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Your Beliefs are a Threat to the State Itself

Christianity has always been considered a threat to governments, because it maintains that individuals answer first and foremost to God–and by ‘individuals’ we also mean those running the governments.

Rome led things off, even going so far as to accuse Christians of being atheists, for not being willing to give sacrifices to the gods.  Just one problem:  one of those gods was the emperor himself.  Despite being the best possible citizens one could have, Christians were deemed a threat to the integrity of the state itself.  I document and discuss this thoroughly in this long treatment I wrote awhile back.

Religionists would be deemed a threat to the state in the French Revolution, and would be slaughtered by the bushels in the name of the ‘age of reason.’  The “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” explicitly distills all authority into the state:

3.  The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

The ‘limits’ of ‘Natural rights’ can be ‘determined by law.’  (Art. 4).  Put it all together:  our rights come from the state.  The enlightened french did allow people to have their religious views, “provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”  How nice of them!  It is not hard to see how such a view would not comport very well with religious views that puts sovereignty first and foremost with God, who then delegates some of that authority to humans;  Christianity posed a threat to the French nation.

Compare and contrast with the American system, which said that our rights came from God, not the state, and one of these rights was freedom of religious expression (ie, not just possession of religious views).

The communists saw, and still see, Christianity as a threat to the nation for the same reasons.  Christianity believes that God created the world, created us male and female, will hold us accountable for our disobedience, and has bought us all for a price–thus establishing that we each have a value that transcends whatever the state might decide we have. Religious expression under the Soviet and Chinese communist systems was highly restricted and viewed as tantamount to treason if not done according to the ‘public order established by law.’  They just had a different vision of ‘public order’ than the Enlightened French did, you see.  China may have lightened up somewhat, but I would not suggest being a Christian in North Korea.

The Nazis of course fully embraced this perspective.  Point 24 of the Nazi party platform of 1920 reads:

24. We demand freedom for all religious denominations in the State, provided they do not threaten its existence not offend the moral feelings of the German race.

The Party, as such, stands for positive Christianity, but does not commit itself to any particular denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and without us, and is convinced that our nation can achieve permanent health only from within on the basis of the principle: The common interest before self-interest.  [emphasis in original, I believe]

And we know how that worked out.

In today’s news, we read that five Christians in Iran have been arrested for the highly treasonous act of praying together in a house:

“There has been a noticeable increase in the harassment, arrests, trials and imprisonments of converts to Christianity, particularly since the beginning of 2012,” Kankhwende said. “Any movement that differs from or offers an alternative to orthodox Shia Islam, and any persons who chooses to follow an alternative belief system, are interpreted as a challenge to the very state itself.”

In Islam, like with Rome, like with the Communists, like with the French in the late 1700s, the state is identifiable with the highest levels of authority.  I am literally in an email correspondence right now with a Muslim who insists that Islam is friendly with Christians, “giving them their freedom.”  You see it, right?  On his view, rights and freedoms flow from the state.  (In his case, an Islamic state, or eventual world Caliphate) Any view that suggests there is anything higher than the state is dangerous view.

This is no theoretical philosophizing.  The systems described above produced outcomes that can be measured by how high the stacks of bodies got.  It is simply a fact of history that the most dangerous entity is a state that believes it is the end all and be all, the final reservoir of all rights, and the ultimate dispenser of those rights.  Check out Rummel’s democide site, and see how many exceptions you can find, and measure the deaths in those exceptional cases against the ones that fit my description.

With this kind of history behind us, we should be not merely be wary, we should be positively troubled by Obama’s constant statements that America’s constitution gives us a ‘freedom of worship.’  He equivocates, identifying ‘freedom of expression’ with ‘freedom of worship’ and/or, ‘freedom of religious views.’  This is why he has no problem trampling on the religious freedoms of millions of Americans.  He is a Progressive;  he views the state as the ultimate reservoir of all rights, and the ultimate dispenser of those rights.  When religion gets in the way of the ‘public order as established by law’ then the common good must take precedence.  Here is a very good article discussing Obama’s contorted notion of ‘religious freedom.’  It is recent, but many commentators have been making this point for some time.

America is a country of checks and balances, and it is precisely for this reason that it has been so successful.  What many people don’t realize is that the framers of the Constitution envisioned other checks and balances besides having three branches of the government.  The right to bear arms was one such check.  The right to religious freedom of expression is another, because it has allowed American’s citizens the right to criticize its own country and hold it to a standard that transcends the country itself.  Get rid of either of these two checks, and watch what happens.  And it is happening, piece by piece.

Even if you do not believe in Christianity, if you do not work to protect the ironclad right to express one’s religion, not merely have religious viewpoints, I don’t think you will be pleased with how things come home to roost.  Moreover, if you are in the camp that believes the state is the be all and end all, watch out!  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

To see how America might have turned out, check out my recent short story where I contemplate what might have happened if Hitler had been killed in the early 1920s.  It’s called Mordecai’s DilemmaCheck it out.

 

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How Many Guards at the Tomb? A series of essays and ebook.

howmanyguardsEbookI have a post, simply titled “How many guards at Jesus’ tomb?” that has proved to be one of the most popular ones on this blog, drawing ten thousand visitors or so each year.  The bulk of these come during the Easter season.  I suspect that there are a lot of churches putting on Passion plays and they’re looking for some guidance on this topic (eg, how many costumes should they make for the guards, and should they be Roman costumes, or Jewish temple guard costumes?)

This year, to enhance the service that this post has evidently provided, I have written a number of other essays that are meant to corroborate various claims made within the post. Hopefully, these essays come soon enough for people to find useful for the Easter 2013 season.

The original post, and the complementary essays, can be read on this site (links below) but have also been compiled into an ebook (cover to the right).  I have a couple of other claims that I’d like to eventually corroborate, so this collection of essays could grow.

Kindle | Nook | Smashwords

Original, Main Essay:  How many guards at Jesus’ tomb?”

Supplemental:

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Guards at the Tomb: Were they Roman Guards or Jewish Guards?

howmanyguardsEbookCONTINUED/ADDENDUM

The following material supplements the original essay on the guards at Jesus’ tomb and provides more corroboration for various statements that were made within it.    It can be purchased as an ebook, cover to the right.   (Next section: The Discipline of the Roman Soldier )

Were they Roman Guards or Temple Guards?

 In some regards, it doesn’t matter whether the guards were Roman or Temple guards.  The mere fact that there were guards represents a real problem for those who wish to dismiss the resurrection.  If the tomb had been left unattended throughout the entire time between Jesus’ death and his alleged resurrection, we could posit countless other explanations for the absence of Jesus’ body.  (His appearances in a glorified form would still require some explanation, but it is doubtful even that would be taken seriously if there was any question about the disposition of the body of Jesus.)  The fact that there were people hostile to Jesus’ followers present and carefully monitoring the situation, however, significantly increases the weight of the resurrection claim–regardless of whether or not they were Jewish temple guards or Roman soldiers.

Clearly, though, the more trained these soldiers are, the less likely we can consider other scenarios, such as incompetence.

The text is ambiguous in some regards, as already alluded to in the main article.  That said, there are several lines of evidence that suggest that there were, in fact, both Roman guards and temple guards.  If this can be established, then the presence of Roman guards at the tomb does more than increase the likelihood that the resurrection account is the correct one, it virtually proves it.  This is because the Roman guards, besides being exceptionally well trained and demonstrably well disciplined, they are motivated by a huge disincentive:  the penalty for incompetence was often death, and all the more when the infractions occur on the ‘night watch.’  One can imagine how little leniency they could expect for managing to lose track of a dead body!

A plain reading of the text suggests that, at the minimum, the guards on station were Roman.  Here are some reasons why:

 1.  In Matthew 28:11-15, the priests and elders pay the guards money to spin a particular story, and in exchange promise that “if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”  It is hard to imagine why the Jewish leaders’ own guards needed to be concerned about what the governor thought.  And they had every reason to be concerned, given the particular story they were being paid to tell:  falling asleep during a watch was punishable by death, as will be demonstrated shortly.  That they guards were concerned about word getting back to the governor shows that they in fact answered to the governor.

