Easter Feminism

Wow, this one is weapons grade stupid!

“But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
— Luke 24:11

Even before we begin there’s a bad sign. Should I deal with this now or later? Later I think.

The men refused to listen to her story. She was publicly smeared as a whore. And when she emerged as a celebrated advocate, powerful men tried to silence her because she threatened their status.

Nevertheless she persisted.

 The woman we’re talking about, though, is not a leader in the #MeToo movement — the viral campaign raising awareness about sexual assault and harassment against women. She is Mary Magdalene, the first person Jesus appeared to after his resurrection, according to the New Testament, and the first person to preach the good news that he had been raised from the dead.

             And we hit the ground running with the very first paragraph. The description they give of St. Mary Magdalene is…off to say the least. But since we’ll be going into more detail into this later, I suppose I’ll save it for then.

As to the ‘MeToo’ thing, I’m not going to talk about it much since I haven’t researched it beyond reading a few articles and commentaries on it. All I’ll say is that I find Twitter activism in general to be faintly ridiculous, and I think the kind of things brought up in this particular movement (sexual harassment and assault by employers and celebrities) are the horrible, but entirely predictable consequences of the social and cultural factors that have been championed by…well, more or less the same forces driving the ‘MeToo’ movement.

That’s not to say such behavior isn’t bad, or that the same things didn’t happen in the past, but that the forces in question broke down and removed pretty much any and all barriers that would discourage this sort of thing, apart from the simple admonition to not do it. This is a big topic and this isn’t the time or place to delve into it, but I thought I should let you know where I’m coming from on the subject.

For billions of Christians around the world, Easter Sunday is a celebration of a risen savior. Yet what happened to Mary Magdalene shows that Easter can also be seen as something else — a #MeToo moment, some pastors and biblical scholars say.

Don’t you just love this? It’s a celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the conquest of Death, and the opening of eternal life. It’s also sort of like a months-old ongoing scandal and ‘Twitter’ trend.

That right there pretty much sums up this article.

They say Easter is also a story about how charismatic female leaders such as Mary Magdalene –

Mary Magdalene was a follower, not a leader. That’s what ‘disciple’ means. Besides that, what makes you call her ‘charismatic’? Where in Scripture is she shown moving a crowd, inspiring devotion, or anything of the kind?

– and even Jesus himself –

The HELL?! Jesus is a ‘charismatic female leader’?

were victimized by some of the same behavior that sparked the #MeToo movement:

You mean short-sighted social reformers removing all barriers to abuse on the grounds that they were somehow insulting and then pretending not to notice the inevitable results until it became politically expedient to do so? 

the sexually predatory behavior of men, the intimidation of women and an orchestrated attempt to silence women who drew too much attention when they spoke up.

Oh, that. Okay: what evidence do you have that St. Mary Magdalene was the victim of “sexually predatory behavior”, intimidation, or an “orchestrated attempt to silence women who drew too much attention when they spoke up”? According to the Scriptures, she had “seven demons driven out of her,” and depending upon how you interpret certain passages may have been a prostitute, or at least a very sinful woman. Where do you get any of the things you just said?

One of the most obvious links between Easter and #MeToo, some say, is the way Mary Magdalene has been slut-shamed.

I won’t deal with that stupid buzzword because we’ve got enough to deal with here.

She has been falsely portrayed in books and films as a penitent prostitute rather than what she really was, says Claire L. Sahlin: “The foremost witness of the resurrection and a visionary leader of the early Christian movement.”

Note that it is the feminists who think that a reformed prostitute and adulteress couldn’t possibly be a ‘visionary leader,’ while that sexist old Catholic Church apparently had no problem with the first witness of the Resurrection being a penitent prostitute, nor with venerating said prostitute as one of her most important Saints, naming churches after her, having abbesses and saints taking her name as their own, etc.

You see, the key word there is ‘penitent.’ Leaving aside the question of whether St. Mary was actually a prostitute, the Church honors repentant sinners because that is what we all are, or ought to be. The repentance is more important than the sin.

“The #MeToo movement recognizes that men in authority used their power to sexually abuse women and silence their voices,” says Sahlin, an associate dean and professor of multicultural women’s and gender studies at Texas Woman’s University.

‘Associate dean and professor of multicultural women’s and gender studies at Texas Woman’s University.’ That may be the most credibility-destroying description I’ve ever read.

“Mary Magdalene also was a victim of men in authority who used their power to silence her voice.”

What the heck are you talking about? The Gospel writers – all men – cite her by name as the first witness of the Resurrection. Every Christian denomination publicly quotes her every single year and has done so for upwards of two thousand years. Who, exactly, are these ‘men in authority’ trying to silence her voice and how do you think they are going about it? Because they obviously haven’t done a very good job.

Is it possible to see the Easter story through the lens of the #MeToo movement, or are some pastors and theologians twisting the central story of Christianity to fit a “feminist ideology”?

The answer to the first is ‘why would you want to?’ and the second is ‘obviously.’

One New Testament scholar captured the tension between interpreting the Bible and seeing it through a modern lens when he wrote about a push to make biblical translations more gender-inclusive.

What do you mean by ‘captured the tension’? What does that phrase even mean? That he made a point relative to the subject?

“Should we refrain from calling God our Father because some people have had sinful, oppressive fathers?” asked Vern S. Poythress, a professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. 

“Should we stop using ‘He’ to refer to God because some people will think that God is literally of the male sex? If we allow these concessions, will not others enter from the wings, seducing us into an indefinite series of mollifications of the Bible for the sake of not ‘unnecessarily’ offending modern readers?”

More importantly, these ‘concessions’ are distortions of the Biblical record. Christ Himself calls God ‘Father’ and orders us to do so; there is zero room for interpretation on the point and less authority to alter His words. If you are even considering these questions seriously, you do not understand this subject.

Also, what does any of this have to do with your point? Because you literally never bring this up again.

Others scholars, though, say they’re not inventing scripture. They point to numerous passages in the Easter story and throughout the New Testament as evidence of four ways they say Easter became a #MeToo moment:

Again, if you’re trying to link the Resurrection of Christ to a trendy piece of Twitter advocacy as if the latter were in any way comparable to the former you may be missing the point.

Now, if you want to talk about how Christ interacted with women and what that implies for how men ought to treat women in their turn, then that might be something worth reading about. This is just hijacking the saving work of God to serve a shallow media narrative.

The men didn’t listen to ‘hysterical’ women

You mean the women who claimed to have seen and spoken to a man they had seen tortured to death mere days before? How would not listening to someone who said that be strange? Also, some of them did listen: Peter and John went to see for themselves

Credible witnesses — it’s what the resurrection stories hinge on, and it’s what the #MeToo movement needed to gain traction. In both cases, women are delivering shocking revelations to a skeptical public. The Apostle Paul captured this challenge when he used the Greek word for scandal — skandalon — to describe how the Easter message must have sounded to non-Christians.

And like many scandals, people have trouble believing the women, some biblical scholars say.

Most ‘scandals’ don’t involve people coming back from the dead. Also, St. Paul’s reference to ‘scandal’ had nothing to do with the fact that the message was first brought by women (that would be largely irrelevant, since by that time the eleven, several hundred disciples, and Paul Himself had also seen the Risen Christ), but to the way it seems to overturn all expectations and human knowledge. You are twisting words painfully to try to prop up and extremely flimsy narrative.

