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Arts and Culture

Jesus Was Lynched

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Posted on Dec 23, 2011

By Mel White

“The Cross and the Lynching Tree”
A book by James H. Cone

For more than 40 years I’ve been moved and provoked by the writings of James Cone, Union Seminary’s distinguished professor of systematic theology. While reading his newest book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” however, I felt grief and anger on a whole new scale. I felt grief for the nearly 5,000 African-American men, women and children who were lynched between 1880 and 1940, and anger that during that 60-year holocaust, white preachers, evangelists and theologians didn’t even notice. No author has ever made me more ashamed to be a white American Christian and at the same time no author has ever given me a more dramatic example of the sustaining power of the cross.

All my life I had been taught that the cross was at the heart of my Christian faith. It has been a long time since I was deeply moved by it. “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” helped me experience the cross on a far more visceral level. Cone says it simply: Jesus was lynched. He makes the connection between the crucifixion of Jesus and the lynching of African-Americans. He explains why understanding that connection is vital to understanding the meaning of the cross:

To read Truthdig excerpts from “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” click here.

“As Jesus was an innocent victim of mob hysteria and Roman imperial violence, many African-Americans were innocent victims of white mobs, thirsting for blood in the name of God and in defense of segregation, white supremacy, and the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race. Both the cross and the lynching tree were symbols of terror, instruments of torture and execution, reserved primarily for slaves, criminals, and insurrectionists—the lowest of the low in society. Both Jesus and blacks were publicly humiliated, subjected to the utmost indignity and cruelty. They were stripped, in order to be deprived of dignity, then paraded, mocked and whipped, pierced, derided and spat upon, and tortured for hours in the presence of jeering crowds for popular entertainment. In both cases, the purpose was to strike terror in the subject community. It was to let people know that the same thing would happen to them if they did not stay in their place.”

During his decades of research, Cone found, incredibly, no sermons, lectures, books or articles by white preachers, evangelists or theologians linking what happened on the cross to what happened on the lynching tree—not even when lynching was at its peak.

Cone is particularly saddened that Reinhold Niebuhr, perhaps the most influential theologian and ethicist of the 20th century, “failed to connect the cross and its most vivid reenactment in his time.” Cone, who is black and grew up in segregated Arkansas, is rightfully aggrieved when he describes the silence of Christian leaders during and after the lynching years. “To reflect on this failure,” Cone warns, “is to address a defect in the conscience of white Christians and to suggest why African-Americans have needed to trust and cultivate their own theological imagination.”

Story after heartbreaking story, Cone walks us through those tragic and shameful years when thousands of black Americans were dragged from their homes and families, raped, tortured, disemboweled, castrated, burned and/or hanged by white Americans. Often those same white Americans were quoting Scripture while silhouetted by flaming crosses. Here are just two of the stories Cone tells to illustrate the horror of the lynching tree:

 

book cover

 

The Cross and the Lynching Tree

 

By James H. Cone

 

Orbis Books, 202 pages

 

Buy the book

In 1918, when a white mob in Valdosta, Ga., couldn’t find Haynes Turner (who was guilty of nothing more than being black) the sheriff arrested his wife instead. Mary Turner was eight months pregnant. When she insisted that her husband was innocent, she was “stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her swollen belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.” 

In 1955, Emmett Louis “Bo” Till, a 14-year-old African-American from Chicago, was kidnapped from his grandparents’ Mississippi home because (or so the rumor went) he had dared to whistle at Carolyn Bryant, a 21-year old white woman, and moments later said “Bye, baby” as she left a local store. At 2 a.m. Bryant’s husband and his half-brother dragged Till to a barn where one of the boy’s eyes was gouged out. He was tortured, beaten beyond recognition, shot in the head, tied to a heavy gin fan and dropped into the Tallahatchie River. The two men were arrested, tried and found not guilty of the crime. 

Cone documents in grim detail the unimaginable mental and physical suffering black Americans experienced during those lynching years. But instead of giving up on God, those who suffered embraced their Christian faith with new zeal. Cone turns to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to help us understand how great suffering, paradoxically, can lead to even greater faith. In his “darkest hours” during the Montgomery bus boycott, King’s own experience of suffering lead him to conclude that we do not know what we truly believe or what our theology is worth until “our highest hopes are turned into shambles of despair” or “we are victims of some tragic injustice and some terrible exploitation.” Cone summarizes the mystery of faith that grew stronger during the lynching years:

“Black faith emerged out of black people’s wrestling with suffering, the struggle to make sense out of their senseless situation, as they related their own predicament to similar stories in the Bible. On the one hand, faith spoke to their suffering, making it bearable, while on the other hand, suffering contradicted their faith, making it unbearable. That is the profound paradox inherent in black faith, the dialectic of doubt and trust in the search for meaning, as blacks ‘walk[ed] through the valley of the shadow of death.’ ”

“The Cross and the Lynching Tree” also explores the connection between faith and art, through the music, poetry and prose of those who suffered. Cone asks: “How did ordinary blacks, like my mother and father, survive the lynching atrocity and still keep together their families, their communities and not lose their sanity?” He answers that question simply: “Both black religion and the blues offered sources of hope that there was more to life than what one encountered daily in the white man’s world.”

 


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By Arouete, January 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm Link to this comment

“Jesus was lynched”?  Pulease. Give us a break.  Oh what abuses of the name of Jesus yet still!  Is it still this easy to insult American’s intelligence today?  Shame on writers who so presumes to feed us such propaganda. Then again, for those in the “United States of Amnesia” who don’t know how to vet a source for credibility, the famous Mel White was a closeted propagandist of the worst kind who (to paraphrase Jefferson to Adams) ‘should tremble to believe god exists and that he is just’ for few have more personal reason to be ashamed to be a white American Christian than Mr. White has in his past.

You want to deliver lecture about lynching? Really? For three decades White was a behind-the-scenes member of the Evangelical Protestant movement through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. He was a propagandist who ate his own as he wrote speeches and ghostwrote books for televangelists such as despicable hate-mongers Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson who inflicted unspeakable pain on American gay men and women - IN THE NAME OF JESUS. Many of us still bear the scars of those nails and thorns driven into our souls in the name of Jesus. And another abuse of language like this only rips the scabs off of unhealed wounds.

Talk about ‘lynching.’  It was such abuse of language and such intellectual dishonesty that could be fairly characterized as literary lynching by extrajudicially inciting the mob of a tyrannous majority against innocents - IN THE NAME OF JESUS.  Only after years of writing for the Christian right (three decades of ill-gotten gains greasing unclean hands with more coins than Judas could count) that his conscience got the better of him did he come out as gay in 1994. Please have the decency to not further (and STILL!) poison the language with vapid hyperbole Jesus being lynched. 

Please understand, I do laud HIS COURAGE AND REPENTANCE, but please,  is it not time he abjured propagandistic abuses of language?  I respect the fact that he finally confessed his sins of cruelty against his own brothers and sisters in the gay community and I celebrate the fact that he ceased giving secret aid and comfort to our most reprehensible and enemies whom he helped to savage us and deny civil rights IN NAME OF JESUS. We should all be thankful he turned to minister the very community he helped to crush under the fascist Christian boot but it’s sad to see he has not abjured his abuse of the meaning of words. 

This is a compelling review and Cone is truly a remarkable writer. His “Martin & Malcolm & America” is still the most superb study ever done.  But the headline “JESUS WAS LYNCHED” is tabloid intellectual rubbish. Words have meaning and when we bastardize the language (White’s original sin!) communication fails.  And we are lost in propagandistic babel.

LYNCHING, by definition, IS EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTION CARRIED OUT BY A MOB. Jesus was NOT lynched. He was executed by the state after a civil trial and put to death BY the state. Call it injustice but it was as much ‘due process’ as was given anyone in the Roman empire. That is NOT a lynching by any stretch of the imagination. Can we please dispense with the absurd hyperbole that corrupts and poisons our language in the name of Jesus and demonstrate intellectual honesty and linguistic integrity?  The true facts are grim enough and there should be no need to bastardize the language this way to poison the meaning of words.

Écrasez l’Infâme!!!!

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By Rapalyea301, January 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm Link to this comment

White - You wrote: “I am a white American. What questions should I ask myself about living in a nation still permeated by white supremacy?”

You should ask yourself what the hell you were thinking.  You are not Jesus Christ and I suggest you lay down that cross you have so shabbily shouldered. It is not becoming.

Just out of curiosity, how much in reparations do you believe Herman Cain is entitled? I would really really like you to face THAT man. Face to face. I do not say Man to Man for obvious reasons.

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By stevendeedon, December 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm Link to this comment

Berl (et al),

I notice that I mistakenly called you “Beryl.”  No
disrespect intended. If this is your real name, and
I give you the benefit of the doubt(I see it on
FB), then at least you’re willing to be
“accountable” for your opinions and take the hits
that come, unlike many.

Berl, I’ve been reading Historical Jesus material
going back 30 years; the literature is vast, but
the textbook by Gerd Theissen and Ann Merz is an
excellent place to start, and has some original and
distinctive contributions to the field. John P.
Meier’s four-volume “A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the
Historical Jesus” is magisterial—there’s a fifth
volume in the works; Meier tends to stick with the
standard accepted methodology in the field,
described in his second volume, and doesn’t draw
much on social science criticism, e.g. The Context
Group(Malina, Rohrbaugh, et al.).  While he is
respectful of the contributions from Judaica,
others work this territory more deeply than he does
(Sanders, Chilton, Charlesworth, and earlier,
Jeremias and Vermes). And he is not a specialist in
Jesus’ parables, like Bernard Brandon Scott or
Kylyne Snodrass (the easier of the two), but his
fifth volume will treat the parables and Jesus’
death, so we’ll see what he comes up with. All this
would probably make much more sense to you if you
prepared yourself with at least the chapters on the
formation of the first three gospels in Raymond E.
Brown’s “Introduction to the New Testament.”

My severe remarks about your post were not meant as
an attack on your intelligence, just an assessment
of the posting you tossed up, and my annoyance with
others like it. I hope you will not feel personally
insulted.

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By stevendeedon, December 31, 2011 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

N-G:

I’ve nothing against evolutionary biology, or
“evolutionary psychology,” (trashed by some
academics). But the application to human cognition, affect and behavior is theoretical, no matter how useful. (There are relevant experimental
disciplines, maybe you’re aware of them.)

Why not take this opportunity to explain the basis
(ground it in texts—like scientific books and
experimental work published in science journals) of
you view that religion is “biologically based.” 
I’m sure you appreciate that without this, all such
statements are just gossip that plays to unexamined
views within the contemporary zeitgeist. The hyenas
quickly come out the woods after that, at which
point I’m ready to leave.

But: with all due respect to Mel White and James
Cone, I think that a discussion should be carried
out in the context of the subject they have set
before us. I leave to you and others how you might
do that.