 2.  In Matthew 27:66, we have the Jews hurrying to the tomb and setting a seal.  A seal would not have been anything more sophisticated than a bit of string or wax that would allow them to know if the stone had been disturbed.  The disturbing of a seal given with the governor’s authority carried the penalty of death.  Can we believe that Pilate would have given this authority to the Jews?  Surely the seal would have been set by Pilate’s own representatives.

The Book of Matthew is a prime source for those inclined to view it as divine Scriptures, but it can be taken simply as a historical source, too.  If we are open to other documents of historical value, we find that some other ancient sources address this issue, providing interesting corroboration.

 3. The so-called ‘Gospel of Peter‘ was rejected by the Christian Church as apocryphal, which in some minds actually enhances its credibility.  Nonetheless, it gives early testimony to what was actually believed in the first centuries after Christianity began to spread.  From the ‘Gospel of Peter’ (70-160 AD) we hear explicitly that it was Roman guards that were dispatched;  we even learn his name:  Petronius.

2 And the elders were afraid and came unto Pilate, begging him and saying, 3 “Give us soldiers that we may guard his tomb for three days, lest his disciples come and steal him away and the people suppose that he is risen from the dead, and do us harm.” 4And Pilate gave them Petronius the centurion with soldiers to watch the tomb. And the elders and scribes came with them unto the tomb. 5 All who were there with the soldiers rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb 6 and plastered seven seals on it. Then they pitched a tent there and kept watch.

9 Early in the morning, as the Sabbath dawned, there came a large crowd from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas to see the sealed tomb. 2 But during the night before the Lord’s day dawned, as the soldiers were keeping guard two by two in every watch, there came a great sound in the sky, 3 and they saw the heavens opened and two men descend shining with a great light, and they drew near to the tomb. 4 The stone which had been set on the door rolled away by itself and moved to one side, and the tomb was opened and both of the young men went in.

10 Now when these soldiers saw that, they woke up the centurion and the elders (for they also were there keeping watch).

4.  Another early, non-canonical work, the so-called “Report of Pilate to the Emperor Claudius” says, “…and they crucified him, and when he was buried they set guards upon him.  But while my soldiers watched him he rose again on the third day:  yet so much was the malice of the Jews kindled that they gave money to the soldiers, saying:  Say ye that his disciples stole away his body.  But they, though they took the money, were not able to keep silence concerning that which had come to pass, for they also have testified that they saw him arisen and that they received money from the Jews.”

5.  The Gospel of Nicodemus contains within it a section called the “Acts of Pilate” (and even is sometimes referred to as that; c. 200-350 AD) and has a statement that says, “And while they were still sitting in the synagogue, and wondering about Joseph, there come some of the guard whom the Jews had begged of Pilate to guard the tomb of Jesus, that His disciples might not come and steal Him.”

Later in the same, “And they crucified him, and set guards over him when buried. And he rose again on the third day, while my soldiers were keeping guard. But so flagrant was the iniquity of the Jews, that they gave money to my soldiers, saying, Say that his disciples have stolen his body. But after receiving the money they could not keep secret what had been done; for they bore witness both that he had risen again, that they had seen him, and that they had received money from the Jews.”

Both Roman guards and Jewish guards are clearly and explicitly in view.

6.  Matthew uses several words to refer to the guards:  custodios, stratiotas, and tarountes (‘the watch.’) ‘Straiotas’ translates simply as ‘soldiers.’  It appears in this context in Matthew 28:12 where we read that the chief priests and elders gave a large sum of money to the ‘stratiotas’, or soldiers.   It is this very same word that Matthew uses in Matthew 27:27, where we read that “the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium” (in order to beat him to a pulp).  While we are told that Herod had soldiers, (Luke 23:11 and Acts 12:4-18) the chief priests, elders and Pharisees are never described as having ‘soldiers.’  They, instead, have ‘officers,’ a point we will return to later.  The other three Gospels each use this word, ‘straiotas,’ in reference to soldiers serving under the direct command of Pilate:  Mark 15:16, Luke 23:36, and John 19:2, 23-34.  The simplest inference is that when Matthew uses the word, he is thinking of it in exactly the same terms as we see it used in the other three Gospels, and indeed, how he used it himself in his own account:  8:9 and 27:27.

The clear implication is that Matthew is referring to Roman guards dispatched by Pilate, and the extra-biblical books make what is implicit in Matthew explicit in their accounts.

The same texts imply, or explicitly state, that Jewish guards were present as well.  The Gospel of Peter is explicit, while the Report of Pilate is implicit.  In Matthew, after Jesus’ body disappears, they do not report to their own superiors, but to the chief priests.  This implies some kind of working relationship between the guards and the Jews that prompts them to reasonably hope that their fates will be better if they turn to the Jews, rather than their own;  inferring the existence of Jewish guards bridges this nicely.

Here, then, are four different sources attesting to the presence of Roman guards at the tomb, and moreover many others besides (16 or more guards, the elders, etc).  As there was no love lost between the Jews and early Christians, if Jewish temple guards were the one referred to in Matthew, the early Christians would have no qualms in mentioning this fact in their later writings.  The early consensus is that Pilate dispatched his own guards, and the Jews had their own people present, too.

Having both Jewish and Roman guards on scene provides us with yet another layer of credibility to the account, because the two groups were not exactly on great terms.  After all, the Romans are present as occupiers, and the Jews are deeply resentful of that fact.  Fortunately, the value we get from looking at the nature of the training of the guards resides almost wholly on the folks more conclusively documented to be present, the Romans.  So that, even if we don’t accept that the Jews are also guarding the tomb, we still have many reasons to believe the Romans would have done a fine job–which is precisely why the resurrection account is so historically robust.

However, we will probe the relationship between the Romans and the Jews a little more deeply to better understand why it is unlikely the Jews would have left the matter to the Romans to handle alone.

But first, let’s talk about Roman training and discipline.

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Guards at the Tomb: The Discipline of the Roman Soldier

howmanyguardsEbook(this is the continuation of a series of essays discussing the number and make-up of the guards at Jesus’ tomb.  It can be purchased as an ebook, cover to the right.    Main essay | Previous section | Next section: The Romans and Jews:  So (un)Happy Together )

The Discipline of the Roman Soldier

Most acknowledge that the Roman military was very good at what it did without really looking at the details.  The concession is made easily enough because most of us learned in history class that the Romans conquered a great deal of territory, and we infer, without really thinking about it much, that in order to do this, they must have been reasonably competent.  The details are important, though.  Sometimes, one gets the idea that people think the Romans only had to deal with barbaric, unorganized thugs, here and there–as if they never defeated other standing armies of significant ability.  But this, they did.  In other words, they were highly skilled warriors with a great deal of experience, and when one begins to delve into just how skilled they were, and how deep their experience it was, the fact that they were on duty over Jesus’ dead body heightens the question as to how it could have possibly gone missing.

Roman historians themselves have provided us with ample descriptions of their armies at work.  We will touch on a handful of examples that are particularly relevant to guard duty, but it is worth pointing out that death was a very common solution to any number of perceived deficiencies, and this includes infractions such as falling asleep on guard duty.

A 1928 academic work by Dr. George W. Currie titled The Military Discipline of the Romans from the Founding of the City to the Close of the Republic systematically lists all examples of infractions recorded in a wide variety of sources, groups them by periods, and describes what the consequences were.  One of his basic conclusions is that the Romans were extremely severe upon their own soldiers throughout their rule.

Salient examples include an instance in 390 BC when some Roman guards were asleep on duty and the Citadel of Rome was attacked;  the particular guard at fault was subsequently thrown from a cliff.  In 322/295 BC, two legions yielded their post.  Men were selected from the offenders by lot, and put to death.  In 280/271, guards were scourged and beheaded, and their bodies dishonored.  In 205 BC, guards allowed items to be stolen from a temple.  They had to pay back the value of the items two-fold, or else be put to death.  A similar consequence was put upon the guards that allowed two ships to be captured.  In 39 BC, two centuries (presumably about 200 men) failed to prevent a lieutenant and his men from being ambushed.  The consequence was decimation:  every tenth man was counted off, and the selected men were put to death.

In 4 out of the 6 examples that Currie documented, death was inflicted upon the deficient guards.  In the other 2, death was right around the corner.

