The Beat Attitudes


Ben H. Swett
Bethany Christian Church
1 September 1974

I've been studying some interpretations of the Beatitudes by modern theologians. This is what they seem to imply:

1. Be very poor. Poverty is good. God loves poverty and especially spiritual poverty. He hates wealthy people and proud people. So try to deprive yourself. Be penniless and spiritless. Confess that you are wealthy, and repent. Replace your pride with holy guilt.

2. Be mournful. God likes people to be sad. He hates laughter. Be as depressed as possible, so God may come and lift you up. Do not be happy. It is wrong to be happy on earth. It is a sin to laugh out loud. Weep a lot.

3. Be meek. Grovel. Do not take offense or get angry, no matter what anyone does to you. Be submissive and apologetic and compliant. God likes that.

4. Be righteous. Do not be apathetic about moral issues. Get involved in the right causes. Point out injustice and those responsible for it.

5. Be merciful. Pardon everyone for everything, one way or another, so God will pardon you for what you have done. And it won't help to fake it: if you even feel resentment, that is a sin.

6. Be pure in heart. Never expect evil or wrongdoing. Be innocent and gullible. Ignore everything that is wrong, and you will get to see God.

7. Be against war. Do your part for peace. Get involved. Protest. Refuse to serve in the military. Beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, so you will be known as children of God.

8. Be persecuted. God likes it when people are reviled, slandered, beaten or killed in His service. He values suffering, so suffer as much as possible. If you get to be a martyr, your salvation and eternal reward are sure to follow. Normally, your family or your job will take care of this for you, but if they don't give you enough opportunities for martyrdom, perhaps the church can help. Apply at the office.

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When I stood up, the parishioners were settling down for their sermon-time nap. They showed no signs of life during the first beat-attitude. Then a pair of bright blue eyes appeared in the farthest pew at the back of the church: one teenage boy was awake and listening and grinning. Soon, people started frowning, scowling, and shaking their heads. One man leaned forward as if he was going to say something, but his wife poked him in the ribs with her elbow. Then, slowly, the light came on in people's eyes, one after another, as they realized I was preaching a parody, a put-down of churchian misinterpretations. Before I finished, they all were grinning, and at the end, several laughed out loud. I was somewhat amazed that I got away with it, but at least nobody slept through that sermon.