Jame’s Cone’s book, from what I read, is about the
Christian faith of African Americans in the face of
ongoing murders of them by white (presumably
NOMINAL Christians). I’m intrigued by this—and
why African American Christians are mostly
doctrinally conservative (see Gallup) while
socially liberal. Why THIS reaction to persecution
rather than “loss of faith,” and a turn to
nihilism, as was common after the WWII and its
parallel, the Shoah?  This would be a great issue
for psychologists and other social scientists, not
to mention people of faith. 

The problem of the gap between moral beliefs,
Christian or otherwise, is well known in Moral
Pysychology.  This is extremely important, and is
an issue I personally am preoccupied with. A big
piece of it is that group identity (unconsciously) often trumps
other factors (see Haidt’s “The
Righteous Mind,” (pub. Mar. 2012) or work on his web site).
The prevailing view among cognitive scientists is
that most of our cognition goes on under the radar
of awareness(I’m happy to provide details, but
Lakoff and Johnson’s “Philosophy in the Flesh” is
one example.) John Bargh and others have been doing
research on automaticity.  There is other work in
Comparative Cognition and Developmental Psychology
that is relevant. Anyway, enough of all that for
now.

All this being said, and admitting that I
personally don’t feel the need for appeals to
supernaturalism, I think we need to be respectful
and sympathetic toward persons of sincere religious
faith on its own terms, without shoving biological
explanations (certainly relevant, but after all,
theoretical) in their faces.  Even experimental
methods are extremely reductionist; while they are
exciting and helpful, they can’t, by design, deal
with all the factors at play, in even a systems
understanding of this issue or that.

I wouldn’t use your language, that religion is a
garment. Check out the work of Nicholas Humphrey, a psychological materialist, on consciousness, e.g. “Soul Dust.”  In my speculative view
(albeit influenced by a lot of time with Religious
Studies scholars working in Christian, Asian and
African traditions), religious operates analagously to science, though at an earlier time (not necessarily today) without the same sort of
experimental tools and complex statistical
processing.  In ancient times religionists were
trying to figure out how the world worked, and what was the place of humans within it.  No surprise that early scientists were monks and other believers.  Even today, while acknowledging the wonderful tools of scientific method, religious faith and practice is a quest for a sense of how the world works, on a spiritual and phenomenological level—e.g., what’s MY place in the Big Picture,etc. What’s my relationship to animals, the planet, et al. on this plane?

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By Night-Gaunt, December 31, 2011 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment

Religion has its place in this discussion. It is a biologically based impulse an has been very successful for the Human race. When it comes down to it it is the Human Factor that counts. Such philosophies and theosophies are such a framework or garment by which minds work with in it. If you are a good person it won’t matter how barbaric your belief system may be you won’t be barbaric. But for those who are susceptible to it will follow down its bloody road.

So it is the human brain that is the culprit and the environment that promotes the good or ill behaviors one has. But whatever it is the individual is responsible for their actions. And selective blindness is also common just as compartmentalization (being able to hold contradictory things at once) is also prevalent.

Everywhere is also bothered by what have been called tolls. They come to disrupt. To say things that get others to talk about it. One way is to ignore them.

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By stevendeedon, December 31, 2011 at 12:36 am Link to this comment

N-G, I guess I get the the point you’re trying to
make, that you were describing an opinion that you
don’t agree with. I didn’t get it when I read your
earlier remark, and took it to be you own opinion. 

That being said, your secondary swipe at religious
people is one of the reasons I find these forums so
boring. And yours was less antic than many.  These
forums are prowled by low brow anti-religious
hyenas sniffing the wind for the least sign of an
occassion jump up on a rock and howl against
religion.  And they invariably know nothing about
religion, or close to nothing. Further, they
obviously don’t bother to look at previous posts,
so they blather on about stuff that other hyenas
have already been howling about.

“Berl” is just the latest eruption of this disease.
Saying whatever he wants no matter how stupid it
may be, no matter that hasn’t the least clue what
he his talking about, no matter that he provides no
evidence whatsoever for his nonsense.  His remark
has nothing to do with the Mel White’s review,
nothing to do with James Cone’s book of the subject
of it, and further, he obviously never read my
earlier invitation to someone to simply try to make
a case for their claim that Jesus never existed or
that the gospels cannot be used as evidence. (Of
course one needs to proceed using historical
methodologies and strict logic. citing chapter and
verse, and establishing the case within a setting
of secondary literature on the subject.  But no one
in the forum is going to try to make such a case
because the are absolutely incompetent to even try. 
That why they just hide in the dark, anonymous and
throw rocks.

For most of my adult life, and I’m 63, I have
refused to believe in “the ignorant masses.”  I’d
say, no, people are smarter than you think.  I was
wrong.  People like “Beryl” are proof.

Cliff:  These last two posts demonstrate the
reasons I signed out of this forum. The first is
heer ignorance of people like Beryl—and I’m
pulling my punches here.  The second is the
apparently never ending vomit of hatred toward
religion. It is exactly the same sort of mentality
that sent put Jews in gas chambers and hung African
Americans from trees.

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By Berl Jay Hubbell, December 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The problem with the thesis of this article is that it presumes that there was actually a historic person named “Jesus.” Undoubtedly, the figure was like other mythological and legendary figures who began as allegories but who became literal larger than life persons through generations of reiterating and embellishing of the teaching story.

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By Night-Gaunt, December 30, 2011 at 9:18 pm Link to this comment

Stevendeedon, I have no problem with Gay priests but others do and I illustrated why. I am live-and-let-live weird kind-of-fellow myself. I apologize for being so poor a writer here. I just wanted to show that the pull of the religious impulse in those afflicted will surmount and ignore even things that will cause them harm to be one. In this case a priest. That is all. I doesn’t bother me one whit. Does it bother you? Do you see my point now?

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By stevendeedon, December 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

Why did Southern whites murder Southern blacks? 
“Night-Gaunt” demonstrates it pretty clearly.

Pick out someone to be the outsider of whatever your in-
roup is.  Let’s say, a homosexual priest.  Call them “weird,” that
is, abnormal, not quite human. Then crank it
up, suggest that he is subhuman, by comparing
his natural behavior to the most despicable thing that comes to mind.  Say, the lynching of African Americans by folks many of us think of as crazed KKK murderers, rednecks, etc. with IQs in the range of say, reptilian species (apologies to reptiles). Just to cover your flanks, dismiss as silly such notions as that God is maganimous, etc. (don’t even bring up “rains on the just and the unjust.”) In support of your case, pull out some obscure 2500 year-old remark with complete disregard for its ancient context (certainly a nationalistic context, and with a world view that is not really fully retrievable)

I hope no one will need to write a book about gaunt Americans prowling the night and lynching gay men and women, or shooting down priests, as in Latin America.

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By Night-Gaunt, December 29, 2011 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment

Certainly this reviewer is as full of contrasts as the bits of horror we were shown from our shameful history of whites treating blacks as anything but equal under the law. A homosexual priest is weird enough considering the direct order of condemnation concerning any “men that lie with men like with a women” is explicit. Yet the pull to religion is so strong some people just push past it and work out the contradiction in their mind. “God loves everyone equally” etc. Play down one to play up another part they like better.

James A. Cone gives us a part of history that is glossed over in so many history books. Especially the ones children are taught in school. If that were changed I wonder how much longer this white washed history would last? Religion here isn’t really as important as how a person is. Are they a killer an torturer or not? That is the first question. The next one would be why?

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By Cliff Carson, December 28, 2011 at 10:46 am Link to this comment

By stevendeedon, December 28 at 8:59 am

“I’m signing out of this discussion.”

I certainly hope you don’t mean permanently.  I really do enjoy what you have written and your manner of presentation. My hope is that if you feel you need to say something, please do it, I for one thoroughly enjoy your intellectual discourse.

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By Cliff Carson, December 28, 2011 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

I forgot to mention the most vile corruption of Relifious values in my opinion.

On Truthdig currently is an article concerning the struggle, or more descriptive, the growing division of Israeli Religious tenets.  The Truthdig Article is about an eight year old American schoolgirl and the harassment she hears almost daily from Ultra-Orthodox Jews about her dress.

The quarrel is about the modernization of the Jewish faith in this Jewish Nation.  Protests have been held to force more freedom of dress in these modern times.

The shame is that this Nations people who chooses to claim Religious exclusivity - “Chosen of God”  - are not out daily protesting the inhumane and ungodly treatment that they lavish on the Palestinians.

The first comment I made on this thread was that it was not the religion, but the faithful of the religion that was the problem.

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By stevendeedon, December 28, 2011 at 9:59 am Link to this comment

As Mel White put it, presumably quoting James Cone’s
book, “With scathing sarcasm, black poet Walter
Everette Hawkins called lynching “A Festival of
Christendom” alongside the festive days of Christmas
and Easter:

“And so the Christian mob did turn from prayer to
rob, to lynch and burn.
A victim helplessly he fell to tortures truly kin to
hell;
They bound him fast and strung him high. They cut him
down lest he should die
Before their energy was spent in torturing to their
heart’s content.
They tore his flesh and broke his bones and laughed
in triumph at his groans;
They chopped his fingers, clipped his ears and passed
them round as souvenirs.
The bored hot irons in his side and reveled in their
zeal and pride;
They cut his quivering flesh away and danced and sang
as Christians may … ”

Given how in the midst of this African Americans
turned to God, it’s clear as daylight that they did
not think Christian faith caused these horrors.  One
could hardly be more absurd than to ignore this and
claim that it did. 

And compared to this, the right wing phonies and t.v.
evangelists who talk “family values” and aspire to
political influence are quite an insipid lot, albeit
war mongering.  We can all see their game, and it’s
tiresome to hear people preach at us about them.

I suggest one look to Mel White’s review and James
Cone’s book for some more profound understanding of
human evil, of the turn to God by African Americans,
and how they, the Peace movement that continued into
the 1980s, people like Gandhi, and the Civil Rights
Movement of the 50s and 60s, found in this turn to
God the power to change countries.

For myself, I don’t want to listen to perpetual
grousing about things we’re all aware of.  I’m
signing out of this discussion.

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By Cliff Carson, December 28, 2011 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

Schopenhauer claimed that the Holy Ghost wrote some of his “The World as Will and Idea”.  Reminds me of a 2008 Candidate in the last election that said the Iraq War was ordained by God.  Not too surprising this candidate was a Republican Right Wing conservative.

The further Right Politically one goes, the more dogmatic becomes the chant for “Wars” and especially for wars against any Religious tenets not theirs.

The mention of the Crusades is needed here because the Crusades were ginned up by powerful people with an agenda.  Those that built up the drum beat for wars then and today find that the most gullible people follow the lead of the most ungodly pretenders of the faiths.

