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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court Fails Again

In striking down the anti-same sex marriage provisions of fourteen states, the Supreme Court has covered the United States with shame. It has proven that a determined and noisy minority may, with sufficient support from the media, impose its will on the country.  But worst of all, there is a good chance that for the sake of "rights" discovered by justices in the "penumbrae" of the Constitution, certain rights spelled out in the black and white of the text may well be sacrificed.

First of all, the Free Exercise and Free Speech clauses will come under attack.  Already, same sexual orientation provisions in state law have been used to ruin Christian business people in the hospitality and wedding catering industries who refuse to be drawn into the celebration of something they see as sin--and this by state attorney generals and judges who would never dream of upholding a suit against a halal caterer who might refuse to barbecue a hog for someone's event.It is likely that this present decision will be used to exclude conscientious Christians from public employment, education, academia, and other fields.  As a protected client group of the Democratic Party, criticism of sexual deviants--even in defense of children who may find themselves unwillingly thrust into families consisting of themselves, their fathers, and the creepy guys who edged their mothers out of the picture or via adoption or surrogate parenthood fertilization into a homosexual household--will probably be denigrated as "hate speech".  The time will also come when social workers, teachers, and others tasked with monitoring and reporting possible cases of abuse will forfeit their livelihoods if those they report on turn out to be a same-sex couple.

The conservative movement must not acquiesce in this socially damaging decision and appeal to stare decisis.  the country, for the sake of written liberty and its future generations needs conservative leadership that will be willing to roll back the "inevitable march of history" (an idol of would-be tyrants), and even to investigate and impeach dangerous federal judges.  Perhaps, on the state level, a campaign of civil disobedience should also be launched.

We have seen the great damage that the abolition of fatherhood via the welfare system has wrought on large sections of our population.  Now, the Supreme Court has decided to put traditional believers, children, and those suspicious of sexual libertinism at risk.  While the United States will, via this route, probably kill itself with a whimper rather than a bang, it has put itself in danger nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Question About the Gnostic Gospels

If the Gnostic Gospels, such as the Coptic Gospel of [pseudo-]Thomas, are supposedly as valuable for understanding the life of Jesus as the canonical New Testament, how come Tatian made no use of them?

During the middle of the 2d century, an Assyrian by the name of Tatian, or Addai, became a Christian.  He was under the tutelage of Justin Martyr, but when Justin died, Tatian became a follower of the Gnostic Valentinus.  He was then excommunicated from the Christian church in Rome, and moved eastwards first to Macedonia, then later to his native Mesopotamia. Scholars agree that he died around 185 A.D.

Tatian's main claim to fame was the production of the Diatessaron ("through the four"), which synthezied the four Gospels into a single, continuous narrative.  This apparently remained "the' Gospel for Syriac-speaking Christians until roughly a century later, when it was supplanted by the Pehsitto's separated Gospels.

Despite adhering to a system of doctrine closer to that of Valentinus than to that of the orthodox, Tatian made no use of the Gnostic Gospels in his Diatessaron.  This would be strange given both his own Gnostic predilections had the Gnostic material enjoyed wide currency and status as a legitimate "alternative" Christianity in Tatian's time. Given that there would be no state-sanctioned persecution of Christian heresy until roughly a century and a half after Tatian's death, such an omission may require an explanation.

Quite simply, the Gnostic gospels did not exist in Tatian's day,during the second third of the second century.  He was probably instructed in Gnostic teachings through treatises or word of mouth. Perhaps the Gnostic gospels were composed as Gnostic adherents recognized that the Jesus of the four canonical Gospels was not "one of us".  Perhaps Tatian's Diatessaron served not only the purposes of orthodox believer, but inadvertently drove home to Tatian's fellow Gnostics the wide gulf between their beliefs and those of the historical Jesus.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Witness of an Early Graffiti Artist





The above is a reconstruction of a Graffiti discovered on the Palatine Hill in Rome in 1857.  The structure was originally part of Caligula's palace, and used as a boarding school for imperial page boys after his death in 41 A.D. Called the Alexamneos Graffito from the Greek writing in it, it has been dated variously from the mid first century to the early third century; the latter date being when the building ceased to be used and was sealed off to accommodate the expansion of other buildings around it.