One can begin to see why a Roman guard (and soldier in general) would want to do his very best.  If he was lucky, his incompetence would merely result in his dishonorable discharge.  More likely, he would die.

It was already mentioned in the main article that Herod put to death all 16 of the guards in charge of keeping Peter in prison (Acts 12:4).  It was apparently a common practice that remained well known and in place up to and through the time of Jesus.

The Roman historian Polybius gives us one of the most thorough accounts of the Roman’s military discipline, and we are benefited by the fact that he takes time to specifically detail the duties of the ‘night watch,’ and, importantly, consequences of failure.  Here is the relevant portion:

 The way in which they secure the passing round of the watchword for the night is as follows:  from the tenth maniple of each class of infantry and cavalry, the maniple which is encamped at the lower end of the street, a man is chosen who is relieved from guard duty, and he attends every day at sunset at the tent of the tribune, and receiving from him the watchword — that is a wooden tablet with the word inscribed on it — takes his leave, and on returning to his quarters passes on the watchword and tablet before witnesses to the commander of the next maniple, who in turn passes it to the one next him. All do the same until it reaches the first maniples, those encamped near the tents of the tribunes. These latter are obliged to deliver the tablet to the tribunes before dark.  So that if all those issued are returned, the tribune knows that the watchword has been given to all the maniples, and has passed through all on its way back to him.  If any one of them is missing, he makes inquiry at once, as he knows by the marks from what quarter p349the tablet has not returned, and whoever is responsible for the stoppage meets with the punishment he merits.

 They manage the night guards thus:  The maniple on duty there guards the consul and his tent, while the tents of the tribunes and the troops of horse are guarded by the men appointed from each maniple in the manner I explained above.  Each separate body likewise appoints a guard of its own men for itself.  The remaining guards are appointed by the Consul; and there are generally three pickets at the quaestorium and two at the tents of each of the legates and members of the council.  The whole outer face of the camp is guard by the velites, who are posted every day along the vallum — this being the special duty assigned to them — and ten of them are on guard at each entrance.  Of those appointed to picket duty, the man in each maniple who is to take the first watch is brought to the tribune in the evening by one of the optiones of his company.  The tribune gives them all little tablets, one for each station, quite small, with a sign written on them and on receiving this they leave for the posts assigned to them.

 The duty of going the rounds is entrusted to the cavalry. The first praefect of cavalry in each legion must give orders early in the morning to one of his optiones to send notice before breakfast to four lads of his own squadron who will be required to go the rounds.  The same man must also give notice in the evening to the praefect of the next squadron that he must make arrangements for going the rounds on the following day.  This praefect, on receiving the notice, must take precisely the same steps on the next day; and so on through all the squadrons. The four men chosen by the optiones from the first squadron, after drawing lots for their respective watches, go to the tribune and get written orders from him stating what stations they are to visit and at what time.  After that all four of them go and station themselves next the first maniple of the triarii, for it is the duty of the centurion of this maniple to have a bugle sounded at the beginning of each watch.  When this time comes, the man to whom the first watch fell by lot makes his rounds accompanied by some friends as witnesses.  He visits the posts mentioned in his orders, not only those near the vallum and the gates, but the pickets also of the infantry maniples and cavalry squadrons.  If he finds the guards of the first watch awake he receives their tessera, but if he finds that anyone is asleep or has left his post, he calls those with him to witness the fact, and proceeds on his rounds.  Those who go the rounds in the succeeding watches act in a similar manner.  As I said, the charge of sounding a bugle at the beginning of each watch, so that those going the rounds may visit the different stations at the right time, falls on the centurions of the first maniple of the triarii in each legion, who take it by turns for a day.

 Each of the men who have gone the rounds brings back the tesserae at daybreak to the tribune. If they deliver them all they are suffered to depart without question;  but if one of them delivers fewer than the number of stations visited, they find out from examining the signs on the tesserae which station is missing, and on ascertaining this the tribune calls the centurion of the maniple and he brings before him the men who were on picket duty, and they are confronted with the patrol. If the fault is that of the picket, the patrol makes matters clear at once by calling the men who had accompanied him, for he is bound to do this; but if nothing of the kind has happened, the fault rests on him. A court-martial composed of all the tribunes at once meets to try him, and if he is found guilty he is punished by the bastinado ( fustuarium).  This is inflicted as follows: The tribune takes a cudgel and just touches the condemned man with it,  after which all in the camp beat or stone him, in most cases dispatching him in the camp itself.  But even those who manage to escape are not saved thereby: impossible! for they are not allowed to return to their homes, and none of the family would dare to receive such a man in his house. So that those who have of course fallen into this misfortune are utterly ruined.  The same punishment is inflicted on the optio and on the praefect of the squadron, if they do not give the proper orders at the right time to the patrols and the praefect of the next squadron.  Thus, owing to the extreme severity and inevitableness of the penalty, the night watches of the Roman army are most scrupulously kept.

[SOURCE]

We will re-iterate what Polybius himself concluded as self-evident:  “Thus, owing to the extreme severity and inevitableness of the penalty, the night watches of the Roman army are most scrupulously kept.”

What applies to small groups, and guards on the night watch, is applied to large groups that ‘desert their posts’ in the form of ‘decimation.’

If the same thing ever happens to large bodies, and if entire maniples desert their posts when exceedingly hard pressed, the officers refrain from inflicting the bastinado or the death penalty on all, but find a solution of the difficulty which is both salutary and terror-striking.  The tribune assembles the legion, and brings up those guilty of leaving the ranks, reproaches them sharply, and finally chooses by lots sometimes five, sometimes eight, sometimes twenty of the offenders, so adjusting the number thus chosen that they form as near as possible the tenth part of those guilty of cowardice.  Those on whom the lot falls are bastinadoed mercilessly in the manner above described; the rest receive rations of barley instead of wheat and are ordered to encamp outside the camp on an unprotected spot.  As therefore the danger and dread of drawing the fatal lot affects all equally, as it is uncertain on whom it will fall; and as the public disgrace of receiving barley rations falls on all alike, this practice is that best calculated both the inspire fear and to correct the mischief.

When one now considers how detailed and thorough the Romans attended to the specific task of guarding themselves, and how severe the consequences were, we must conclude that it is highly implausible that the Roman guards could have fallen asleep at Jesus’ tomb.  We can also understand why, after it was clear that the body was gone, that they decidedly would not want to report this fact to their superiors.  Their only hope was that the Jews would protect them.  The alternative, literally, was death.  But would the Jews play ball?

The Jews were not inclined to be sympathetic to the Romans.  The idea of dead Roman soldiers must have been, in the main, a very pleasant one to turn about in one’s mind.  However, what if balanced against this highly desirable prospect was a very undesirable prospect, that Jesus’ followers would begin announcing to all that Jesus had risen from the dead?

Or, to put it differently:  if the Jewish leaders were the Roman guards’ only hope, it could also be said that the Roman soldiers were the Jewish leaders’ only hope.

To understand this tension more fully, and to better appreciate the reasoning behind the assertion that the Jews would not have entrusted Jesus’ tomb only to the Romans, we must now take some time to examine the relationship of these two peoples.

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Guards at the Tomb: The Romans and Jews: So (un)Happy Together

howmanyguardsEbook(this is the continuation of a series of essays discussing the number and make-up of the guards at Jesus’ tomb.  It can be purchased as an ebook, cover to the right.     Main essay | Previous section | Next section: Pilate Puts Jesus on Trial, the Jews put Pilate on Trial )

The Romans and Jews:  So (un)Happy Together

The region of Palestine had been conquered by one empire after another before the Romans finally took hold of it around 70 BC.  Indeed, going back even as far as the book of Exodus, we find that one of the roads through the region was called “The Way of the Kings,” presumably because this was the road that the kings marched their armies to war on their way to conquer something more important.  The Romans no doubt regretted taking possession of the area, as the occupants were irascible folks, constantly nipping at their heels, all of whom had the unfortunate belief that their own king’s arrival was imminent.

Unfortunately for the Romans, and the Greeks, and the Persians, and the Egyptians, and the [fill in the blank], Palestine had to be dealt with if one wished to conquer the world.  If you look at a map, you will understand why.  To the east of the region is a vast wilderness and desert.  If Greece wanted to attack Egypt, they had to go through Palestine.  If Egypt wanted to attack Persia, they had to go through Palestine.  So on and so forth.  You get the picture;  it was the Way of the Kings for a reason:  it was the only way for the kings..  Studying a map of the area would be a good idea at this point.