Those individuals that truly follow the Ten Commandments and the example of the Good Samaritan are the best people in our society, but they are few and far between.  These are the ones that I recognize as the “Chosen of God”.

It was for these that Jesus was crucified - not lynched.

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By Anarcissie, December 27, 2011 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

A lot of people, including myself, use pseudonyms because we have experienced negative results from using our real names.  In my case, these included death threats and calumnies circulated in the workplace.  In any case, I prefer people to relate to my ideas rather than the accidents of my physical existence.

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By James M. de Laurier, December 27, 2011 at 7:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mel White,      12/27/2011
  If you were to glance at the history of the
world,you might be ashamed in being part of the human
race.Arthur Schopenhauer and the Infamous Inquisition
ignored,strengthens Evil,everywhere.The past is
present,with every step we take to the future. 
  Thanking you for this opportunity to comment -
  James M. de Laurier

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By stevendeedon, December 27, 2011 at 2:42 am Link to this comment

Alien, here is

PART TWO

I spend a lot of time with atheists and agnostics.  I
study Cognitive Science, I’m a a lot of
interdisciplinary Working Groups at Yale, and move
around among scientists who are more are less
disinterested in religion.  Some psychologists and
others are extremely hostile (and usually dishonest
in arguing against religion—they have an a priori
prejudice.)  One of the groups that is dearest to me
is my Animal Ethics WG, which was iniated and is co-
coordinated by a friend of mine who not only self-
identifies as an atheist, but a philosopher (Kantian
ethicist in fact) by profession who has concluded
that he no longer believes in morality at all.  (This
doesn’t keep from being a vegan and acting with
compassion,)  So your question is not a new one—
i.e., why do we need to bring religion into it?  My
philosopher friend brought this up at the end of a
presentation and discussion of Judaeo-Christians
arguments for animal advocacy and veganism.  The
theological ethicist, a Professor at Fordham said
that he had concluded that everyone has their “first
cause,” religious people and others.  I took this to
mean that we all begin with beliefs that to us are
self-evidently true, we did not arrive at them
through analytical philosophy,  Anyway, I hope that
less religious people can simply be grateful that
they have a strong ally, whether or not all the
motivations are the same. 

It’s past 4:00, so I won’t for now go through your
list of grievances against “Christian communities”
item by item.  White and Cone themselves draw
attention to the fact that Cone combed through
sermons, etc. during the period of lynchings in the
U.S., unsuccessfully looking for Christian opposition
to the lynchings.  White even charges Rheinhold
Neibuhr, the apostle of the social gospel not less,
with inaction.  That missionaries travelled with
colonialist authorities and military doesn’t mean
they had the same imperial motivations. The Salem
witch trials were clearly about property. The Spanish
Inquisition was the work of the state of Spain,
though the Church was its complicit toadie.  Sexual
predation certainly finds no justification in the
religious beliefs of the perpetrators. ##

So categorizing these various abuses as “caused by
Christian communities” is a mistake, I think.  (I’d
use love to use the predation issue to attack
mandatory celibacy.)  Each of these situations
deserves its own scrutiny, perhaps with some Systems
Theory, or more explicitly Game Theory.
But I take it further, as I said before.  I think we
should look at all these transgressions as examples
of HUMAN behavior.  I’ve studied enough Moral
Psychology and Neuroscience to see that these are
human behaviors, not restricted to some particular
group. And if we are going to get a fix in them, we
will need abandon the habit of thinking that their
are special group of questionable humans who carry
them out, while the rest of us are as kind as Mr.
Rogers.

Wow.  Hadn’t planned all that. 

P.S. You may well be a lot more familiar than I with
the details of the history of racist lynching.  If
you think there is evidence that someof much of this
was religiously motivated, show me where to find it. 
My take, without such information, is that it’s no
more religiously motivated than any other murders
carried out by the Ku Klux Klan.  Religion is just a
banner they ride under, same as Islamicist
terrorists, and it’s a lie from the get-go.

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By stevendeedon, December 27, 2011 at 2:40 am Link to this comment

Hi Alien,

I have to enter this in two part.  I ran over the
word count limit.

[Why don’t you use your real name?  Being accountable
for your opinions would sure add to your credility.]

PART ONE

I appreciate your returning to Mel White’s review. 
It strikes me that they are stressing the solidarity
of the victim with Christ, and even his
Identification with Christ.  (“I am suffering as a
marginal person, just as Jesus did..”)  I am very
sympathetic to the attempt, though not sure that it
works so well.  But Cone may well be right that it
did work spectaculalry well for Southern Blacks
during the period described,  thee devout Christian
can take this line of thinking even further: just as
Jesus death was not the end of his story, so my death
(i.e. of murder victims) is not the end my life, so
to speak.  We needn’t get into the particulars of how
one actually lives on.

This kind of identification is immensely powerful.  I
am a Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhist (also a Catholic). 
Tantrics employ complex visualizations in which they
identify with what I would call archetypes, or
personifications of wisdom and compasssion, e.g. 
This has a tremendous psychological power.  What
makes identification with Jesus even more powerful is
that, in addition to the belief of many that he is
divine, he is not simply some imagined archetypal
image, he was a real human being, as St. Paul put it,
“like is all ways except sin.”  Just as Jesus
transcended petty concerns, you can too.  There is a
Christian tradition, called “theosis” or
“deification,” that does a spin on all this.  As
Saint Athanasius put it, “God become man so that
might might become like a god.”  (This wraps the
aforementioned in the concept of the Incarnation.  If
you don’t want to “go there,” I’m sure you can take
my point without it.)

Once this sense of identity with Jesus is there, one
can feel a sense of solidarity and confidence in
taking action against colonial oppression, the
inequities of wealth, the inequities of patriarchy,
and insider/outsider behavior (like lynchings and
Inquistions and witch trials).  All this is there in
the gospel, I’m not stretching it. (Mel White would
extend it to homosexuality, and I would agree. 
Almost all the uses of the Bible to demonize
homosexuality are misapplications of the text.  Even
Paul’s heated rhetoric needs to be understood against
a Greek notion of male virility.)  This orientation
of Jesus toward the marginalized is exactly what
Liberation Theology about, with a very strong
critique of market economics. 

Now, if something in your experience makes it
difficult for you to make this identification, I’m
sure Mel and James (if I may be so familiar), and
certainly I, bear no resentment if you find a sense
of solidarity and courage and devotion to
marginalized coming from some more explicitly
humanist direction.  I’ve no doubt whatsoever that
our sense of human solidarity enables us to come
together to bring about—here it comes, in
Christian terms, “The Reign of God.” (You may have
another expression.)  [Cont’d]

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By AnAlienEarthling, December 27, 2011 at 1:04 am Link to this comment

Steven,
  I re-read the article, and I still admit not really understanding the point of the Cone-White argument.
  Parenthetically, my reasons for mentioning witch trials, sexual exploitation of children, and the “murder festivals” (as I prefer to call lynchings as they occurred in the States (a reliable compilation for which is the book Without Sanctuary and At the Hands of Persons Unknown)), were historical: all of these atrocities were conducted within a Christian context, within Christian communities (some even inspired by such) - I could have mentioned the Spaniards in 16th century South America (the Aztecs’ accounts and Las Casas’s accounts), the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. .... It was not to take “pot-shots.” It is because of these historical realities that I am puzzled by what is being argued in White’s review of Cone’s book.
  By “reading” lynchings as species of Christian crucifixion doesn’t make much sense to me - IF that is the prescription. Is the Cone-White suggestion that we can understand the sufferings of racism’s victims “from the inside” by assimilating their suffering to the suffering of Christ on the cross, that such “subjective” understanding (in Tom Nagel’s sense) could help America come to some self-understanding of the “red and the black” that indelibly stains its history and still taints its laws, education, income gaps, population distribution, prisons, etc? Is that the point?
  If that is the point, then, again, I fail to see any moral value in that. How is this supposed to provide America any comfort, any catharsis - if that is the point? If that is the point, why would one want to assuage the “injured conscience” of America for the evils committed because of racism?
  We still suffer! We have not yet truthfully examined our “dasein-distorted” selves; crimes have not yet been confessed. Yet, we have Cone-White already prescribing some method of atonement?
  First, the evils need to be alighted in all the horrific suffering that they have engendered. How can we talk of “martyrizing” our pointlessly murdered brethren, when it is all too clear that too many still suffer at the hands of the same distortion of Being that ignited the evil? We yet fail to see lynching as a “festive expression” of the chattel slavery that roots our culture, as metaphysical negation of a human being’s Being, as the “bare-thing-ification” of a human being.
  In short, we have not yet come to terms with our past. Lynching is of a piece with the atrocities we as a society continue to conduct at home and abroad - perhaps, this was Malcolm’s point and the points that King’s anti-war and anti-poverty positions were expressing.
  IF I understand the Cone-White position correctly, let us lay our lynched brethren on a “crucifix” to understand “from the inside” their genuine suffering, and thereby achieve cathexis and catharsis.
  However, I would ask: isn’t it enough simply to be human to understand that suffering? If it isn’t, not amount of religion will render it so. If one cannot understand the suffering without a religion, one certainly cannot understand it with a religion - it is a “lack in Being” that having a religion cannot compensate.

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By stevendeedon, December 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment

Another troll howling up from under the bridge.  And
speaking for Jesus, too.

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By N'awlins, December 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Religion is crap, period. Jesus didn’t like it very much either.

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By stevendeedon, December 26, 2011 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

Alien, It’s hard to imagine that you ever read Mel
White’s review, judging from your comments.  The
themes or theses you’re busy criticizing are not
present in the review. Conversely, you say nothing
about Mel White’s main points. 

Other than witch trials (also practiced by
Protestants), your little rapid-fire pot shots at
Catholics have no particular relevance here.  The
witch trials are relevant in that they, like the
Shoah, the lynchings and the genocide of Tutsis
disclose something pervasive among humans; to
particularize it as an episode in Christian history obscures that
and closes the door on a search to how to prevent
such things from happening. One would get nothing but
a headache straining to find logic or relevance in
your foray into so-called “dogmatism.”

Although you mostly abuse Cone and White by using
this review as a platform for whatever you wish to
talk about, you have, perhaps inadvertently, come
closer to the problem at hand in your mention of
“reason” v. “emotion.”  This a big subject and part
of the rich domain of Moral Psychology and of
Decision Making investigated by researchers in recent
years. Here I’m not referring to “emotions,” per se,
but the pervasiveness of automaticity, affective or
not, hardwired or built out of experience, that is
the basis for so much of what we do.  As I suggested
earlier, I think the key to this horrible history and
to preventing similar occurences, lies in searching
out the pervasively human mental operations
(including social influences of one’s in-group, tribe
or race) that erupt in such behavior. 