Translated, the Greek inscroption reads, "Alexamenos worships his god"; Alexamenos apparently being the figure on the left who raises his hand in salute to a crucified figure with the head of a donkey or a horse. Beneath it, in a different hand, is the Latin inscription "Alexamenos fidelis", or, Alexamenos the Faithful. Many have taken it to be one of the earliest extra-biblical references to Jesus Christ and the Christian religion.  While others have argued it may reference some Gnostic cult and that the crucified figure is horse-headed rather than donkey-headed, there is much to commend the common conclusion that it is anti-Christian graffiti--and that it may well date from the earlier end of the proposed spectrum of possible dates. Certainly interpreting Alexamenos as a Christian makes the most sense,; for very little else, if even that, would be known about some other cult that worshiped a horse-headed deity; and the figure being worshiped definitely seems to be crucified, and what is known about Gnosticism suggests that Gnostics were very uncomfortable about Jesus' connection with material life and death, especially something as shocking as crucifixion.

Most readers probably know the New Testament testimony that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. However, other sources close to the time note this as well. The Roman writers Tacitus and Pliny the younger, both writing in the early 2d century, unsympathetically note the crucifixion of Jesus, and mock the Christians for their honoring a crucified man.  Tacitus further upbraids the Jews for worshiping an ass's head; a calumny earlier answered by Flavius Josephus in his Reply to Apion, written shortly after 70 A.D. Debate rages over the authenticity of a passage in Josephus concerning Jesus, which also notes that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, with a wide consensus that Josephus' testimony probably contains a core from Josephus himself which was later interpolated by Christian scribes.

If Alexamenos was in fact a Christian mocked by an unsympathetic contemporary,several things stand out from the graffito.

(1) The crucifixion is central to the early Christian faith.

(2) Jesus is associated with the Jewish God.

(3) Early Christians saw Jesus as an appropriate object of worship.

(4) The Christian faith first spread in Rome among persons more familiar with Greek than Latin, and hence of likely eastern Mediterranean provenance.

Clearly, someone unsympathetic to Jesus and his followers is impressed by a Christian's worship of a crucified figure that points as well to a common Graeco-Roman calumny against the Jews.  Hence, we have in this crude graffito not only an early record of Christianity, but perhaps as well testimony to faith in the divinity of Jesus as far antedating the Council of Nicaea.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Could the Narrative be Changing?


This refers to an article posted on Patheos, which sounds an alarm that Texas may approve a history textbook which sees Moses as an influence on the American Founder.  Uncle Cephas sees this as alarmist at best, obscurantist at worst.

One of the dynamics at work here involves consensuses among the academic historians who inform the writing of textbooks and the currricula we use. For the past few decades, there has been a questioning of the secularist paradigm, with which I am sympathetic.

For several decades in the early 20th century, the "progressive" historians dominated. One name associated with this was Charles Beard, who held that economic rather than philosophic motives dominated the thought of the Founders. This, of course, was an early attempt to apply Marxist insights into American historiography. Events battered this school of thought first in 1939, when many intellectuals or intellectual wannabes (including tertiary and secondary history teachers) were shocked that Stalin, hitherto the "great progressive", made a pact with Hitler over the corpses of Poland and the Baltics. A further blow to the "progressive" school of historiography hit between 1947 and the early 1960's, during the Cold War. In the USA, there was a swing back towards the idea of liberty. However, with the great disillusionment with the Cold War that arose from the late 1960's through the 1970's, the star of Beard's "progressive historiography" rose again.

From the mid-'60's through the '70's, there was a strong alliance between "progressive" thinking (again, informed partly by Beard and his disciples) and a militant opposition to traditional theism. It was helped enormously by the "separationist" interpretation of the First Amendment held by the Supreme Court during the period--even to the point where any sympathetic treatment of traditional Christianity became highly suspect.

