False prophets in sheep’s clothing are leading some of us into great danger. False prophets and teachers bear a heavy burden of responsibility for disastrous results of their ignorance or deceit.
We live in a time when instant communication and media provide loud megaphones to little people, making them appear like celebrity authorities, larger than life. We need to be very careful to distinguish between those who search for truth and lead others alomg paths toward truth and those who are false prophets — in Jesus’ warning, those who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ferocious wolves (Matthew 7:14).
This column is not intended to identify false prophets and teachers. Everyone is pointing a finger toward someone with whom they disagree. Each person must take responsibility for making judgments for themselves. Indeed, it is a warning that everyone be careful about whom they trust and also a warning to those who would be prophets and teachers to be careful lest they be guilty of mayhem and death. The Bible warns that not many should become teachers because those who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).
Our deepest commitments are too easily manipulated by would-be prophets and celebrity teachers and preachers to support some movement that benefits them and theirs. People in Montgomery County have many and diverse commitments. Two common among us are patriotism and faith. Each of us can name examples of attempts to manipulation patriotism and/or faith in support of some inferior quasi-political or quasi-religious protest or movement. In some instances, such manipulation combines patriotism and faith, thereby creating a noxious brew. Dangerous and destructive positions and actions result, both for the individual and the community, when proclaimed by the unscrupulous and believed by the unthinking.
During a career as a teacher, these warnings were never far from my mind or heart. Perhaps one should figuratively take their shoes off when speaking from a podium nor a pulpit because one was standing on holy ground. What right does one person have to influence another person’s worldview and morality? The search for truth and the need of citizens to know what is true to know and the good to do are essential to who we are as human beings. That is the implied contract between teachers and students. Those who pervert that process are grave offenders against both human and divine law.
Those who believe and follow false prophets, preachers and teachers who have little qualification except a large megaphone are not without blame and penalty. They do indeed “stew in their own juice” as warned by folk wisdom. Rather than seeking truth, they suit their own desires by gathering around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (II Timothy 4:5). Unfortunately, that’s where we seem to be as a society.
Highly qualified people in almost every field are among our neighbors in Montgomery County. Seek them out. Review their qualifications and integrity. Even though they might have very small megaphones, listen carefully for their words of truth. Truth might lead us all to health, freedom and abundant life.
Raymond B. Williams, Crawfordsville, LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities emeritus, contributed this guest column.