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‘Only the righteous are right’

When a random guy named Clark is being hailed as a prophet, local television pastor Reverend Milton Throp is concerned. Clark is not part of his or any church. So Throp coins the slogan, “Only the righteous are right.”

Although this encounter is part a new Netflix series, it rings of familiarity.

A Netflix series: God’s Favorite Idiot

God’s Favorite Idiot is a Netflix series I first learned about from Religion News Service. It stars Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, who is also credited as the writer and creator of the series.

It’s a silly show with NSFC (not safe for church) language and jokes–like the running one about having conversations in the office bathroom. Other than dealing with the apocalypse, it is not particularly religious or theological. There are passing references to Bible stories, e.g. the four horse-people of the Apocalypse (another recurring joke), but the characters have a limited understanding of any of it.

Almost as if aware of criticism he and the series may receive, Falcone writes in Throp–a stand-in for organized religion. The pastor’s unwillingness to accept that God might work through someone other than the pastor and his flock is a sentiment seemingly shared by many in the church.

Arbiters of orthodoxy

In congregations, families and on social media, we sometimes encounter those who feel it their duty to protect the faith from “outsiders.” They don’t spend so much time learning and growing as they do evaluating.

These people, like Rev. Throp, serve as self-appointed arbiters of orthodoxy. They determine who and what is worthy to be listened to and who or what might be dangerous.

Like Rev. Throp they are quick to point out that, “Only the righteous are right.” And, unsurprisingly, they always count themselves among the righteous.

It’s bigger than that

What if, however, God is bigger than our theology? What if none of us are completely right?

I love the running joke on The Good Place about Doug Forcett, the stoner who got it 92% right–the closest any human being has ever come.

Or as Snoopy titled his book of theology, “Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?”

Or to be a little more sophisticated, John Chrysostom is attributed with the words, “A comprehended god is no god.” Which I have sometimes heard paraphrased as, “A god who fits in my head is really no god at all.”

Maybe the righteous aren’t the only ones who are right. Maybe we would benefit from listening to those with whom we disagree.

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