I believe that an important change, ironically enough, occurred with the Iranian Revolution, in which the smart, educated money lost when the Mullah Khomeini did an end-run around the odd-son favorites in the Iranian Tudeh (Communists) at roughly the same time American Evangelicals were abandoning the Democratic Party of their grandfathers over pro-life and private schooling issues. Immediately, we had the specter of "fundamentalism" haunting the globe, as if the thought and histories of an older American "Democratic Evangelicalism" (cf. Sydney Ahlstrom) traveled the same routes as Twelver Shi'ite Islam from the Safavids until now. In the early 1980's, American media people and policymankers (I spent 1989-1995 in the US State Department) were unbelievably shocked and sometimes hysterical about the phenomenon--and, thanks to being educated in paradigms that wrongly perceived theistic traditions as unchanging, as well as being mere epihenomena in the body of "real" (money and power) history, utterly clueless when attempting to understand and address the sudden "retreat of secularism" (after Peter Berger).

So, take a good look at the Patheos blog article. Someone clearly senses that the "progressive" narrative is under questioning and attack, and is quite unhappy about it. Hence the shrill, exaggerated tone and the silly suggestion that "stupid Texans" think that Moses was an 18th century American.

Frankly, if the Texas books in question are what I suspect them to be (re-appropriation of the Bible as a source for the limited government ideal), I think that both students and teachers win in getting a wider and more varied perspective on history.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thoughts of a Random History Teacher


The blog Patheos has run a post raising the tocsin that the barbarians have entered the gates and made Moses an American Founding Father.  After all, some history textbook in Texas supposedly says so

First of all, I am neither a Texan nor a Baptist nor a Pentecostalist. I have also laughed at Texan jokes.

Sorry, folks, but the Texas books in question DO NOT say that Moses was an 18th century American hobnobbing with the likes of James Madison, George Read, John Jay, etc. They merely note that Moses cast a very long shadow over how Western people have thought about the relationship between people, state, and law--including our own American ideas.

For almost two centuries prior to the writing of the US Constitution, Western political theory was shaped by an argument between proponents of royal absolutism and a school called monarchomach, who argued that the ruler is subject to law and established by political compact rather than immediate divine right (an important distinction). The latter school informed the Puritan and Calvinist view of politics; and what Moses wrote about king and Torah in Deuteronomy 17:14ff. was powerful grist for the monarchomach mill. The 18th century American colonists, who knew their Bibles and were shaped by Calvinist educations, knew that.
If this upsets the triumphalism of those who worship nature, the state, or cosmos, or they're afraid their kiddies will learn that they have derived political benefits from people who believed in the Christian God, WELL, AIN'T THAT TOO DAMN BAD. It's historical fact, whether we like it or not.

Christian conservatives (Eek! Help! Fire!) and ANYONE who wants accurate historical knowledge win. "Progressive Secular Humanists", who have for so long loudly boasted that they can handle any historical or material fact, yet whine, whine, whine when someone mentions the Abrahamic God in a history textbook, make themselves look petty and obscurantist. Worse yet, it shows them bearing false witness against their neighbors (nod to Moshe Rabeinu).

Friday, October 31, 2014

A bit of whimsy

In days of old, when knights were bold,
And most trade was by barter,
The English barons forced King John
To sign the Magna Carta!

Just a test before I try to pick up blogging again!

Friday, June 20, 2014

John Kerry Bullies Africa





Here is a horrible case of American international bullying--and I am not one who reflexively accuses his country of being the international "bad guy".

Back in the 1880's, missionaries of the Protestant, Catholic, and Islamic faiths reached the Kingdom of Buganda (the state of the Baganda people, who speak the Luganda language).  Both Christian sects made great headway, including in the royal court.

Among the Christian converts were forty-odd teenaged males serving as pages to the Kabaka, or king of Buganda. Mwanga II, their master, was shocked when he learned that these lads would no longer submit to being sodomized, for apparently, in traditional Baganda society, as in ancient Roman society, a dominant male could use his subordinates pretty much as he pleased. Unwilling to permit such a slight to his royal dignity, Mwanga ordered these young men killed; some by beheading, others by being burnt alive.  The twenty-odd who were Roman Catholic are today officially recognized as martyrs by their church; while Ugandan Protestants preserve the historical memory of the others.

The blood (and ashes) of the martyrs turned indeed into the seed of the church, just as the [North] African Tertullian said back in the 2d century.  The northwestern shores of Lake Victoria are now heavily Christianized.

