Perhaps this is not your issue, but I often find that the language we speak as Christians when talking about Christianity simply fails to really connect. Whether it be in a sermon, prayers, or music, full of talk of ‘justification’, ‘grace’, ‘redemption’, etc., when we hear the words, nod our heads in assent, but fail to really understand. We may know the words, but since we don’t to have any emotional or existential connection to them, they fail to have any real significance for us.
This breakout session is specifically looking at the issue of self-righteousness and its opposite, humility/honesty, through the lens of the Luke’s Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and T.S. Eliot’s play The Elder Statesman. If I were to sum up this breakout session in a simple phrase, it would be ‘reading the Bible with T.S. Eliot’. Reading these two texts together helps to illuminate what exactly is meant by the term self-righteousness and how it might play out in real life with actual people.
According to Luke and Eliot, either we can either live a life of self-righteous falsehood, pretending to be something or someone to gain the love and approval of those around us, or we can be humble, giving up the façade to find a love which feels a whole lot like forgiveness. But Luke only contrasts the Pharisee with the Tax Collector; he doesn’t quite suggest how the ‘Pharisee’ becomes a ‘tax collector’. This is precisely where Eliot is the most helpful. The Elder Statesman is a play about an elderly politician and reflections on his long, but ultimately failed, career/life. It’s a story about a failed pharisee, the power of honest confession, and, ultimately, rebirth.