Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

All of the Credit, None of the Blame

leave a comment »

     One of the things — one of the many things — about the current resident of the White House that angers me (and I’m guessing a lot of other people) is his penchant for taking credit for things that happen, whether he had anything to do with their happening or not. The recent unemployment figures for African-American workers is an excellent case in point.

     The employment figures for African-American workers has been going up, or rather the unemployment figures for African-American workers has been going down for several years. The trend started in 2009-10, long before Donald Trump was even a candidate for office. Still, when the numbers reached an “historic” low, the president (with characteristic hyperbole) touts how great the numbers are, and that they are the result of his policies. Of course, we could say his policies regarding police excessive use of deadly force when dealing with African-American offenders, or suspected “offenders”, could account for the numbers; fewer African-American men alive to claim benefits, (Sorry, I know that’s a stretch). But the numbers don’t take into account those who haven’t yet filed for benefits or those whose benefits have expired. Still, Trump takes credit. He’s in office, he gets the credit.

And then there’s a report citing a “hike” in wages, (I wonder how many people working in the “service sector” saw a hike in their wages>) Never mind Trump’s refusal to raise the federal minimum wage prompted many businesses and municipalities to raise their minimum wage (setting off something of a “wage war” between the municipalities and their state governments; some of the state governments, mostly those controlled by Republicans, passed laws prohibiting municipalities from raising the minimum wage.) Never mind Trump’s highly touted wage increase has less to do with any Trump policy, and more to do with simple market forces. With falling unemployment numbers there is a corresponding decrease in the availability of cheap labor; businesses are forced to raise wages to attract needed workers. Still, Trump takes credit. He’s in office, he gets the credit.

And then there’s the stock market, which has been “on a tear” lately. The Dow Jones has topped 20,000 on its way to 25,000. It’s been quite a ride. That is until the “Jobs & Wages” report arrived and Trump started crowing. Those numbers made Wall Street nervous. Seems what’s good for “the man in the street” isn’t at all good for the boys on “The Street”. More jobs and higher wages mean businesses won’t have as much money to invest, meaning less profit for traders, hedge-fund managers and banks. Add to that the fear that more money in circulation, instead of in the Banks, will lead to inflation, forcing the FED to raise interest rates, making it harder to borrow money. No more easy money. And if that happens, it won’t be just Wall Street that suffers. Credit will tighten throughout the economy, making it harder for “the man in the street” to get credit for the things he needs: homes, cars, washing machines, etc. All of this combined to trigger a startling and traumatic stock “sell-off”. The Dow dropped more than a thousand points in a week, and panic briefly ensued. The decline halted but the fear hasn’t subsided. And from the White House, nary a peep. Trump gets credit, due or not. Blame, that’s somebody else’s problem.

And I haven’t even touched on the ramifications of a recent declaration from the European Union.

When president Obama signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, aka The Paris Accords, it was hailed as a significant step forward in the fight to combat climate change, and the United States’ commitment to take a leadership role in that fight.

When Trump decided, unilaterally, to abandon the Accords, and America’s leadership role, saying, “it was a ‘bad deal’ for America” and would cost trillions of dollars (not an altogether true statement since the carbon reduction goals agreed to in the Accords were entirely voluntary), he shocked and angered many of the world’s leaders. Well, the shock may have worn off, but not the anger.

A few days ago, French President Macron announced that as long as the United States remained apart from the Paris Accords, France would not trade with the U.S. It’s unclear whether or not the other members of the European Union will follow France’s lead, but since no other European leader has voiced disagreement, it’s likely the others (all signatories of the Accords) will do so.

While it’s uncertain what impact, if any, the French president’s pronouncement will have on Wall Street, it’s a fair bet it will do little to endear Trump to the business community at home. And, given his penchant for abandoning deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (PACC) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, which he is currently struggling to wriggle out of), and levying excessive tariffs and fines on trading partners he says are taking unfair advantage (and for “unfair advantage” read “beating him at his own game”), it isn’t likely his standing is going to improve any time soon; in the world at large, or at home.