 Skepticism of women was literally enshrined in the law; a woman’s testimony didn’t count in a Jewish court during Jesus’ time, scholars say.

“In the ancient world, women were thought to be credulous and gullible, especially in religious matters,” says Richard Bauckham, a theologian and author of “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” 

I have heard that women’s testimony was not considered admissible in court in the ancient world, at least in most matters. Though there are some conflicting accounts about that. In any case, you’ll excuse me if I don’t take your word for the reasoning behind that practice.

“In the second century, the pagan intellectual Celsus, who wrote a book against Christianity, says of the resurrection: ‘Who saw him — Just a poor fisherman and a hysterical woman.’ “

I notice no one is taking up the cause of working men being abused, looked down upon, mistreated, and so on. Nevertheless, what exactly does this prove? A second century pagan, attacking the faith, used dismissive and harsh language. What has that to do with anything? How much influence do you think Celsus had on Christian teaching?

This sexist subtext can even be seen in the biblical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, since the traditional Easter story is told in the Gospels through the eyes of men.

            ‘Sexist subtext’? What sexist subtext? You haven’t established any sexist subject to the Gospels by noting the legal practices of the surrounding world and quoting someone speaking against them.

Also, the Gospels were written by men. Only one of them (John) is clearly told from any specific point of view at all, and it’s the view of the author. Are you saying that if something is written by a man or from a man’s point of view it, for that reason, has a ‘sexist subject’? If so, then ‘sexist’ has no meaning.

If Easter were an action movie, the men would have the juiciest parts. There’s the crafty villain Judas, who betrayed Jesus for a payday; the blustering Peter, whose bravado quickly melted when Jesus got arrested; and “Doubting Thomas,” who spoke for so many when he said he needed proof before he believed.

Are you really judging the central event of Salvation History, the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ for redemption of souls, by the standards of an action movie? Not only that, but by the ‘how many of what kind of people get what lines’ standard that is too shallow to apply to action movies in the first place?

To answer you according to your folly, would you really be happier if the Gospels featured women doing the betraying, denying, and doubting while men by and large stood steadfastly by Him?

Also, the Gospels are more or less historical accounts: raising this point is like complaining that Shelby Foote’s account of the Battle of Gettysburg doesn’t provide very many interesting roles for women.

But a closer look shows that women are the real action “sheroes,” some pastors and scholars say.

Mangling words and displaying etymological ignorance is neither clever nor amusing. It just makes you sound like a child.

Also, we already have a word for female heroes: Heroines.

They were the ones who stood by a tormented Jesus hanging on a cross when the men had long fled in fear. And they were the ones Jesus first appeared to, not the men, all four Gospel accounts say.

Yes. That is very well known. It is regularly proclaimed publicly by every Christian denomination. Just about every piece of art depicting the Crucifixion shows this, as do the Stations of the Cross. This isn’t taking a ‘closer look,’ this is have basic knowledge of the subject.

Also, how does that fit into your implied ‘sexist subtext’ again?

“They were the last at the cross and the first to get the good news,” says Karla D. Zazueta, a discipleship leader at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and a contributor to an anthology entitled, “Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible.”

The Bible, unsurprisingly, has no interest in sexual politics. The Gospels list the individuals who stayed by the Cross, regardless of sex, because the fact that they stayed is what mattered. Yes, the majority were women, but there was also St. John, Joseph of Arimathea, and Longinus the Centurion (though granted the latter two are a bit more ambiguous as to when they appeared and how long they stayed).

In any case, again, this is all very well known, commented on, and openly acknowledged. How is this remotely related to sexual harassment by male celebrities?

Yet they were the last ones the men believed, the Gospels make clear.

The Gospel accounts show that the men initially ignored the women’s declaration of a risen Jesus because, according to the Gospel of Luke, “their words seemed like nonsense.”

Yes, hearing someone say that they had seen someone they all knew to have been tortured and executed mere days before and whom they knew to be dead and buried, probably sounded like nonsense. Though, again, Peter and John at least went to see for themselves and still didn’t believe after seeing the empty tomb.

Moreover, St. Thomas, as you yourself noted only a few paragraphs ago, still didn’t believe even when the other ten Apostles – all men by the way – told them they had seen the Lord and touched him. There is no possible way you can spin this as sexism in action.

Some of the stories even take on the undertone of dark comedy.

The women tell a meeting of the disciples that Jesus has risen and the men ignore them. Men make the same declaration later and they are literally worshipped as saints. 

Are you kidding me? First of all, as I just said, men making the same declaration and with stronger evidence were still doubted by their own friend and companion. Second, Mary Magdalene and the other women are also worshiped as saints! How have you possibly missed that? Also, saying that ‘men make the same declaration and are worshipped as saints’ is a slight compression of the history of the nascent Church. Those same men, with miracles to back up their claim, were regularly beaten, arrested, thrown out of town, ordered to keep silent, and all but one of them was finally executed: hardly a matter of ‘of course men will be believed.’

And again, are you seriously trying to make the argument that the only reason anyone could have for questioning the story of a crucified man coming back from the dead is unthinking sexism? 

Jesus, though, didn’t have a problem sharing the stage with women, according to New Testament accounts. 

The Gospels are full of Jesus treating women in a way that would have scandalized his contemporaries. They were his travel companions and primary financial backers.

‘Primary financial backers’? Really?

Consider an obscure passage in Luke 8:1-4. It says Jesus and his 12 disciples were accompanied by women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna “and many others.” 

“These women were helping to support them out of their own means,” Luke says of the women.

What that means is that the women who travelled with Jesus basically kept house for Him and His disciples out of what they had. They weren’t ‘financial backers’ as if Jesus was running some kind of business enterprise. Nor is there any indication they were in any way His ‘primary’ means of support: we are not given any idea of the financial situation of Jesus and His followers, nor the relative amount provided by the women and the men. The assumption is more or less that those who followed Him brought along what money they had and made a kind of pool of it for their mutual support and that of the poor. Probably they accepted donations as well along the way. In any case, as they were all fairly low-class people it’s doubtful that anyone involved, least of all the women (you have already described how women did not have the same status as men in that time period), could be described as ‘primary financial backers.’

Once again, you are reading modern notions into the story in order to prop up your chosen narrative, without regard to either the time period, other possible readings of the accounts, or even other portions of your own essay.

A rabbi who traveled with and treated women as spiritual equals was unusual for a time when they were treated like second-class citizens, says Zazueta.

“He had a traveling seminary and he mentored women just as closely as his male disciples,” she says. “They were worthy of discipleship. You have this picture of Jesus traveling with a coed seminary that was supported by females with men and women learning and working together. He wasn’t following the rules of his time.” 

You’re making a big jump from “there were women who travelled with them and ministered to them” to “He mentored women just as closely as his male disciples” to “coed seminary.”

First of all, it’s not at all true that He mentored women just as closely as men: the Bible explicitly makes a distinction between His general disciples, which included women, and the picked Apostles, who were all men, and within those Apostles the chosen leaders of Peter, James, and John. Again, it’s a huge stretch to say His mission was ‘supported by females.’ You literally just told us that women were second-class citizens: do second-class citizens usually have the financial independence to be the primary backers of a ‘coed seminary’?

The Easter story itself doesn’t follow the rules of its time, Zazueta says. The Gospels make women the most important witnesses to the resurrection at a time when women were literally and legally ignored.

