The Trouble With the Messiah Complex

Psychiatrists warn that we should expect more and more cases of the Messiah complex as we near the millennium.I had my first sighting when Rep. Henry Hyde defended the widely unpopular impeachment proceedings by remarking, "If Jesus had taken a poll, he would never have preached the gospel."Rep. Hyde missed the full irony of this comparison. True, public polls didn't mute Jesus' preaching. But it was a political trial -- run by the Sanhedrin, the Judicial Committee of their time, which stopped Jesus from preaching.It was disingenuous for Chairman Hyde to infer that God is on his side -- he is no more Christlike than President Clinton. But he was not wrong to suggest that Jesus's narrative offers analogies to the impeachment hearings and Senate trial. After all, at the end of Jesus's ministry, he was subjected to political intrigues and accused of high crimes -- and teachers of the strict law tried to undermine his authority.In the end, Jesus was arrested for one charge of lying. Blasphemy, they called it, and like perjury, it was strictly a legal word.Jesus's lone crime was his claim to forgive sins. Levitical law taught that only God could forgive a man. Since the chief priests and Jewish elders didn't accept Jesus as God, Jesus was branded a liar, then crucified -- the ultimate impeachment.House Majority Whip Tom DeLay is the kind of born-again Christian who takes pride in the fact that when he assembles Christmas toys, he always reads the instructions. "I've always been a rules person," he boasts. It is this sort of inflexible, rule-of-the-law person who defended his impeachment vote on the grounds that letting a guilty person go free undermines confidence in the entire judicial system.But the Old Testament provides an example of how even an otherwise stern, letter-of-the-law God periodically suspended the rule of law.David, hungry after running for his life from King Saul, visited a priest loyal to him and asked for food. The priest told David that there was only the consecrated bread. Under the law, purified priests alone could eat that bread.David broke the law and ate the five loaves of bread and neither he, nor his men, were punished. Rep. DeLay should take note: the Jewish tradition of law has survived just fine for more than five thousand years, despite the fact that a law was flagrantly broken and the guilty party went free.President Clinton has been impeached and now will stand trial before the Senate where some men are still clinging to the rule-of-law argument. But their legal-technical case against mercy is really anti-Jesus, and in that way, anti-Bible. The proof can be found in another sex story where other letter-of-the-law men were on a supposed hunt for truth.The teachers of the law brought a woman caught in adultery to stand before Jesus. They wanted to test whether Jesus had the moral stamina to carry out the merciless punishment required."Moses commanded us to stone such a woman," they said. "What do you say?"Being men who only wanted to use the law to their political advantage, they never mentioned how Moses also told them to stone men like themselves. Jesus understood the superficiality of their concern about the law. That's when he made his famous comment that the one who was without sin should cast the first stone. The men walked away, the old followed by the young.Nobody likes to be downsized. Especially if the fall is from saint to sinner.I think Americans would have admired 74-year old Rep. Henry Hyde more if he hadn't compared the political mission of his Republican party to the God-ordained ministry of Jesus. But that's the problem with the Messiah complex -- if one didn't feel morally superior, then one wouldn't be the Messiah, born to save the world from sin.Joe Loya is a California writer currently writing an autobiography.


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