Detailing the troubled relations between the Romans and the Jews would take a book to accomplish, but focusing on Pontius Pilate’s rule over the Jews is a suitable snapshot, especially as it has bearing on Jesus’ death and resurrection, since Pilate, of course, was the man on the scene.

Pilate was the governor of Judea from 26 AD to 36 AD.  In this ten years, he made few friends in the region.

The Jewish writer Philo in his “Embassy to Gaius” tells of many injustices done to the Jews by the Romans, but relates several specific stories about Pilate’s actions.

The first story involves Pilate having some shields with (innocent) inscriptions placed in Herod’s palace, in Jerusalem.  This outraged the Jews, who were steadfastly opposed to such things.  Pilate is described as a man of a very inflexible disposition, and very merciless as well as very obstinate.”

The Jews at last threaten to send a letter to Tiberius, and Pilate, fearing they might actually follow through on their threat, and so expose Pilate “with respect to other particulars of his government, in respect to his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity.”

This gives you a flavor of how Philo the Jew perceived Pilate.  In the end, Pilate sent the letter himself rather than let the Jews send it;  The Emperor’s response is reported to be less than happy with Pilate;  Pilate removes the shields.

Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells of some other conflicts between Pilate and the Jews.

In one of them, Pilate again brings images into Jerusalem.  The people are outraged and appeal to him.  When Pilate refuses to have them removed, “they fell down prostrate upon the ground, and continued immovable in that posture for five days and as many nights.”  What happens next is best told in full:

On the next day Pilate sat upon his tribunal, in the open market-place, and called to him the multitude, as desirous to give them an answer; and then gave a signal to the soldiers, that they should all by agreement at once encompass the Jews with their weapons; so the band of soldiers stood round about the Jews in three ranks. The Jews were under the utmost consternation at that unexpected sight. Pilate also said to them that they should be cut in pieces, unless they would admit of Caesar’s images, and gave intimation to the soldiers to draw their naked swords. Hereupon the Jews, as it were at one signal, fell down in vast numbers together, and exposed their necks bare, and cried out that they were sooner ready to be slain, than that their law should be transgressed. Hereupon Pilate was greatly surprised at their prodigious superstition, and gave order that the ensigns should be presently carried out of Jerusalem.

At this point, one might feel like they could describe the relationship between Pilate and the Jews as an immovable wall meeting an unstoppable force, except for the fact that Pilate does, in the end, relent.

Josephus proceeds immediately then to tell the story of Pilate raiding the temple treasury to pay for aqueducts.  This time when the Jews showed up to protest,

“he mixed his own soldiers in their armor with the multitude, and ordered them to conceal themselves under the habits of private men, and not indeed to use their swords, but with their staves to beat those that made the clamor. He then gave the signal from his tribunal [to do as he had bidden them]. Now the Jews were so sadly beaten, that many of them perished by the stripes they received, and many of them perished as trodden to death by themselves; by which means the multitude was astonished at the calamity of those that were slain, and held their peace.”

So, that time, the immovable wall held fast.  Eventually, Pilate’s violent and aggressive tactics would lead to his dismissal.  Josephus recounts that Pilate slaughtered some Samaritans (a group of people living in Palestine), who then complained to the governor of Syria, who in turn sent Pilate to Rome.  Little is known about Pilate’s fate after this, but it is against this brutal pattern of behavior and disregard and contempt for the Jews that we must now consider the story of Jesus’ trial and the guarding of the tomb.

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Guards at the Tomb: Pilate puts Jesus on Trial, the Jews put Pilate on Trial

howmanyguardsEbook(this is the continuation of a series of essays discussing the number and make-up of the guards at Jesus’ tomb. It can be purchased as an ebook, cover to the right.    Main essay | Previous section | Next section:  The Presence of Jewish Guards at the Tomb )

Pilate puts Jesus on Trial, the Jews put Pilate on Trial

In light of the foregoing, many skeptics have pointed to the nearly docile Pontius Pilate of the Gospel accounts as proof positive that they cannot possibly reflect real history.  The character and demeanor of the Pilate that Jesus met is nothing like the character and demeanor of the Pilate of Philo and Josephus.  The possibility that Pilate’s radical transformation–for a brief few days–is a testament to the over-awing impression that meeting Jesus–the creator of both the immovable wall and the unstoppable force–has on someone doesn’t cross their minds.

Which version you prefer seems to depend on what degree you’re willing to take the documents on their face–all of them, Philo, Josephus, and the Gospels–or rather assume that the Gospels are guilty until proven innocent (which they cannot believe can even conceivably be done).  Nonetheless, there may be some threads in the Gospel narratives that might take on new significance given the brief history we’ve sketched of Pontius Pilate using extra-biblical sources… and in doing so, add credibility to the Gospel accounts.  Perhaps it is the same man being described, after all.

At any rate, with this background in mind, can you see now why it would have been extraordinarily unlikely that the Jews would not have wanted to have some of their own men present at the tomb?  On the one hand, they might be saying, “If this man is reported risen from the dead, this will be worse than it already is!” but on the other hand they would be saying, “I wouldn’t put it past Pilate to try something to make our lives miserable!”

In the Gospel accounts, this tension between the two parties is clear, even in the sections where Pilate is putting Jesus on trial.

Indeed, in the Gospel of Luke, where Pilate will later come off as timid as in the other Gospels, we read the account of Pilate having the blood of Galileans mixed with their own sacrifices, and the question put to Jesus whether or not they had sinned enough to deserve such treatment (Luke 13:1).  Pilate is a horrible, bloodthirsty guy, who is stubborn to boot.  But it is the Jews and their leadership he detests the most.  He would love to let Jesus go free, even if only to spite the men he hates.  Actually meeting Jesus, though, seems to compel him to look beyond his own petulance.

In Matthew 27:18, the text indicates that Pilate knew exactly what the Jewish leader’s real motive was:  envy.  Pilate tries to evade the issue by sending Jesus to Herod, but this does not work.  Then Pilate attempts a ploy whereby Barabbas is set against Jesus by comparison;  presumably, Pilate expects the Jews to be very familiar with Barabbas.  Perhaps Barabbas is in prison to begin with because the Jews had requested it.  Pilate fails in this ploy, too.  Finally, Pilate has Jesus flogged, hoping that with blood now being shed, the Jews will relent (John 19:1-5).

Pilate is a stubborn man who, as we’ve already seen, is perfectly willing to play things out to the end in order to get what he wants.  But the immovable wall is about to meet the unstoppable force one more time.

Having fully established in his own mind that he was going to do everything in his power to have Jesus released, the Jews now spring their trap:

“If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.  Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)

We will now recall how the Jews have already previously threatened to tattle on Pilate, and Philo’s account of how Pilate’s attempt to circumvent this by sending his own letter to his superiors ended up with him in hot water, and having to remove the shields from Jerusalem.  The Samaritans actually will succeed in having Pilate removed by sending complaints to Pilate’s superior.  This is no idle threat the Jews are making, and the possible consequences to him (ie, exile or death) are not imagined.  Pilate knows all this.  Pilate recognizes precisely what the Jews mean by their suggestion that he would not be “Caesar’s friend.”

But the really amazing statement comes from a series of subtexts set in motion by the intimation of ‘someone making themselves a king.’  Pilate is now perhaps at his wits end, but desires to tweak the Jews.  He brings Jesus to the Stone Pavement for all to see, and declares, “Behold your King!”  To this, the Jews scream that Jesus is to be crucified.  Pilate says, “Shall I crucify your king?”  To this, the Jews make this truly startling retort:  “We have no king but Caesar!”

Skeptics have scoffed at the change of personality that Pilate seems to have undergone, but failed to observe the change of personality of the Jews.  These are the same people who laid down for five days rather than tolerate images from entering their holy city.  They are the same people who rioted with the presence of shields graced merely with writing on them.  They are the same people who rioted when Pilate paid for an aqueduct out of the temple treasury, and paid for it with their lives.  They are the same people with zealots running around assassinating various Roman officials.  They are the same people swearing extreme devotion to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  They are the same people fervently expecting their own king, who will throw off the yoke of all oppressors, and finally establish a kingdom that will not end.