 “It’s a huge deal because it also gives credibility to the Gospel narrative,” Zazueta says. “No one who invented such a story would have invented a woman as a witness.”

Hey, look at that! A thousand words in and we have our first good point.

And of course the Gospels ‘don’t follow the rules of the time:’ they dealt with a unique figure and unique events. True religious accounts very rarely follow the ‘rules’ of their time. But didn’t you already say there was a ‘sexist subtext’ to the Gospels because men got all the juicy roles? Do you think the Gospels are sexist or not?

They pushed women into the shadows.

Alright, let’s deal with this: women throughout history have had different social roles than men, which were typically enforced by law. This was true of the ancient Middle East and Roman Empire. Women had their place, and within that context could command a fair degree of respect because, and this is the important thing, ancient minds did not see the world the same way we do. The idea that men and women should be treated the same or as equals would not have entered their heads. Nor would treating man and man as equals, for that matter. Their whole concept of the world and society, and their expectations from it, were different than ours. I’m not saying that was either a good thing or a bad thing: it is simply what was.

Women were not ‘pushed into the shadows’ any more than fishermen or carpenters were. Everyone had their place and their role in society, with relatively little leeway one way or another. Who do you think wielded more power and received more respect: Peter the Fisherman or Claudia the wife of Pontius Pilate? Matthew the Tax Collector or Herodias the wife of Herod?

But God cuts across that on a completely different level: His authority and His plans trump human social hierarchies and structures, which is why, as noted above, true religious events rarely follow the ‘rules’ of their time. Our social structures and relations, just or unjust, are always subordinate to the more fundamental reality of our relationship to God.

That is the takeaway here: not this feminist nonsense.

Here’s another peculiar feature of the Easter stories: They name many of the women who found the empty tomb of Jesus. In addition to Mary Magdalene, they name Joanna; Salome; Mary, the mother of James; “and the others with them.”

 Naming women isn’t a feature of the New Testament, says Sahlin, the Texas Woman’s University professor.

So you give a list of the named women who were present at the empty tomb, then claim that naming women at all is unusual for the New Testament. This itself isn’t true, as we will see in a moment, but even if it were, what of it? Again, these are religiously-motivated historical accounts written in the first century: the evangelists would only cite the people they considered had played major roles in the events, and would only give names to anyone if they thought it important to do so. How is that relevant? The most you could say is that men writing divinely-inspired texts in first century Palestine did not have equal representation of the sexes as a top priority.

“Women’s roles have been downplayed in the New Testament,” she says. “When women are mentioned, they are often not named.”

To say that someone’s role in an event has been ‘downplayed,’ you have to have independent knowledge of what their role actually was. The Four Gospels and New Testament writings, together with Church tradition, are more or less the only detailed and reliable sources we have of these events. What evidence do you have that women were, in fact, more involved in the events of Christ’s ministry and Passion, but were ‘downplayed’ by the evangelists? Based on what sources?

You can’t just make a statement like that and then say you are sure it was true because it flatters your preconceived notions.

What I think you are trying to say is “based on some allusions the evangelists couldn’t help but make, we can deduce that there was far more going on that they declined to mention.” Now, it is entirely reasonable to attempt to deduce what the evangelists left out in terms of people, events, and motivations: Scripture was never intended to be the sum-total of revelation and must be interpreted. But here’s the trouble: you still have to prove your case from either Scripture or Church Tradition or from other sources. Thus we can reasonably deduce the motives for both Caiaphas and Pilate on Good Friday from our knowledge of the surrounding history: Caiaphas fears a Roman crackdown, Pilate fears an uprising. Both also are seeking an advantage over the other. This isn’t directly mentioned in the Gospels, but we may reasonably infer it based on our knowledge of the time.

But what you and your ‘scholars’ are doing are cherry-picking certain passages and claiming that they indicate a highly unlikely situation for which there is not the smallest independent evidence, would be contrary to the normal practices and basic assumptions of the time, and which requires you to impute evil motives to the evangelists, all in the service of prejudices that happen to be in fashion twenty centuries after the event.

Consider some of the most famous New Testament stories. We know the names of many of the men Jesus encountered during his itinerant ministry: Zacchaeus, the diminutive tax collector; Jairus, the heartbroken synagogue ruler; and Nicodemus, the inquisitive Pharisee.

The man born blind. The man possessed by Legion. The man stricken with palsy. The leper. The repentant thief. The centurion. The other centurion.

But the Gospels name virtually none of the women Jesus encountered. They are instead identified by descriptions such as “the woman with the issue of blood,” “the Samaritan women at the well” and the “woman caught in adultery.”

Mary Magdalene, Anna the prophetess, Elizabeth the wife of Zechariah, Martha and Mary the sisters of Lazarus, Herodias the wife of Herod and Salome his daughter, the women you yourself just listed as being named.

Not to mention St. Veronica, who is not mentioned in the New Testament, but is part of Church Tradition. If the aim were to obscure the role of women, why would the Church add roles for women in her accounts of the events?

Also, the notion of the Church ‘downplaying the role of women’ is kind of ridiculous when you consider the Blessed Virgin. Whatever could be said about the Church’s teachings about Mary’s role in salvation history, ‘downplayed’ is not the word that comes to mind.

What does this have to do with the #MeToo movement?

You mean your misstating your case and utterly failing to acknowledge contrary evidence or alternative interpretations to make an extremely flimsy point?

One of the difficulties some women face when they come forward today is their tormentors have names, but they don’t. Many of them suffered in silence for years because their tormentors had name recognition and wealth. And some of those men used that imbalance of power to intimidate the women into silence.

Just to be clear, you are citing the writing conventions of first century Palestine as being somehow the same thing as Hollywood producers making or breaking careers for sexual favors. In what universe are these things even remotely related? Your case is that (you say) few women are directly named in the Gospel accounts; some women who have been harassed and abused are less prominent and well-known than the men who abused them. Ergo it is part of the same pattern.

Good God; the Riddler’s puzzles on the Adam West Batman show were more logical than that!

Some men in contemporary churches are accused of similar behavior. Andy Savage resigned from his Memphis megachurch this year after revealing he had assaulted a teenage girl in his youth group decades ago. Rob Porter, a Mormon, resigned as a top aide to President Trump after two ex-wives accused him of abusing them. The incidents left many churches wondering whether they needed a #MeToo movement as well.

Why is this here? I don’t know anything about these cases and have no opinion one way or another, but why bring this up? What does this have to do with anything? How does this connect in any way to the point you were attempting to make about names? I mean, that was a stupid and ill-founded digression too, but at least there was a transition from one subject to the next.

I think I know why this is here; it is insinuation, suggesting that sexual abuse, subtly encoded in the Gospel (really, you need to decide whether you think the Gospels are sexist or not and stick to it: you have gone back and forth on that point about three times so far), rears it’s ugly head in present churches.

We’ll come back to that.

The early church fathers used an imbalance of power to silence the women of Easter and other charismatic women in the New Testament, some biblical scholars say.

You haven’t read any of the Church Fathers, have you? Again, publicly quoting the women of the New Testament every single year and holding them up as shining examples of Faith is a strange way of silencing them. What on Earth are you even talking about? And again, where is your grounds for calling these women ‘charismatic’? What scripture passage or pious tradition or comment by the Father’s gives you grounds for describing them thus? Do you even know what that word means, or does it just correspond to ‘good’ in your mind?

