In 1991, I was in training to become a hospital chaplain through a yearlong residency called Clinical Pastoral Education when my supervisor, Dr. Timothy Little, made a startling assessment: “You’ve got to be one of the most gullible chaplains I’ve ever met.”
“Hmm, could be,” I thought.
I know that if I were a prison chaplain, I’d probably wear the warden out with my weak and weekly pleas on behalf of the prisoners. “This inmate really is innocent,” I’d protest. To which the warden would doubtlessly reply, “That’s what you said about ‘Crazy Jim,’ and now he’s back for robbing my mom.”
Am I really that gullible or do I simply want to take people at their word? This is what I asked myself last month when I took Rep. Anthony Weiner at his word that the pictures sent through his Twitter account to a Seattle woman were the result of his account being hacked.
I didn’t think I was being gullible, because this sort of thing happens all the time. Every week, I get e-mails from some poor reader whose account was hacked for the sole purpose of sending inappropriate content to unsuspecting friends.
I believed Weiner, but now it seems proof of my lack of wariness comes in a bare-chested photo posted online by conservative blogger and tattletale Andrew Breitbart.
It’s tempting to accept the word of someone who is being adamant. Jesus was tempted in much the same way. Christian gospels recount a moment when Jesus slipped into the desert night to do some intense praying. Unfortunately, he wasn’t alone, and he found himself facing three tests of gullibility administered by someone called the “evil one.”
In the first encounter, the loathsome villain suggested Jesus conjure up a buffet by turning stones into bread. Jesus rebuffed the half-baked recipe by declaring: “Man doesn’t live by bread alone.”
The tempter was casting the same barbed lure of consumerism that hooks us into believing true happiness comes in taking care of your own needs first. The hook is, “Buy the widescreen TV or the new RV, and you’ll be so happy.”
For the second meeting, the malevolent trickster met Jesus on a temple roof where they eyeballed the kingdoms of the world. In this Kodak moment, the fellow prodded Jesus to jump off the roof and let the angels catch him, thereby proving his deity to a doubtful world.
Jesus didn’t fall for this proposal, so the guy switched to Plan C and promised Jesus something like billions of Facebook followers: “Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”
Jesus blocked the invite by calling a halt to the devilish conference: “Beat it, Satan!”
Too bad we aren’t always that smart. Our naiveté and conceit make us gullible to the voices of flattery, because we love the echo of our own publicity.
How does one know what voices to believe?
The answer comes in Jesus’ quotation of a Deuteronomic Code shared by three world religions. “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
Jesus is saying that God is the only voice to hear, and if we follow any others, we become a Gullible Gus.
This past week, my mother used the Weiner defense when renouncing the inappropriate pictures on her Facebook post. She says I shouldn’t be offended or shocked, because her account was hacked.
Well, I guess I believe her. After all, she is my mom. Or am I just being gullible again?