Wednesday, June 06, 2007

To pluck the mask from the face of a Pharisee

From Philip Graham Ryken's book My Father's World, in an essay entitled "The Reverend Mr. Brocklehurst" (a character in Charlotte Bronte's book Jane Eyre).

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1854) has something to teach us about hypocrisy in the church. When Jane Eyre was published, some of its readers were alarmed by its portrayal of Christianity. They displayed the kind of midguided zeal I displayed when I saw the film [Ryken previously described disgust at Bronte's depiction of a threatening and abusive Rev. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre]. In her preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte answered her critics. Apparently some readers had mistaken Bronte's portrayal of the Reverend Mr. Brocklehurst for an attack on Christianity, or even for an attack on Christ. This criticism had a harsh bite to it because the Bronte sisters were the daughters of an Anglican minister.

Bronte used her preface to explain that her real motives were to strengthen the church, not to undermine its ministry. She was not attacking Jesus Christ; she was attacking those who called themselves Christians but did not live for Christ. 'Self-righteousness is not religion,' Bronte observed. 'To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of a Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.'"

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