It is these people who now say that they have no king but Caesar.

When Pilate hears this, he knows that his foes have completely left the reservation.  They have totally sold out on all of their principles and beliefs, and they had already shown that they were ready to die for those principles and beliefs.  If one was willing to die for the one set of principles, what might they do for the other principles, that apparently are superior to the former principles?

The unstoppable force wins again, because there truly is nothing that will stop them from their goal of having Jesus killed.  Jesus could very well have been God and their rightful king, but the Jewish leaders in the final analysis cared little about that.  It was their own power they wished to secure, and their own skins they wished to save.

The unstoppable force may have gained its primary objective, but the unmovable wall is not finished.  He decrees that a sign be fixed to Jesus’ cross declaring Jesus to be the king of the Jews in three languages.  The Jews don’t like to be needled:  they ask for the inscription to be re-written for ‘accuracy.’  Pilate is pleased they are annoyed.  He retorts:  “What I have written I have written.”  It’s a small victory, but Pilate is the sort of man who will take any victory rather than no victories.

When Jesus dies and Joseph of Arimathea comes to ask for Jesus’ body, Pilate is pleased to grant his request.  When the Jews heard about it, they could not have been very happy.  Their ‘request’ is laced again with the subtext of contempt that Pilate and the Jews shared for each other:  “lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”  And the first fraud was of Jesus’ claim to be king–a proposition that already drove the Jews to threaten to take the matter to Caesar.  The unstoppable force wins again;  it would prove to be its last victory.

The Gospel accounts, far from showing themselves contradictory to history in regards to the real nature and character of Pilate and his relationship to the Jews, are actually extraordinarily consistent with those things.  Pilate and the Jews are at each other’s throats throughout the exchanges, with each trying to get under the other’s skin.  With this as the context, can we imagine the Jews would want to have the Roman guards at the tomb without having their own officers present?  It seems unfathomable.

The Jews seem to end with the upper hand, but it backfires miserably.  By ensuring that Roman guards are present at the tomb in sizable numbers, when the body of Jesus does actually go missing, their explanation that the disciples stole the body seems weak and pathetic.  After all, if we can ascertain today how dangerous it was for a Roman guard to fall asleep at their post, how common and well known was it at that time, for people who actually lived under the Roman thumb?

This alone is enough to explain why the other account, that Jesus had actually rose from the dead, spread like wildfire, and the idea that the disciples stole the body became a mere footnote to the story.

However, the presence of Jewish guards at the scene would have also eliminated another possibility:  that Pilate had been up to shenanigans.

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Guards at the Tomb: Evidence of Jewish Guards at Jesus Tomb

howmanyguardsEbook(this is the continuation and the conclusion of a series of essays discussing the number and make-up of the guards at Jesus’ tomb.  It can be purchased as an ebook, cover to the right.  Main essay | Previous section: Pilate Puts Jesus on Trial, the Jews put Pilate on Trial)

The Presence of Jewish Guards at the Tomb

It has been maintained that both Jewish and Roman guards were present at the tomb.  It was shown at length that Roman guards were present, and some evidence presented that describes how Romans went about such work.  In my opinion, the arguments already presented encompassed sufficient reasons for believing that men under the service of the elders and chief priests were at the tomb.

To reprise:

1. The Gospel of Peter (70-160 AD) has both Roman soldiers and representatives of the elders and scribes at the tomb throughout the entire event–see verses 9.4 and 10.1.  The passage continues to place the Jewish leaders at the scene, having them actually with the centurion, and they themselves personally going to Pilate to ‘smooth things over.’

2. The so-called “Report of Pilate to the Emperor Claudius” explicitly puts both parties together:  “…and they crucified him, and when he was buried they set guards upon him.  But while my soldiers watched him he rose again on the third day.”

3.    The Gospel of Nicodemus/Acts of Pilate (c. 200-350 AD) says, “And while they were still sitting in the synagogue, and wondering about Joseph, there come some of the guard whom the Jews had begged of Pilate to guard the tomb of Jesus, that His disciples might not come and steal Him” and later in the same, “And [the Jews] crucified him, and set guards over him when buried. And he rose again on the third day, while my soldiers were keeping guard.”

All three of these documents explicitly put both Roman and Jewish guards at the scene, and implicitly have them all involved in the affair throughout.  I have already argued in the main article that this is implicit in the Gospels, too.

However, it might be said after all this that the Jews did not actually have their own armed men.  This can be refuted pretty easily as a general contention, but to keep it in the context of the event under discussion, we will point out that while it may be true they didn’t have their own soldiers, the elders did have their own armed officers, and they did make appearances in Jesus ‘final days.’

When Judas moved to betray Jesus, he led a cohort (‘speira’, so possibly a band of Roman soldiers) and “officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees”, equipped with lanterns, torches and weapons (John 18:3).

The word for ‘officers’ is ‘huparetas’, which according to Thayer’s lexicon, means:

servant an underrower, subordinate rower any one who serves with hands: a servant in the NT of the officers and attendants of magistrates as — of the officer who executes penalties of the attendants of a king, servants, retinue, the soldiers of a king, of the attendant of a synagogue of any one ministering or rendering service any one who aids another in any work an assistant of the preacher of the gospel

Jesus confronts the chief priests and officers, plainly putting weapons in their hands, in Luke 22:52:  “Then Jesus said to the priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber?”  See also John 7:32-45 and 18:22

These officers are even present before Pilate, and seem to be among those calling for Jesus’ crucifixion:  “So when the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out saying, ‘Crucify him!  Crucify him!'”

So we see that there is a ready pool of armed men from which the chief priests could draw from right up to the very hours before Jesus’ burial.  For reasons already explained, and upon evidence already presented, it is very safe to believe that both Jewish and Roman guards were present at the tomb.  This being the case, when Jesus’ body goes missing, despite all these people watching it, one can understand why the argument that the disciples stole the body was seen immediately as ridiculous on its face, and why, when added to everything else, the other view was immediately accepted:  Jesus had truly risen from the dead.

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A Tale of Two Old People Who No Longer Contribute to Society

With ‘Quality Adjusted Life Years’ and other such criteria for determining when to spend money on old people right around the corner (if not already here… *ahem* IPAB *ahem*), I found it ironic to see these two news items running at the same time today:

When the 87-year-old resident of Glenwood Gardens collapsed at the facility around 11 a.m. Tuesday, a staff member called 911 but refused to give the woman CPR, Bakersfield television station ABC23 reported Friday. … In refusing the 911 dispatcher’s insistence that she perform CPR, the nurse can be heard telling the dispatcher that it was against the retirement facility’s policy to perform CPR. … An ambulance arrived several minutes after the call and took the woman to a hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.  [source]

Compared to:

The Queen is in hospital as a precaution, while she is assessed for symptoms of gastroenteritis, Buckingham Palace says. The 86-year-old monarch has been taken to King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, a palace spokesman said. She was driven to hospital in a private car on Sunday afternoon. The palace said she was “in good spirits”. … Prime Minister David Cameron sent his “best wishes” to the Queen, adding in a tweet: “I hope she makes a speedy recovery.”  A spokesman for the Queen said she was in “good health”,  … He said: “This is a precautionary measure.  [source]

I suppose someone will say that the Queen still serves a purpose, being Queen and all.  Anyway, I thought the whole underlying ‘mood’ of each story was quite fascinating.  In one case, the woman has to wait for an ambulance in an institution that apparently has a policy specifically preventing CPR.  In the other case, action was taken before there was a serious problem, as a ‘precautionary measure.’

I see in this a cautionary tale:  universal health care is supposed to help the poor, but in this we greatly deceive ourselves.  In truth, the more likely scenario is that people of less means than that vastly rich will be given the royal treatment:  their eating habits closely scrutinized, with shaming techniques employed if they are too fat, their soft drink portions carefully monitored, their exercise amounts diligently charted, their drinking habits dutifully studied by–completely well meaning–public health officials doing everything in their power to compassionately allocate scarce medical resources.   Oh yes, the poor people will get the very best of care.

In the meantime, the rich will be the only ones able to get the actual care that they need, and treated with the dignity that all people deserve (ie, not assuming they ought to kick off for the common good).