But hey. Let’s give credit where, and when, it’s due. There are a lot of people who think this country ought to be run more like a business. Wasn’t it Herbert Hoover who said, “the business of America is Business”? We all know how that worked out. (They do still teach students about The Great Depression in school, don’t they?)

Not to worry, though. No matter how bad things get for the rest of us, President Trump will land on his feet. What’s one more bankruptcy, anyway? He’s got his “golden parachute”.



Jesus: Conservative or Liberal, a response

with one comment

There is currently an ongoing debate, in and out of religious circles, as to whether or not Jesus was a conservative or liberal. Actually, the debate has been ongoing since shortly after his execution, when the first oral versions of the gospel stories began circulating. Relax.  I’m not going to rehash the entire debate here. What I’m going to do is comment on the two most recent entries into the debate; one by Frank Schaefer entitled, “Conservative Christians would have hated Jesus”, which appeared originally in AlterNet (and reprinted in Salon) and one by Trent Horn entitled, “Jesus is not the property of Liberal Commentators”, which appeared in Catholic Answers. (Both of these articles have been posted on Facebook and you can, if you wish, read them at your leisure).

While both commentators present ample examples from scripture to support their particular point-of-view, neither of them seem to grasp the crux of their disagreement.  Why must Jesus be all this or all that? It seems to me Mr. Horn and Mr. Schaefer are determined to “deconstruct” Jesus and, from the remains, reassemble him into two different (and opposite) men, each one capable of representing their conflicting perspectives. The problem with this approach is, it doesn’t work like that. I doubt, in spite of how they present themselves (and their arguments), neither Mr. Horn nor Mr. Schaefer is totally liberal or totally conservative in every single aspect of their lives.  Neither was Jesus. Neither are any of us. (If you are, you need to stop watching Fox News).

In any event, that’s not the main reason I was incited to write this post. What prompted my keyboard was something Mr. Horn wrote in his response to Mr. Schaefer.  He wrote:

“The only way we can know anything about Jesus or what he wants us to do is by reading the Scripture God gave us and listening to the teachings of the Church Christ founded.”

There are two things that irritate me about the above statement; one is minor, the other not so much.

I get really peeved when people use the word, “Christ”, as if it were Jesus’ last name.  It’s not.  Jesus’ full name was Jesus ben Joseph (or Yeshua ben Yosef, if you prefer). Christ ,”cristos” in Greek, means “anointed”, an appellation bestowed on the “messiah” by the High Priest and was bestowed on every king of Israel as a sign of his legitimacy, a sign that he was chosen by God to lead the people.

The other point of contention I have with Mr. Horn’s statement has to do with Jesus founding a church.  He didn’t. The idea of a church, Christian or otherwise, was as foreign to Jesus as monotheism was to a Roman.  Jesus was a Jew preaching to Jews, and only Jews.  The truth is, Jesus was more than a little xenophobic when it came to preaching. When he sent his disciples out to preach the coming of the kingdom of God, he purposely told them, “. . .Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But rather go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Matthew, Chap. 10; v. 5,6). Kind of strange, considering how Jews have been treated by “Christians” ever since.

What became the Roman Catholic Church was founded by another Jew, Saul of Tarsus (later to be known as “Paul” of Tarsus. Given his early reputation as a persecutor of Christians – for heresy, no doubt – it’s not surprising he changed his name).  Until Paul came on the scene, “those who followed the Christ” were a small Jewish sect presided over by James, the brother of Jesus, and Simon Peter, Jesus’ foremost apostle. After his “conversion”, Paul approached James and Simon Peter with the idea of preaching the “word of Jesus” to the Gentiles.  James and Simon Peter agreed the idea had merit, but there were certain conditions that had to be met; namely, that prospective converts had to convert to Judaism before joining the sect.  There were other conditions, as well, but, suffice it to say, the three men disagreed and Paul left Jerusalem intent on spreading the word of Jesus to anyone who would listen. There’s a lot more to the story, but Paul has enough to answer for, so I won’t dump a lot more on his plate.

