To become the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit the Man Jesus had to Die
There are some Christians who still have bad feelings towards Jews. Who they blame for killing their Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ. Even though Christ died for man’s sins. He knew the state was going to execute Him. But He did not try to save Himself. He accepted His fate. Because His death was preordained. It was all part of God’s plan. For Jesus’ ascension into heaven. To become the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit He had to die. And He had to be crucified. As horrible as that was. To give the religion that would follow their most sacred icon. The crucifix. Or cross for the non-Catholics.
God’s will was done. And because of it the Christians got a new religion. Based on the life and death of a Jew. The Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth. Which is why the Christian Bible includes the Old Testament. To include the Mosaic teachings that Christ Himself taught. So for Christians to hold a grudge against Judaism is illogical. Especially when the ultimate instrument of Jesus’ death was politics. Not religion.
The Jews lived under a Roman occupation. An uneasy Roman occupation. The Jews were a thorn in Rome’s side. As they were quite burdensome. With their not knuckling under as willingly as others. So to keep the peace they allowed the Jews to keep their religion. Or rather, they tolerated it. Something the high priests and Pharisees were very conscious of. And they didn’t want any trouble that would cause them to lose their privileges. Like this young whippersnapper coming around and riling up the masses. For they knew it wouldn’t take much for the Romans to lose their tolerance of them. And they especially didn’t like His way of not revering them. That especially cheesed them off. So the high priests and Pharisees went to the Romans and said this guy, Jesus, is calling Himself king of the Jews. Something they were sure would not please Caesar. Emperor of them all. Well, one thing led to another and they crucified Christ. Because of politics. Not Judaism.
Some of the Countries today enjoying the Greatest Liberties and Highest Standards of Living have a Christian Past
Jesus has done more to bring peace to the world than anyone else. The golden rule? It has done more to let people live peacefully together than any government law. It made people kind to each other. Instead of the brutes we once were. Religion civilized us. And Jesus did more than most to make that happen. Would that have happened if the Romans hadn’t crucified Him? Of course this is a moot question. For it was God’s will. What happened had to happen. And we are better off because it happened. (When people use religion to justify violence it’s a different story. The horrific wars between Catholics and Protestants had nothing to do with the golden rule. But people who in their zealotry forget the golden rule.)
Death by crucifixion was a long, painful death. People hung by their arms until they could hang no longer. Then they transferred their weight to their legs. Standing up. And this went on until death mercifully came. So Jesus hung by His arms with His weight pulling His tissue and tendons against the nails through His hands. And when He stood the weight of his body forced His tissues and tendons against the nail through his feet. And up and down he went. Forcing those nails through His flesh. A horrible death. But a death He did not try to avoid. People make Him out as some hippy peacenik. But He had guts. Though it’s easy for a God to have that kind of guts. Jesus was just a man when He died.
So something good came from something horrible. The world became a better place. Yes, there were a lot of religious wars when some bastardized Jesus’ teachings. But some of the countries today enjoying the greatest liberties and highest standards of living have a Christian past (and are still predominantly Christian). Like those that were once part of the Christian British Empire. Where the rule of law and the respect for the individual—not the ruling powers—rule supreme. And that would not have happened without Christ. For even the atheist among the Founding Fathers—Thomas Jefferson—thought that Jesus’ teachings were the greatest in the world. So good things can come from bad things. Like another good thing that came from one of the worst things there ever was. Slavery.
There’s a Prosperous Black Middle Class and Black Millionaires in America thanks to Slavery
Africa is a horrible place. Sadly. In any metric you use Africa measures horribly. More people live in poverty in Africa than they do anywhere else in the world. Africa has the world’s highest infant mortality rates. Africa has the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Africa has the highest homicide rates in the world. Africa has the lowest per capita GDP in the world. And Africa has the lowest Human Development Index in the world. Which basically says that Africa is the worst place in the world to live. Whereas Europe and the countries that were once part of the Christian British Empire consistently have the best numbers in all of these metrics. Making them some of the best places to live. Unlike Africa.
Of course, the slaves who traveled in the hellish conditions of the slave ships to the New World would have preferred to have remained in Africa. In the world they knew. With the family they knew. Without suffering the horrors of that Atlantic crossing. The slave markets. And their brutal overseers. But something good came from all that suffering. Unfortunately it was not for them. But their distant ancestors. Who today can live in a prosperous black middle class. Where they don’t have to live in poverty. Where their children are likely to survive their childhood. And grow up to live a full life. Where they have a lesser chance of being murdered. Where they can have a much higher standard of living. And a higher Human Development Index. Unlike in Africa.
Slavery in America is the best thing that ever happened for today’s black Americans. Ironically, the ancestors of those who were lucky enough to escape the slave traders don’t live as good a life as those who did not. Today blacks in America are CEOs. Athletes. Movie stars. Hip hop-stars. Doctors. Lawyers. Even president of the United States. So in addition to a prosperous black middle class there are black millionaires in America. Blacks who started with nothing. And earned a champagne and caviar life. Something that just isn’t happening in Africa. Sadly.
The proponents of Obamacare say it will lower the cost of health insurance, give health insurance to the poor who can’t afford it and cover people with preexisting conditions. That is, we’ll get more for less. In all of recorded history there have been few examples of getting more for less. Usually you have to go to scripture to find them. Such as when Jesus fed about 4,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. This is what the proponents of Obamacare believe Obamacare will do. A miracle. Even though a great many of them don’t even believe in Jesus Christ. Or miracles. And for Obamacare to do all that they say it will do will take a miracle or two (see Rate Shock: In California, Obamacare To Increase Individual Health Insurance Premiums By 64-146% by Avik Roy posted 5/30/2013 on Forbes).
Last week, the state of California claimed that its version of Obamacare’s health insurance exchange would actually reduce premiums. “These rates are way below the worst-case gloom-and-doom scenarios we have heard,” boasted Peter Lee, executive director of the California exchange. But the data that Lee released tells a different story: Obamacare, in fact, will increase individual-market premiums in California by as much as 146 percent…
That Obamacare more than doubles insurance premiums for many Californians is especially ironic, given the political posturing of the President and his administration in 2010. In February of that year, Anthem Blue Cross announced that some groups (but not the majority) would face premium increases of as much as 39 percent. The White House and its allies in the blogosphere, cynically, claimed that these increases were due to greedy profiteering by the insurers, instead of changes in the underlying costs of the insured population.
Soon after, WellPoint announced that, in fact, because of lower revenues and higher spending on patient care, the company earned 11 percent less in 2010 than it did in 2009. So much for greedy profiteering.
This is no surprise. Because you can’t just give health insurance to those who don’t have it without someone paying for it. And you just can’t let people who don’t have health insurance buy a policy when they come down with a costly medical condition without someone paying for it. Before Obamacare these people didn’t have health insurance. After Obamacare these people will. But someone has to pay for it. And guess who that will be? Those who pay for health insurance. Who will now have to pay more as more people will be consuming health care benefits without paying for it themselves.