Scroll down to the 21st century.

Now the United States of America, the lodestone of Western civilization so-called, had slapped Uganda with sanctions for continuing to criminalize sodomy.  I am certain that this reads well with the LGBT lobby, who have been major supporters of the Obama administration.  America has struck a blow for the rights of sexual minorities, and has publicly told Uganda that it will not stand for the imprisonment of homosexuals.  At the same time, the aptly named Foggy Bottom utters nary a peep about Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals are publicly executed.  Perhaps this is because Uganda has no money for the Sunnite terrorists in Syria, whom the Obama administration (with a cheering section among Congressional Repubs) sought to support, even as it now decries the depredations of the same groups in Iraq.

But perhaps there's something even worse afoot.

Uncle Cephas spent a couple of years as US Vice Consul in Bangkok, Thailand back when that city was a Mecca for sex tourism--including some of a very perverted kind.  I did not seek the excitement, but, remaining satisfied with my own wife, I still could not avoid noticing the pervasiveness of the sex industry.  Sordid is perhaps too gentle a term to describe it.  Worst of all were the American and European HIV-AIDS cases prowling for casual partners as young as they could find them, all the while telling themselves they were helping the world's poor.

Hence, part of me can't help but feel that just maybe, Barry, Hillary,and John want their LGBT friends to enjoy a new playground in Africa now that southern and southeastern Asia may be wising up to Western perverion tourism.  If the Africans want nothing to do with this, my sympathies are with the Africans--and for the record, I am not even black (at least as far as I know).

Or, perhaps, Barry, Hillary, and John want an America where the wealthy, powerful, and politically-connected may do what they will to their subordinates. Hence this bullying of a far away land which, unlike some with which we try to make nice, never did us an ounce of harm.

For shame!







