This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter

Starting yesterday, and for the next 49 days until Pentacost, Christians celebrate the Easter season. This season commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Belief in the Resurrection separates religious Christians from philosphical Christians.

The Christian Left movement is philosophical and religious.

It is philosophical because one need not believe in the resurrection to adopt the ideals preached by Jesus, including the forgiving of sins as a condition for their forgiveness, charity to the poor and a humanistic morality which has the Sabbath existing for man rather than man for the Sabbath. From these prospects, a whole society can be devised without reference to a belief in the resurrection.

You can even go so far as to say one can be saved from one's sins on earth by Jesus without having any reference to eternal life. In fact, this is the best way to understand the difference between salvation and eternity. (I don't use the term justification, since we have no right to expect to be made just - however we can be released from our domination by sin in this life by calling on the Lord and drinking his blood, and can be forgiven by forgiving others).

Going to heaven is an entirely different matter.

We go to heaven when we behave as if we were saved from sin. Works do not save us from sinfullness - Jesus does that. Once we have been saved from sinfullness, we must then behave as members of God's family. Some people who do not believe in God already behave as Christians should - the Brights or ethical atheists. According to the parable of the sheep and the goats, they go to heaven as well - while some of those who claim Christ but do not act on their salvation will be numbered among the goats.

Of course, Easter is not for atheists, even if some of them will wind up in heaven.

Easter is the promise that we do not stay dead. We will rise one day and go to heaven (the experience of heaven before the resurrection - or how we exist in time after death - or if we do - is a matter for the dead. The scriptures seem to indicate that once one has escaped the world, one has escaped time itself and may just land at the last judgment. This is one of those things that we don't need to worry about, since worrying about it won't change it anyway.

So, for those who are religious Christian Leftists, Happy Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Damnation Trial of Jesus of Nazareth - A One Act Play

Setting: 21st Century American Courtroom, with Oak Paneling (much like you find in The People's Court or Law and Order). There are two bailiffs, Michael and Gabriel. The Ten Commandments are behind the Dias.

Time: 3:15 pm, Good Friday

GABRIEL: Oyez, Oyez, The Court of Final Judgment is now in Session, the Honorable Moses presiding.

Moses enters.

MOSES: Call the first case.

GABRIEL: The case of Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus enters, helped in by Uriel and Raphael. Jesus is run down, older in a dirty white robe showing signs of recent crucifixion

LUCIFER: Lucifer, the tester for the prosecution.

ELIJAH (John the Baptist): Objection to opposing counsel.

LUCIFIER: Your honor, my identification with Set is a product of Zoroastrianism, not of Hebrew scripture.

MOSES: Objection overruled, I will not hold the slanderous views of defense counsel or his client against him, as they are the product of misinformation and not deliberate.

ELIJAH: Your honor, request my client immediately be allowed into Paradise as the Messiah. The blind now see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the mute speak and the dead rise under his ministrations.

LUCIFER: The prosecution stipulates the good works and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, however we must object on the grounds that in his last day he proved to be a false prophet.


MOSES: Order, Order, I will have order. These is a serious charge, which you must stipulate - and be quick about it. It is Passover weekend and my presence is required at Seder.

LUCIFER: I call Matthew, Mark and Luke

MATTHEW: I will speak for the three of us. Mark was the scribe of Peter and Luke for Paul, who gained his knowledge from our teaching. Peter and I were witnesses.

LUCIFER: Very good. Last evening, describe what was said at table at the end of the Seder.

MATTHEW: Jesus took some bread, and when he said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples. Take and eat, he said, this is my body. Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them. Drink all of you form this, he said, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. From now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father. (Matthew 26:26-29)

LUCIFER: And what happened the next day.

MATTHEW: When they reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull, they gave him wine to drink mixed with gall, which he tasted but refused to drink. (Matthew 27:33-35)

ELIJAH: I move for dismissal, as clearly my client kept his word.

LUCIFER: It is not so simple as that, I call John, son of Zebedee and Mary Salome, the defendant's nephew. John, describe what you saw at the foot of the cross.

JOHN: Jesus said: I thirst. A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After he took the vinegar he said, It is accomplished and bowing his head he gave up his spirit. (John 19: 28-30)

LUCIFER: The prosecution rests.

ELIJAH: John, what occurred prior to the taking of the vinegar.

JOHN: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near, Jesus said to his mother, Woman, this is your son. Then to the disciple he said, This is your mother. (John 19:25-26)

ELIJAH: The defense calls Mark.