This is no mystery. And most people seem to understand this when it comes to income taxes. As they will vote to raise taxes on rich people so the government can afford to give them more free stuff. People understand this. They say the rich should pay their fair share so those who don’t can get stuff for free. They understand the principle that for some people to get something for free other people have to pay for it. When it comes to taxes, at least. But somehow they act surprised when the very same thing happens in health care.
Allowing people with a preexisting condition who didn’t bother to pay for health insurance to buy a policy at the same price as everyone else is unfair. Because when they were healthy they did not contribute to the health care system by paying an insurance premium. But now that they are sick they expect others to chip in and help pay their medical expenses when they refused to do it when they had a chance. And with no annual or lifetime limit to benefits those other people will have to pay even more. This is what Obamacare will do. So it was never going to lower the cost of health care. Because you can’t get more for less. Unless you’re Jesus Christ. So, yes, prices will soar for the responsible people who pay for health insurance.
As the Obama administration tries to change the United States into a social democracy like all those European states suffering debt crises and recessions there will be a strong incentive NOT to do well. For those who do well and prosper get rewarded by paying the bill for those who do not. From those according to ability to those according to need. It sounds so utopian. But what happens in socialist countries is that people try to show as little ability as possible while showing as much need as they can. Because that’s how you prosper under socialism. Have other people work hard while you enjoy the fruit of all their labors. And never show ability. Because if you do you will only work harder than the guy that doesn’t.
If Jesus were to pick up His Mortal Life where He left it He would go to the Nearest Synagogue
Some on the Left have tried to advance their agenda by appealing to the religion they hate. Christianity. Or, rather, the many religions based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the New Testament and the Old Testament. They hate the religions of Christianity because they frown on a more fun and libertine lifestyle. And judge those who participate in a more fun and libertine lifestyle. In particular those who use birth control and abortion to engage in sex outside of marriage.
So they are no fans of these Christian religions. But they do try to use Jesus to advance some of their causes. Such as their campaign to get rid of the gas-guzzling and air-polluting SUV. Where they ask, “What car would Jesus drive?” With the implication that Jesus would choose to drive a car that would not pollute the planet that He created. Or, if you don’t believe in the Trinity (where Jesus is Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the planet His Father created. Which is a silly question to ask Christians as they believe that Jesus is everywhere as well as within them and would not need to drive anywhere. Still, they ask the question to try and make Christians feel that they are doing something that would make Jesus sad. Driving an SUV.
Here’s a question for the Left. If Jesus was walking the planet today as the man He was before His crucifixion which Christian church would He attend? An Orthodox church? A Catholic church? Or a Protestant church? The answer? None of the above. For this is a trick question. If Jesus were to pick up His mortal life where He left it He would go to the nearest synagogue as Jesus Christ was a practicing Jew. And a rabbi.
The Roman Province of Judea was a Complicated Place between the Roman Occupation and King Herod
It was being Jewish that got Jesus into so much trouble. From the moment of his birth. Joseph, Jesus’ father, came from Bethlehem. While engaged to Mary she became pregnant. Before their wedding. And not by him. Turns out God blessed her to bring Jesus into the world. Joseph had some trouble believing that but after a visit by an angel Joseph was convinced that she did not cheat on him. That the Immaculate Conception story was legitimate. At least according to the Gospels. Written many years later and may not be a literal historical narrative. But they do include historical fact. Where history becomes more a matter of faith is difficult at times to determine for the historical record is rather sparse at times.
Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth. In Galilee near the border with Samaria. During the time of the Roman occupation. Who were pagans. Herod was an Edomite. Born in the Kingdom of Edom just south of the Kingdom of Judah. Though he practiced Judaism he was not considered Jewish by the powers-that-be in Judea, the Jewish lands that became a Roman province. Herod was governor of Galilee. With Rome’s approval. He lost his throne. Rome helped him get it back. The Roman Senate then voted him King of the Jews. Three years later he and the Romans conquered Jerusalem. And elevated him to king of all of Judea.
So the Roman province of Judea was a complicated place. The Romans tolerated the Jews as long as they did not cause too much trouble. The Jews did not like living under Roman occupation. And they were none too keen with King Herod who wasn’t religiously pure, lived a decadent lifestyle and was a brutal tyrant. It was this world Mary was about to bring Jesus into.
The Last Thing you want to tell the Current King of the Jews was the Location of the New King of the Jews
According to the Gospels Roman emperor Augustus ordered a census. The Census of Quirinius. Requiring all residents of Judea to return to their ancestral lands for counting in a census. Though this may not have been Roman custom they may have called for this in Judea. That complicated place where the Jews kept their religion and customs. So Joseph had to return to Bethlehem. Worried about leaving Mary behind in a land where others may not be so open minded about her Immaculate Conception he took her along. Which is why she made that great trek so close to her delivery time.
With everyone else returning to Bethlehem the only shelter they could find was in a stable. Mary gave birth and they placed Jesus in a manger. A food trough for the animals. As the word got out about the son of God being born it attracted a lot of attention. Some were overjoyed that the prophecy in the Old Testament was being fulfilled. Some were not quite that happy. Some in the Jewish hierarchy. Who didn’t foresee this event. And King Herod. Who when he heard that a new king had been born to rule over mankind felt nothing but a challenge to his power. So when the three wise men from the East, the Magi, came to Herod to ask where this new king was King Herod couldn’t tell them. But when they found Him they were to send word back so he could come and worship Jesus himself.
Of course the last thing you want to tell the current King of the Jews was the location of this new King of the Jews, this son of God. Jesus Christ. Because he would want to kill Him. Well, the Magi got the message in a dream and went back East without telling Herod after delivering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (The frankincense and myrrh were aromatic gum resins used as incense.) King Herod took this betrayal as another challenge to his power. So to protect his power he ordered that all male children in the Greater Bethlehem area 2 years old and younger were to be slaughtered. The Massacre of the Innocents. There is no record of this outside the Gospels. Though it would be something King Herod would have done. For he killed his own children when they were a threat to his power. Based on the size of Bethlehem the number of children falling in Herod’s criteria may have been about 20. The slaughter of which would be a tragedy. But the number may not have been large enough to enter the historical record.
An angel warned Joseph of Herod’s plan in a dream. Telling him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt until the dust settled. Returning to Galilee after Herod’s death. Where he grew up. Jesus of Nazareth. But his problems with the politically connected Jewish hierarchy and the Romans weren’t over. He would have about 30 years on earth, though, before that trouble would catch up with Him.
One thing I learned about demons and vampires from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that they lay low on Halloween. Except for the few that like to bother the Scooby Gang, that is. But for the most part, the evil beings don’t like Halloween. It’s just a bit silly for them. So the evil and undead stand down on this day. When the non-evil dress up and pretend to be evil. A bit of professional demon/vampire courtesy. They let the people play their scary games. Then resume their bloodlust the following day.
You’d think those on the Left would extend the same courtesy to Christians on Easter Sunday, the most holy day on the Christian calendar. Let up on their Christian disdain for this one day. So Christians can worship this special day in peace. But no. Someone has to invoke Jesus Christ in the budget debate (see The Democrats’ secret budget weapon: Jesus by Brad Martin posted 4/24/2011 on Salon).