In the meantime I feel it’s good to point out the
Cone and White themselves are very particularly
talking about how African Americans (like ancient
Jews) looked to God, and in the case of the
Americans, the life of Jesus, to accompany them
during these horrific times, rather than take
the opposite tact, blaming and hating god, or
chucking faith because of the existence of evil and
suffering. And in this turn to God our African
American kin, like Gandhi, and like much of the Peace
Movement later, found the strength of heart and will
and the rationale to challenge racism (including its
imperialism flavor) and deal it a heavy blow. This
turn to God is certainly a big part of Mel White’s
and others’ challenge to perhaps the greatest
instantiation of genuine evil in our time, Wall
Street. (I’ve seen him with the Occupy movement.)  Anyone struggling for justice in our time
needs to bear this in mind, and rather than indulge
their own prejudices against religion, find
collaborators among the religious. (This includes the social evangelicals like the Sojourner movement and doctrinally conservative African American Christians. (While many on the religious right may be sincere and feeling embattled, they have been used as pawns by Social Darwinists—both politicians and preachers, who hijack Christianity just as Islamicist terrorists hijack Islam.)

I suggest that the militant, hateful atheism that has been on the rise in recent years is not altogether different from the hatred of blacks that led to their murder, or the same nature as the hatred of Jews in Nazi Germany.  All attempts to rationalize it, it’s still hateful prejudice, and thus dangerous.

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By AnAlienEarthling, December 26, 2011 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

I haven’t read Mr Cone’s book. I probably never will. I don’t think that I would really understand it, for two basic reasons.
  First off, I find it absolutely puzzling how one could assume - as, apparently, Mr Cone and Mr White both do - that by somehow “re-framing” (in both a Lakoffian and a Heideggerian sense) “lynching as crucifixion” racism will be somewhat arrested or our understanding of its evil - one which, some months ago I described in a discussion here as a “murder festival” - will somehow be deepened and, thereby (?) help as a prophylactic against further racism.
  The source of my puzzlement is historical juxtaposition: the very idea flies in the face of history. Lynching occurred in so-called Christian communities, just as witch trials did, and the sexual exploitation of children in Catholic communities. Perhaps, among the most perverse of Christian supremacists, re-framing might arrest violence against we who are among the lower ranks of humanity: the supremacists wouldn’t dare to make martyrs of us - but I doubt it.
  The second reason I cannot understand the White-Cone position is the naivety it seems to show concerning the source of moral value in human action.
  It seems to me that among the more deeply inhumane ” or “morally vacuous” mind-sets would be one that refrains from racism’s evil “by virtue of a commitment to Christianity,” “because” of a commitment to Christianity. In other words, White’s article invites me to ask: what kind of moral agent would it be who, on the one hand, is not so morally outraged, not so morally sickened by the evil of racism and the acts which it effects that he/she is not violently repulsed by it - perhaps, even physically so - but who, on the other hand, construes it as contrary to Christian doctrine and, therefore, opposes it? Such a “doctrinaire” opposition would not, it seems, preclude the evils of racism; a deeper, fundamentally human revulsion to it seems required.
  To put the point differently, what moral value is there in such a “doctrinaire resistance,” if you will, to racism, in contrast to one that reviles racism for the utterly incomprehensible, “bare” evil that it is? What “human comfort” does “doctrinaire resistance” afford racism’s victims? Recall the Little Rock Nine - amidst a boiling white, Christian sludge that could have erupted into a lynching, it was a “basic” human revulsion to racism that saved the life of one of the students.
  The issue here, of course, is a Hume-Kant issue: in what components of our “understanding” are we to anchor our moral sense; in reason or in heart? Although it is a specious dichotomy, and, therefore, a kind of false dilemma, the dispute expresses a fundamental aspect of our moral experience. There are times when “reasoned” response seems bereft of moral value, and only the “heart sprung” response carries value. At times, no reasoned view, however ethically praiseworthy, affords us comfort from a moral wrong, at times we human beings must be embraced, imbedded within a “bare,” irreducibly human gesture of care and concern for the Other. The evil of racism is one that screams out for the latter, not the former response. Indeed, from those in whom the vehemence against racism is grounded in doctrine - as Mr Cone and Mr White seem to suggest it should be - it is no comfort to be told that some of one’s best friends are black.
  Doctrines are necessary for society design - on the human level racism occurs at a deeper level.

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By ardee, December 26, 2011 at 6:07 am Link to this comment

As I read this article I could distinctly hear Billy Holiday singing “Strange Fruit”. I refuse to judge Christianity, a religion of 1.2 billion or so by the actions of the comparatively few, just as I refuse to judge Islam, a religion of 1.4 billion, by the actions of a few tens of thousands.
Far easier, I think, to judge humanity as a whole.

Kudos to EmileZ, December 25 at 8:55 pm for a very well done response.

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By stevendeedon, December 26, 2011 at 12:05 am Link to this comment

Cliff:

When you mentioned Marcus Aurelius earlier, I had
thoughts similar to your quote from Lucian, and this
double-sidedness is what James Cone has confronted us
with in “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” For all we
know the killers of thousands of African Americans
were, much of the time, nice people, just like we
think we are.

I’m all for demonizing and condemning the racist
monsters who murdered our African American brethren. 
That’s how I FEEL about what they did.  BUT. What
they’ve done raises the same kind of issue as those
people who colloborated with the Nazis in the Shoah. 
Or the Rwandan Hutus who murdered est. 800,000 Tutsis
and pro-peace Hutus. Death penalty sentencing in the
U.S. is similar, showing that by far jurors black and
white put more value on a white murder victim’s life.

I remember as a pre-teen I once took a disliking to a
frog in our backyard in Texas.  I shot him with a
b.b. gun.  It didn’t kill him. I shot him again,
maybe a third time.  Thank God he lived, as far as I
could tell. I’d felt a disgust toward him.  I’m
ashamed, and more, deeply sorry for hurting him and
endangering his life. There’s something that goes on
in us humans that can slide into this debasing
attitude where we for no good reason we are disgusted
with and prepared to demean other persons, and other,
nonhuman, animals.

One more example. I stopped eating meat 35 years ago,
and as a long time member of a Yale Bioethics Center
Working Group in Animal Ethics, and also a student of
Comparative Cognition (i.e. of animals), it’s clear
as day to me that nonhuman animals have minds very
similar to ours; they think, they anticipate and plan
and make decisions, they use symbolic communication,
they may have some math abilities, they show empathy
and even compassion—as the thrilling recent report
from a University of Chicago researcher has shown re
lab rats. In the Comparative Cognition lab here at
Yale, it’s been demonstrated that Capuchin monkeys
make “financial decisions” (trading washers for food)
the same way humans make financial decisions—they
are risk averse, but they will choose risk if the
alternative is certain loss.You can describe all of
this to people, and they may agree that yes,
certainly, animals are like us in every significant
way. But then they go right on eating nonhuman
animals for no other reason than that they like the
taste of their flesh. 

I am grateful to James Cone for bringing our
attention to the history of lynchings of African
Americans.  I am aghast with horror and sadness and
feel as sorry as I can be toward my fellow humans who
were killed.  And Mel White is not off track, I think
about the parallel to gays.  When I was a boy in
Texas is was a known activity on Friday nights for
high school kids to bait homosexuals and beat them
up, in one report I got, horribly.

But I think we make a mistake to just demonize these
violent transgressors—KKK lynchmen, Nazis, Hutus,
gay baiters and frog hater(no more!)and eaters of
nonhumans.  We’ve got to find out how this happens,
what is going on in human beings that results in such
murderous behavior. We’ve got some clues, but it’s
late and I’m signing off.

In any event, I just want to say before we get far
past Christmas Day .... One of the things I love most
about Jesus is his parables—seducing you into a
story with everyday details that are familiar, then
twisting! the story and pushing your reference points
out of reach, so you’re left hanging without an
answer—you have a chance to do a fresh take on the
situation; you can “re-imagine your world.” (Parable
scholarship that lifts off the evangelists’ frames
makes this clearer.)  That’s my hope for all of us,
that we can “re-imagine” our world and then go about
making it better place, “ruled” with kindness,
compassion and equity (fairness).

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By EmileZ, December 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment

@ Cliff Carson

I really like that bit about constructive suggestions to improve the safety of trapeze performers.

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By Cliff Carson, December 25, 2011 at 10:03 pm Link to this comment

Earlier I referenced three quotes by Marcus Aurelius as evidence that he knew what “Good” was, what follows is by Lucian as to the difference of what he spoke and his actions - something that is much more important than what a person speaks:

“At the same time Marcus Aureilus was making these statements and doing “good” things like making suggestions on how to improve the safety of trapeze performers ( using mats) , he was also :

waging wars of plunder and subjection in what is now Northern Europe and Asia Minor to supply the upper crust of Roman society, who earned nothing, with luxuries and to give “Bread and Circuses” to an enormous population of virtual slaves who also produced nothing in real wealth.  For as Emperor , he was constrained to exact from the work of the many to sustain the indolence and depravity of the few.

Does this last sentence ring a bell?

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By EmileZ, December 25, 2011 at 9:55 pm Link to this comment

When I see an image of a black person lynched, I see a crime.

When I see someone starving, or evicted from their home, I see a crime.

When I see a rich person functioning untroubled amidst all this, I see a crime.

When I see a middle-class American hiding their head in the sand for fear of what they might find out, I see a crime.

When I look at myself in the mirror, I feel I need more time to complete this troubling thought and perhaps an editor might help as well. (???)

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By Cliff Carson, December 25, 2011 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment

To add to this discussion the words of Burton Rascoe in his book “Promethians” ( 1933) in the foreword “To the Reader”, Rascoe states:

“The great imponderable is that energy is at once the great factor in life and its most sinister potential.  It is at least relatively true that power begets power and nothing else.  Champions of the weak, even, tend to oppose those weaker than themselves, once they have succeeded in their championship of the weak.  That is the blighting paradox.  All great tyrannies have begun in Idealism.  All reforms carry with them, like a shadow, the threat of evil.”

And in the book section observing Saint Mark he writes:

“When the Pious and argumentative fathers of the Christian Church established the canon of the New Testament some three hundred fifty years after the birth of Jesus , the Christ, they included in this canon of their faith - as we know - four distinct biographies of Jesus, the first three of them differing from one another but also differing so much from the Fourth Gospel as to seem to have been writing about two quite different men. “

I offer this above as an answer to the differences alluded to John Allegro.  Minor differences don’t always mean anything in the oral histories.

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By Berneredfeather, December 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great discussion going on here. Many I will have to read again. The story of Jesus
is a very important story in our world today. We should remember that the
Romans were crucifying as many as 500 people a day. As one comment above
pointed out he did not intend to start a new religion only to make some changes in
the old religion. Today there are many attempting to change the way the leaders
in the modern world are doing things. Those people looking for change are
persecuted. The Age of Aquarius is the age of truth and starts January 1, 2012.
May we all be blessed with the truth.