MARK: And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which means My God, my God, why have you deserted me? When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, Listen, he is calling on Elijah. (Mark 15:33-35)

ELIJAH: It was at this point that Jesus took the fruit of the vine.

LUCIFER: Then you admit he did drink it.

ELIJAH: We so stipulate.


MOSES: I will have order. Counsel, please explain yourself.

ELIJAH: When he spoke with his mother and with John, Jesus gives up everything he was, both human and divine. Mary and John were the two main people in His life. Mary holds a unique place in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was and is his most beloved friend, as well as his most perfect creature. Even before his birth, she begins his message of social justice in the Magnificant to her cousin Elizabeth. More importantly, she symbolizes to him the very essence of his most unique self. Because of the way he was conceived, she is the physical manifestation of both his human and his divine origins, which he knew of originally through her telling of the story of his birth. I expect that she could not look at him in her grief. In like manner, John was the symbol for his mission, and for all who would believe in him. John was the last disciple, as all the others had fled. By giving John up to his mother, he both abandons and joins us. He is utterly emptied. At this moment his identity as God-man, son of the Virgin, his role as savior and teacher, are all gone! He has now been reduced to a state of complete isolation and hopelessness. It is a state that, as God, he does not know. Only by emptying himself and accepting this suffering does he ever know the despair and separation from God that each and every sinner feels.

The mechanism for human salvation must be understandable to humans, as it is for humans. As presented above, the origins of our salvation are obvious. Jesus suffered for God to know human suffering first hand. With this knowledge, he reaches out the suffering sinner and offers salvation. This suffering is what saves those who believe in him.

Jesus' passion helps us understand God, as well. To save man in this way God must be a Trinity. Without His humanity, the Son of God could not experience the abandonment of the crucifixion. If he had suffered abandonment in His purely divine form existence or all would have ended.

The passion also helps Christians understand the perfection of God. The essence of salvation is what it does for the sinner, not what it does for God. It was not a blood offering to satisfy an angry God. God is not moved by anything! An angry God is not perfect, as that anger is moved by the actions of mere creatures, both in sinful man and in His sinless Son, who became a creature. The unmoved Will of God is His Love, which is a free gift without hint of anger.

The God Christians come to in faith is not some distant icon of perfection, but a God who, in Jesus, shares the experience of isolation. Humans do not reach God on our own, so he comes to them in their pain. Understanding this, people understand the meaning of salvation, because it makes right in our hearts what sin makes wrong.

What is the proof of this proposition? The scriptures show that the Kingdom of God had come when Jesus drank from the fruit of the vine on the cross at the moment of his death. He had promised at the Last Supper that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until he did it with us in his Father's kingdom, yet the scripture is clear that he took the wine on the cross. For salvation to be effective, it is accomplished without blemish. Had Jesus taken the wine before the completion of salvation, he would have rendered it impure and void. This, of course, is not so. Christianity is not some colossal practical joke with a secret meaning saying that we were all just kidding or some divine exercise in prophetic ticket punching. This is the proof Christians need to believe that the passion was real for Jesus, and that in it he joins mankind, not as a sin offering, but as a fellow sufferer. Ultimately, the proof is born out by the Resurrection, which shows that Jesus, who drank of the fruit of the vine just before his death, was justified by God. Christians are confident that as he died as they die, they will rise as he rose.

The passion also shows Christians how to seal their salvation. They seal it in his Blood, which comes to them through the fruit of the vine. Whenever Christians drink of His Blood in Communion, we share in the second covenant. This removes all taint of sin, and brings them back to God. They come back to Him in confidence, because they know that He knows the emptiness and pain of the sinner. God loved mankind so much that He sought the pain it feels when it is apart from Him. As Christians drink His Blood at the altar, they share in the kingdom and fulfill his command. For he said ...if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. (John 6:53)

The Defense rests.

MOSES: Well done, counsel. Case dismissed. Now, I believe my term of office is completed. I will continue as prosecutor.

JESUS: We thank you for your service. Next case.

MOSES: Bring forward the two thieves. My Lord, these men were crucified for thievery, sedition, murder the elder for taunting you on the cross.

JESUS: I am familiar with this case. My prior promise to the younger stands. For your faith when all others saw differently, Today, you shall be with me in paradise. Court is adjourned! I have but a few days until I must return to the world at Easter.