There are signs that the 2010s could be a fertile ground for using Christian ideals to pursue goals of social justice…
If the moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable, the emergence of What Would Jesus Cut? may be the flashlight leading us out of the dark cave of budgetary wrangling. But it should also provide progressives with a model for marrying religion to politics in a way that reinvigorates their agenda, rather than simply leaving the field wide open to often intolerant evangelicals and social conservatives.
Why, this is a fascinating concept. And practical. Especially at Easter. The day of the Resurrection. When Christ rose from the grave He was sent to after dying for our sins. Yes, what a fine day it is to politicize Jesus Christ. But I’m game. Hmmm. Let me think.
What would Jesus cut? The defense budget? Well, if we did that we couldn’t stop the genocide Muammar Gaddafi is perpetrating against the Libyan people. That’s bad. So bad that liberals who champion social justice sent our military to Libya to stop that genocide. Cutting defense spending will leave us little more than an observer of these crimes against humanity. Much like the rest of the world that isn’t a superpower. So I don’t know if Jesus would cut defense spending. Not when we’re using it for humanitarian reasons. So, could there be something else to cut?
Would He cut programs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? These programs are very kind to those who can’t afford to buy a house. By putting them into a house that they can’t afford. Hmm. That didn’t end too well in 2008, what with the subprime mortgage crisis and all. No, putting people into houses they can’t afford turned out to be a bad thing. It gave us the worst recession since the Great Depression. And this hit art and charitable foundations especially hard. With record unemployment, no one has any money to donate to the needy. So, yes, I think Jesus would cut programs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Anything else?
Oh, here’s a no brainer. Planned Parenthood. Because I’m pretty sure Jesus Christ would oppose anything remotely connected to abortion.
How could no one on the Left see this coming? What would Jesus cut? Number one on the hit parade would be abortion. And any public spending that could provide ‘aid and comfort’ to the abortion providers. This is Jesus we’re talking about. And I just don’t see Him being pro-choice. Sure, Planned Parenthood’s abortion unit is only a small part of their business (3%). But government funding pays the overhead where they provide their real services. Breast exams. Pap smears. Pelvic exams. AIDS screening. Birth control. Etc. That’s why they don’t have stand alone abortion clinics. Doing so few abortions makes the unit cost per abortion too high to recover the overhead. But if the overhead is already being paid by Uncle Sam, why, then that’s a different story.
The Left should stop talking about Jesus. For they’re going to hurt themselves with the political contortions necessary to make their case. Besides, if you asked who would Jesus vote for, I’m guessing he or she would have an ‘r’ after their name. The bitter God-clingers they are. So why even bother? They should just take a lesson from the evil/undead and show a little magnanimity on this day. If they had it in them. Like the evil/undead do at Halloween.
Syria and Egypt, Similar yet Different
Egypt and Syria are very similar countries. Both are in the Middle East. Both are secular nations with Christian minorities. And both outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood. The main difference between the two is that one is an ally of the United States. The other is an enemy. Another difference is U.S. foreign policy. They abandoned the ally. And showed patience with the enemy.
Some are urging caution in Syria. Worried about what may replace the current regime should it fall. The Israelis for one. And possibly the Obama administration. For now, at least. Interesting, because they had no such reservations with our ally. And how are things in Egypt? Suffice it to say there is cause for concern (see Crowds protest Christian governor in south Egypt by Maggie Michael, Associated Press, posted 4/22/2011 on MSNBC).
Since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February after an 18-day popular uprising, ultraconservative Islamist groups have been flexing their muscles and vowing to take a more active political role as Egypt charts its transition to democracy…
Coptic Christians make up an estimated 10 percent of Egypt’s population of nearly 80 million and complain of discrimination. Relations between the two faiths plunged to new lows after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Coptic church in Alexandria on Jan. 1, killing 21 people and injuring 100 others.
Salafis, who seek to emulate the lifestyle of Islam’s early days in the seventh century, have for the past year played a key role in fueling sectarian tensions, spearheading protests against the Orthodox Christian church.
The only upside to this is that the Salafis are Sunnis. Who don’t much care for the Shiites. Which is what the Iranians are. So, to recap, the Salafis are not Shiites. Which may place them out of the Iranian orbit. Which is good. The bad news is this. It was the Wahhabi that attacked us on 9/11.
So maybe we should have encouraged more reform in Egypt and less ‘Mubarak has to go’. Perhaps we learned our lesson. Perhaps that’s why we’re not pushing our enemy in Syria (see For Syrian Christians, protests are cause for fear by The Washington Post posted 4/23/2011 on The Washington Post).
For decades, the government of President Bashar al-Assad has protected Christian interests by enforcing its strictly secular program and by curbing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. In recent years, Assad has visited the town of Maaloula and other Christian communities to pray and pass on messages of goodwill. At Christmas, he addresses Syria’s Christians, carrying similar tidings. Assad is himself from the minority Alawite sect, a branch of Shia Islam, and many Christians feel they can relate to him…
Many Christians interviewed said their biggest fear was the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Syria. About half as many worshipers as usual attended Good Friday church services this year because people are afraid to leave their homes.
Maybe these ruthless despots know something we don’t. Maybe their tyrannical and oppressive rule is the only way to keep things secular in the Middle East. And peaceful. At least, under them, the few Christians in their countries could live in relative peace. Whereas it’s looking a bit harder these days.
So on this Easter Day, we can reflect on Jesus Christ and His message. Such as judge not lest ye be judged. Pity we rushed to pass judgment on Hosni Mubarak. Perhaps that wasn’t the Christian thing to do. But we did. And now Christians in Egypt are getting worried. And Christians are nervously sitting out the protests in Syria. Afraid of what their future may hold. But instead of showing genuine concern for the oppressed (and possibly the soon to be oppressed), some instead think of politicizing Jesus Christ to advance a political agenda.
This is Good Friday. The day Jesus Christ, a Jew, was crucified by the Romans. In the land of the Jews. Palestine. Then occupied by the Romans. Which came after the Egyptian occupation. But before the Byzantine occupation. Yes, there was always a power struggle there. And Jesus was a part of it. Though His struggle against the powers that be was not to gain their earthly powers. But to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. Despite their earthly powers. Starting in Judea.
Things went from bad to worse on the temporal side. On the spiritual side, though, things went pretty much according to plan. Jesus endured great suffering. For death by crucifixion is about as bad as it gets. Which is quite the testament of the man Jesus was. For He suffered as a man. Not a god. His pain was real. And it lasted a long time. Then He died. Ascended to heaven. And ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Where His words and deeds became the greatest force for peace the civilized world has ever known.
Now this is the Christian view of history. Not everyone agrees with it. But it is impossible to refute the role of Christianity in civilizing the barbaric lands of Europe during the Middle Ages. It was a civilizing force that transcended the warring tribes. And ultimately brought peace, the rule of law and civil society to Europe. And the Western world. It was the one force in the world that restrained the arbitrary power of kings. And the phrase ‘Christian charity’ entered the lexicon as people chose to live in peace and love their neighbor. To live by the Golden Rule. And this all goes back to southern Palestine. To Judea. Where one man once walked among us.
