Saturday, March 16, 2024

Reflection on Faith and Politics - IV: False v True Prophets

 "Stay alert or you may be led down a false path!" he told them.  "Many will come representing me, 'I am the Chosen One,' they will claim, and many will listen to their lies."  -- Mark 13:5-6 (First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament)

History is littered with false prophets and saviors  In each of their times and places, they have garnered their set of devout followers. To be a successful false prophet/savior the main ingredients have been personal charisma and the illusion of wealth or success.  Oftentimes, the ruse was most often aided by having a small cadre of conspirators to mingle in the crowd and "attest" to the miracles claimed by the prophet.  They are all in on the fleecing. Gallons of snake oil have been hawked on legions of gullible, unsuspecting souls. 

So what sets Jesus (or any truly helpful prophet/teacher) apart from the riff-raff?  How can we discern authentic wisdom, action, or advice?  I'd offer these suggestions.  

One is that the teacher/prophet does not gain financially from their followers. Authentic wisdom is not for sale. The corollary is also true—the more one has to pay to acquire the "wisdom" (or "secret"), the more worthless it is.

Two, if the profit motive is removed, then one's intuition or internal spirit voice can more accurately discern the truth or value of the advice.  If the person hearing can apply or incorporate the teaching into their life with positive net results, one can more readily trust the truth.

Third, most validly wise teaching/advice is grounded in furthering positive virtues such that not only is an individual aided by the teaching, but the larger community benefits as well.  Examples include virtues such as love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, restoration/healing, and sharing.  Obviously, if the advice fosters more fear, greed, xenophobia, or violence, beware of the lies and do not follow (or aid) that false prophet. 

It is vividly apparent in our present-day political field whether candidates or individuals for public office meet the criteria above or not.  Let those with ears hear. 

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