "personal morality..." how much one gives and how "pure" one is sexually? Okay, that's fine, as far as it goes (and it doesn't go far). But we should not neglect the weightier matters of the law: Justice, working with and alongside the poor and marginalized.
Thus, in summation, the Sins of the Pharisees and why modern conservative Christians are comparable to Pharisees, and not in a favorable way...
1. Adding rule upon rule, creating rules that are not Godly or reasonable, adding a load to people's backs and doing so without grace or love - thus missing the point of Scripture - it is a book of Grace, not a rulings book;
2. Arrogance and presumption, that THEY are the true interpreters of Scripture and if you disagree with them on at least some key points, you're not likely a God follower;
3. Neglecting the weightier matters of justice for the poor and marginalized, while focusing on these outwardly "pure" rulings about sex and giving and "the Sabbath."
*Caveat: As I often note, I have problems with the terms "fundamentalist," "conservative" and "evangelicals..." in applying them to modern conservative Christians. I don't think they are in any sense advocating a return to "fundamentals" or to Good News ("evangelicalism"), nor are they especially "conservative..." but these are the best terms I have for them right now.
Unless we just want to refer to them as Modern Pharisees, which, sadly, is an apt name for too many conservative Christians. **
**Additional caveat: This is not true for all conservatives. I was raised by some excellent, Godly conservatives, both at home and in my church. These "moderate conservatives" we might call them, still had that tinge of Phariseeism about them (about US, since I was one), but it was at least moderated by grace and that goes a long way.***
***Additional caveat: This temptation towards Pharisaism is one that I think can affect liberals, as well. I mean, at least with liberals, they DO tend to start from a place of taking seriously the weightier matters of justice, as opposed to just rule following "purity..." but they/we do have a tendency to be pretty dogmatic about adding rule upon rule for others to follow (don't drive, don't eat meat, here SPECIFICALLY is how you ought to recycle... No! You oughtn't recycle at all, you ought not generate waste!) to the point of where it becomes a weight upon our backs and the backs of others and we certainly face the temptation of arrogance, that WE are the true interpreters of righteousness, the Bible, God and morality... so, this are of concern is one I have for me and liberals, as well as conservatives... it's something to watch out for.
Which is why, Grace.