“When the New Testament was edited and canonized, women’s voices like Mary Magdalene were suppressed,” Sahlin says. “The New Testament, however, offers clues to women’s leadership roles. Women served as prophets, benefactors and as missionaries in the early Christian movement.”

Again, what are you basing that on? What independent evidence shows that women originally played a larger and (to you) more palatable role that was then suppressed?

I keep saying this because you keep bringing it up, but all four Gospels state that women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. You yourself have cited this fact several times; how can you argue the New Testament silences women while citing passages where it quotes and honors women? You make a baseless claim that the New Testament authors and compilers downplayed the role of women, then as evidence to your claim cite passages in the New Testament praising women. You are literally disproving your case as you make it.

Yes, women were heavily involved in the Early Church. And the Ancient, Medieval, Post-Reformation, and Modern Church. That doesn’t mean they adopted roles you would find inspiring, or were some kind of proto-feminist prophets preaching the equality of the sexes because, again, the Ancient World didn’t think like that.

Christians often hear sermons about prominent men in the New Testament: the Twelve Apostles, Stephen the martyr, men such as Barnabas and Timothy who risked their lives alongside the Apostle Paul. But how many people have heard sermons about female leaders in the early church such as Priscilla, a teacher of the Gospel who was so dynamic that her name was often listed before her husband’s when they were mentioned?

Probably quite a few people. Just as quite a few people have heard sermons about Mary Magdalene, Martha, the women at the tomb, St. Veronica, the numerous female martyrs and preachers of the early Church, and so on. In any case, how would you know? Have you made a survey of notable Christian sermons on the Saints and found that men are clearly celebrated more than women, or noted clear differences in the worship offered to male versus female saints, or made anything even remotely resembling an attempt to actually research and understand your subject?

This is a form of argument which I admit I myself have been guilty of in the past: you throw out a broad statement about what ‘generally happens’ and hope that your audience fills in the evidence for you. It only works if what you are describing is so obvious and commonplace that you can reasonably expect people to have examples (e.g. C.S. Lewis’s opening shot in Mere Christianity: ‘Everyone has heard people quarreling’).

Only in this case, rather than alluding to something everyone might be expected to have noticed, the author is speaking about what people he very clearly does not associate with might generally hear in places he doesn’t frequent. Honestly, based on my own experience and what I’ve heard from others, most Christians these days probably don’t hear many sermons about any Saint, let alone the more obscure ones glanced over in the New Testament: it’s more likely to be anecdotes about being nice and tolerant to other people.

And yes, the Twelve Apostles, the first martyr, and the companions of Paul are slightly more important to Church history and prominent in the New Testament than a woman who was mentioned a handful of times in passing. She is still honored as a Saint (along with her husband, whom you pass over so casually).

Or how many people know about Phoebe, whom the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 16:1-2 as a “deacon” in the early church and a “benefactor of many people, including me,” according to some biblical translations?

Again, someone mentioned at the tail end of a letter hardly stands out as a major figure in the Faith. I don’t mean any disrespect to these Saints, but I doubt they would take offense at the statement that ‘Barnabas and Timothy are rather more important figures in the Church than Phoebe and Priscilla’ and I imagine they would be even more annoyed to see their names dragged through the mud like this.

And why do people continue saying there were 12 male Apostles when Paul himself says in Romans 16:7 that “Junia,” a woman, is an Apostle, asks Bauckham, author of “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.”

Why do people say there were twelve male Apostles? Because all four of the Gospels explicitly state that Jesus singled out these twelve men as His particular disciples and lists them by name.

‘Apostle’ is a word with a few different meanings. It chiefly refers to those twelve close companions chosen by Jesus, but in the very early Church it also referred to anyone who had seen the Risen Lord or associated closely with those who had (the Didache gives instructions on how to receive such people), and throughout Church history it has been used to refer to those who were especially zealous and effective in spreading the faith. St. Patrick, for instance, is called ‘the Apostle of Ireland.’ By your logic that would apparently be proof that he had exactly the same authority as St. Peter.

Though since you seem unaware of what ‘charismatic’ means and seem to think ‘scandal’ as used by Paul is the same as ‘scandal’ as used by ‘People,’ I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that you’re not exactly the best person to parse out the various meanings of ‘apostle.’

By the way, what does this list of notable female disciples do your claim that ‘the New Testament generally doesn’t name women’ and ‘downplays the role of women’?

“Paul has no problem calling her that,” Bauckham says. “In the passage, Paul says of Junia that she was ‘outstanding among the Apostles'” and was “in Christ before I was.”

But how can that Paul — who celebrated women as Apostles and declared in Galatians 3:28 that there is neither “male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” — be reconciled with the Paul who says in other parts of the New Testament that “women should remain silent in churches” and that if they had a question “they should ask their own husbands at home”?

Because he was talking on different subjects, to different audiences, and in different contexts. Because, yet again, people saw the world differently back then.

That’s because they’re not the same Paul, says John Dominic Crossan, a New Testament scholar and co-author with his wife, Sarah Crossan, of “Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision.”

Ah, what I call the ‘fan-fiction’ approach to Biblical studies. If you don’t like any particular passage, make up a story about how it wasn’t actually said by Jesus or written by Paul, but inserted afterwards by interested parties. That way you don’t have to expand any mental effort in reconciling the two, or be troubled with the possibility that you may have to adjust your own opinions.

Here’s a thought: how do you know the passages you like weren’t the spurious ones? Maybe Paul wrote the passages regarding marital relations and faceless female radical wrote the “neither male nor female” passage under his name. I mean, if you’re going to create head-canon to justify jettisoning any part of the New Testament that doesn’t correspond with your own personal views, whose to say your jettisoning the right parts?

Most biblical scholars don’t think Paul actually wrote all the letters attributed to him in the New Testament, Crossan says. Some New Testament passages in which Paul denigrates women were actually inserted later by male church leaders threatened by Paul’s radically inclusive vision, Crossan says.

I’m sure he has strong textual and historical evidence, including accounts of the editing process, counsels in which the Church debated the spurious passages, citations from Church Fathers who doubted the authenticity of these passages, and so on. Right?

Scholars can make that determination because the theology and writing style is so markedly different in some of Paul’s New Testament letters, Crossan says.

Funny how the Church Fathers, who spoke the same language, shared many of the same cultural assumptions, and lived in roughly the same milieu don’t seem to have noticed this, but modern scholars working from points of view Paul would never have imagined have, and wonder of wonders, Paul’s actual teaching is more or less the same as what those modern scholars already believed.

Also, note the implication that, as far as the Church Fathers were concerned (those same Church Fathers who regularly ended up crucified, beheaded, fed the lions, and so on), maintaining the deposit of faith was less important than ensuring uppity women got no funny ideas. That was their chief priority, for which they were so willing to doctor the words of Apostles and Evangelists that not one of them voiced the slightest objection.

“It’s like someone producing a letter by someone saying that MLK said, ‘If this nonviolent thing doesn’t work, we can go for the guns,'” Crossan says.

And if someone did that, do you really think no one, including those most dedicated to spreading Dr. King’s teachings and continuing his work, would question it for two thousand years until some daring scholar, working in a completely different culture and language and off of completely different assumptions, pointed out that it was noticeably different from the rest of Dr. King’s writings?

This pattern of powerful men erasing the names and voices of women caused the early Christian church to retreat from the powerful witness of many charismatic female leaders, Sahlin says.