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By D.R. Zing, December 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

This is a beautiful piece of writing by Mr. Mel White.  Very moving.

I also like the comments below. 

To the moderate Christians and biblical scholars I would say:  Speak
out against the radicals, fundamentalists and evangelicals who are
violating Christianity. 

Criticism from other Christians hits the mark. And make no mistake:
There is a need for criticism.

Christianity in America has been hijacked by the ignorant, the superstitious,
the violent, the racist, the greedy. This hijacking has taken place,
in part, because moderate Christians have been hesitant to speak out. 
It’s worked out very badly for Christianity, for America, for the world. 

Speak out against the charlatans who have co-opted the Christian
faith for the benefit of their own greed and racism. 

Your religion is only as violent as you are.

D.R. Zing

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By stevendeedon, December 25, 2011 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

radicalfemme, you certainly could have picked up the
invitation offered to James M. to present the
concrete historical data your would like to base your position on,
along with a reasoned argument using historical
methodologies, to try to make your case. 

But it is often the case of those who DISBELIEVE that
there is “never enough to satisfy them”—to use
your terms. (I’ve little doubt that your position was
arrived at a priori, not because of some expertise in
historical methodologies.)  ... Humans are chimpanzees in
drag; they used various excuses to kill each other,
and at an earlier time, religion was sometimes used.
But their murderous behavior was hardly on the scale of atheists like Stalin and Mao, or the occulist Hitler, who, like yourself,
despised both Judaism and Christianity.

So once again the god-haters have set out to hijack
on online forum to scratch their itch, and utterly
ignore the subject at hand, this time Mel White’s
review of James Cone’s “The Cross and the Lynching
Tree.”  Since they have no shown no interest in
rational discussion—and I think we have
insulted White and Cone and our murdered African American kin, by ignoring them, am ending my participation in this discussion.

If you wish to talk about Mel White’s review or James
Cone’s book about some monstrous behavior by our fellow humans—or
alternatively, to reflect on Christmas in something
other than a mean spirited way—I may respond. 
Otherwise you’re on your own—to put put in the
words of the civil rights movement, I shall not be
moved.

For now I prefer to enjoy Christmas Day and my gratefulness for all the ways that followers of Jesus have made this world a better place, and—for those like Mel White and James Cone, continue to do.

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By Anarcissie, December 25, 2011 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

There’s about as much evidence for the historical existence of Jesus as for most other figures of the time other than very prominent political and military figures, who could get their names stamped on the currency and graven in stone.  One may disagree about the particulars, but there is no good reason to doubt the story entirely.

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By radicalfemme, December 25, 2011 at 7:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

James M Martin!  You are a voice crying in the vast wasteland of a relgious belief that doesn’t require on any large amount of reason.  There are a lot of us who agree with you but have given up on those who still have to have their myths to lean on daily.  Those who choose to believe have ways of circumventing the truth regardless of the facts you present. They are never enough to satisfy them. So you are wasting your time.  Myself Christianity has always spoken for itself down through the centuries.  More people have been butchered in the name of religion…than for any other reason.

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By THX 1133 is not in the movie..., December 25, 2011 at 5:39 am Link to this comment

I will add; it’s interesting nobody has brought up John
Allegro; author of *The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross*
(1970) and *The Dead Sea Scrolls* (1956).
Very interesting and thoughtful essays on the history
of the Christ.
Cheers…

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By THX 1133 is not in the movie..., December 25, 2011 at 3:34 am Link to this comment

By stevendeedon, December 24 at 1:11 pm

____________

While not a part of this discussion; I’d like to
commend you for your considered responses to a
historically difficult discussion which rarely ends
well.
Bravo and the best for the coming new year…

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By CanDoJack, December 25, 2011 at 2:44 am Link to this comment

It all comes down to one point. The devil and the god are
in the details. It behooves one with common sense and
pragmatic morality to avoid getting _______ [(fill in
your own blank)] in the details.

It always comes down to “it is what it is”. What it is?
What it was? What it’s gonna be by and by?

Each person is either the commodity-sacrifice, the
advertisement for the commodity, or the dealer.

In creating a novel called NINE ELEVENS I have been
putting a lot of research time into sacrifice. Today I
was going through the devolution of the Maya society’s
self destruction a half millenium before the
conquistadores, bishop in tow, arrived to relieve them of
their valuables, burn their books, tell them they were
wrong, and shed their blood. Christians, as we know, call
that ‘evangelism’ or trying to save them. Whatever! Those
Maya are today, five hundred years after conquistadores
still, down trodden, mistreate, killed, and enslaved.

True, the classic preconquest Maya were big on capturing
a slave or stranger in order to offer their blood to the
god d’jour.

A frequent term among real Mormons is ‘blood atonement’.
On 9-11-1857 in southwest Utah a group of them, dressed
as Paiute Indians, slaughtered 120 men, women, and
children of a wagon train bound for California. The event
is known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

I understood as a teenager that the angry husband of my
aunt killed one of his black employees with a crowbar.

I studied theology in Virginia at a very fundamentalist
(Christian, not Arab) school. Some of my professors were
fond of usurping biblical exegesis time to point out the
values of the Virginia poll tax, yesteryear’s approach to
diminishing the black vote. (Today they are passing many
more laws to accomplish the same purpose.)

I was not there to study the poll tax. I was always
asking a lot of questions about theological what ifs. Too
many, I suppose. I was examined for heresy. My final
statement to that group was, “Your goal is to confine my
Jesus to a cigar box. I know enough theology to aver that
he is not going to fit in there. I was supposed to be the
sacrifice for that roast.

Someone said to me the Maya culture fell apart because
that was their punishment for their blood sacrifices. I
said, “Are you a Christian. You would not be if Jesus and
his people did not believe in blood sacrifice.

The ordinary person has to hope he doesn’t have to hang
around all day waiting to die.

That could be why Utah is tenacious about firing squad
executions.

My favorite guru was Alan Watts. Still is. He said
something (many somethings) that it took me a while to
understand. He said, “

oceans wave, people people.”

Back in the seventies a friend of a friend wrote a book
that shoppers could use to translate the verbiage in the
ingredient lists of food products. It was called PICK
YOUR POISON.

I appreciate the book review. I appreciate BURY MY HEART
AT WOUNDED KNEE. I appreciate people trying to save
Ogallala Aquifer. I appreciate holocaust survivors
promising they will never forget. I appreciate Woody
Guthrie’s DEPORTEES.

I like to remember to try to imitate Henry Fonda’s final
words in GRAPES OF WRATH.

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By Free Your Mind, December 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bravo James! The voice of reason. I will never
understand why we hold on for dear life a metaphor that
was created to control people. It is documented
throughout history that God, Jesus, Gods were created
by the people for the people. It really saddens me that
black people embrace a false God that enslaved them in
the most cruel way.

Like I always say, Religion is for the powerless and
uneducated. James, I loved your post!

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By stevendeedon, December 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

Cliff:

I agree about James Cone, and I even think one might
tweak the idea of this book slightly to get a
parallel with Jesus to work.  I would obviously be
compelling.

James M:

Historical scholars don’t take the New Testament
texts at face value, and they don’t take Josephus
uncritically. I guess I thought you could surmise
that from my discussion.  I think that it’s an
overstatement to say, “Josephus has been largely
discredited.”  Josephus’ work is massive and I don’t
think you’re prepared (show me if I’m wrong) to carry
out a book length examination of it to try to make
your case.

I think your persistent attacks, without presenting
evidence to back them up disclose an a priori
prejudice / conclusion that you keep restating. I
suspect you’re angry and, perhaps, disappointed in
religious people—or something like that.

In any event the sort of posture you take is not the
way to seek out the best explanation for anything. (I
recently spent much of a weekend with over 60
cosmologists, other physicists, mathematicians,
philosopher and a few theologians, talking about
cosmology, and I notice how I like the approach to
presenting scientific hypotheses that says, in any
instance, “I think this is the best explanation of
the data.” I am a student of the cognitive sciences
myself and a great fan of experimental methods where
they can be used.) ... However, for the sake of
discussion I’ll give you benefit of the doubt that
you’re sincere.

Did you come from an evangelical, Fundamentalist, or
other conservative background?  I find that even well
well-trained scholars (the late Robert Funk, recently
Bart Ehrman) are so angry about feeling betrayed by
their conservative education that they have a hard
time putting it aside when they do scholarly
discourse. 

So.  I’m happy to launch into a summary of Historical
Jesus methodology; it’s been evolving since the
1950s, and triangulates methods/results from a
several disciplines.  But if I do, I’d like you to
agree to engage with me seriously. Whether or not you
are convinced by this, will you then simply present
your own case, if you have one, against the validity
of using the gospels at all (if your position is that
they can’t be used), in a step-by-step argument,
citing specific textual passages and specific
scholarly arguments (give me not only author but
specific works),to dismiss them? As you can surmise,
blanket statements are of no use.  Are you up for
this?  I don’t want to do this if you aren’t willing
to lay out a long sustained, argument for your
position, with very detailed evidence, citing
“chapter and verse,” of texts and the secondary
literature you are using.

Steve

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By Cliff Carson, December 24, 2011 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

“If you read about Rome at they time, Romans had none
of the respect for human life we do.”

You will find that comment in one of the posts.

And this is exactly what I am speaking of.

What is behind the most murderous activities today? I think that if you really take a deep look the War Criminals of today and yesterday, they depend on a Religious exclusivity to provide cover for their killing and robbery.

James Cone is a most educated man and certainly deserves the accolades he has received.

Mr. Cone is 73 and so am I.  We were both raised in Arkansas.  It is interesting (at least to me ) that when Cone attended Philander Smith College in Little Rock in the Mid 60’s Arkansas had already become the First Confederate State to integrate a High School in 1954.  Faubus ran for Governor on a platform to integrate all Arkansas Schools and had Virgil Blossom present a Desegregation plan to accomplish this.  Ironically Little Rock Central High School Was scheduled to be integrated in 1957.  The complete transition to integrated schools was to be finished by 1962.  This plan was approved by the United States Government.

However intervention from Lawyers who found a pot of Gold at the end of the “Civil Rights Lawsuits funding” ( you might recall that when a civil rights lawsuit was brought the plaintiffs lawyers were to be paid by the Government - win or lose the case), This brought a flood of lawsuits and made quite a few new lawyer millionaires.  Politics got into the fray when the Attorney General of the United States seeking political points, challenged the Arkansas Plan earlier adopted by the U S Government. The Arkansas plan was overturned and you all know the rest, except:

Do you not think it strange that the most leading edge Governor in favor of integration and doing something about it became the pariah of Segregationist in the History Books and a whole new Money making venture ( for the few that is ) grew up around Civil Rights?

Little Rock Central was integrated by force in 1957 just as it had been planned to be accomplished peacefully in the Faubus plan.