Assad worse than Mubarak but gets better U.S. Treatment
The Arab world is ablaze. Tunisia and Egypt saw regime change. Libya is embroiled in civil war. The UN passed a resolution to help Libya. So we started bombing Libya. There’s been further unrest in the Arab world. But nothing rising to the level of a Libya, though. Not serious enough for the international community to step in (see Shameful U.S. inaction on Syria’s massacres posted 4/22/2011 on The Washington Post).
FOR THE PAST five weeks, growing numbers of Syrians have been gathering in cities and towns across the country to demand political freedom — and the security forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad have been responding by opening fire on them…
Massacres on this scale usually prompt a strong response from Western democracies, as they should. Ambassadors are withdrawn; resolutions are introduced at the U.N. Security Council; international investigations are mounted and sanctions applied. In Syria’s case, none of this has happened. The Obama administration has denounced the violence — the White House said it “deplored” Friday’s slaughter — but otherwise remained passive. Even the ambassador it dispatched to Damascus during a congressional recess last year remains on post.
This is very interesting. For Colonel Qaddafi was killing his people, too. And we bombed him for that. In Egypt, Mubarak wasn’t killing his protestors but the Obama administration said he had to go. Even though he was a strong U.S. ally. And a strong force for peace in the Middle East. Egypt has recognized Israel. And remained at peace with them. Allowing free transit of the Sinai for Jew and Arab alike. But he had to go. As does Qaddafi. But Syria can kill their own people. Why? Is Syria a better force for peace than Egypt?
The administration has sat on its hands despite the fact that the Assad regime is one of the most implacable U.S. adversaries in the Middle East. It is Iran’s closest ally; it supplies Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip for use against Israel. Since 2003 it has helped thousands of jihadists from across the Arab world travel to Iraq to attack American soldiers. It sought to build a secret nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea and destabilized the pro-Western government of neighboring Lebanon by sponsoring a series of assassinations.
No. They are not a better force for peace in the Middle East. In fact, they’re the exact opposite of that. You couldn’t find a bigger enemy to peace. Or the United States. Well, except for Iran, of course. Who we’ve handled in the same way when their people protest their totalitarian rule.
Yet the Obama administration has effectively sided with the regime against the protesters. Rather than repudiate Mr. Assad, it has proposed that his government introduce reforms. As The Post’s Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson reported Friday, the administration, which made the “engagement” of Syria a key part of its Middle East policy, still clings to the belief that Mr. Assad could be part of a Middle East peace process; and it would rather not trade “a known quantity in Assad for an unknown future.”
An unknown future? Syria and Iran are at the top of our enemies list. We worry about radical Islam taking hold in Egypt as that democracy movement looks less and less democratic and more theocratic. But it’s already there in Iran and Syria. What ‘unknown’ are we worried about? That the Syrians may convert to Christianity? To Judaism? That they may stop killing Jews and Christians? That they may stop killing Americans?
If we were going to practice restraint anywhere, it should have been in Egypt. We probably should have considered long and hard what may happen in Egypt before throwing Mubarak under the bus. We should have asked him to introduce reforms. We were already engaged with him. And he wasn’t killing Americans. As far as peace partners go, that’s a pretty big plus in my book.
The Sinai Peninsula – A Great Crossroads of the Middle East
Do you know where the Sinai Peninsula is? It’s between Israel and Egypt. On the other side of Israel is Jordan. Above Jordan is Syria. Above Israel is Lebanon. Also bordering Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean is the Gaza Strip. And who is the ruling power in the Gaza Strip? Hamas. And who do they hate? Israel. Who else hates Israel? Hezbollah. In southern Lebanon.
Israel has fought a lot of wars to stabilize their borders where they currently are. They still deal with the occasional rocket attacks. But there has been an uneasy peace along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. They still hate each other. And they’re still trying to kill each other. But it hasn’t blown up into a full scale war. Partly because of the stabilizing force of Egypt. Under the steady rule of Hosni Mubarak.
Of course, the Obama administration threw Mubarak under the bus. And the future of Egypt is unsure. If it falls to the Iran-friendly Muslim Brotherhood, that will empower Hamas to make a whole lot of mischief in the Gaza Strip. Which may encourage a little mischief from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Which Syria no doubt will exploit. And if all of this happens, Iran will swoop in and be the major power in the eastern Mediterranean. Putting Israel in a very difficult position. Fighting for her existence. Which could plunge the region into war. And the world into war. And the flashpoint for all of this may be in the Sinai Peninsula. A great crossroads of the Middle East.
U.S. Boots on the Ground in…the Sinai Peninsula
President Obama promised the American people that there would be no ‘boots on the ground’ in Libya. That we would only use air power to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi. And maybe advisors. Because the rebel forces, though filled with the spirit of liberty, lacked a certain military discipline. But no combat troops on the ground in Libya. Of course, that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be boots on the ground elsewhere (see Md. National Guard Members Prep For Egypt Deployment posted 4/22/2011 on WBAL TV).
More than 400 soldiers from the Maryland National Guard will spend the next 10 month in Egypt. 11 News reporter Sheldon Dutes looks at how they’re preparing.
And guess where in Egypt these troops will deploy? Here’s a hint. Think of the worst possible place. Are you thinking the Sinai Peninsula? The potential tinder box for World War Three? If so, you thought right.
If Egypt goes Iran’s way, there will be a lot of traffic through the Sinai. And not the good kind. People with guns. And bombs. Going into the Gaza Strip. To kill Jews. And anyone that supports the Jews. Like Americans. Who are now about to deploy to the Sinai Peninsula.
Palestine’s Elusive Peace
Egypt and Israel go a long way back. Two of the world’s oldest kingdoms. Three, if you count the Kingdom of Judah. And they haven’t always been the best of friends. But they made their peace. Thanks to Jimmy Carter‘s diplomacy. And billions of dollars of U.S. aid. The Camp David Accords brought some peace to the Middle East. Despite hostile feelings that simmered throughout the region. So hostile that they did boil over in Egypt. When those unhappy with the Israeli peace assassinated the Egyptian president who made that peace. Anwar Sadat. The world held its breath. Would Egypt collapse into anarchy. And break the Israeli peace? No. Because of one man. Hosni Mubarak. Who we just recently threw under the bus.
Some in the world hold their breath again. Mostly grownups who remember what happened in Iran in 1979. What will happen in Egypt this time? Will it continue to honor its peace with Israel? Or will there be world war? Hard to say now. It could go either way.
Some things never change in the Middle East. Especially in Palestine. Where happiness is as elusive there as it was during the Roman occupation.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph away in a Manger a Long Time Ago
‘Tis the season. People have their holiday trees up. They’re wishing their friends and neighbors Season’s Greetings. Yule tidings. Or Noel. Racing all over town for last minute gift buying. Our halls decked in boughs of holly. And other things. Santa Claus. Rudolph and his red nose. Snowmen. All kinds of decorations. But you won’t see many crèches. Especially in front of public buildings. Because Mary, Joseph and Jesus depicted in a manger to commemorate the night Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger with Joseph at her side is not suitable for Christmas. That time of year when we commemorate the birth of Jesus. In a manger. With Joseph at Mary’s side. Funny.