Yet again, you are repeating the same made-up fantasy narrative that you yourself have repeatedly undermined and for which you have not given a scintilla of evidence. Now let me ask; who in the Early Church, specifically did this? Ignatius? Irenaeus? Justin? Clement? Hippolytus? Did any of them say anything about silencing female voices, silencing female disciples, keeping female missionaries quiet or subdued, or eliminating passages dealing with female figures?

For goodness sakes, it’s not like we don’t have any records from this time period! If you’re going to claim this, you have to provide a scintilla of evidence beyond “it would be convenient to my feelings if it had been there, ergo it has been taken out for evil reasons.”

“Sociologists tell us that when new religious movements start, women and others who may be marginalized in society often assume new leadership roles,” she says. “But as the religious movement becomes more institutionalized, women tend to fall back or are pushed back into the shadows.”

Oh, well if sociologists (all sociologists? Some? Most? One?) tell us that, it settles everything! Sociology is, as you know, a most rigorous, objective, and exact science not at all given to being swayed by personal or political views.

Also, the abbesses of the Middle Ages, St. Scholastica, St. Catherine, St. Theresa, and so on would be surprised to know that, not to mention St. Catherine, the patron of philosophers, the account of whose life, by the way, had her defeating multiple male philosophers in debate at once. One more instance of the Church ‘downplaying the role of women.’

On that subject, here’s an interesting side note: we have a letter from St. Jerome – the man who translated the Bible into Latin – advising a female correspondent how best to teach her daughter to read. Yes, it really sounds like the Church Fathers were eager to keep women down.

Discrediting women by calling them bad girls

This should be good.

In the #MeToo movement, some women are ignored, others are pushed into the shadows and still others are discredited as loose women who are the source of their own folly.

Most, it seems, are lauded and hailed as heroes, end up on the cover of ‘Time’ and are generally given a pass for sitting on the information for years and years while other women were abused. Seriously, did I miss something? Since when are the whistleblowers of sex abuse being ignored, discredited, etc.? The only times that seems to really happen is when their stories are so absurdly trivial that not even the most virulent feminist can defend them.

Mary Magdalene suffered all three treatments, some scholars say — including a smear campaign that has lasted nearly 2,000 years. 

Yes, the smear campaign of citing her as one of the greatest of Saints, being held up as the shining example of the repentant sinner, being the patron of innumerable churches, religious orders, etc. and the subject of reams and reams of gorgeous religious art.

Your narrative isn’t just unlikely; it is blatantly contradicted by very obvious and easy to find facts. It’s as if you’re claiming Benjamin Franklin has been smeared, downplayed, and ignored by the American public because he was an abolitionist: the whole foundation of your case simply does not exist.

Most people know her as a reformed harlot. That’s how she’s been portrayed over the centuries in books and sermons, and in movies like “Jesus of Nazareth,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and more recently, “Risen.”

But Mary Magdalene was never once described as a prostitute when mentioned in the Bible. She is instead portrayed as one of Jesus’ most steadfast disciples, someone who financially supported him and was called the “Apostle to the Apostles” by early church leaders because she brought the news of Jesus’ resurrection to the 12 disciples.

Let’s address the question of St. Mary being a reformed prostitute. It is true she is never described as such in the Bible: when she is mentioned it is said Christ “drove seven demons out of her.” Now, that could mean a few things, the most obvious being that He drove seven demons out of her (I note you don’t bring that up). However, there is a strong tradition of regarding her as one and the same with Mary the sister of Lazarus, who is identified in John as the woman who anointed Jesus with the alabaster jar of ointment, and whom the other Gospels describe as being “a sinful woman.” Furthermore, the designation ‘Magdalene’ could either refer to her being from a certain region or come from a Talmudic expression for adulteress. Taking these passages together, many Church Fathers concluded she was a reformed prostitute (as we know Jesus had such women among His followers).

Though as a matter of fact, different Church traditions have differed on this point, and honestly either side could be defended. The Greek and Protestant Churches dispute it, while the Latin Churches have kept it.

Of course, the main point is that, for the purposes of sanctity or ‘reliability’ it doesn’t matter. You are talking as if Mary Magdalene’s being a repentant sinner was somehow contradictory to her being a devoted disciple and the herald of the Resurrection, which indicates you have absolutely no idea what Christianity even is.

The Church venerated St. Mary Magdalene in part because she was understood to be a penitent prostitute. Again, whether or not she was so in fact it is quite certain that there were repentant prostitutes and adulteresses among Jesus’s followers, as He is described on multiple occasions as keeping their company. St. Mary was more or less made the figurehead and type of these women, and as such has inspired thousands of women to abandon self-destructive and harmful lifestyles and thousands of men to overlook and forgive such transgressions over the past two millennia. In other words, you are holding up as an insult what was not only meant as a glorification, but which has done real, concrete good in the lives of countless women over the centuries.

(Note: No, it didn’t always play out like that for prostitutes, fallen women, etc. We are talking about quite literally millions of lives over countless different cultural milieus. The point is that, to the extent the image of St. Mary Magdalene the penitent whore had an effect on men’s actions, it was one entirely to the good of women, especially women who had transgressed moral norms).

Also, now you are saying early Church leaders – those same ones who tried to downplay the role of women? – hailed her as ‘Apostle to the Apostles.’ That’s about the tenth time you have contradicted your own argument, and it’s an incredibly simple argument!

Bauckham points to the resurrection story in John 20:18, when Mary Magdalene says, “I have seen the Lord!”

“What Mary says — ‘I have seen the Lord!’– is exactly what Paul says when he claims to be an Apostle: ‘Am I not an Apostle? Have I not seen the Lord?’ ”he says. “I think it means that Mary Magdalene was regarded in the early Christian movement as an Apostle.”

See above regarding ‘apostle.’ For goodness sakes, people, there is a list of the twelve who were set apart by Christ to be Apostles in all of the Gospels: this is not a difficult distinction to make.

Mary Magdalene’s spiritual authority, though, was gradually downplayed. By the fourth century, Gnostic texts depicting her spiritual leadership were deemed heretical and excluded from the New Testament canon, says Sahlin.

Aha! The Gnostic Gospels! Had to get to those, didn’t we, since every time a modern scholar talks about the early Church the narrative seems to be ‘enlightened Gnostics pushed aside by evil orthodox,’ though, it seems, without ever actually inquiring what those Gnostics taught.

Note the way it’s phrased, as if the ‘spiritual leadership’ of Mary Magdalene was the only reason they were deemed heretical. I suppose that’s why the Gospels of Peter, Thomas, and Andrew were condemned as well, to downplay their spiritual authority. Because the Church would of course want to downplay the authority of St. Peter.

And I’ve read the Gospel of Mary (it’s about two pages long in its current form and can be found here). It’s pretty much nonsensical gibberish. For instance:

 Then Peter said to him, “You have been explaining every topic to us; tell us one other thing. What is the sin of the world?”
The Savior replied, “There is no such thing as sin; rather you yourselves are what produces sin when you act in accordance with the nature of adultery, which is called ‘sin.’ For this reason, the Good came among you, pursuing (the good) which belongs to every nature. It will set it within its root.”

            Not to mention that Gnosticism was and is a very well known heretical sect, widespread and virulent, preaching that the body and material existence was evil and that magic is the path to escaping the accursed body. There was a lot of variety over time and place in the specifics, but to say the least the elevation and equal status of women was not a distinctive aspect of the Gnostic systems.