1 Kakumba, Makko Buganda Ffumbe Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
2 Rugarama, Yusuf Ankole Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
3 Sserwanga, Nuwa Buganda Ngeye Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
4 Balikuddembe, Yosefu Mukasa Buganda Kayozi Catholic Nov 15, 1885 Nakivubo Beheaded and Burned
5 Mukasa, Musa Buganda Ffumbe Anglican May 25, 1886 Munyonyo Speared
6 Kaggwa, Anderea Bunyoro Catholic May 26, 1886 Munyonyo Beheaded
7 Ngondwe, Ponsiano Buganda Nnyonyi Nnyange Catholic May 26, 1886 Ttakajjunge Beheaded and Dismembered
8 Ssebuggwawo, Denis Buganda Musu Catholic May 26, 1886 Munyonyo Beheaded
9 Bazzekuketta, Antanansio Buganda Nkima Catholic May 27, 1886 Nakivubo Dismembered
10 Gonza, Gonzaga Busoga Mpologoma Catholic May 27, 1886 Lubowa Beheaded
11 Mbwa, Eriya Buganda Ndiga Anglican May 27, 1886 Mengo Castrated
12 Muddu-aguma Anglican May 27, 1886 Mengo Castrated
13 Mulumba, Matiya Busoga Lugave Catholic May 27, 1886 Old Kampala Dismembered
14 Muwanga, Daudi Buganda Ngonge Anglican Namanve Castrated
15 Kayizzi, Kibuuka Buganda Mmamba Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
16 Mawaggali, Nowa Buganda Ngabi Catholic May 31, 1886 Mityana Speared, Ravaged by wild dogs
17 Mayanja, Kitoogo Buganda Ffumbe Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
18 Muwanga Buganda Nvuma Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
19 Lwanga, Karoli Buganda Ngabi Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
20 Baanabakintu, Lukka Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
21 Buuzabalyawo, Yakobo Buganda Ngeye Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
22 Gyaviira Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
23 Kibuuka, Ambrosio Buganda Lugave Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
24 Kiriggwajjo, Anatoli Bunyoro Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
25 Kiriwawanvu, Mukasa Buganda Ndiga Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
26 Kiwanuka, Achileo Buganda Lugave Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
27 Kizito Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
28 Ludigo, Mukasa Adolofu Toro Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
29 Mugagga Buganda Ngo Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
30 Sserunkuuma, Bruno Buganda Ndiga Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
31 Tuzinde, Mbaga Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
32 Kadoko, Alexanda Buganda Ndiga Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
33 Kifamunnyanja Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
34 Kiwanuka, Giyaza Buganda Mpeewo Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
35 Kizza, Frederick Buganda Ngabi Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
36 Kwabafu Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
37 Lwakisiga, Mukasa Buganda Ngabi Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
38 Lwanga Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
39 Mubi-azaalwa Buganda Mbwa Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
40 Munyagabyangu, Robert Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
41 Muwanga, Njigija Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
42 Nakabandwa, Danieri Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
43 Walukagga, Nuwa Buganda Kasimba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
44 Wasswa Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
45 Muzeeyi, Jean-Marie Buganda Mbogo Catholic Jan 27, 1887 Mengo Beheaded - See more at: http://www.ugandandiasporanews.com/2013/06/02/the-untold-story-of-the-uganda-christian-martyrs/#sthash.F6iOxwm8.dpuf
1 Kakumba, Makko Buganda Ffumbe Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
2 Rugarama, Yusuf Ankole Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
3 Sserwanga, Nuwa Buganda Ngeye Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
4 Balikuddembe, Yosefu Mukasa Buganda Kayozi Catholic Nov 15, 1885 Nakivubo Beheaded and Burned
5 Mukasa, Musa Buganda Ffumbe Anglican May 25, 1886 Munyonyo Speared
6 Kaggwa, Anderea Bunyoro Catholic May 26, 1886 Munyonyo Beheaded
7 Ngondwe, Ponsiano Buganda Nnyonyi Nnyange Catholic May 26, 1886 Ttakajjunge Beheaded and Dismembered
8 Ssebuggwawo, Denis Buganda Musu Catholic May 26, 1886 Munyonyo Beheaded
9 Bazzekuketta, Antanansio Buganda Nkima Catholic May 27, 1886 Nakivubo Dismembered
10 Gonza, Gonzaga Busoga Mpologoma Catholic May 27, 1886 Lubowa Beheaded
11 Mbwa, Eriya Buganda Ndiga Anglican May 27, 1886 Mengo Castrated
12 Muddu-aguma Anglican May 27, 1886 Mengo Castrated
13 Mulumba, Matiya Busoga Lugave Catholic May 27, 1886 Old Kampala Dismembered
14 Muwanga, Daudi Buganda Ngonge Anglican Namanve Castrated
15 Kayizzi, Kibuuka Buganda Mmamba Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
16 Mawaggali, Nowa Buganda Ngabi Catholic May 31, 1886 Mityana Speared, Ravaged by wild dogs
17 Mayanja, Kitoogo Buganda Ffumbe Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
18 Muwanga Buganda Nvuma Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
19 Lwanga, Karoli Buganda Ngabi Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
20 Baanabakintu, Lukka Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
21 Buuzabalyawo, Yakobo Buganda Ngeye Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
22 Gyaviira Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
23 Kibuuka, Ambrosio Buganda Lugave Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
24 Kiriggwajjo, Anatoli Bunyoro Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
25 Kiriwawanvu, Mukasa Buganda Ndiga Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
26 Kiwanuka, Achileo Buganda Lugave Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
27 Kizito Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
28 Ludigo, Mukasa Adolofu Toro Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
29 Mugagga Buganda Ngo Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
30 Sserunkuuma, Bruno Buganda Ndiga Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
31 Tuzinde, Mbaga Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
32 Kadoko, Alexanda Buganda Ndiga Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
33 Kifamunnyanja Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
34 Kiwanuka, Giyaza Buganda Mpeewo Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
35 Kizza, Frederick Buganda Ngabi Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
36 Kwabafu Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
37 Lwakisiga, Mukasa Buganda Ngabi Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
38 Lwanga Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
39 Mubi-azaalwa Buganda Mbwa Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
40 Munyagabyangu, Robert Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
41 Muwanga, Njigija Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
42 Nakabandwa, Danieri Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
43 Walukagga, Nuwa Buganda Kasimba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
44 Wasswa Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
45 Muzeeyi, Jean-Marie Buganda Mbogo Catholic Jan 27, 1887 Mengo Beheaded - See more at: http://www.ugandandiasporanews.com/2013/06/02/the-untold-story-of-the-uganda-christian-martyrs/#sthash.F6iOxwm8.dpuf