Some will fight for the right of Muslims to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero. With a mosque inside it to boot. But they tell us not to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or show images of the nativity because it might offend some people. Unlike the Muslim tradition of building mosques on conquered territory (as those who attacked us see Ground Zero as. Conquered). No, these same people don’t find that offensive. But saying Merry Christmas is. Funny.
Sure, it’s a double standard. It always seems to be with Christianity. And that’s sad. For this is a Christian nation. Based on Judeo-Christian values. The original colonies had established Christian religions. And some Jews were instrumental in our founding, too (Haym Salomon perhaps being the greatest American no one knows today). So we should be able to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. For the words of Christ greatly influenced our Founding Fathers. You might even say Jesus was present at our Founding. If in spirit only.
Jesus Christ Could Even Charm an Atheist
Jesus was born a mortal. And some of His greatest works were done as a man. The words of Christ that influence millions all over the world today were spoken by a young man of thirty something. But they were remarkable words. For they impressed theist and atheist alike. And greatly impressed the Founding Fathers. Especially Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson was probably an atheist. He hated anything that infringed upon a man’s liberty. Be it government. Royalty. Or religion. Especially religion. For he saw religion as another way to oppress and exploit the masses. Being of English stock and not that distant from the English Civil War (where Protestant fought Catholic), it is easy to understand why Jefferson thought like he did. Many did. That said, Jefferson was a big Jesus Christ fan.
He thought Christ was the greatest philosopher of all time. That His message was the best message ever to mankind. The Sermon on the Mount said it all. For the atheist to reconcile his aversion to all things religious and his love of Christ, he made his own Bible. It was basically the New Testament with all the God stuff edited out. Jefferson would die still opposed to organized religion, but felt that the world would be a better place if it was a Christian world. And that’s something coming from an atheist.
Jesus Christ is American as Apple Pie
Jesus Christ wasn’t an American. But America wouldn’t be the same without Him. He instilled in us a moral compass. Which made America special. And we rejoice in our faith. So celebrate Christmas. Wish friends and families a Merry Christmas. And ask the good Lord to look over our service people serving in harm’s way away from home. May God bless them and help them get home safe.
And now, how about a little birthday music?
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the new born King
Peace on earth and mercy mild ,
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful all ye nations rise.
Join the triumph of the skies
With th’angelic host proclaim
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
From Hark, The Herald Angels Sing sung by Nat King Cole.
Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light
From Do You Hear What I Hear sung by Johnny Mathis
Here comes Santa Claus
Here comes Santa Claus
Santa Claus Lane
He’ll come around
When the chimes rings out
That it’s Christmas morn again
Peace on Earth
Will come to all
If we just follow the light
So let’s give thanks
To the Lord above
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
From Here Comes Santa Claus sung by Gene Autry
So let God and sinners be reconciled. Let’s pray for peace everywhere. It shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. If we all just follow the light.
Yes, people with guns do kill people. And, yes, extreme Islamic fundamentalist fanatics do kill people. But guns keep the peace. As does less fanatical Islam.
Societies have formed militias (armed with guns) to protect themselves from aggressors who did not wish to cohabitate in peace. Thomas Jefferson used guns to stop the piracy along the Barbary Coast. The Allies used guns to stop Adolf Hitler. The NATO nations used guns to balance the Soviet threat in Eastern Europe. An American led coalition used guns to first prevent Saddam Hussein from invading Saudi Arabia. They then used guns to force him out of Kuwait.
Islam, and religion in general, provides a code of morality. Religion can unite an otherwise diverse people. It is this common faith that lets a diverse people to live together in peace and harmony.
GUNS DON’T KILL; PEOPLE DO
Guns don’t kill people. And it’s not the bullets, either. You can place a loaded handgun on a table with the safety off and it won’t do anything. You can call it a name, sleep with its wife or impregnate its daughter (figuratively, of course) and it will just lay there. For that gun to do something, a person has to pick it up. Place their finger on the trigger. Aim. And shoot. Until a person does, a gun will never harm a soul.
ISLAM DOESN’T KILL; PEOPLE DO
You can read about Islam in a book. You can put that book on a table and it won’t do anything. You can insult it, profane it and denounce it and it will just lay there. For this religion to do something, someone has to read the book. If they cannot read, a person who has read the book has to explain it to the illiterate one. And then act. Only when a person makes a conscious choice to commit some action can a religion harm anyone. And if these people choose peace there will be peace. If they choose violence there will be violence.
ZYKLON B DOESN’T KILL; PEOPLE DO
The Nazis used to shoot undesirables (Jews, gypsies, Slavs, etc.). They’d make a mother hold a child so one bullet could kill two. But as the killing increased, bullets just proved to be inefficient. And costly. So they developed the extermination camps. The death chamber. And Zyklon B. This poison could be stored and handled safely. When it was time, a person would open a canister and pour the chemical into the gas chamber. If left undisturbed in the canisters, Zyklon B never would have harmed a soul. It only killed when a person placed it in into an environment where it could.
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION DON’T KILL; PEOPLE DO
The Kurds are a lot like the Palestinians, only without Jewish neighbors. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, everyone in Mesopotamia got a nation-state except the Kurds. With the new national borders, the nomadic Kurds could no longer move freely through the lands they once did. And, well, this caused problems. Conflicts. And bitter feelings. The Kurds supported the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam Hussein was not amused. The Iraqis had stockpiles of chemical weapons. Hussein decided to use them. On the Kurdish town of Halabja. He killed some 5,000 Kurds. Injured about 10,000 more. Mostly civilians. If these weapons were not loaded on aircraft, then flown over and dropped on Halabja, they would not have harmed a soul. But when orders were given, and carried out, by people, they did.
PEOPLE DON’T KILL; IDEOLOGY DOES
Yeah, so it’s pretty clear that guns, religion and chemicals are pretty benign when left alone. Unless a person gets involved, these things just won’t hurt anyone. It’s the people. They’re the problem.
There are a lot of gun owners in the United States. Few use their guns to hurt others, though. And Muslims tell us their religion is a religion of peace. Only a small minority perverts it to harm others. And there’re many national leaders. Few have committed chemical genocide. So it’s not all people. Just some. That are the problem.
So what, then, makes some people do these things while others do not? Ideology. Some people are passionate about their ideology. And some are so passionate that they do not permit an alternative ideology. This is when things get dangerous. Because they kill for their ideology.
WE KEEP GUNS OFF OF AIRPLANES AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED
The Left wants to take away our guns. They point to gun violence and say, “See?” But law-abiding gun owners don’t commit these crimes. Criminals commit these crimes. Using guns obtained on the black market. And denying law-abiding citizens from owning guns won’t shut down the black market. Just as illegalizing drugs hasn’t made drugs unavailable. Make something illegal and a thriving black market will develop. Which will be lucrative for criminals. So much so that they will use extreme violence to maintain their market share.
Let’s imagine a fictional world where we ban all guns. Would it be a better, more peaceful world?
