About the Name of this blog

This blog's title refers to a Dani fable recounted by Robert Gardner. The Dani live in the highlands of New Guinea, and at the the time he studied them, they lived in one of the only remaining areas in the world un-colonized by Europeans.

The Dani, who Gardner identifies only as a "Mountain People," in the film "The Dead Birds," have a myth that states there was once a great race between a bird and a snake to determine the lives of human beings. The question that would be decided in this race was, "Should men shed their skins and live forever like snakes, or die like birds?" According to the mythology, the bird won the race, and therefore man must die.

In the spirit of ethnographic analysis, this blog will examine myth, society, culture and architecture, and hopefully examine issues that make us human. As with any ethnography, some of the analysis may be uncomfortable to read, some of it may challenge your preconceptions about the world, but hopefully, all of it will enlighten and inform.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Did Liberals Kill Jesus?


Herman Cain, and Republicans in general, consistently display a complete lack of understanding of what words mean.  Republicans keep referring to Jesus as a conservative, and all but directly state that if he was alive today, he would be a Republican.

From the Huffington Post, “Cain wrote last December in a RedState column titled ‘The Perfect Conservative’ that Jesus was killed by a ‘liberal court.’”  From the same article: “The column claims Jesus as a conservative. ‘He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps,’ wrote Cain. ‘For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check.’”

He wrote in the article the mind blowing description of Jesus’ death:

“But they made Him walk when He was arrested and taken to jail, and no, He was not read any Miranda Rights. He was arrested for just being who He was and doing nothing wrong. And when they tried Him in court, He never said a mumbling word.

He didn’t have a lawyer, nor did He care about who judged Him.

His judge was a higher power.

The liberal court found Him guilty of false offences and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12.”

I’m going to leave the issue of Jesus being the perfect Republican for the time (I’ll blog about that later.)  Right now I want to focus on the complete lack of understanding of what terms mean, and why what Cain said makes no actual sense.

First, a couple of dictionary definitions:

lib·er·al adj.
1.       a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
c. Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
d. Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.
2.       a. Tending to give freely; generous: a liberal benefactor.
b. Generous in amount; ample: a liberal serving of potatoes.
3.       Not strict or literal; loose or approximate: a liberal translation.
4.       Of, relating to, or based on the traditional arts and sciences of a college or university curriculum: a liberal education.
5.       a. Archaic Permissible or appropriate for a person of free birth; befitting a lady or gentleman.
b. Obsolete Morally unrestrained; licentious.

con·ser·va·tive adj.
1.       Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
2.       Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit.
3.       Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.
4.       a. Of or relating to the political philosophy of conservatism.
b. Belonging to a conservative party, group, or movement.
5.       Conservative Of or belonging to the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom or the Progressive Conservative Party in Canada.
6.       Conservative Of or adhering to Conservative Judaism.
7.       Tending to conserve; preservative: the conservative use of natural resources.

Now in light of these definitions, let’s figure out what Jesus was.  From the liberal side: Jesus went against the priests and hierarchy of Jerusalem and Israel, Definition 1a; He reinterpreted the Torah, and laid down a new Covenant, Definition 1b and 3; He gave freely to the poor, healing and feeding them, Definition 2a; He turned water into wine and loaves into fishes, giving those in need plenty, Definition 2b; and by all accounts, He was a gentleman and freeborn and was not born into slavery, Definition 5a.  We do not know if he was highly educated, but there are hints in the Bible that he was very knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects, so Definition 4 is a distinct possibility.  By all of these definitions, He fits Definition 1c.  Since none of the countries in Definition 1d existed at the time of Jesus, that definition cannot apply to him.  Therefore, it looks like he fits almost every single different definition of Liberal.

To be fair, let’s look at how Jesus stacks up on the conservative side: He threw the Moneylenders out of the Temple, turned the social order on its ear and replaced the Old Covenant with a new one, which means Definition 1 DOES NOT apply; He did dress simply, by all accounts, but we do not know if that was normal in his society, so Definition 2 is undetermined; He preached passionately, even though it put his life in danger, therefore Definition 3 DOES NOT apply; political philosophy was all but non-existent at the time, except for the Greeks and a few Romans, but given that he was overturning the social order, Definition 4a and 4b are unlikely; as stated previously, the countries listed in Definition 5 did not exist, that definition is irrelevant; By traditional Christian beliefs (its not actually stated in the Bible) He was unmarried and celibate, which contradicted traditional Jewish life at the time, so Definition 6 is probably not applicable; and finally since he never spoke on environmental issues, we do not know how he would fall on Definition 7.  Therefore on the Conservative side, we have two definite no’s, two probable no’s, and two unknowns.

By this tally, Jesus fits all of the definitions of a Liberal, and none (or almost none) of the definitions of a Conservative.   Therefore, by dictionary definitions, Jesus was a Liberal.

But was he condemned by a Liberal court as Cain insists?  (As a side note, remember, Jesus was condemned by the Priests, Pilate just ordered the execution.  I’m not saying this out of any anti-Semitism, I’m merely quoting the text of the Bible.  I personally think the Jews are being blamed for things they had no part in: the Romans would have been far more likely to want to shut Jesus up.  But when you are arguing Biblical Semantics, you must be texturally accurate.)

Now, let’s look back at our definitions.  First we will look if they fit the conservative model; the Kohen (the term for the Priests of the temple) at the time of Jesus were rigid and inflexible, which fits definition 1 and 3; they were the heart of traditional Judaic thought, therefore Definition 6 certainly applies; we would assume that they dressed in exactly the manner that the Torah prescribes, so Definition 2 probably applies; Definition 4 and 5 are as irrelevant as they are for Jesus; and just like with Jesus, we don’t know how they stood on environmental issues, so Definition 7 is unknown.  Therefore the Court that condemned Jesus fit the definition of conservative.

How do they stack up on the liberal side?  Lets see: they were Orthodox in their beliefs, Definition 1 is out across the board, except for the part that talks about countries that didn’t exist then; they allowed the Moneylenders into the Temple, which implies a certain lack of generosity, So Definition 2 is not likely; They applied strict interpretations of the Torah, so no on Definition 3; Priests tend to be educated inside of the Temple, and that education focuses on religious studies, so probably no on Definition 4.  All of these are in the Negative column, which seems to indicate that they were not Liberal.

By this examination, they seem to be able to be defined as conservative, with only one possible way out.

That leads us to the difficult one, Definition 5b, which is an obsolete definition of Liberal.  If you consider deciding to execute the Son of God to be morally unrestrained or licentious (which I am sad to say generations of Christians have done, much to the detriment of the Jews) then the court was Liberal, IN THAT ONE SENSE OF THE WORD.

Therefore, if you use an obsolete definition of the word liberal to apply to the court, that is how you can define them as a Liberal Court.  How truly Conservative.

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