Instead of ensuring that medical care is affordable to everyone, some folks insist on implementing and fueling a bloated beast of a system that kills and eats the weak and makes medical care extremely unaffordable for all but a few.  Ironically, it is a deep hatred and contempt for ‘evil rich people’ that drives much of the support for such initiatives, but in the end, they are producing a system where only the ‘evil rich people’ will have access to the care, compassion, and respect that all are entitled to.  At any rate, it will be the poor that are micro-managed practically to death, and the poor who will have to stand in line… or wait for the ‘bus.’

Cuz pretty soon, it won’t just be private institutions that have policies specifically preventing CPR and any number of treatments we don’t want to waste on those who have already lived their lives.

Way to go, dupes.

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This one goes out to Stathei

Solidarity, brother, solidarity.

solidarityfist2

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New Apologetics App from Athanatos Ministries/Sntjohnny

ACM-APP-512x512Athanatos Christian Ministries is the formal name of the ministry behind Sntjohnny.com.  We’ve got a big announcement.  With the help of the app innovators at Page Foundry, you can now get apologetics related content delivered to your Droid device, all in one place.

Get real time updates from apologetics blogs, twitter feeds, and Facebook pages from apologists such as Brian Auten at Apologetics315, Greg West at The Poached Egg, Roger and MaryJo Sharp of Confident Christianity, Ravi Zacharias, the folks at Stand to Reason, the Discovery Institute, the Christian Apologetics Alliance, and of course Athanatos Ministries.

For those who love ebooks, not only can you find Athanatos Ministry’s available Ebook catalog, but the catalogs of every major publisher of Christian apologetics works, as well.

There is no cost.  The app is free.   Just browse your way to Google Play, searching for the term ‘Athanatos‘ or clicking here.

Learn more, here:  The Christian Apologetics App.

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Progressives Will be the Death of the Republic, Democracy, and Freedom

I really believe that Progressives will be the death of the United States, the Republic, the democratic process, and freedom itself.  I also doubt very much that the Progressives intend this, know that their positions will result in this, or, when tyranny is upon us, have any notion whatsoever their their beliefs, behaviors, attitude, and conduct, had anything to do with it.

This latter contention is borne out from actual history:  the Nazis merely acted on all of the things that the Progressives in America and England had been saying, and trying to act on, for decades;  afterwards, they were shocked–genuinely shocked–at the outcome, but, like a dog that returns to its vomit, once the Holocaust Hang-over was forgotten, they quickly returned to the same thinking, strategies, and behaviors.   They are quite sure that this time the results will be much different.

I realize that this is quite a damning thing to say, and ought to be defended.  I have been doing just that for many years on this blog, though, and this particular post is not the place for that.  However, if you would like it in a single document, you could look at my ‘Roots and Fruits‘ publication, lately released.  I led off this way in order to set up a couple of recent news items.

First, let’s take this news story detailing a piece of legislation that would have made owners of ‘assault weapons’ submit to searches of their homes on an annual basis to verify they are complying with the law.  A couple of quotes from the article:

“They always say, we’ll never go house to house to take your guns away. But then you see this, and you have to wonder.”

That’s no gun-rights absolutist talking, but Lance Palmer, a Seattle trial lawyer and self-described liberal who brought the troubling Senate Bill 5737 to my attention. It’s the long-awaited assault-weapons ban, introduced last week by three Seattle Democrats.

Palmer continues,

In other words, [Police can come] into homes without a warrant to poke around. Failure to comply could get you up to a year in jail.

“I’m a liberal Democrat — I’ve voted for only one Republican in my life,” Palmer told me. “But now I understand why my right-wing opponents worry about having to fight a government takeover.”

He added: “It’s exactly this sort of thing that drives people into the arms of the NRA.”

I have been blasting the NRA for its paranoia in the gun-control debate. But Palmer is right — you can’t fully blame them, when cops going door-to-door shows up in legislation.

 Interesting.  You can’t fully blame the NRA and those ‘fleeing into their arms.’  The NRA is needlessly paranoid… except they aren’t, really.  But I would call your attention to the shock of the article’s author, and that of Lance Palmer, ‘self-described liberal’, that something like this could be really proposed by people of their mindset.  I believe the word you’re looking for here is, “Duh.”   The culprit responsible for inserting this phrase into the legislation is an unnamed staffer, but it doesn’t really matter who it is.  Since liberalism is essentially a movement of good intentioned emotions rather than reality-bound principles, as we see in this case, you can find one particular liberal that finds an idea shocking and borderline tyrannical but another liberal perfectly prepared to propose that very thing.

So, one particular liberal assures me that “he’s not coming for my guns” and I’m supposed to be comforted–as if he’s the only liberal in power, or the only one who will ever be in power, or that ‘unnamed staffers’ don’t have ways to push their various agendas.  One liberal snorts that gun confiscation will never happen, another actively pushes it.  Then liberals have the audacity to accuse the other side of being paranoid, and is shocked when their fellow liberals cross the line.  Shocked.  Just shocked.

In another news item, we find out that some Obama voters voted more than once in one particular jurisdiction.  Now, I think many conservatives these days find such stories to be par for the course.  Personally, I suspect that quite a few elections have been stolen by Democrats just within the time period I’ve been paying attention, and I think the 2012 presidential election could very well have been one of them.  It is not so difficult to suspect, given the mindset of those who tend to support Obama.  You see, one of the essential characteristics of a person of a Progressive mindset is the view that the ends really do justify the means.  This was was one of Saul Alinsky’s main points in his ‘Rules for Radicals’, and of course Obama totally subscribes to Alinksy’s views, along with a lot of liberals in leadership today.

To put it plainly, if you know that having Obama as president absolutely must happen, then breaking the law to make this happen is not really a bad thing.  It is “no big deal.”  What is the ‘law’?  Just words on a page:  “This is our country. We live in it, and we have a right to the kind of country we want.”

So, from the article:

“Yes, I voted twice,” Richardson told WCPO-TV. “I, after registering thousands of people, certainly wanted my vote to count, so I voted. I voted at the polls.”

Authorities also are investigating if she voted in the names of four other people, too, for a total of six votes in the 2012 presidential election.

“I’ll fight it for Mr. Obama and for Mr. Obama’s right to sit as president of the United States,” Richardson vowed when asked about the voter fraud investigation that is now under way.

[…]

“There was absolutely no intent on my part to commit any voter fraud,” she insisted.

Well, of course.  It isn’t voter fraud if it is for a good cause.  This is our country.  We live in it.  We have a right to the kind of country we want.  We should not allow people who died over two centuries ago and knew nothing of our country as it exists today. If we are to take back our own country, we have to start making decisions for ourselves, and stop deferring to an ancient and outdated document.

Voter fraud, said Husted, “undermines public confidence in democracy, and that’s why we need, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, to root out all cases of voter fraud.”

But democracy is actually the problem.  That’s what many Democrats actually think.  You can’t let democracy and the democratic process stand in the way of the “nation’s health.”

Why is anyone surprised when people with this mindset bend or break the rules?  What are rules and laws anyway?  They have nothing to do with real life.

Waitasec.  Back the truck up.  One vote per person is ‘outdated’?  Well, that was the idea of the founders, was it not?  You happen to like that particular idea?  But for a good cause, wouldn’t you jettison it?  Melowese Richardson had no problem doing so, and since she had good intentions, it was not ‘voter fraud.’   No one is advocating that we get rid of one vote-one person as a vestige of our ‘ancient and outdated’ Constitution, right?

No one thinks like that, right?  Wrong.  It might not be the ‘one vote-one person’ principle considered expendable, but the general principle is widespread among liberals.  And not just low level folks like Richardson, either.  I actually quoted a law professor, without the “”, to sum up the perspective.  Let’s get him out for our consideration:

I’ve got a simple idea: Let’s give up on the Constitution. I know, it sounds radical, but it’s really not. Constitutional disobedience is as American as apple pie. For example, most of our greatest Presidents — Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson, and both Roosevelts — had doubts about the Constitution, and many of them disobeyed it when it got in their way.

