Today we are looking at the readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, aka Proper 22, aka the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. October 4, 2020. The readings assigned for this Sunday are Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 or Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4b-14; and Matthew 21:33-46.
Jesus tells a parable in today’s gospel reading, the “parable of the wicked tenants.” And these tenants are indeed wicked.
The landowner sends some servants to collect the produce from the tenants. The tenants beat the servants, killing some. The landowner sends more servants; they too are beaten or killed. The landowner sends his own son; the servants say, “Let’s kill him and get the inheritance,” and they do indeed kill him.
“Wicked” doesn’t seem to cut it. These tenants are thieving, self-absorbed, murderous louts. They care for nothing but themselves. They see the servants not as human beings, but as obstacles to overcome. They see the son of the landowner not as a human being, but as a means to a selfish end.
Within the context of the story and of the gospel, these wicked tenants represent the Pharisees, and perhaps more broadly, any religious leaders who get caught in selfish motives and navel-gazing, instead of seeking God’s will. The servants and the landowner’s son represent the prophets and Christ himself.
But from the standpoint of Biblia Luna, the tenants are a representation of psychopathy, or perhaps more precisely antisocial personality disorder. ASPD is defined by “a pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others.” They often have little ability to show remorse or empathy. Many people with this disorder end up, not surprisingly, committing various criminal acts. It’s a very difficult disorder to treat, since someone with ASPD is very unlikely to recognize that they have a problem, and very unlikely to want treatment. Some treatment has occurred in prison settings, but it can be hard to gauge success, since part of the personality of many psychopaths is the ability to charm others to get what one wants. In some cases, a bright psychopath may have successfully determined what the clinician wants to hear.
It’s hard to look at someone with ASPD as someone who is sick. It’s so much easier just to see them as evil, unrepentant, and beyond hope. But no one is beyond hope. The promise of the gospel is that everyone can be saved, and I find it hopeful that modern psychology seems to agree, classifying this as an illness rather than a moral failure.
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