Anyway, that’s how the Church was begun. Now I realize Mr. Horn, a convert to Catholicism and a conservative commentator writing in a Catholic publication, has to tow the “company line”, but there’s a limit (or there should be).

I realize, in today’s climate of conservative ascendancy, with right-wing “Christian” conservatives and TeaParty wingnuts leading the charge, it’s necessary to present one’s religion as non-threatening as possible.  After all the gospel writers did the same thing to escape persecution by the Romans.  But lately all this “Jesus was a Conservative” talk has begun to sound as though Mr. Horn and his conservative co-commentators are apologizing for Pope Francis’ recent decidedly non-conservative behavior.

Sad, that.

Moses went up a mountain and . . .

with 2 comments

When Moses went up the mountain to confer with God (in the form of a burning, yet unconsumed, bush) why did it take him 40 days to receive the commandments?  Face it, how hard could it have been?  It only took God 6 days to complete all of Creation.  Compared to that a simple “power-point presentation” should’ve been a snap — literally!  Or was Moses a tad slow on the uptake?  The fact (if you take Moses’ explanation at face value) it took forty days to get the thing written is a puzzlement.

But!  If we look at things with a more “jaundiced eye”, perhaps we can “unpuzzle” the puzzlement.  Suppose you’re guy like Moses — a prophet (albeit self-proclaimed) and something of a troublemaker   You encourage the Hebrew slaves to throw off their shackles and leave Egypt.  “What are the Egyptians going to do?” they ask.  “They may try to convince you otherwise (which the Egyptians do in horrific fashion),” Moses replies, “but the chances of them killing all of you are relatively slim.  Who would build their palaces?  Their monuments?  Their tombs?”  Eventually, since this doesn’t happen overnight, the Hebrews have enough of the Egyptians (and probably gotten tired of Moses nagging them about leaving) and decide to leave, pretty much en masse.

The “exodus”, as it came to be called, drew a hefty crowd and Moses leads them out of Egypt and into the wilderness.  Now Moses has a problem.  He promised these people a land “flowing with milk and honey” and he has no idea where to find the place.  But he sets out in search of the “promised land’ anyway.  After a couple of years, some of the people get a bit testy.  “Hey, Moses!  Are we there yet?”  “I’m thirsty!”  “I’m hungry!”  “Screw this!  I’m staying here!”  “Look, Moses, we’ve been kicked out of every town and oasis from here to Thebes.  When are we gonna see this land of milk and honey?”  Moses sees if he’s going to get these people to wherever they’re going, he needs to get everyone “on the same page”.  He needs to set up some rules.  He probably should’ve thought about it sooner, like before they left Egypt, but whaddya gonna do?  He finds a location near a mountain for the people to bivouac while he “confers with God” on the mountain.  He needs a quiet place where he can ponder his options.  The people are willing to give him some space, but not much.  So he goes off to create some kind of codex to ensure the people “stay on point” until he gets them where they need to go.

In his absence, some of the malcontents in the crowd stir up some trouble, saying Moses doesn’t know what he’s doing, doesn’t have a plan, etc, , ,and they convince a large portion of the people to go another way, maybe even back to Egypt.  Meanwhile, back on the mountain, Moses has nearly completed his “power-point” presentation in lapidary style, carving it on tablets (not 1Pads or Kindles, stone) to give to the people.  He chooses stone tablets because they are meant to keep the people in line, not only in the desert, but when they get to where they’re going (wherever that may be).  It took him a little over a month (something nobody bothered to question, by the way)  Of course, they didn’t find out about the 6 day creation until later.  Upon his return from the mountaintop, Moses finds he has a “mutiny” on his hands, and after showing off his lapidary skills, exhorts his followers to “dispatch” the unbelievers (although I’m reasonably sure he used more explicit language); a reaction which established a precedent for dealing with those who disagree with the established religious/political views that has been followed to the present day.  In any event, after the brouhaha at Mt. Tabor was resolved, Moses explains that if everyone follows the rules “set in stone”, they would be rewarded with the fulfilled promise of “a land of milk and honey” but, because of the recent “dust-up” with the unbelievers in their midst, it was going to take some time because they had to rid themselves of the “riff-raff”.  It takes 40 years to accomplish this, during which time Moses turns to writing the definitive (at the time) explanation and expansion of the original “power-point” presentation.  This “commentary” includes, among other things, Who God is, What and When and How He did all the things He did ( the “Why” is alluded to but never satisfactorily explained, other than to say, “God works in mysterious ways”, which is to say, “That’s for Me to know and for you to find out.”)

