Experts in Grace

An art dealer in Florida has been charged by federal agents with wire fraud, money laundering, and mail fraud. It seems he sold fake art works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and other well-known artists for millions of dollars. The dealer supposedly purchased one fake work by Basquiat on a website for $495 and sold it to an undercover agent for $12 million. His extensive fraud was uncovered after technology revealed the signatures on the art were false and examinations by art experts collaborated that the works were not originals. However, the dealer assured purchasers that he stood behind the work in his gallery 100 percent and that each purchase was a fabulous deal.

Forgeries have been with us, but the Internet gives the cheater easier access to those who may not have the knowledge to determine if an item is authentic.  However, what if the offering is not a concrete item like a work of art? What if the offering is a promise formed out of words from a respected community member like a teacher or religious leader? How does one not believe someone that is so revered?

In my career as a teacher of literature and writing, I would at times deliberately lie or make an outlandish claim to my students.(For instance: Romeo was too old for Juliet.)  I did this in order to teach them that a teacher was not infallible, and they should not accept as a cardinal truth everything a teacher said. In that small way, I was hoping to teach them that they were responsible for their educations. They had the text and were required to read it and draw their own conclusions based on the text.

Like teachers, religious leaders have influence, even power, over people. They can sway the way people think and act. Just as I did with Shakespeare, a religious leader can use a holy text to teach. However, what if that teaching is that all infidels should be killed, or the holy city of Jerusalem should be rid of all non-Christians. What if a religious leader taught that homosexuals deserve to lose civil rights or that only one political leader deserves a vote?

Christians have the Bible and its teachings. We can read and study the Gospels to guide us. We have the examples of Jesus. The written words of James, Paul, and other writers can instruct. We should read and study those lessons and upon hearing some “pastor” tell us that anyone not in agreement with what he or she shouts from the pulpit is to be despised and shunned, we should go to John 4 and read Jesus talking with the woman who was such an outcast that she had to go to  the village well at noon, in the heat of the day. But she, the Samaritan woman, encountered a Jewish man who spoke to her with kind words.

The Text is our expert guiding us in what we believe and how we act. That Text will reveal any forgery blabbering from a pulpit of lies and misinformation.

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