Though the Gospel of Mary does have the soul described as “human-killer and space-conqueror,” which is kind of awesome.

One of those heretical texts, The Gospel of Mary, portrays her as possessing deeper insight than the Apostle Peter. Whether the Gospel is historically accurate or not, it reveals tension over the role of women in the early Christian movement, Sahlin says.

No, it doesn’t, because the Gnostics were not part of the ‘early Christian movement.’ They were a separate and heretical group that may have predated Christianity and which in any case twisted Christian teachings into their own goofy cosmology. They split from the Church while the Apostles were still alive and were never considered a real Christian sect. Also, the Gnostics weren’t in favor of women’s leadership: if anything they were more hostile towards women than the orthodox (they hated the body). Once again, you are not going to get your preferred worldview out of the world of antiquity because it did not exist.

“We can read it as a historical witness to an actual conflict over women’s leadership in early Christianity,” she says. “We see in the texts Peter questioning Mary’s authority.”

And…this text was rejected by the Church in favor of the one where Peter listens to her account of the resurrection and rushes to see for himself. Besides which, you just cited this text as proof of St. Mary’s role in the early church (again, by citing the text of one of the early Church’s enemies), now you’re citing it as showing how she was ignored and put down?

There is nothing remotely historical about the accounts of the Gnostic Gospels. Quite apart from the fact that they were written well after the canonical ones, and by a sect hostile to the Church, the Gnostics would not have cared about historical accuracy. It was the ideas, the ‘hidden wisdom’ that rejected matter that interested them; our notion of historical accuracy, to the extent the idea itself existed at the time, would have been anathema to them. The account of Mary Magdalene delivering a visionary sermon in a Gnostic gospel and being questioned as to her worthiness by Peter has zero bearing on our historical knowledge of the Early Church.

The fact that you cite this as historical evidence, without regard to who and what the Gnostics were, is only one more proof that you started with your conclusion and have simply combed the record for anything that might conceivably be taken as supportive of it. In short, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

Mary’s spiritual authority in the early church was further eroded in 591 when a powerful Pope depicted her as a reformed harlot.

See above regarding Mary Magdalene the reformed harlot. The idea that this in any way “eroded her spiritual authority” is nonsensical: you might as well claim that St. Luke was trying to undermine St. Paul’s authority by describing him in Acts as a persecutor of the Church, since that would have been considered far worse than being a reformed prostitute. Also you haven’t established that Mary’s spiritual authority in the Early Church was anything other than what is indicated in the New Testament. The closest thing to actual evidence to that regard is a piece of writing produced by the Church’s enemies, which uses her as a mouthpiece for their own non-Christian teachings, and which was written by people who would have had absolutely no concern for historical accuracy.

The writer James Carroll memorably described this ancient version of slut-shaming in a 2006 essay in Smithsonian magazine titled, “Who was Mary Magdalene?”

I don’t have time to go into the idiotic term ‘slut-shamming,’ except to say that it is part of the modern faith in the power of words: assign a bad-sounding phrase to a reality you don’t want to deal with and you will be able to dismiss it from your mind at will. Between that and the claims that Paul didn’t write the passages that don’t immediately appeal to modern sensibilities, there is a lot of wishful thinking going on here.

Yet again, you betray a complete lack of understanding of Christian belief if you consider being called a repentant sinner a form of ‘shaming.’ This is hardly difficult to find out. You would almost have to put more work into making that mistake than in actually learning the truth!

He recounts how Pope Gregory preached a series of sermons in which he described Mary Magdalene as a woman who used to “perfume her flesh in forbidden acts” and turned the “mass of her crimes to virtues.”

Gregory apparently confused and merged different women in the Gospels into the figure of Mary Magdalene, but his distorted picture took hold for centuries, Carroll says.

Note the supposition that St. Gregory ‘confused and merged’ different women in the Gospels. Because Pope St. Gregory the Great was obviously less well-versed in Scripture than ‘writer James Carroll.’

This is part of something I notice a lot whenever moderns of a certain type discuss the past: they always talk as if our ancestors were idiots or children: St. Gregory confused several different figures in the Gospels. The Church Fathers blindly accepted everything that bore the name of ‘Paul’ without considering the content. Everyone was concerned with maintaining their own unearned power over women. No one thought critically or were anything but blindly misogynistic until the glorious modern age.

It would be appallingly arrogant even if the minds on display weren’t so pathetically inferior to those they disparage.

Again, there are very cogent and convincing reasons for thinking these women were all the same figure, though one could argue otherwise. In any case, they’re all presented as positive figures and held up as examples, so the whole premise of this argument is simply and objectively false.

Citing a book by Susan Haskins, “Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor,” Carroll wrote:

“Thus Mary of Magdala, who began as a powerful woman at Jesus’ side, ‘became,’ in Haskins’ summary, ‘the redeemed whore and Christianity’s model of repentance, a manageable, controllable figure, and effective weapon and instrument of propaganda against her own sex.'”

‘Powerful woman’? What in the Gospel accounts makes you think that? The scene where she anoints his head, washes his feet in her tears and dries them with her hair in misery over her own sins? Her role is entirely humble and subservient to Christ, which is precisely why she is honored!

He describes ‘model of repentance’ as a ‘manageable, controllable figure and effective weapon and instrument of propaganda against her own sex.’ He seems to think these are one and the same.

I’m going to make an assumption here. I don’t like doing that, but I think it’s reasonable: his position is that Mary as a repentant sinner is ‘manageable’ because it coincides with the Church’s view of sexuality, which he sees as a means of controlling women and keeping them subservient. He is quoted in an article trying to link the Gospels to modern revelations that women have been being pressured and coerced into sexual favors by powerful men in order to further their careers.

So, if I am reading this right, the position is that Christian ideas of sexuality – either perpetual celibacy or unmitigated monogamy, though with mercy for those who fall and repent – are basically the same as or logically leads to the practice of men extorting sexual favors from women in exchange for career considerations, while what might be termed ‘progressive’ ideas of sexuality – that the moral character of sex is determined by the individual, that it is a source of individual power if applied correctly, and that it is healthy to engage in often and absent commitment – is contrary to said practice. That the former (i.e. advising women to be less sexually available, to resist the imputation of men even unto death, and that both sexes ought to practice continence) is a means of controlling women, and the latter (i.e. that they should be more sexually available, take steps to reduce the consequences of the act, and view sexuality as a commodity) is a means of liberation.

Again, I don’t have time to get into this properly right now, but how did this movement get spun as being good for women?

Also, I want to point out that these feminist scholars are twisting the records painfully and ignoring what these women actually said and did, all for the sake of presenting them as examples of the very narrow type of woman that they approve of. In other words, they are doing exactly what they falsely accuse the Church of doing: creating a single, narrowly defined role for women and either forcing women to conform to their own ideas or rejecting them as worthless, regardless of the actions, ideas, or words of the women themselves.

Meanwhile, the Church holds up and celebrates innumerable women of all classes, types, and personalities: St. Mary Magdalene is a very different figure from St. Priscilla, who is very different from St. Catherine, who is different from St. Scholastica. St. Joan of Arc, St. Hildegard, and St. Claire were all unique personalities who did drastically different things with their lives and are celebrated for their specific and individual actions.

You lump all women into one of two categories: those who fit your image of what a woman should be and those who don’t. You regard the former with patronizingly blind admiration and the latter with sneering contempt.