Eventually. all the unbelievers and doubters are eliminated from among the people (they either die, leave or are “removed”), leaving only the “true believers” and a fair-sized army.  The army was going to come in handy in the near future, because no one bothered to tell the owners of “the promised land”, the Canaanites, their land was promised to someone else.  For whatever reason, before the Hebrews invade Canaan, Moses decides he’s finally had enough and hands over the reins of power to his brother, Aaron, and the commanding general of the army, Joshua.  He also gives them the five books he’s written during the preceding 40 years, the Pentateuch.  (Five books in 40 years is not  a lot of output for a writer, but given the influence these books have had on the ensuing 5 or 6 thousand years of civilization, impressive none the less).  Basically, Moses tells the people, “There’s the land of milk and honey.  I’m outta here.  You guys are on your own.”  He then disappears from history except in reference to his writings; pretty much the way we, today, think of Norman Mailer or Truman Capote.

No long after they took possession of Canaan, things began to change for the Hebrews.  They were no longer a landless people, wandering in the wilderness.  They were a settled people; people of towns and cities, they had families to raise, farms to tend and businesses to run.  They were the majority now (thanks to years of razing Canaanite cities and slaughtering Canaanite populations).  Their law was THE law, their religion was THE religion.  The context had changed for the people of Israel, and the law had to change, too.  New ideas were introduced, new interpretations of the law presented and enshrined.  As the people and their way of life became more and more sophisticated, so, too, did the law.  In the context of life in the new Israel, the Law of Moses was becoming more and more irrelevant; more a historical document and less a functioning code of behavior.  But the “Old Laws” were still “on the books” and those who chose to follow them became more and more irrelevant and more and more marginalized outside their own communities.


The same thing happened within Christianity, only in something like a reverse order.  While Judaism remained pretty much a parochial faith, not really seeking to “recruit” others except by example, Christianity, especially after the deaths of the original founders (Jesus and the disciples), moved outward into a wider world, exposing itself to all manner of ideas and influences.  The Pauline style of Christianity, which spread from Jerusalem into the wider middle east and across the Mediterranean, bore scant resemblance to that of Jesus and the disciples.  Within a generation or two of Jesus’ death, it became apparent if this “new” religion was to survive and expand, it needed to wed itself to secular power; which it finally managed to do under Constantine.

The emperor, much like Moses before him, saw in religion a means of getting “everyone on the same page”,  He was searching for a tool that would enable him to control his subjects — subjects with different languages, different cultures, different modes of dress, different religious beliefs — without recourse to military or other extreme (at least not too extreme) methods.  He thought he found such a tool in Christianity.  He could have chosen any one of a multitude of religious doctrines prevalent at the time, but Christianity was the most “assertive”, the most “virulent”, one could say, of the bunch.  Besides, it was almost always “in flux”; owing to a variety of internal and external philosophical influences, it could be used to justify nearly anything from genocide to the divine right of kings.  Christianity has no lapidary basis for its claims of legitimacy other than poorly remembered, Old Testament prophesies and borrowed “truths” which it dispenses with so-called “biblical” authority to those who have neither the time nor the inclination to examine them closely.

Why else would “dealers in ‘Christianity'” seek validation in referencing the Old Testament; words written by Jews, for Jews?  Why would these “fakirs” offer to “share Jesus” with their “flocks” (a fitting term for those about to be “fleeced”) as though they had their savior hidden in a closet, ready to be revealed (for a fee, of course) when they have demoted the God of their Creation to second-class status in favor of a demigod?