On September 11, 2001, Islamic fundamentalists armed with box cutters hijacked 4 commercial jetliners. Two of these planes crashed into the Twin Towers. One crashed into the Pentagon. The passengers on one plane fought back with what weapons they could find. The plane crashed. They died. But they prevented the terrorists from successfully completing their mission.
Since 9/11, some people carry guns on airplanes. You know why? Because a gun can stop a passionate ideologue with a box cutter.
DON’T IMPOSE YOUR VALUES ON ME
Ideology is far more dangerous than guns. And yet, when something bad happens with a gun the Left wants to enact another level of gun control. But when a militant Islamic fundamentalist kills Americans, the Left cautions us not to rush to judgment. Because we may anger the Muslim world. Who appear only to get angrier however we may try to appease them. And yet we continue to try. Even if it compromises our national security. There comes a point where you have to ask yourself, why? Why do we adhere to a lose-lose policy?
They don’t like us. They never will like us. Trying to make them like us only portrays us as weak. Which makes them feel more contempt for us. And emboldens them. For they respect strength. And only strength. Which is something the Left does not understand. Nor will they ever. For they think that if you just apologize enough people will like you.
Of course, the Left has no compunction about attacking Christianity. They have no problem with pornographic films with priests and nuns. A movie where Jesus Christ has an affair with Mary Magdalene. Or placing a crucifix in a jar of urine and calling it art. But they would never, ever, show such disrespect to Islam. Why?
The Left does not like the Christian Right imposing their values on them. So they attack Christianity. And support Islam. In the name of religious freedom. Christianity must accommodate Islam. And we must forgive every transgression of Islam. Anyone who disagrees is a right-wing extremist. Intolerant. And un-American. The Left couldn’t ask for a better group of people to exploit.
GOD WAS HERE before the Marine Corps. So you can give your heart to Jesus, but your ass belongs to The Corps.
(From the movie Full Metal Jacket, 1987.)
In Roman Catholicism, this is the doctrine of the two swords. The spiritual sword is the Church. The temporal sword is the state. Martin Luther had the doctrine of two kingdoms. The religious and civil. Going back to the source, Jesus Christ put it this way:
Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s
The original separation of church and state. Of course, back then, this was all intended to limit the state’s interference into spiritual matters. Today it’s reversed. It’s the state that is trying to hold the spiritual sword at bay.
THE FOUNDING FATHERS were gentlemen of the Enlightenment. This makes them complex. The Enlightenment was the Age of Reason. And guess what we did during the Age of Reason? We thought. Rationally. There was a philosophical revolution going on in Europe. Simply put, things weren’t what they were because the Church said so. There were other explanations. Other laws. And the Church could be wrong.
So, if the Founding Fathers had lived in the 20th century, they would have probably been fans of the rock group Rush. And Ayn Rand. Who influenced Rush. Thomas Jefferson probably would have an iPod filled with their songs, including Tom Sawyer:
No his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
They questioned ALL authority. And some may have been Deists. But they were not atheists. Even Jefferson. He may not have believed in the Trinity or Christ’s divinity, but he still believed in God. And he worshipped Jesus in his own way. As the world’s greatest philosopher, with his Sermon on the Mount being the best philosophy man could ask for.
THE FOUNDING FATHERS were gentlemen of the Enlightenment. Now the other part. The thing that makes them complex. The gentlemen part. What did this mean in the 18th century? Here are some adjectives that describe a gentleman. Honorable. Virtuous. Reputable. A gentleman strived to achieve moral excellence and righteousness. He was ethical. His life was a steadfast adherence to a strict moral code. And when he served in public office, it was with selfless disinterest. He would go out of his way to NOT gain personally from his time in public office. Some did it better than others. But all tried. And when they fell short, they at least put on an appearance of disinterest. It was that important. And expected.
In a word, restraint. This is what a gentleman practiced. George Washington exercised this restraint to such a degree that many found him cold and aloof. Few saw him smile. Few saw public displays of emotion. What they did see was an exemplary life of virtue, honor and moral excellence. And they would forever look at him with awe and reverence. We do to this day.
These students of the Enlightenment, then, espoused Judeo-Christian ethics. They questioned all authority oppressing man, whether it be Church or state. But they did not throw out the baby with the bath water. They remained religious. They just wouldn’t yield to it unconditionally. Not to the Pope. To a bishop. Or any other tyranny of a minority, privileged elite. Even after their Revolution.
And they would extend this restraint to the new nation they would found. It would be a government that would govern with the consent of the people. But it would not be mob-rule. Not a true democracy. It would be representative government. The idea was to restrain the extreme passions of the people. They would not exchange one tyranny for another. There would be no tyranny of the majority.
FRANCE HAD PROBLEMS in the late 18th century. The toll of war was bankrupting the country. Their financing of the American Revolution didn’t help either. Food was scarce and expensive. Famine and malnutrition were commonplace. Among the Third Estate (the poor). The First Estate (the Church) was doing well. The Second Estate (the nobility), too. Unemployed and hungry, the poor looked at the clergy and the nobility who were not.
The Church was largely exempt from paying taxes. And the Church was the largest landholder in France. The Church levied a 10% tax (i.e., a tithe) on the general population. A lot of that was collected in-kind (food crops). So the Church had more land, money and food than the starving, suffering masses. Who became an angry mob. That demanded democracy.
The people stormed the Bastille. Confiscated Church property. Overthrew the monarchy. And sent the king and queen, and many others, to the guillotine. Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins unleashed the Reign of Terror. They executed political enemies, including priests, and displayed their severed heads to the angry mob. They de-Christianized France, destroying churches and religious symbols. They tried to do away with the Church altogether and replace it with civic and community events and organizations. It was a revolution against Church and state. Against law and order. Against restraint. They would send Robespierre himself to the guillotine at the end of his terror. Then another terror followed to avenge the previous terror.
There’s more to the French Revolution. But that should suffice for now.
FRANCE WAS IN the epicenter of the Enlightenment. Some of the great minds of the Enlightenment were French. But France was older than America. And more populated. With centuries of wrongs to right. It was anything but a blank canvas. Egalitarianism soon devolved into angry mob rule. Democracy. They went from the tyranny of a minority to the tyranny of the majority without stopping in that fertile middle ground. As was the case in America. Why?
It’s that blank canvas thing. We weren’t overthrowing our history to start anew. We had little history. Maybe a century or two of English colonists who literally started with raw earth. There wasn’t a rich and privileged Church. So there wasn’t a festering resentment against the Church. No, the early colonists escaped religious oppression and came here for religious freedom. Which they found. And enjoyed.
The American Revolution was more restrained. There were no bloody reprisals after the War. There were isolated instances of mob violence during the War, but the ‘mob’ was never in control. The ‘gentlemen’ were always in control. Gentlemen steeped in Judeo-Christian ethics. From the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution, the Founding Fathers built a new nation upon the Rule of Law. And at its heart were the God-given rights enumerated in those documents. That no man, or minority, or majority, or mob, could take away.
GOD WAS HERE before the United States. So we can give our heart to Jesus. But our ass belongs to the Rule of Law.
