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A Confounded Gospel

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage (Galatians 1:1-10) transports me to the Hogwarts Quidditch field, where the Gryfindor team is having tryouts and Ron Weasley is competing with Cormac McClaggen for the keeper position. Ron wins out, due to the intervention of Hermione Granger, who has placed a Confundus Charm on McClaggen because she heard him insulting Ron and Ginny. The Confundus Charm, according to the Harry Potter Wiki, is “a jinx that causes a person or animated object to become highly confused. There appear to be varying degrees of inflicted confusion, ranging from tricking a person about a specific issue to making them lose all semblance of common sense, even to the point of endangering themselves. The incantation is Confundo.”

This came to mind when I read verse 7 of today’s passage in one of the Spanish translations, which reads, hay quienes quieren cambiar la buena noticia de Jesucristo, y confundirlos a ustedes. It is bad enough that there are people out there twisting and distorting the simple good news of Jesus to suit personal desires, but what really gets Paul’s goat is the way these fakers are infiltrating the church and putting a confusion spell on the followers of Christ, convincing them to follow another gospel, which, as the apostle says, is no gospel at all.  The gospel for Paul is simple, salvation by grace through faith, salvation that puts one in the footsteps of Jesus and transforms one’s mind and heart into the mind and heart of Christ. Apparently, there were folks around who saw the emerging and quickly growing church as a platform to push their own agenda, to weave their personal morality into the fabric of faith as a requisite for salvation. Paul doesn’t mince words when lowering the boom on these charlatans: if anybody–including an angel from heaven, preaches some other gospel, let them be under God’s curse! He repeats it for emphasis, let me say it again, let them be under God’s curse!

It makes me wonder just what kind of curse Paul might wish for God to use, were he to choose from the catalog of curses in the HP Wiki. How about the Confringo, which causes the victim to burst into flames? Or, if God is in a humorous mood, the Densaugeo, which causes the victim’s teeth to grow at an alarming rate, or the Tarantallegra, which makes the victim’s legs dance uncontrollably. Or, given that Paul is worried about false preachers, the Langlock, which glues the victim’s tongue to the roof of the mouth.  Of course, if God is not in a humorous mood, you’ve always got the Furnunculus, which causes the target to become covered in boils, or the Sectumsempra, causing serious wounds, or the dreaded Crucio, which inflicts unbearable pain. God forbid that it would come down to the Avada Kadavra, the Killing Curse.

All this aside, reading Galatians does give us pause, when we realize just how much ballyhoo flies under the flag of Christianity today. Ever since Constantine transformed Christianity from a fringe radical  movement to a mainstream imperial power 1700 years ago, the Church has struggled to maintain its identity as an humble community of love in a world of pride and power. Now we have Christian organizations lobbying for the use of torture, lobbying against any regulation of guns, lobbying for the immediate deportation of undocumented immigrants, and a whole host of other stances which might make plenty of sense from a world power point of view but find little resemblance to the teaching of Jesus. There is a whole lot of confundus going on.  It’s enough to make us feel like we’ve been hit with a slug-vomiting charm, until we remember the claims of the simple gospel, until we remember to live out the simple life of grace and peace and love, and trust that at the end of the day, that is the most effective counter-charm we have.

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