Written by stevewthomas

November 3, 2014 at 1:06 am

The Hallmark of the Creative Mind

with one comment

          As I stated in my last post, creativity is a mystery.  Nobody knows, precisely, what it is.  We know creativity exists because, like some sub-atomic particles (i.e., quarks), we see its effects.  We even know some of the conditions necessary for it to function; the process by which the creative effect is produced.  There is one condition, not often mentioned in discussions of creativity (actually, I’m not sure “condition” is the right term, but for this essay it will suffice), the sine qua non, which must exist before the creative process can be initiated.  The condition is curiosity; the hallmark of the creative mind.

          Curiosity makes creativity possible.  Without curiosity to spur the creative process in search of answers, there would have been no spear or sling or arrow (or bow to launch it).  Without curiosity there would have been no gods or creation stories; no daemons or Muses to inspire us with genius. There would have been no Golden Age of Greece or Rome; no Pericles or Galen or Archimedes or Homer or Socrates; no Cicero or Ovid or Caesar.

          Without curiosity there would have been no Renaissance or Enlightenment or Industrial Revolution; no da Vinci or Michelangelo or Botticelli; no Shakespeare or Newton or Magellan; no Fulton or Whitney.  There would be no steam or internal combustion engines; no automobiles, trains, airplanes or rocket ships.

          Without curiosity continuously spurring the creative process, we would know nothing of our universe, our world or ourselves; nothing of the planets and stars; nothing of bacteria or germs or DNA.  Without curiosity we would have no radio or television; no telephones or computers or internet.

          The entire span of human history is the record of the creative process continuously striving for answers to satisfy an insatiable curiosity.  Without curiosity we would be no more than nearly hairless, ape-like creatures, huddled together in the dark, fearful of everything around us.

          So, the next time you think about being creative (or more creative), ask yourself . . .anything.

True Believer pt4. . .(it could have happened this way)

with 2 comments

          Weeks passed with no word of Yohanon’s fate; the few travelers Yeshua encountered offered little new information.  A chance meeting with a pilgrim on his way to Galilee finally provided information as to Yohanon’s whereabouts.

           “Yes, I know of the Baptist,” the man said in response to Yeshua’s query.  “But I wouldn’t be in too big a hurry to find him if I were you.”

           “Why not?”  Where has he been taken?”

           The man looked at Yeshua with deep sadness.  “Macherus.”

          “Macherus?  Are you certain?”  Yeshua asked, incredulous.  Macherus was the name of a fortress some miles from Jerusalem.  Originally built as an outpost for troops guarding the southern frontier, in recent years it was used as a prison for political dissidents.  It also had the reputation of being the final destination for King Herod’s enemies.

          The traveler nodded solemnly in response and continued on his journey, leaving Yeshua to his own thoughts as he watched the pilgrim walk away.  If what the man had told him was true, there was little hope he would ever see Yohanon again.  He returned to his campsite in a state of near despair.  Without the Baptist’s leadership, the movement he began would founder, the people unprepared for the Messiah when he appeared and Kingdom of God would not be realized.

          Yeshua was not ready to abandon Yohanon’s mission when the Kingdom was so close at hand.  He shared his mentor’s belief that the teachings of the Torah were not a collection of abstract ideas but an integral part of everyday life.  He understood Yohanon’s sermons and lessons were intended to show the rules of the Covenant were not obstacles but a means to improve their lives.  When God saw fit to establish His Kingdom — and it would not be long in coming — only those who freely repented their sins and followed the rules of the Covenant for love of God would be welcomed into the Kingdom and given the opportunity to enjoy all its freedoms.  There were many, Yeshua knew, who heard the Baptist’s message and were gladdened by the hope it inspired.  But he also knew without Yohanon’s presence to constantly reinforce his message, they would soon fall away and seek out others whose messages held appeal.

          There were other preachers who wandered the desert.  Yeshua had seen some of these sad, demented med, preaching their gospels of divine retribution; of a Messiah, a Warrior King who would force the Romans from Israel and establish a kingdom of the righteous to last for all time.  It was a message that held no small appeal for many, especially the poor and those who did not benefit as a result of the Roman occupation.  Yeshua understood, as the Baptist did, these wandering preachers were mere rabble-rousers parading as prophets and promoting a message of outright rebellion, a message shared by the Zealots.  They were not interested in establishing a kingdom dedicated to peaceable adherence to God’s Covenant.