Possibly Mr. Cone has written on this, I don’t know, but I give this example as how astray attitudes can become history, then linger as facts simply because no one examines them.

I don’t know what the “on street” attitude of Romans was back then.  I do know that to say today’s Americans should be allowed to claim the High Road of “Goodness” while allowing our Government to denigrate then desecrate Nations for the profits to be made and then kill millions in the process is nothing short of hypocrisy.

One Roman Emperor seems to have been aware of “Goodness”  and made most telling observations, here are three quotes from Marcus Aurelius:

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”

“Understand however that every man is worth just so much as the things are worth about which he busies himself.”

“Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect”

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By James M. Martin, December 24, 2011 at 8:41 am Link to this comment

stevendeddon, what historical evidence do you have of Jesus Christ.  There is none. If you tell me “the New Testament,” that is circular reasoning, a fallacy. If you say Josephus, he has largely discredited.  There was no historical Jesus, so all of you pontificating on the Essenes and their relation to Jesus is just bullshit.

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By Leefeller, December 24, 2011 at 7:25 am Link to this comment

My religiosity consists of partaking with the spirits, since my partaking started early this Season, (it has been cold here) may I suggest people set aside their preferred proclivities and deviations and have a “Merry Christmas” This year.

Instead of the usual cookies and milk,.... Santa has informally requested a slight change this year, he has requested Tequila, it gets quite cold flying around the world in his topless Sleigh and of course now you know the reason both Santa and Rudolph have red nose’s!

Few people know this, but Santa is a practicing Atheist, but much worse for Republicans, Santa feels gays are people too and so are aliens. Well Santa has apologized for his Atheism, and he has been reported to pay his respects to peoples religiosity if they will respect his Atheism.

Merry Christmas, Holidays, whatever and more more importantly hope we all have a great New Year as the world is supposed to end!

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm Link to this comment

Okay, Cliff, one last response and I’m signing off. 
Re chief priests and all that see my early remarks. I
think the simplest (as in Occam’s Razor explanation
is that Jesus was a threat to the Temple. (So were
John the Baptist and the Essenes, but they didn’t
take their fight to home base.) With his scene in the
Temple courtyard, he threatened the civil peace and
the detente between the chief priests and Roman
authorities that allowed the Temple to flourish.  The
Temple was Caiaphas’ life, after all, and I suppose
the same goes for the other elders who “examined”
Jesus.  No need for any other issues to be involved. 
They handed him over. Okay, happy dreams.

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm Link to this comment

To chuckwagoncharlie:

I missed your recent comment. 

For more on the priesthood and the ruling elite in
Judea during Jesus’ time you can take a look at
works by James van der Kaam(“From Joshua to
Caiaphas”), Martin Goodman (“The Ruling Class of
Judea”) and Helen K. Bond (“Caiaphas: Friend of Rome
and Judge of Jesus?”—also has a book on Pilate);
and Mary Smallwood’s “The Jews Under Roman Rule” is cited a lot. There’s also a Emil Schurer’s 5 volume
“History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ,”
but I don’t think I’ve used that much.

But by all means read the section on Jesus last days in E. P. Sanders’ “Jesus and Jerusalem.” This is a very major influential book in Jesus scholarship, and helped to moved Historical Jesus studies in the direction of examining how he fit within the context of contemporaneous Judaism. Sanders think the Jewish “trial materials” are so inconsistent, the conclusions we can make are only the minimal ones I’ve mentioned during my comments. BTW, I met some a few years or so ago, and he was adamant that the supposed arguments between Jesus and “scribes and Pharisees” were either exaggerated, or the projection of early Christian-Jewish conflicts (which I’ve mentioned) onto the life of Jesus.

My best recollection from reading is that most likely
the ones who “judged” Jesus and turned him over to
Pilate, were Caiaphas, his father-in-law Ananus (a
former chief priest) and some other chief priests
and/or olders. Following this line, it doesn’t make
any sense to think of some big trial under some
formal body known as the Sanhedrin, and I’m not sure
it was operant at the time. The Acts of the Apostles
is sort an idealized, perhaps a
sort of historical fiction; it needs historical
scrutiny same as the gospels do. One method is to compare
what Acts says with what Paul says in his letters.  You might also look at Luke modifies his common material with Matthew (“Q”), and then see if some of the same themes are present in Acts, the second part of his gospel.  You’ll find them, BTW. 

Certainly there were big conflicts between Christians
and their fellow Jews, that’s why they are separated
now.  (Even Paul had no intention to form a Christian
church, as some non-Jewish entity—anti-Semitic
German scholarship has been exposed for what it was,
in its attempt to divorce Jesus and Paul from
Judaism. See “The Aryan Jesus.” But I don’t know
anything about some long-purge of Christians by Jews. 
If you read about Rome at they time, Romans had none
of the respect for human life we do. They rules by
brute murderous force.

Okay guys, I’m worn out.  Peace.

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By Cliff Carson, December 23, 2011 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment

Thank you stevendeedon for your patient answers and opinion. 

The reason I think this issue is so very important is that powerful Evangelical Ministries have joined as part of the Republican Party base and I recall Rod Parsley saying that he felt that he was on a mission from God to eradicate Islam.

Hagee, said that if Christians didn’t support Israel in their subjugation of the Palestinians, they wouldn’t be going to Heaven.

My local American Family Radio AKA Americas Christian Radio spout a 24/7 diatribe against Democrats.  This National Organization even brought together a Panel of Their Top Conservative Political preachers investigating whether being a Democrat would disallow their entry into Heaven.  Their unanimous decision was that a Democrat was not qualified to make it to Heaven.  I would have been surprised by any other verdict from them.

As to Gingrich he is an ICON of the Republican Party and to get the Jewish vote he came up with the absurdity of Palestinians being an invented people.

My point in all this is that the use of Religion as a Political force is everything but what a “Perfect” God should tolerate.  This Religion of exclusivity is used as an excuse to kill, eradicate, steal, torture, whatever, and is the Prime motivator for deceiving the people of America to approve their ungodly actions, much as the Jewish Leaders rallied the mobs to crucify Jesus.

The result of what I have mentioned above is:

The United States and Israel are the two most ungodly Nations on Earth given that they claim “Next to God” goodness while murdering people around the Earth to enrich themselves.  As I said earlier they ( the Governments)don’t live the Ten Commandments.

And these Governments are the first to plunder their neighbors resources and kill those people if they resist.

Surely these people don’t really believe they are living a Godly life.  Or do they?

The Jewish High Priests and Elders convinced the people that they should choose a career criminal to pardon, over a Teacher that only did good and preached the message of the Good Samaritan and Salvation.  He excluded no one.

The teaching of Jesus provided an opportunity for all people, including the Jews for Salvation.  The Jewish Leaders recognized an end to their dominance if this Jesus person was real.  That is why they brought charges against Jesus and propagandized the Jewish Nation to crucify him.

A classic case of Religious exclusivity.

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment

To Cliff and Maani, Sean and Blue:

Cliff and Maani:

I’ve spent an awfully time here, and I’m going to
wrap up. 

Re Matthew 27, see my earlier remarks about the
fighting between Christians and their fellow Jews
after the destruction of Jerusalem, when Matthew’s
gospel was written. 

I’m sorry, I’d have to go dig around for literature
about Barabbas. You could do this on your own, with
the Anchor Bible Commentary, AB Reference Library and
AB Dictionary; the Interpreters Bible, and Hermeneia
(the preeminent commentary today), as well as the
sources I mentioned, by Sanders and Brown. You might
get somewhere with The Text This Week online, but I
think you’ll sometimes find you can only link to the
best of it if you have institutional access (like
through a university)to the Ebsco ATLA Religion data
base.  BTW, If you go to the Yale University Library
subject guide for Religion, or the Yale Divinity
School web site guides, you’ll find lots of links to
available material. 

I think you’ll also find plenty of helpful stuff in Raymond
Brown’s “Introduction to the New Testament,” which is
used at Yale Divinity School. The late Raymond Brown
was probably the most well-liked biblical scholar of
the past 40 years, and the book has stood up quite
well since the time it was published. Although others
have pushed further the cutting edges of various
hermeneutics (postcolonial, poststructual, etc.),
Brown will take you a very long way toward
familiarity with modern NT scholarship.  For the
Hebrew Bible (OT), the main intro I know about is John J. Collins
“Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” based on his
course lectures.  I’ve attended a lot of lectures
with him and have the book.  It’s quite readable.

Maani, I have some disagreement with you about details, but it’s
because we are reading the NT differently, I think,
as you might tell from my remarks to Cliff above. I
think you are reading it at face value, which I did
too at one time. (For one thing, I think mainline biblical scholars have largely ditched the old supersessionionist theory, which is in the background of your discussion.) You might like Brown’s Intro too. 
It took me a couple of years to get the hang of this
stuff, but I found it well worth it.  It allows you
to see what the evangelists are doing and to consider
it all within its historical context.  Then sometimes
it may turn out to be fine to read at face value. 

In any event I imagine we all agree that Jesus was
out to liberate the poor, the marginalized, the
infirm and demoniacs (with dissociative disorders
IMO),et al, and that we all want to be part of the
same team in that regard. Maybe James Martin and
Ashton Haight would feel the same.

Sean and Blue:

Sorry I missed your comments earlier. Interesting
reference to the Molly McGuires.  I’ll check that
out.  I wonder whether Christianity was just a banner
used by opportunists then, same as the so-called
religious right uses it today to support Social
Darwinism (survival of the fittest, and the rich).
My hope is if we are open to some of the values of
conservative Christians they will decide that they
are in fact of the same “tribe” as some of us more
liberal types.

Very interesting comparison, of the cross to the pink
triangle. Homosexuals are surely another group who
surely have tales of physical abuse at the hands of
others, and about being marginalized. I keep coming
back, in my own mind to a couple of talks I attended
in 2008 by Gustavo Gutierrez, the Father of
Liberation Theology. He said something like, when you
are close to the poor, i.e. the marginalized, those
considered “nonpersons,” then you are close to
Christ.  You can download the November 8, 2008 from
here: http://www.yale.edu/macmillan/multimedia.htm

As William Blake would say, “Enough, and Perhaps, Too
Much”.  Steve

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm Link to this comment

People certainly have the right to say that the moon
is made of green cheese, or that there is no evidence
for the existence of Jesus. They have the right to
say that other people are “peddling bullshit” and to
toss off other meaningless opinions, same as they
have a right to the distal end of their recto-
sigmoidal colon.

They should know however that unless they marshall
formidable expert evidence and a strong argument they
will be treated like small dogs who habitually snipe
at pedestrians and chase passing cars. And they
should not surprised if they get run over.  If they
feel they don’t get enough attention they should
adopt a dog from the animal shelter rather than
pester other people.