In short, it is feminists who are insulting towards women, treat women as lesser beings, and ignore the contribution of women unless it suits their own purposes. The Church treats them as human beings and individuals.

The intensity of the smear campaign against Mary Magdalene is revealing, says Crossan.

 The smear campaign to elevate her as one of the chief Saints of the Church.

“The nasty things said about her is proof that she’s important,” Crossan says. “You don’t bother in a patriarchal society to criticize women who are ‘in their place.’ The very fact that you have to do a hit job on her proves to me that she’s not a little member of the serving staff.”

What. The Heck. Are you TALKING ABOUT?! The Church isn’t ‘criticizing’ Mary Magdalene; she’s honoring her, just like she honors the Blessed Virgin and a thousand other female saints. You have created a strange sexual fantasy world in your head and are now trying to read everything, including the past, according to your own ideas, without any regard for what actually happened or what was thought and said. Again, the whole premise of this very silly argument rests on a bald and completely baseless assertion that the smallest familiarity with the Christian religion would show to be nonsense.

Using sexual humiliation as a weapon

It is perhaps the most difficult comparison between Easter Sunday and the #MeToo movement — what one scholar calls the sexual humiliation of Jesus.

In the hands of outlets like CNN, ‘scholar’ is starting to become synonymous with ‘dunce.’

The sexual humiliation of women is an integral part of what led to the #MeToo movement. Tales of women trapped alone with powerful men who forced them into sexually degrading acts are some of the most painful stories to hear.

Uh, some of the most painful stories to hear absolutely? This year? In this context? I’m not downplaying the subject, but that’s extremely sloppy writing.

Some of those same dynamics can be seen in the crucifixion of Jesus, says David Tombs, a theologian and professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

…Uh, no. No, none of the same dynamics of a woman being coerced into sexual favors by her boss or in exchange for career advancement are featured in a legal execution by torture. Apart from the fact that both may be described as very unpleasant, there is nothing to link the two. One involves men abusing a position of power to try to pressure a woman into degrading herself, the other involves the authorities decreeing that a man should be put to death by a particularly torturous and humiliating method. The one is coercive: do this and I do that, or do this or I do that. The other is simply authoritative: this is to be done to you.

Tombs points to a grim detail about Jesus’ death that most people avoid — he was most likely naked when he died on the cross, not covered with a loincloth.

Yes, everyone who has thought seriously on the subject knows that. It’s generally not depicted in religious art for reasons of custom and decorum, but it is sometimes. So what?

The Gospel accounts make that clear, he says. They describe Jesus as being stripped and exposed naked. In Matthew 27, the writer suggests Jesus is stripped three times. The same description is found in Mark 15. Jesus’ nakedness is perhaps clearest in John 19, which depicts soldiers taking Jesus’ undergarments to divide among themselves.

It just says ‘garments’ not undergarments. But once again, so what?

The Romans normally took away all the clothing of crucifixion victims, says Tombs.

“The biblical texts offer no suggestion that this was not also the case for Jesus,” Tombs says. “We don’t have photos of the crucifixion so we cannot tell with absolute certainty, but most scholars would say that Jesus was naked.”

Dwelling on Jesus’ nakedness would be inappropriate at any other time of the year, he says, but during Easter it’s important to know why the Romans stripped their victims.

It really wouldn’t be: Jesus was a man like any other. His nakedness is one way to contemplate that. Moreover, His being stripped of His garments is theologically important because it links Him with Adam, who was clothed by God and who was naked in the Garden before the Fall. Christ, the New Adam, is stripped of his garments before reversing the Fall.

“Exposing a prisoner was a powerful way to shame and stigmatize a male prisoner,” Tombs says. “It was an effective way to attack his identity as a male. It humiliated and undermined his sense of self.”

Nakedness and being stripped is a form of humiliation, yes. It’s not an ‘attack upon his identity as a male’ (why would exposing the male member be an attack upon the male identity? Castration would be, but not mere nakedness). You have drifted close to a rational idea, but have been derailed by the modern world’s adolescent preoccupation with sex, not to mention its inability to enter into the mindset of past ages.

Also, nakedness in the First Century wouldn’t have necessarily had the sexual connotations it has today (actually, nakedness as early as a couple generations ago wouldn’t necessarily have sexual connotations). Men went naked into the bath, into the gymnasium, and during sporting events. Baptism was generally performed naked. People of the time lived closer to nature than we typically do now and so would not have their minds immediately jump to sex the moment the private parts are exposed.

The practice of sexually humiliating prisoners or condemned people wasn’t confined to biblical times, Tombs says. It happens today. He cites the infamous photos of naked Iraqi prisoners stacked on top of one another like a pyramid by US soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison.

What does this have to do with anything? As noted, ‘nakedness’ does not equal ‘sexual humiliation’ when talking about the First Century. It involves humiliation, but the sexual dimension is unlikely to have been distinct in their minds.

You just wanted to fit in a gratuitous swipe at the US, and this seemed the only opportunity, didn’t you?

Also, do you really need to specify that humiliating or even sexually humiliating people wasn’t confined to Biblical times? That is what is called ‘talking down to the audience.’

Jesus’ nudity was not incidental, Tombs says: It was sexual humiliation.

In a paper titled, “Crucifixion, State Terror and Sexual Abuse,” he explained why

“In a patriarchal society in which men competed against each other to display virility in terms of sexual power over others, the public display of the naked victim by the ‘victors’ in front of onlookers and passers-by carries the message of sexual domination.

Yet again, you are reading modern ideas into an ancient setting, mixed up with a lot of silly nonsense about ‘patriarchal societies’ blended with Freudian stupidity. You are simply reading your own prejudices and assumptions in barely-understood accounts of a world you lack the humility to begin to understand.

“The cross held up the victim for display as someone who had been — at least metaphorically — emasculated.”

While the idea of seeing Jesus as a victim of sexual humiliation is “deeply distressing” to many Christians, Tombs says, it’s important at least during Easter to remember the historical reality.

Your personal interpretation, reading contemporary notions onto the ancient past, is not the ‘historical reality.’

Your whole point is ‘Christ was crucified and scourged naked, ergo He was sexually assaulted.’ In the first place, your notion that this fact is somehow a revelation shows that you have not made any kind of a study of this subject. In the second, you imposing a category – sexual humiliation – that probably wouldn’t have been present in the minds of the ancient world. They did not have our view of sexuality as a distinct subject, and certainly not our idea of sexual assault as a distinct crime. Christ’s nakedness would not have struck the people present under the category.

This is another aspect of modernity; the assumption that the categories by which we group ideas are somehow objective reality that we have found out scientifically, rather than modes of speaking. Thus this man is trying to make the case that being stripped naked prior to execution is objectively a form of sexual assault, without consideration of how the ancient world would have seen it or whether our own categories of the subject could be understood differently.

Doing so could even deepen the meaning of the Easter message, he says.

Making a shallow and dubious connection to present preoccupations would ‘deepen’ the meaning of the Resurrection of Christ. Yet again we have the insufferable arrogance of the modern mind on display.

It would show a God who could identify with victims of sexual abuse and torture. It would reveal a God “who is in real solidarity with the powerless and suffers the worst evils of the world.”

Are you really suggesting that if Christ’s Passion and Death didn’t directly involve a certain kind of suffering, that means He’s not in sympathy with those who undergo it?