Or something like that. We are a secular nation with a de-emphasis on the religious part. Yes, legal punishment may dissuade you from doing wrong. If you think the cops can catch you. But it’s our morality that will keep us from doing wrong in the first place. And the people at our founding were moral. And Christian. Or deists with Judeo-Christian ethics.
And to those who fear antidisestablishmentarianism, don’t. I doubt the Catholics and the Protestants could agree on what an established church would be, let alone the myriad other religions peacefully coexisting with each other. No, more religion would not result in an established church. It may, though, result in government leaders who fear God and, maybe, they would be better leaders for it. It sure beats us living in fear of them.
JESUS CHRIST! You’ll hear that in a foxhole. When hunkered down as bullets and shrapnel fly thick overhead. By theist and atheist alike. Of course, one is most probably in prayer while the other in vain. Considering the circumstances, though, the Lord would probably forgive the latter. As long as you’re fighting on the side of good, that is.
When emotions are running high, people tend to say things. Sometimes bad things. Sometimes, even philosophically inconsistent things. What’s that joke? At the height of confusion someone shouts out, “Thank God I’m an atheist!”
People tend to get more intimate with God when they are about to personally find out the answer to that age-old question – is there an afterlife? Can’t blame them. Your own mortality can be a scary thing. And no one wants to rush that. That’s why, in the age of the Enlightenment, people thought of government not as a force of coercion, but as protection from coercion. People wanted to live as long as they could. And as free as they could. So people made governments that would function within the Rule of Law. To better their lives.
England made great strides in protecting its citizens from the arbitrary use of force. After some un-English-like treatment in the New World, the British America colonies broke from the mother country. But they would build on the English ideals. The Declaration of Independence stated:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….
The key here is that rights are God-given. That meant kings could be wrong. As well as Parliament. Even the Church. Kings, aristocracies, bishops, etc., are positions created and held by men. Nature/God did not grant them this power. They granted it to themselves. And once some have power, it’s not long before some use it to oppress those who don’t.
So when it comes to determining the origin of rights, the atheists should thank God he or she is an atheist. For if God gives them that right (to be an atheist), no man can take it away. But if rights are not God-given, then they must be man-given. And whatever man giveth, he can taketh away. Especially if you piss off the powers that be.
DRUNKEN FARMER JONES was oppressing the animals on Manor Farm. Having had enough, the animals rose up and seized power. They renamed the farm Animal Farm. The pigs Snowball and Napoleon were the leaders of the revolution. They created a new political doctrine called Animalism. It rested on the following 7 commandments painted on the side of the barn:
Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.
Snowball wanted to do good. The new farm started out as an anarcho-syndicalist commune. Sort of. Then Napoleon seized power. He and his pigs became the ruling elite for the benefit of animal kind on Animal Farm. And life was good. For the pigs.
Napoleon fabricated lies about Snowball. With the animals turned against him as planned, Napoleon had his dogs chase him off of Animal Farm.
The animals worked harder. But there were setbacks. And at every setback, Boxer, the old workhorse, lamented that he would have to work harder. And he did. Until his strength failed him and he collapsed while working. The pigs then sent him to the vet. Only the side of the vet’s wagon said ‘Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler’. Most of the animals couldn’t read. Benjamin could. He told them what the van said. But it was too late.
Benjamin, Boxer’s friend, was an old donkey. And wise. He saw a lot in his long life. Little good, though. Life was no different under the pigs than it was under the humans. But he wasn’t surprised. For that was life. “Life will go on as it has always gone on—that is, badly.”
The pigs started to act more humanlike. They started to walk on two legs so they could carry riding crops. They began wearing clothes. Slept in beds. Drank alcohol. And sent off Boxer to his death for some whiskey money. The pigs slowly revised the 7 Commandments to agree with their new behavior. Until, one day, there was but a single commandment remaining. “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.” And life was good. For the pigs.
GEORGE ORWELL WAS a socialist who volunteered to fight for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. He got shot in the throat and was declared medically unfit for further duty. While healing, the political climate was deteriorating. His socialist group, the Workers’ Party of Marxists Unification (or, in Spanish, Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM)) fell out of favor with the pro-Soviet Communists. They accused the POUM of being affiliated with Joseph Stalin’s archenemy, Leon Trotsky. So the Communists outlawed the POUM. It’s complicated. Suffice it to say that Orwell made it back to England. And had no love for Stalin or Soviet Communism.
Then, of course, came World War II. And the Hitler-Stalin Pact of Nonaggression, further increasing the love between Orwell and Stalin. And by love I mean hate. For Orwell hated totalitarianism. And for all the Utopian talk, Communism had devolved into nothing more than an oppressive totalitarian regime.
This is the story of Animal Farm. Napoleon is Joseph Stalin. Animal Farm becomes the police state of Soviet Communism. At about a hundred pages, it’s the biggest little book you will ever read. If you haven’t yet, do so. And then pick up Orwell’s 1984. It’s a little longer and a little darker but, wow, what a story.
SO THERE’RE TWO revolutions. The American and the Russian. Both ended up on ‘top ten’ lists. One for liberty. The other for genocide. Can you guess which?
As an ideology, Communism has killed more people than any other in history. It killed more than the Nazis. More than the Christian Crusades. More than the Black Death even. No other ideology (or plague) comes close.
So why was one revolution so much bloodier than the other? Well, the Americans were Christian. The Russians were Orthodox Christians. But the Soviets were atheists. There were no God-given rights in the Soviet Union. Only privileges allowed by the privileged elite. And fear. For people could disappear at someone’s slightest whim.
That’s the down side of atheism. And secularism. It removes the fear of God from a people’s rulers. And if they aren’t worrying about the afterlife, there’s not a whole lot to dissuade them from doing unspeakable things in the here and now.
THE FOUNDING FATHERS were literate. As many in British America were. They knew their history. Europe’s history. And Antiquity’s. They read books. They knew that a Macedonian conquered a weak confederation of Greek city-states. That Julius Caesar marched into Rome at the head of a professional Roman Army and put an end to the Roman Republic. That large standing armies and a bloated bureaucracy bankrupted the Roman Empire and led to her demise. That differences in religious opinion plunged nations into war. And they were very conscious that history repeats itself.
They studied history and applied the lessons they learned to the founding of a new nation. And they were blessed with a blank canvas. There were not centuries of past wrongs to right. No grudges. No bad blood. They had an ocean between them and that past. Europe may have still been fighting each other, but it was just too costly to extend that fight across an ocean. At least, not in any large scale action. And they had vast tracts of land to the west waiting for them to settle. Growing space. True, there were indigenous people on some of that land, but there was so much more land than people (even today vast tracts are uninhabited). Not like in Europe. There, if a nation left the confines of her borders, it bumped into another. And, typically, professional armies did the bumping.
So there they were, the Founding Fathers, on a new continent ripe with possibilities. They had land, resources, knowledge and timing. It was as if God said that now was the time for a great new civilization to begin. Or so many felt then.
THE FATHER OF Christianity was a Jew. A Rabbi. Born and raised in a part of the Roman Empire that was a royal pain in the ass to them. The Jews just did not readily submit to Roman rule. And the Emperor was growing tired of this thorn in his side.