          The majority of Jews did not accept the idea of open rebellion against Rome.  They had their fill of war; many were still haunted by the images of the thousands crucified by the Romans after the rebellion led by Judas of Galilee.  They had little or nothing to do with Romans.    Like Yeshua, they wanted only to work their fields or conduct their business, raise their families and worship their God without Roman interference.  They constantly complained of the Roman demand for taxes, which they characterized as  tribute to a pagan god; something strictly forbidden by Mosaic Law.  It was a major point of contention between Jew and Roman, one that escalated from demonstrations of Jewish outrage to widespread guerilla warfare.  It was also a subject the Romans found increasingly difficult to comprehend.

          The few Romans the people did encounter were soldiers; men who regarded religion as little more than superstition, more useful in preparing men for combat or controlling populations than in paying tribute to some supernatural deity.  The one area in which this attitude was obscured was in regard to the Emperor.  While it was true the Emperor was elevated to the status of a god, usually by his own decree, most Romans viewed the various celebrations and rituals in his honor as more a matter of political necessity than religious observance.  Yeshua had seen evidence of this attitude while working at Sepphoris.

          Aurelius Galba, one of the Roman engineers charged with overseeing construction in the city, had summoned Yeshua to explain the day’s construction plans.  “King Herod wants a likeness of the Emperor Tiberius carved for the atrium wall of his residence, Jesus<” the engineer said without looking up from the plans strewn across the table in front of him.  Galba spoke only Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic being too difficult a tongue for the Romans to master.

          “There are none among the men who have such skill, Engineer Galba,” Yeshua replied in Greek.

          “You mean to tell me there are no artisans among you Jews?”

          “None with the skill you require, Engineer Galba.  Our artisans content themselves with making ornaments for the Temple, clothing or jewelry or other useful items.  They do no make images of animals or men.”

          Galba was nonplussed.  “Surely, there must be such images in the Temple in Jerusalem; images of your god, your holy prophets there.”

          “There are none, Engineer Galba,” Yeshua replied matter-of-factly.  “The Torah, our Holy Law, forbids making such images lest they be taken for gods and worshipped before the God of Israel.”

          Aurelius Galba tried, unsuccessfully, to hide his consternation.  It wouldn’t do to berate these men for following their religion.  It would only make it more difficult to get them to work, and it was hard enough as it was.  “I’ll have to bring an artisan from Damascus to do the work,” he conceded, obviously irritated by the delay it would cause in the construction.  The engineer leaned heavily on the work table and appeared to study the plans laid out there.  “Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing you are forbidden to carve images of men, Jesus,”  he said more to himself than to his foreman.  “It’s been my experience that men make poor gods, and gods make even poorer rulers.”  After several moments of silence passed between the two men, Galba looked up.  “That will be all, Jesus.”

          Alone in his cave, Yeshua paced as he contemplated what to do next.  “Should I go to Macherus and add my voice to those calling for his release?”, he asked aloud.  “Or should I go to Jerusalem and petition the Sanhedrin to intervene on his behalf?”  Neither idea held promise.  The addition of his voice to those already petitioning the king for the Baptist’s release would scarcely matter to anyone except himself and the likelihood of the Sanhedrin entering the controversy on the side of an itinerant preacher against King Herod was practically non-existent.  Even if the high court took up the matter, it could be months before they decided on a course of action and by then it would be too late.  Prayer and meditation had proved ineffective.  Something had to be done, and done quickly or the Baptist’s movement would collapse and his message would be lost.



Written by stevewthomas

April 22, 2014 at 6:53 pm

True Believer pt3 . . .(it could have happened this way)

leave a comment »

          Pilate’s summons was not unexpected.  For the past week the city had been rife with rumors of the arrest of the Baptist.  The outcry prompted by the rumors had thrown Jerusalem into a state of near chaos; leaders of the various factions within the city had flooded the Temple with pleas for the High Priest to intervene on the Baptist’s behalf.  For his part, Caiaphas could not believe Herod was act so rashly as to arrest as popular as the Baptist, one whom many considered a holy man.  The summons from Pilate could only mean the rumors were true, which put Caiaphas in a precarious position. 