To be clear, I don’t think we should give up on everything in the Constitution. The Constitution has many important and inspiring provisions, but we should obey these because they are important and inspiring, not because a bunch of people who are now long-dead favored them two centuries ago. Unfortunately, the Constitution also contains some provisions that are not so inspiring. For example, one allows a presidential candidate who is rejected by a majority of the American people to assume office. Suppose that Barack Obama really wasn’t a natural-born citizen. So what? Constitutional obedience has a pernicious impact on our political culture. Take the recent debate about gun control. None of my friends can believe it, but I happen to be skeptical of most forms of gun control. I understand, though, that’s not everyone’s view, and I’m eager to talk with people who disagree.

But what happens when the issue gets Constitutional-ized? Then we turn the question over to lawyers, and lawyers do with it what lawyers do. So instead of talking about whether gun control makes sense in our country, we talk about what people thought of it two centuries ago. Worse yet, talking about gun control in terms of constitutional obligation needlessly raises the temperature of political discussion. Instead of a question on policy, about which reasonable people can disagree, it becomes a test of one’s commitment to our foundational document and, so, to America itself.

This is our country. We live in it, and we have a right to the kind of country we want. We would not allow the French or the United Nations to rule us, and neither should we allow people who died over two centuries ago and knew nothing of our country as it exists today. If we are to take back our own country, we have to start making decisions for ourselves, and stop deferring to an ancient and outdated document.

Don’t like some parts of the Constitution?  Just jettison those parts, then.  “Constitutional disobedience is as American as apple pie.”  Talking about gun control in terms of the Constitution “needlessly raises the temperature of political discussion.”  Why should we be shackled by the views of those who died over two centuries ago?  Interpreted:  let’s just pretend the second amendment doesn’t exist, and those who find that idea outrageous should lighten up.

One particular liberal’s part of the Constitution he doesn’t like is the second amendment.  Richardson’s part she doesn’t like is the idea of ‘one person-one voter.’  She’s just engaging in ‘Constitutional disobedience.’  Besides, the idea of ‘one person-one vote’ is probably much older than the Constitution.  If the Constitution is so old it can be simply tossed, surely this provision, which predates it, can be tossed.

And that idea bout Obama not being a natural-born citizen?  Who cares.  It’s just the law.  (Note to Progressives:  I would not suggest admitting that Obama is not a natural-born citizen until after all the guns are confiscated.)

People with views like this are in power throughout the land and they are put there by folks like Richardson and others willing to sacrifice the rule of law in the name of progress.

What could possibly go wrong?

What is there to be paranoid about?

What do you have to fear about giving up your guns?  People are civilized today:  with Progressives in charge, we’ll all be nice and safe.  They’ll be able to act quickly when the next ‘good cause’ emerges, because they are not beholden to the law, even if they do write it.

This can’t end well.  And when it does end in tyranny–and I’m pretty sure it will, although I don’t know when exactly–it will be because of dolts like those I just featured in this blog post who created the conditions and actually carried out the acts that facilitated it.  And when it happens, they’ll look around, surprised, “How did this happen?  This isn’t what I had in mind!  I had good intentions!  This foul result has nothing to do with anything that I did… put me in power again and I’ll do it right this time…”

Dear God, I hope for our sake that this time the American public will do no such thing.

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The Conquest of America by the Culture of Death and My Efforts to Fight Back

About a year ago, I was sitting across from a fellow who was asking me about my life with my daughter, diagnosed with spina bifida, and our decision not to abort her.  He respected our ‘choice’, although did express concern about her impending ‘life of suffering.’  We talked about that for a bit, as I sensed that his initial statements in support of being ‘pro-choice’ were incomplete.  “Should people be compelled to abort disabled children?” I asked.  Of course not, he said.  We talked more, and the next thing I know he is saying that we need abortion and birth control because otherwise there will be to many people on the planet.

I begin with this anecdote because it is this sort of slippery reasoning that has made me deeply concerned about the direction America is going.  In one breath, abortion on demand is promoted as a women’s rights issue, and being against it constitutes a ‘war on women.’  In the next breath, people who who were just advocating for a woman’s ‘choice’ argue that in some cases, women should be compelled to get abortions. Huh?

The truth is that this gentleman was sincere and earnest, even if he was muddle-minded.  It was my determination that policy makers and legislators and organizations such as Planned Parenthood are lying about their real arguments and motives that drove me to launch a new initiative:  the Policy Intersections Research Center.

Bottom line:  money drives the culture of death.  True–and yet there are philosophical and ideological reasons for why this is the case.  Sometimes this is recognized, sometimes it isn’t.   One of the purposes of PIRC is to bring the ‘roots’ of these issues to the surface, because, like a weed, unless the whole thing is pulled out, little is ultimately gained.  I have been working on raising public awareness but also have connected with legislators and their staffers to urge them to see beyond the policy to the philosophy that drives it.  Last week I was in Washington DC, and one of the things I did was connect with pro-life organizations and advocacy groups in an attempt to make the same point.

To this end, I have written a book–more like a magazine, really–called “Roots and Fruits:  The Conquest of America by the Culture of Death.”  It is a survey and introduction to these issues, and I think people will be startled to hear, in their own words, what people have said in the past–and what they are saying today, even at the highest levels of the Obama administration.

As implied, I would submit that the culture of death is already well entrenched in America (and elsewhere, of course).  In order to reverse course, we must look beyond particular issues, even important and significant ones, like abortion on demand, to the common principles that drive them all.  Ultimately, these principles must be repudiated for anything to really change.  To put it another way:  I doubt very much we will be able to end abortion on demand if we leave intact the principles and philosophies that brought it in the first place.  And these principles are present in other places:  euthanasia, health care, bioethics, and population control.

abortion and apologeticsIn my reflections on my trip to DC I noted the pro-choice, pro-abortion woman who justified her position in part based on the fact that there was no God.  I thought it was interesting, because people don’t usually admit that.  It confirms one of my own observations:  what one believes about God will have direct bearing on what one believes about Man.

To help make this point, ACM’s fourth annual online apologetics conference is going to focus this year on the connection between one’s Christian faith (or lack thereof) and their view on life issues.  Apologetics is usually framed as a defense of the Christian faith, but this conference will extend it further, arguing that a defense of the faith is also a defense of life:  Man is not disposable tissue generated and discarded by mindless, evolutionary processes.  Mankind is made in the image of God, and every man, woman, and child, is precious in his sight.  PIRC is a sponsor of this conference.  I hope to ‘see’ you there.

life unworthy of lifeThe ‘Roots and Fruits’ book begins about 200 years ago, but another PIRC project is more recent, and remains disturbingly relevant.  PIRC commissioned a new translation of “Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life.”  This book was written by a German lawyer and a German doctor in 1920, and argued that there were some lives that we were permitted to kill–indeed, obligated to kill.  Anyone knowledgeable in contemporary conversations in bioethics and healthcare will recognize their arguments, because the same arguments are being made today.  The doctors of the Third Reich utilized Binding and Hoche’s principles to launch the Holocaust, with the T4 Project as their stepping stone.   Does that trouble anyone today?  Are we different, because we have good intentions?  Does it matter that they had good intentions, too?

Next week, through ACM’s online academy of apologetics, I will be teaching a course called “Worldview Wars:  Why We Abort the Disabled.”  We start with that question and then slowly unravel the fact that the answer to that question answers others, such as why we ration healthcare and hear arguments for population control.  The course is online and fairly thorough.  I would encourage anyone looking to understand the history of the culture of death to take this course.  Only by understanding the ‘roots’ of these issues, can we identify the ‘fruits,’ and act accordingly.

I am available to speak and lecture on these issues.  Contact me at director@policyintersections.org

 

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Women in Combat, Men in Society

In the movie “I, Robot”, there is a scene in which Will Smith’s character is explaining what his beef is with robots.  Apparently, he was in a car accident that sent him and another vehicle, this one containing an eleven year old girl, careening into deep water.  A robot comes to their rescue;  seeing that it can’t save both, it makes a calculation about the relative value/worth/rescuability etc of the two individuals, and chooses to save the Will Smith character, who says, with bitterness, something to the effect, “It was the wrong choice.  A human would have known that.”  (If anyone can find a clip of this online, I’ll post it).

I was thinking of this scene when I heard that the Obama administration was going to allow women in combat.

