As one’s concepts of spirituality and spiritual growth mature and change, so do one’s concepts of sin and the temptations that lead to sin. There was never a time before now when I would have considered the calculated benevolence for what I believed was the good of another as a temptation. But as I grow older I begin to see that the desire I have for my wife, my children, my brother, and my friends to be a certain way, to live a certain way, to behave a certain way, is a temptation leading to the fault of self-righteousness. We are further tempted, along these lines, to believe that such feelings are the workings of the Spirit. Oh, what dreadful damage we are capable of dealing ourselves in the name of what we consider justifiable desires! Our compassion is blind-sided by misguided desires.
There is an ongoing story in the news right now of a British school teacher in the Sudan who is being marked for punishment, deportation, and even death, because she allowed her class to name a teddy-bear “Mohammed.” Even if her intentions were blasphemous, what self-righteous indignation tempts the members of a major religion to call for such reprisal in the name of a “merciful God?”
Yet, I believe there are those Christians who are among the Pharisees that would do the same if a Moslem teacher in this country had her class name the teddy-bear “Jesus.” Generally this culture is more cavalier about such things, but the Fundamentalist Christian Right is certainly capable of the same things in the name of religion as the Fundamentalist Islamic Right.
What we do, say, or believe in the name of religion – even within the contexts of our own families - can be very irreligious. It seems to be a temptation we are drawn to as we get older.