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By dAVID, December 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The proposition is, on its face, absurd. The holocaust perpetrated on the blacks was simply because they were black…and then this descends to the tawdry arguments and sexual identity. All of these are in their own right horrific, inexplicable and, on this earth, unforgivable. These heroic martyrs were killed by their own citizens. They were all ordinary folk, unsung, ‘sine nomine.’

Christ was a singular, celebrated and exceptional public figure of freedom and privilege, who was preaching salvation of others, love of all, direct connection with God. He was not strung up because he was Jewish, and he was not strung up by his neighbors. He was killed by the official ruling authority. But in that act, of course, he becomes one with the martyred of 19th and 20th C America, because he was nailed up in the spate of crucixion-lynchings the Romans were wreaking on dozens, sometimes hundreds, of ordinary citizens…every single day! It is these ordinary uppity Jewish men that are the closest analog to the martyrs of a disgraceful rural America. Christ is the extraordinary prophet who chose - or was chosen - to join them.

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By James M. Martin, December 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm Link to this comment

stevendeedon is peddling bullshit, too.

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment

Hi Cliff,

Re: “My statement was about an observation that
exclusivity of one’s own religion was what is wrong
with most of the religions now in existence”

I am a cradle Catholic and have also been (formally)
a Tibetan Buddhist for many years (earlier a Zen
student).  You’re welcome, if you like, to read my
pieces (one of the them is very academic) on Multiple
Religious Belonging, on my blog, at
http://stevendeedon.wordpress.com. (Go the category,
Religious Pluralim.) That might be a better place to
have a discussion about religious exclusivism, that
as comments to Mel White’s review of Cone’s book. 

This is certainly a problem but religious
practitioners are rapidly getting over this.  A high
majority of Catholics, e.g. believe that salvation is
available in many religions, and a majority of
American Protestants agree (you can look this up in
Gallup and perhaps Pew Trust polls online and in the
National Catholic Reporter study on American
Catholics that came out recently).  The dialogue
between Christians and Muslims is moving very, very
fast, stimulated by the movement “A Common Word,”
which was in response to an exchange with Pope
Benedict. (See Miroslav Volf’s “Allah: A Christian
Response.)  The Society for Buddhist-Christian
Studies has been around more than 25 years.  The
Council for a Parliament of the World Religions
developed the Global Ethic Project.  The Catholic
Church is certainly the leader in these things,
despite some reservations on the part of Pope
Benedict, but Lutherans are also important
contributors. In Japan and India, Christianity is
small percentage wise, and the Christians I know
about, Catholics, are happy to be part of the larger
religious culture. Korea may be different.

There’s a great book by the late theologian Jacquis
Dupuis, called “Toward a Christian Theology of the
World Religions.”  He rewrote it later as
“Christianity and the Religions,” or something like
that, but the first book is still the best single
book on this subject. (It’s slightly more
conservative than my view, and maybe Dupuis’ too, but
if you’re not very involved with this issue, you
might not notice that he’s doing backflips to stay
within more traditional bounds of inclusivism. 
Inclusivism is the view that other religions may well
have some of the Truth, but if you’ve got some Truth
it came from Christ, even if you didn’t recognize
that. This is the pope’s view, unless it has changed.

You might also like “Without Buddha I Could Not Be a
Christian,” by a very prominent Catholic theologian,
Paul Knitter.  I don’t mean to say that Catholics
have the territory all sewn up, but I don’t know as
much about other Christian traditions, or other non-
Christian traditions other than Buddhism, and Vedanta
(a little bit).

I’m not too interested in what Newt Gingrich has to
say about religion or anything else, unless I can
clearly see that it’s not political opportunism. 

Sorry, Cliff, I can’t give you a good, evidenced-
based answer to your question about God’s Chosen
People without more research than I have time for. It
has no importance for me.

I’ll try to get back to your other item.  Please be
patient.

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By chuckwagoncharlie, December 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As I read the narrative the Jewish Priesthood and Sanhedrin pushed the Romans into the dirty work by a tradition of swapping prisoners. If I recall the same Jewish political group had Saul(Paul)and a few others stone Stephens to death because of his following Jesus. It is apparent the Jewish authorities purged the Christians through out the Roman empire more so than the Romans. Even in todays world count the number of Baptist Churches floating around in Isreal.

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By Maani, December 23, 2011 at 7:43 pm Link to this comment

Stevendeedon:

I appreciate your commentary, the majority of which is, imo, theo-historically correct.

Cliff:

You speak of religious exclusivism, and ask if “the Jewish religion is the chosen of God.”  In a word, yes.  But it is (obviously) somewhat more complicated than that.  Let me try to address it in general.

It is without question (Scripturally) that God “chose” the Israelites (who became the Jewish people), and ultimately sent a Jew to be the messiah - rejected by His own people, but accepted by others.  And this is where it gets a bit sticky.

Jesus did not come to start a new religion: He came to teach the Jews how to be better Jews.  He taught that the spirit of the law was more important than the letter of the law (which was, simplistically, the main argument He had with the Temple priests, scribes and pharisees).  He “re-interpreted” many important passages of the “Old Testament” (which, of course, was the only text extant at the time).  He essentially turned Judaism on its ear - which is why so many of His own people rejected Him.

Although He was preaching openly - i.e., to anyone, Jew or Gentile - it was only after He saw that the Jews were rejecting His message that He focused on the Gentiles as a whole.  However, while He did send the apostles and disciples out to “preach the Gospel” (“good news”) to all and sundry, He was NOT attempting to establish a new religion, but rather sharing a philosophy of how we could make THIS world a better place by truly LIVING virtues like love, peace, forgiveness, humility, compassion, patience, charity, selflessness, service, justice, truth.

The creation of a new religion (“Christ-ianity”) was done by others, particularly in light of His death and resurrection.  Although Jesus did say to Peter that, “Upon this rock, I will build my church,” the word “church” at that time would have referred to people, not buildings; in this case, ALL people who accepted His message, not just one particular group.  (And, after all, although most Jews rejected His message, many DID accept it as a “revision” of Judaism, not as a “new religion.”)

So, yes, in one sense ANYONE who accepts and lives His message is part of the “church” that Jesus spoke of - the one that is (perhaps erroneously) called “Christ-ianity”.  However, at no point did Jesus suggest that this “new group” had somehow “replaced” the Jews as God’s “chosen people.”

So…

While the Jews are God’s chosen people, the Jewish RELIGION could only be considered the “chosen of God” if we accept the “modifications” that Jesus brought to it.  Thus, the religion “chosen by God” would be within the “Judeo-Christian construct,” but would consist of a mixture of OT and NT Scripture.

Forgive me for this admittedly convoluted, hopelessly simplistic explanation.  However, your question is important, and is an issue that is at the heart of so many other issues: Jewish-Christian relations, parts of Christian extremism, and even the ongoing issues in the Middle East between the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael.

Peace.

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By haightashton, December 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm Link to this comment

Why do these so-called theologians continue to peddle invented facts about Jesus.
It’s 99% invention. And, I’m willing to wager, most of those good old folks doing
the lynching thought of themselves as Christians. It’s all so sad.

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By haightashton, December 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

Why do so-called scholars continue peddling fabricated “truth” about Jesus’ life? 
By and large it’s invented. And, ironically, I bet those lynch mobs thought of
themselves as Christians too. It’s all so pathetic and sad.

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By chuckwagoncharlie, December 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm Link to this comment

Having been born and raised in the South during the turmoil I witnessed the Organized Church turn its back on the plight of the African Americans. I do recall the entrenched Political Party was the Democrats. If one voted one voted in a Democrat election. There were no Republicans.
The Power of the exiting Political Elites used fear and intimadation against Whites as well as African Americans in keeping the uneducated in line.

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By Cliff Carson, December 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment

stevendeedon, December 23 at 2:36 pm

“Carston, please take a look…...”

“I’ve forgotten my reading
about Barabbas, but I’d be suspicious about the
historicity of that, too.”

and you noted in other postings:

“As Jesus was an innocent victim of mob hysteria and Roman imperial violence,”

“Pilate sentenced Jesus and executed him as an
insurgent, accused of claiming to be “King of the
Jews.” 

My statement was about an observation that exclusivity of one’s own religion was what is wrong with most of the religions now in existence.

In Matthew 27 verse 17 Pilate asks the Chief Priests and elders “Whom will ye that I release unto you?  Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” then verse 18 follows: For he ( Pilate ) knew that for envy they (The Chief Priests and Elders )had delivered him.”

Verse 20.  But the Chief Priests and Elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

Verse 24.  When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water , and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just ( innocent) person: see ye to it.

Verse 25.  Then answered all the people , and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.


What I have outlined here is straight from the Bible.  I point this out to make a point concerning the exclusivity of a religion.

Many Biblical Scholars refuse to allow the Jewish Religion to be blamed for the Crucifixion of Jesus.  They do it for Political Correctness and other Agenda’s.

I mentioned that Newt Gingrich stated that the Palestinians were an invented people.  He went on to say that they should get off Israel’s Land.  Land that Newt says was given by God to his Chosen people.

Gingrich has given the Jewish Religion status above the Christian Religion and all other Religions.  And if God did this he gave exclusivity status to the Religion that, because of envy, caused his Son’s Crucifixion.

Doesn’t something seem wrong here?

I stated that the problem with religions is in the body faithful, the leaders, not in the Deity.

The answer desired from self Identified Christians is:  Is the Jewish Religion the chosen of God?

Please give your reasons for your answer.

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By Sean, December 23, 2011 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Lynching was generally performed outside the authority of the state. Jesus was crucified by the state. Stevendeedon wrote eloquently about that.

A more accurate comparison of people executed under the pretense of state authority would be those labeled Molly Maguires. They too were victims of the racism of good God fearing, white Christian Americans using the state to carry out their evil.

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By Blue, December 23, 2011 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Since the still-ongoing persecution of homosexuals was mentioned, I thought I’d
point out that the pink triangle used by the Nazis to identify them for persecution
has been co-opted by the LGBT community in the past in much the same way that
the cross, a symbol of persecution and death, has been co-opted by the Christian
community as a symbol of faith.

I tend to agree with the posters that do not consider Jesus to have been “lynched.” 
A lynching is an extrajudicial execution.  The fact that Pontius Pilate left it up to
the mob to decide whether he should bestow his pardon on either Jesus or
Barabbas does not mean that Jesus did not have due process, consistent with that
historical period.  He was found guilty by the Sanhedrin, which had jurisdiction
over Jews in the matters with which Jesus was charged, and only turned him over
to the Romans because they could not carry out a sentence of death.

While conflating the execution of Jesus by the authorities of the Roman province of
Judea with the murders by private citizens of blacks in this country is a stretch,
that doesn’t detract from blacks finding some comfort in the midst of a terrible
situation from believing that someone who had suffered as Jesus had could
understand their suffering.  If it helps them to see the two situations as identical,
not only in the physical suffering aspect, but also in the process, why interfere
with that merely on fine procedural distinctions?