Now, I suppose that there are many women who think that this is a fine thing.  A real advance for their gender, and so on and so forth.  I haven’t checked the blogosphere, but I don’t doubt it.  I think there are some who think its great but will choose not to avail themselves of the ‘opportunity.’  I think there are some women who think it is a bad idea, for reasons similar to the ones I’m about to mention.

You know, on the one hand, I kind of like the idea of having American women in the military and being allowed access to the full spectrum of military activities.  I think of the Amazon warriors, and I think to myself that it just makes sense that American women should be kick-ass.  In fact, many of the women in my Birth Pangs series are kick-ass.  (This is not gratuitous language;  this is probably the most accurate description of them.)  It is not so much what this decision says about women that has me thinking but what it says about men, and what their orientation towards women will be from it.

I was in Washington DC for the pro-life March and ran my concerns by a Marine I was visiting with.  I put before him this scenario:

Let’s say that a particular skirmish required sending soldiers into grave danger.  This seems to be a likely kind of thing to happen on a regular basis.  Would it matter, I wondered, to the officers, if the soldiers being sent possibly to their deaths were women, rather than men?

The Marine thought for a moment, and thought that probably the officer could overcome the (natural?) inclination to not want to send women to their likely death.

I think he is probably right, but I find that to be more unsettling than comforting.

 

Or consider another scenario:  Let’s say that by some stroke of misfortune there were two groups of soldiers suddenly thrust into deadly peril.  One group was composed of male soldiers and the other composed of female soldiers.  In the judgment of the soldiers coming to their rescue, only one group could be saved.    On the egalitarian basis that is driving this issue, I suppose that there would be no way to choose between the two groups.  My feeling is that if the male soldiers were saved, though, they would feel as the Will Smith character did, “It was the wrong choice.  A human would have known that.”

Ironically, this move which ostensibly elevates the status of women seems to me to potentially diminish the humanity of men and women alike.

The scenario I just described made me think of the Titanic, and the traditional virtue of “women and children first.”  On the modern, egalitarian basis, what grounds could there be for such a virtue?   Why should the life of a woman be considered of more value than a man’s?  And why choose the child over the adult?  Society has invested far more in the adult and would lose that investment it the adult died.  On the view that men and women are essentially interchangeable, surely whether or not we save one and not the other must be decided on other grounds, such as (and here I only produce examples proffered by people such as Ezekiel Emanuel and Cass Sunstein) their continued utility for society, how much society has invested in them to that point, how many quality adjusted life years they have left, and perhaps if their burden on society outweighs their productivity.  I’m just spit-balling here.  I’m sure that the real experts on measuring the relative worth of individual humans will be able to come up with some more refined policies.

And yet, I have the feeling that no matter how rationally such policies are applied, it will leave both men and women grappling with a hard to define, but definitely real, emptiness.  It will gnaw at their souls and breed discontent.   It is not that the woman’s life is of a higher value than the man’s, and that’s not what the man is thinking when he chooses to remain aboard the sinking ship so that the ‘women and children’ can go to safety.   It is in his nature to wish that if death comes upon him–as it inevitably will–at least it will be in the cause of saving some other person.  It may very well be that he might be able to blot out from his consideration the gender of the person he wishes to save, or die trying to save, but I strongly suspect that if he chooses the man, and not the woman, he will not be happy with himself.  And I think most men, if they are the one saved, while a woman or child was allowed to die, would be pissed.  Again, I’m not being gratuitous.  I think this accurately conveys how most men would feel.

I don’t think that the women being saved, while men die instead, feel that their lives are of a higher value, either.  It is evidently a distinct part of a woman’s human nature to resonate with being treated with dignity and respect–that is, like a lady.  If someone dies for them, it affirms that they are indeed precious, more precious than the most costly jewel.  I think I’ve only run across one or two that objected to me holding the door open for them.  I suspect that they might be able to rationally process the fact that their lives were of the same kind of value as a man’s, and so, when that man’s life was saved, and theirs forfeited, it made perfect, logical sense.  But I think they, too, would feel that in actuality, some kind of affront to reality as it really is, had been accosted.  And I doubt very much that if they chose a man or another woman to live, and allowed a child to die to save that man or woman, they would sleep very well at night.

Allowing women in combat seems to me like it could be a pyrrhic victory.  In seeking to elevate women to the status of men, it threatens to deprive both men and women of unique aspects of their humanity.   In seeking to elevate women, in this case I have the strong suspicion it will actually lower them, and with them, men.  It seems to me more of a victory for the bean counters, who would just love to pretend that men, women, and children, old and young, healthy and disabled, can be reduced to non-human factors such as their future utility and overall burden on society.

And that does not seem to me to be any kind of victory at all.   There is such a thing as getting exactly what you ask for, and not liking it very much once you have it.

 

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Reflections on the March for Life 2013

Actually, I’m not sure I have much time to share my multitude of reflections.  Instead, I shall show some pics and videos.

There were a LOT of people.  I wanted to catch the beginning of the march and had trouble finding it.  Interestingly, it almost felt like the march started on its own.  People were still speaking on the stage but I was so cold I felt I just had to MOVE or my feet would fall off.  Then I noticed that lots of others were doing the same.  I assume they were given the go ahead, but all I saw was a march spontaneously begin.


It was hard to get a spot where I could take a picture that would convey the sheer number of people who were there.  I found a bit of high ground. There were people as far as the eye could see in each direction, but bushes and shrubs and buildings concealed it.  Anyway, here was one attempt.

One of my favorite moments was when I stumbled across a small, lonely band of pro-abortionists courageously trying to make their point heard.  One presumes that the low turn out does not suggest waning support for their position.  Anyway, I had the sense that they had been trying to drown out the speakers (women who had abortions and now regretted it) because suddenly the pro-life multitudes around them would suddenly start yelling, drowning out the pro-abortionists.  It seems to me that this nonetheless had the effect of drowning out the speakers, but was still a morale booster to witness.  Here’s a bit of video of that:

  Some pics:

more-people-than-you-can-shake-a-stick-at lots-of-pro-life-protestors

I thought this picture was appropriate.  As every phrase in the first amendment is dismantled–as is presently underway–I expect that this will remain visible in an attempt to convince people that we still have these rights, even though we don’t.  Anyway, today at least we marched.

redressOfgreivances

I think there is some truth to this.get-serious more-people-than-you-can-shake-a-stick-at-2

Fortunately or unfortunately, while there may be symbolism in this, it doesn’t represent anything that is really the case.christian-flag-washington-DConly-the-appearance-of-justice

I looked very hard to find any counter-protestors.  Finally, at the end, I found some.  I thought about engaging them, but they were already trying to argue with a hundred people or so, each, so decided that they were well in hand.half-million-pro-lifers-meet-20-pro-abortionists

This is a brave, pro-choice lady.  Some guy came over and complimented her on her ‘pair of kahonas.’ Either she did not like that, or did not understand the compliment, or thought that this was one area where ‘equality’ wasn’t desirable, because all she did was frown slightly.  I never did discover the media outfit interviewing her.  I wanted to find out if they gave ‘equal time’ to both issues, which I thought in this case would be inappropriate.  They should get a proportional amount of attention, so about 20/500,000.  Perhaps 1 second of airtime?  Anyway, without knowing the outlet, I have no idea how they handled the coverage.

This lady was brave, but her arguments were incoherent.  Of particular note was her statement that her pro-choice perspective came from the fact that she didn’t believe in God, and that our pro-life perspective came from our belief in God;  naturally, that disqualifies us from having a public opinion.  She can say and do whatever she wants.  We should shut up and stay home:  ‘if you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one’ kind of an attitude.  I thought the fact that she drew such a tight connection between her atheism and her pro-abortion views was interesting, since so many Christian pro-choicers insist that there is no connection.  Who to believe, who to believe?  But see the last picture below…

brave-but-incoherent

So I guess it isn’t entirely a religious perspective… just that it is only permitted in the public sphere if it isn’t religious.  So, if the March for Life had been put on by secularists, I guess when the marchers met the pro-choice group, it would have been 20 pro-choicers merging and mingling with the 5 atheist pro-lifers.  I think I would have liked to see these tiny groups meet.

secular-pro-lifers

I’ll be addressing some of these issues at the 2013 online apologetics conference.

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