          While he did not agree with the Baptist’s teachings, he could not deny the preacher’s right to interpret Scripture as he chose, regardless of the official interpretation.  The Baptist’s sermons were a powerful attraction for the masses who flocked to hear him speak.  Many saw him as the Messiah, or as Elijah reborn.  This, combined with his recent vocal criticism of King Herod, a less-than-revered monarch,  proved irresistible; many deserted the Temple when the Baptist preached.  Herod’s arrest of the charismatic preacher had only served to increase the Baptist’s standing.  Caiaphas had to admit one thing, though; with the Baptist’s arrest money would, once more, flow into the Temple coffers now that the troublesome preacher was no longer distracting worshippers.

          The civil unrest created by Herod’s actions was, undoubtedly, the reason for the Procurator’s summons.  Pontius Pilate took a dim view of any action which disturbed the status quo, and the arrest of the Baptist had done precisely that.  Caiaphas knew there was no love lost between the Procurator and the Galilean tetrarch.  If the High Priest could find a way to ingratiate himself with Pilate, perhaps offering his services as a mediator, he could garner some much needed political capital and improve his own rather tenuous standing with Procurator.  As his caravan, with its heavily armed escort, sped through the countryside toward Cesarea, Caiaphas pondered how best to accomplish his goal.

          When the High Priest arrived at Pilate’s seaside residence, the Procurator was storming about, ranting about the “asinine, inbred fool who supposedly ruled in Galilee.”  A guard stood nervously at attention outside the door to Pilate’s suite, unwilling to risk his commander’s ire by announcing the visitor.  Seeing the guard’s hesitation, Caiaphas  announced himself.

          “I see the Procurator has taken the news of the Baptist’s arrest with his usual good grace,” he said.  The High Priest’s sarcasm, under different circumstances an unwise move, had the desired effect.   Pilate stopped in mid-rant and turned to face the High Priest.  The expression on his face showed a marked lack of appreciation for Caiaphas’ sense of humor.

          “Good grace be damned!” he snarled.  “If not for the fact Herod enjoys the Emperor’s favor, I’d have one less troublesome Jew to deal with in Galilee.”  Pilate strode to his writing desk, riffled through the documents scattered there, produced a parchment and handed it to the High Priest.  “Herod’s spies have convinced him this Baptist person is responsible for the attack on Sepphoris.”

          “I take it your Excellency doesn’t agree,” Caiaphas said and dropped the parchment onto the table.

          “My own sources tell me this Baptist is a preacher.  Oh, he draws crowds, sometimes several hundred, but he never preached violence, never incited the people to rebel against the king.”

          “But Herod thinks otherwise?”

          “It appears the king has thin skin when it comes to having his relationships criticized.” Pilate responded.  “It seems the Baptist took exception to king marrying the wife of his half-brother; something about its being against his god’s law.”  Pilate had been pacing about the room but with this last statement he turned to face the High Priest, an unasked question in his expression.

          “The Baptist was not the only one to question the wisdom of Herod’s divorce and remarriage,” Caiaphas said.  “Many of the more conservative among the Sanhedrin refuse to accept the king’s marriage to his brother’s wife while his brother lives.  Of course, it doesn’t help that she is a gentile, a non-believer.  The Baptist and a number of Pharisees believe the king should dissolve this marriage; a union they see as an abomination before God.  The Baptist, of course, was the most outspoken of the king’s critics.”

          “So you think this has nothing to do with the attack on Sepphoris?”  It was clear Pilate wanted to steer clear of becoming embroiled in a religious dispute.  He had no understanding, nor appreciation of Jewish law and no desire to acquire any.  If this matter of the Baptist was, in fact, a religious quarrel, he would leave its resolution to the Jews.

          “I believe the king is using Sepphoris as an excuse to censure his critics,” Caiaphas replied.  “It would appear he is having little success in tracking down those responsible for the attack and is using this as means of retaliation.”