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm Link to this comment

Re the post at 3:24 p.m.  Once again some ghoulish
impersonation of Hitchen’s ghost appears amidst the
cemetery fog, biting at his favorite itch, i.e. his
obsession with religion.  He goes on to spew
absolutely ignorant nonsense about the historicity of
Jesus and about early Christianity, thus aligning
himself (in spirit, if not content) with his dead
hero, and the (dishonest) S. Harris and (Flatlander)
R. Dawkins. Such hyenas prowl online forums sniffing
for blood, ready to sidetrack discussions (like this
one) and rampage on about their favorite prejudice
(based on a priori bias, not knowledge). One hoped
better of TruthDig, that it might be a place were
sincere and intelligent atheists and religionists
alike could talk about how to make the world about
place. It’s annoying that there are still such hyenas
about trying to sabotage this. If this continues,
serious readers will need to leave forums like this.

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

Once again some ghoulish impersonation of Hitchen’s
ghost raises its head out of the fog to snarl at
Christianity; rant like an eight year old who’s angry
to find our that Santa Claus was mom and dad and his
grandparents; and spew absolute nonsense about Jesus
and the early history of Christianity, with no basis
in fact; and attempt to destroy the hopes of
intelligent atheists and religionists alike that we
can carry on together toward making the world a
better place—not to mention one with civility in
forums like this. Practitioners of this utterly
uneducated and hateful sort of nastiness, like the
dishonest attacks of Harris, and silliness of
Hitchens and Dawkins, continue to prowl online forums
like hyenas sniffing for blood and with a compulsion
to sidetrack intelligent conversation onto an
argument about their favorite itch.  I had hoped
better of TruthDig.

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James M. Martin's avatar

By James M. Martin, December 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm Link to this comment

As an atheist, I am not sure what to make of this.  What, we are supposed to be more conscientious because we believe in a mythical deity, the reductio ad absurdum of many thousands of years in false hopes pegged to a dead-and-resurrected sol invictus?  The book and your review beg many questions. The most important of them asks about the veracity of the very prophet you invoke.  All right, we are told that he was the Messiah long-awaited by the Jews, who crucified him by such passivity as this author condemns even in Niebuhr, using well known Washington political tactics, including blaming the other guys.  This person never existed; he was the creation of the early bishops, some of whom were slaughtered because, as Arians, they questioned the fleshly existence of the Savior. Hasn’t all this dogmatic folderol been exposed as fraudulent by, e.g. Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins, that we should simply admit that belief in “God” is a primative, unevolved superstition, most likely engendered by fear of ceasing to exist?  The only argument we need raise, so well debated by John Leslie Mackey, is the argument from evil. Roman Catholic priests, by their passivity, saw the slaughter of 3/4 of a million Jews, gypsies, and Serbs in wartime Croatia.  An all knowing all powerful good God would not have allowed it.

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment

Carston, please take a look at my previous remark,
and for further info see E. P. Sanders historic work,
“Jesus and Judaism.”  If you have the patience for
mind-numbing detail, you could tnen move on the
Raymond E. Brown’s “The Death of the Messiah.” 

It’s a little annoying that Cone trashes Rheinhold
Neibuhr for not picking up on a connection that is
INCORRECT. 

I hope no one will misunderstand my remarks.  The
entire issue leaves one aghast and heart-broken. It
would be great if one could find an analogy to the
suffering of Jesus, and there may well be a way to do
it.  But not the way Cone has attempted.

BTW, critical analysis shows we know almost nothing
about Judas except that he was one of the original
Twelve, and the gross fact that he betrayed Jesus.
(Unfortunately, I suspect, popular views on this as
other aspects of Jesus’ story come more from movies
than either the gospels, or the history that
underlies them.  Mary Magdalene as a fallen woman is
another case in point.) I’ve forgotten my reading
about Barabbas, but I’d be suspicious about the
historicity of that, too.

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment

I am extremely sympathetic to the concerns of this
book, not least because I was a white boy in de facto
segregated Texas in the 50s and 60s.  It was in
college, after the murder of Martin Luther King, that
I learned from my fellow, black, college students of
the horrors their grandfathers told them about.

More broadly I am inspired by Liberation theologians,
and broadly in agreement with them, regardless of the
criticisms by others in my faith community, the RCC.

But I am disappointed that James Cone has
inappropriately chosen the crucifixion as a symbol
for lynching.  I have been reading in Historical
Jesus research going back about 30 years now.
Historians are very confident about the historicity
of Jesus’ death, in general.  But Jesus was not
lynched. 

Caiaphas, the chief priest, perhaps his father in
law, Ananus (?) and other elders handed Jesus over to
Pilate, most likely because of the (almost all
scholars agree) Jesus “violently” disrupted standard
operating practice at the Temple, publicly, and
prophesied that God would destroy the Temple
(symbolically expressing this as above). He did this
during the preparation for Passover, when as many as
250,000 pilgrims may have been in Jerusalem for the
great Jewish feast of freedom. (The Roman military
contingent there was rather small.)

Pilate sentenced Jesus and executed him as an
insurgent, accused of claiming to be “King of the
Jews.”  There had been violent insurrections earlier
during this period, in which the leaders claimed to
be kings (Judas ben Hezekiah, Simon and Athronges,
e.g.).  And there was a also a recent history of
crowd protests of Roman authority, not to mention a
popular revolt against one of the sons of Herod the
Great, early in Jesus lifetime, as I recall. Son of
God is a term for the King of Israel and by
extension, a royal messiah, not to mention a title of
Roman emperors.

Critical analysis of texts shows we know almost
nothing about Judas, except that he was one of the
original Twelve and that he betrayed Jesus.  But the
whole story of back door dealings and paid-for
betrayal and treachery is unlikely—at best.

The stories of crowds demanding Jesus’ death is
almost certainly an exaggeration—at best, I think. 
It reflects the situation after the destruction of
the Temple in the Jewish war with Rome, when
Matthew’s and John’s gospels were written.  After the
war, Christians were being thrown out of synagogues
by other Jews, for their devotion to Jesus, and
probably struggling to be recognized by the Romans
and allowed to worship and allowed a waiver, like
other Jews, from the expectation that residents in
Roman jurisdictions participate the the civil
“worship” of the Roman emperors.  Meanwhile the
Romans were allowing Pharisess to reconstruct Judaism
without the Temple.  (You see this reflected in the
words the Matthew puts in Jesus’ mouth: don’t listen
to THOSE guys, their are the false prophets ... etc.)

Jesus was not the victim of lynching, either a back
door kipnapping or a public murder. 

For more on Jesus’ death see E. P. Sanders’ “Jesus
and Judaism,” and (in mind-numbing detail) Raymond E.
Brown’s two-volume “The Death of the Messiah.”

Steven Deedon has in recent years been working on a
Jesus epic based upon Historical Jesus scholarship, a
specialty within academic biblical scholarship.

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By Cliff Carson, December 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment

From the review:

“As Jesus was an innocent victim of mob hysteria and Roman imperial violence,”

Mel, does it not occur to you that the above statement does not tell the whole story?

I was under the impression that the Roman Prelate offered to pardon Jesus for the crimes he was accused of by the “Jewish” Leaders.  But the “Jewish” faithful called for Barabbas instead. Is this not what the Bible says?

If so, why didn’t you write that instead of placing the blame on a third unidentified party?

What I see wrong with any religion is the exclusivity claimed by most religions.  And today we have a Republican Candidate for President stating on TV (I saw and heard him do it) that the Palestinians are an invented people and they should get off Israels land.  Why Israel’s Land?  “Because God gave it to them exclusively”.

This friends and neighbors is what is wrong with Religion - The people who comprise the faithful - not the deity.

A God that would choose one race over another is what is called in America - a Racist.

I do not for a second believe that God gave exclusive rights to any Race, Cult, Domination, or anyone to one inch of land on earth.

And those who claim to be chosen by God, keep not his commandments.

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By stevendeedon, December 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

I am extremely sympathetic to the concerns of this book,
not least because I was white boy in Texas in the 50s
and 60s, and at college heard from black students
about the horrors their grandfathers told them about.

And I am inspired, and broadly in agreement, with the
views of Liberation Theologians. 

But I am
disppointed that James Cone compares Jesus’ death to
a lynching.  I have been reading in Historical Jesus
studies going back 30 years now; one thing historians
are most confident about his the historicity of
Jesus’ death.  But it was hardly a lynching.  Jesus
was killed by Pilate as an insurrectionist.  The
chief priest Caiaphas and other elders (the stories
of Jewish “trials” are inconsistent) turned him over
to Pilate, probably because he “violently” disrupted
activity of the Temple during Passover preparation,
and threatened that God would destroy the Temple, at
a time when up to 250,000 pilgrims used to come to
Jerusalem to celebrate the greaat Jewish feast of
freedom.  The stories of crowds insisting on Jesus’
death are at best exagerrations, probably reflecting
the animosity between Christians and their fellow
Jews during the early years after the destruction of
the Temple.  Christians were being thrown out of
synagogues for their devotion to Jesus, Pharisees
were being allowed by the Romans to reconstitute
Judaism outside the Temple, and both sides were vying
for recognition by Rome, to allow them to worship
(and presumably given a waiver from the expectation
that people in a Roman jurisdiction participate in
civil “worship” of the Roman emperors.  It’s not
about some angry mob in tailored sheets, or back door
kidnappings and murders.

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By gerard, December 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment

Frankly, I am so conflicted about religions that I can scarcely discuss them without screaming!  I know there is something very powerful beyond this world, beyond human life—what a poet called “Intimations of Immortality.”  I know there is a crucial (significant word!) difference between good and bad, between love and hate, between peace and war, and as long as I live I will do what I can to encourage the one and discourage the other.  I believe human beings can do better. 
  Beyond that, I have a hard time “justifying” suffering and pain.  I resent and avoid punishing or being punished.  I have respect for the yearnings of all persons and for their right to thrive and grow in body, mind and spirit. I think mercy is admirable and cruelty is despicable. And so forth and so on.
  When it comes to religious story and myth, it gives me comfort and pleasure, and in tight spots I find myself praying (I first mistakenly typed
“prying”!) and believe it is helpful in spite of doubt.  The great stumbling blocks come when I ask why—why not?  One war after another, ignorance, greed, illness, starvation, insurmountable accidents and difficulties for the vast majority of persons whose lives are as valuable as mine, as deserving, and far more heroic. Injustice invites heart break, rage, and too-often-less-that-adequate
counteraction.
  So after all I am left with ... the insistent beating of a solitary heart feeding billions of cells programmed to do their best for no discernible reason, waking up every morning and keep watch through nights to come. The best of religion is more a work of art than an answer.

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By John Poole, December 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“White American Christian”?  Why do you define yourself in this manner?  Out of
what need?

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