The hapless procurator for this troublesome land was Pontius Pilate. He may have been cruel. He may have been just (in the context of the times). He may have tried his best to keep the peace. But he was certain to fail. Don’t rule hard enough and order breaks down and Rome is unhappy. Push too hard and it may cause open rebellion. Again. And Rome is unhappy. Damned if he does. Damned if he doesn’t.
Long story short, the Romans crucify Jesus Christ. And a religion is born.
THE CHRISTIANS WOULD became as big a pain in the ass as the Jews were for the Roman Empire. Christ’s apostles spread His message and Christian pockets developed in the Empire. And the Romans persecuted them. Until one day.
The Roman Empire was in civil war. Constantine approached the River Tiber. Across lay Rome and Maxentius. They would meet in battle in the morning. Before that battle, though, Constantine had a vision. He saw a Christian symbol. The Christian god appeared to him. He was to advance his armies behind this symbol. Or so the story goes. Anyway, Constantine did win the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. He proclaimed that the Christian god made that victory possible. And he would subsequently convert to Christianity.
The Roman Empire would give up its pagan past and become Christian. Constantine would build a great Christian city and name it after himself. Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Christianity would spread throughout the civilized world. Even to the place where he became emperor. Britain. A Christian Monk would take the religion into the hostile lands north of Hadrian’s Wall (Scotland). There he founded a monastery called Candida Casa. His successor at the monastery, Caranoc, probably introduced Christianity to Ireland. St. Patrick’s missionary work took over from Caranoc.
ONE OF THE surviving institutions of the Roman Empire was the Catholic Church. With the structure and order of Roman rule gone, it was the one uniting force that transcended the diverse remnants of the empire. King Clovis converted to Catholicism and united the Gallic people. Charlemagne built on this consolidation and created the French and German monarchies, setting the stage for modern, Christian Europe.
The Catholic Church was the bedrock of life in the Middle Ages. It soothed and comforted. It gave hope and meaning during difficult times. Civilization became civilized when Christianized. People lived by the Golden Rule. They helped each other. Christian kings ruled more compassionately, for the afterlife was important to both ruler and ruled. A king may answer to no man, but a Christian king answered to God. And in Europe, that was the Pope, who ruled spiritually in God’s temporal world.
The Pope may be the last word on things spiritual, but he was still a man. And like all men, power tends to corrupt. And it would be a German priest to point this out in a grand way.
IT WAS THE 16th century and the Renaissance was under way. Everyone was catching the fever. Even the Pope. Pope Leo X was renovating his St. Peter digs in the new style. Paid for, in part, by the selling of indulgences. You say you’ve sinned? But you still want to go to heaven? No problem. I can help you. I can forgive you. For a nominal fee. And really, now, can you put a price on personal salvation? I mean, sure, you can risk eternal damnation. But why take the chance? Buy an indulgence today.
Or so went some kind of sales pitch. Which caused a problem for a German priest. Martin Luther. He didn’t believe you could buy your way into heaven. So he said it. The king wasn’t wearing any clothes. I mean, the Pope was wrong. He nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 and the Protestant movement was afoot. Caused a reverberation or two. Plunged Europe into war. Catholic versus protestant. Reformer versus counter-reformer.
Luther translated the Latin Bible into the common German spoken in his country. Over in England, they were translating the Bible, too. And speaking of England.
HENRY VIII WANTED a son. As kings are wont to do. But he wasn’t having any luck. He needed a new wife. So he wanted a divorce. Couldn’t get one. So he said goodbye to Rome and opened the Church of England. He got his divorce. And a new baby. Another girl.
The story of England’s break with Rome is a bit more complicated than this. Henry VIII was a Catholic. He even persecuted Protestants. But his third wife was a German princess married for political reasons. And his new Church leaned Protestant. He did a lot of things that Luther said to do. And he hated Luther. His subjects were even reading an English translation of the Bible. But then the politics changed and he divorced Anne of Cleves. And the Church swung back to Catholicism.
When Henry VIII died, Edward VI assumed the throne. And the Church swung back to Protestant. When he died, his sister took the throne. His Catholic sister. Queen Mary. And the Church swung back to Catholicism. People didn’t mind. Hey, they were Catholics far longer than they were Protestants. Then she married the Catholic King of Spain. Started burning Protestants at the stake. Went to war with France in support of Spain. And lost English land on the continent in the process. The people didn’t take kindly to this.
Then came Queen Elizabeth. She swung the Church back to Protestant. And the Pope thanked her for that by excommunicating her. Pope Paul V sent missionaries into England to agitate and return England to Catholicism. Elizabeth countered by making life very difficult for Catholics. But the Catholics weren’t the only ones unhappy with Elizabeth.
The Puritans were Calvinists who were extremely anti-Catholic. Yes, she swung the Church of England back to Protestantism, but it still had some Catholic flourishes (bishops, priest vestments, candles, some saints’ days and feasts, transubstantiation, etc.). As Supreme Governor of the Church, these Puritans were challenging her authority. So she arrested and executed them.
YOU GET THE picture. The tug of war between Catholicism and Protestantism was a long and bloody one. And it involved outsiders. Catholic France was stirring up trouble in Protestant Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, cousin of Elizabeth, even plotted against her cousin to take her throne (and make Scotland and England Catholic). She failed and Elizabeth chopped her head off.
Meanwhile, Catholic Spain was stirring up trouble in Ireland. She hated England for their break from Rome. Wanted to bring her back to the Catholic fold. The Catholic Irish did not like Protestant English rule. There was rebellion in Ulster. Spain helped the rebels. The English suppressed the rebellion. To dilute this Catholic hotspot from causing further disturbances, England settled Ulster with Protestants.
Spain also wanted vengeance for the looting of Spanish ships (filled with gold and silver looted from the New World) by English pirates. Spain assembled a great fleet (The Great Armada) for the invasion of England. It was defeated. England escaped Catholic Spanish subjugation.
SO THERE YOU have it. Kindling for civil war in England as well as world war across the continent and in the New World as the Old World fought to colonize it. And that history would be a bloody one. A lot of wrongs to right. A lot of bad blood. A lot of grudges. And the Founding Fathers wanted no part of it.
When the British defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City, Catholic French Canada became British. To appease the local French inhabitants, though, the British passed the Quebec Act. And let them keep their French heritage. Je me souviens (I remember, motto of both Quebec Province and the Royal 22e Régiment). One part of the Quebec Act expanded Canadian territory into lands that the Americans were planning to settle. Another part guaranteed the free practice of Catholicism. Right in British America’s backyard. Which was a Protestant backyard. This infuriated the Americans. The Protestant-Catholic simmering hatred did make it to the New World. This was one of the last of British insults that eventually led to the Revolutionary War.
But that was the peak of anti-catholic rhetoric in America. After the war, the states would eventually disestablish their churches. Catholic and Protestant would live peacefully together. Along with Baptists. And Jews. And any other denomination. And religion flourished. Especially Christianity. By not establishing Protestantism or Catholicism, both flourished. The new nation blossomed. And America became that city on a hill. If you go by immigration records. And one day America would even have a Catholic president. JFK.