          “Leave it to that fool to try to douse a fire with oil.”  Although he was angry with Herod, Pilate was more disturbed by the distraction the incident with the Baptist was creating in dealing with the Zealots.  His spies in Galilee had been unable to identify any of those responsible for the attack on Sepphoris.  These criminals disappear into the wilderness like ghosts and the people refuse to help ferret them out.  They fear the Zealots more than they fear the Romans, and with good cause.  Those who give aid to the authorities, Roman of Jew, against the Zealots are killed without exception.  “It’s hard enough dealing with rebels without something like this happening,” Pilate complained as he lowered himself into a chair, his brow furled in concentration.  “You seem well-informed in this matter, Caiaphas,” he said.  “Perhaps you could use what influence you have with Herod to resolve this problem.”

          The High Priest smiled.  This was the opportunity he had been waiting for.  If he could remove the burden of dealing with what was, in effect, a religious dispute, the Procurator would be in his debt.  It was a rare opportunity and one Caiaphas was quick to exploit.  “I have already dispatched a delegation to Macherus, where the Baptist is being held, Excellency,” he responded.  In fact, Caiaphas had done no such thing, but would see to it upon his return to Jerusalem.

          “Very good.  That will allow me more time to deal with rebels instead of preachers,” Pilate said, pushing out of his chair.  “My spies suggest the Zealots have camps here, in Judea.  I’m sending troops into the wilderness to hunt them down.  If Herod’s mercenaries can’t find these rabble, perhaps my legionnaires can.”

Written by stevewthomas

April 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm

And now for something a little different. . .

leave a comment »

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to write a book about Jesus.  I was somewhat inspired by a quote by Oscar Wilde to the effect that all beginning writers start out writing about Jesus Christ or themselves.  Since my life doesn’t lend itself to “thrilling narrative”, I thought the subject of Jesus a worthy one to investigate.  Besides, I carried with me an ill-defined “anger” against God and thought writing such a book would, in some equally ill-defined way, serve to mitigate that anger.  But a curious thing happened during my research and writing.  I discovered I wasn’t so much angry with God as I was angry with those who purported to “serve God’s interests” on earth; specifically the Roman Catholic Church. 

Strangely enough, as my anger dissipated so did my desire to continue the book.  I’d only ever showed the pages I’d written to one other person, (my brother, Mike), whose opinion I valued (and still value) above all others.  His comments were “encouraging” and allowed me to believe the project was worthy of completion.  However, my own lack of self-confidence, as well as any credentials that would lend support to any conclusions I may, or may not, have reached in the book, dissuaded me from finishing the work.  I put the hundred or so finished pages in a box and promptly forgot about them . . . almost entirely.

The other night I was watching a tape of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, the Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice rock opera, when I began thinking of my long-forgotten book about Jesus.  I’ve always enjoyed the album and the film, finding Andrew Lloyd Weber’s lyrics slightly “subversive” (but only slightly) and tending to support my feelings regarding organized religion (which are more than “slightly” subversive).  I came to the realization my book, should I ever decide to finish it, was every bit as valid an interpretation of the Gospel “facts” as anyone else’s.  Granted, I’m what you would call an “intuitive” writer, willing to write what I “know” based on historical evidence (of which there is none), rather than reiterating the established dogma of previous writers.  In any event, the material presented in the Gospels is so contradictory, so removed from the events they supposedly recount, what difference would it make to add one more retelling?  And besides, it’s entirely possible my posting of these pages could provide the impetus to complete the tale I started so long ago.

Enough “back story”.  Without further ado, I give you . . .

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

(Somewhat) Daily News from the World of Literary Nonfiction


A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

Life Efflorescence

A Lifestyle Blog

Rings Inside a Tree

Living, Writing, Growing

Write Brained

life of an aspiring writer

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging


Writer. Teacher. Eater. Nerd.

Extra Dry Martini

Straight up, with a twist.

Bending Genre

Essays on Creative Nonfiction



Quoth The Wordsmith

Written words from a (not so) witty wordsmith.

Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .


WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.