Honestly, though, if someone who suffered sexual assault found it helpful to think of Christ’s nakedness in this light, that’d be fine. There are no coincidences in revelation, so viewing it through that light isn’t necessarily wrong. Claiming it as part of the historical record and trying to hold it up as a means to make the Passion of Christ somehow more relevant to the modern world is.

As for the ‘worst evils in the world:’ again, not downplaying what they went through, but ask one of the ‘MeToo’ women whether they’d rather go through their assault a second time or be scourged and crucified. This implication that God is not “in real solidarity with the powerless” unless we identify Him as a victim of sexual abuse by assuming contemporary standards when examining the ancient world is…well, typical of this piece. Shallow, ignorant, and ridiculously parochial.

“This is not just a matter of correcting the historical record,” Tombs says.

            The historical record doesn’t need to be corrected as to the fact that crucifixion was done naked. If you think it does, that indicates that your idea of the ‘historical record’ consists of vague collections of religious art and movies.

“If Jesus is named as a victim of sexual abuse, it could make a huge difference to how the churches engage with movements like #MeToo and how they promote change in wider society.”

Here we have the common progressive tactic of thinking that if we can somehow claim X figure as fitting this designation, that will pressure people to come around to our point of view on the subject. Because that is obviously the main point, and ‘promoting change in wider society’ is the chief good. It could be called ‘parasite advocacy.’

You think the Church doesn’t know anything about sexual abuse? You think she doesn’t have saints, martyrs, and historical figures who were victims of it, that she has no notion of what it entails and the wrongness of it? You’re not at all familiar with The City of God, St. Maria Goretti, the story of Susannah in Daniel or any other such things? You think your Twitter advocacy movement is the first time this sort of thing has come to light?

If linking the Easter story with the #MeToo movement is offensive and bewildering to some, perhaps that is fitting.

 The Easter stories in the Gospels have a jarring, unexpected quality about them as well. Some end abruptly; in others, Jesus appears next to disciples who somehow can’t recognize him. One ends with two men saying their hearts “were burning within” after talking to the risen Jesus.     

            So, your claim is that ‘the story of Christ’s resurrection is often strange and unexpected; therefore any nonsense I want to say about it must be equally true and meaningful.’

 The stories are enigmatic and elusive. They continue to yield surprises even 2,000 years later. They are, in some ways, much like the figure of Jesus himself.

Wow, this was an incredibly bad piece. I didn’t expect much from CNN, but this didn’t even attempt a coherent argument. It started with the ‘Easter is like #MeToo’ and then threw down anything and everything that might possibly link the two subjects, even when they contradicted one another (how many times did the author go back and forth whether the New Testament was sexist or not?).

Far from offering an insight into Christian belief, the author, as well as the ‘scholars’ he quoted, seemed to not even understand the most basic tenets of the faith, such as the nature of sin and repentance. They appeared to be so wrapped up in their own favorite causes as to be incapable of understanding anything outside of them, so they see everything through that lens in the most shallow and ignorant way, while talking disparagingly about Saints and men of genius.

The thing is, you could read accounts of sexual assault in light of the Passion of Christ, and people have. Christ on the cross suffering in pain and humiliation along with women who have suffered and been humiliated by assault. But that would require a degree of abstract thought, the ability to set parochial concerns aside and address universal ideas, and the author and the scholars he cites seem incapable of doing so. Even the guy who attempted to make the connection could only come up with the blunt and obvious fact of nakedness, as if that were the key connecting factor. Instead, they just threw out a lot of ridiculous feminist talking points relating to a subject they clearly have no knowledge or understanding of.

The premise was extraordinarily weak and the ‘evidence’ given to support it was either cherry-picked (e.g. the claim that women weren’t often named in the New Testament, requiring us to ignore all the ones who were) or simply made up out of nothing (e.g. the repeated assumption that Mary Magdalene was a charismatic leader of the Early Church). Even then, the author kept undermining it by either citing conflicting examples (again, after claiming few women were named in the New Testament he brings up various the women cited by name as proof that they were major figures in the early Church) or by using the very sources he claims to be discrediting as evidence. Add in a dose of pro-Gnostic silliness, the ‘I don’t like this so it wasn’t real’ brand of Biblical scholarship, and a touch of amateur Freudianism, all presented without the smallest attempt to understand any kind of pre-modern mindset, and you have an essay that is quite simply waste paper.

It was so stupid that is was kind of surreal; the assumption that the Apostles only doubted the reports of the Resurrection because of sexism, the idea that Mary Magdalene has been looked down upon and attacked by the Church, or that her having been a prostitute was somehow incompatible with her having been the first witness of the Resurrection. Major portions of this essay only make sense if you literally have no knowledge of Christianity whatsoever.

CNN, ladies and gentlemen! The people you get your news from thought this was insightful commentary.

Columbus Day

Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores;
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: “Now we must pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Adm’r’l speak: what shall I say?”
“Why, say: ‘Sail on, sail on, and on!'”

“My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly, wan and weak.”
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
“What shall I say, brave Adm’r’l, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?”
“Why, you shall say at break of day:
‘Sail on, sail on, sail on, and on!”

They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from those dread seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Adm’r’l, speak and say—
He said: “Sail on, sail on, and on!”

They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
“This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
He lifts his teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Adm’r’l, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?”
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
“Sail on, sail on, sail on, and on!”

Then pale and worn, he paced the deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck—
A light! A light! At last a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: On! sail on!”

-Columbus, Joaquin Miller


I’m a little late on this, but oh, well.

There are actually very few people in history who can be said to have ‘changed the world.’ Most of the time great achievements are not as singular as we think looking back. If the Wright Brothers, for instance, had never lived, mankind still would have discovered flight; there were other inventors working on the problem at the time. They were just the first ones to crack it.

On the other hand, Columbus is a man who genuinely changed the world, in that, as far as I know, there was no one else at the time who was even considering doing what he did. It required a special combination of brilliance, selective ignorance, zeal, and unbounded courage to pull off. Brilliance because he had to have the navigational knowledge and understanding to chart the fastest possible course across the unknown ocean (he made the voyage in five weeks). Ignorance because he had to think he could actually reach Asia, an idea he only had based on miscalculating the size of the globe, as many of his contemporary critics tried to point out to him. Zeal because he had to spend most of his life trying to find backing for his voyage. He was over forty when he finally made it. And courage because he had to venture into the unknown, with no guarantee that he would find anything. His ships could only carry so much supplies, and if there was nothing to find it was entirely in the cards that by the time they turned back they wouldn’t have enough to make it home.

As for his accused crimes, I personally don’t know enough about him to say one way or another, except that accusations of genocide are obviously grotesquely exaggerated (‘genocide,’ like ‘homicide’ implies intent, and it’d take a lot to convince me Columbus or really any of the old explorers intended to exterminate the native races. Christianizing them would have been more fitting to their views). Nor can Columbus be blamed for introducing slavery to the New World; not only was he not personally responsible for the slave trade, but slavery already existed as a flourishing trade among the native peoples.

In any case, an important thing to remember about history is that most people are horrible in one way or another; you can’t expect real people living in distant ages to act in ways entirely pleasing to the modern mind. Besides which, even if the worst said about him is true, that doesn’t take away his accomplishment. He discovered the New World and opened it up to European civilization, leading to the settling, civilizing, and Christianizing of two continents. That’s a unique achievement and those of us who benefit from it (i.e. everyone on those said continents) owe him a debt.

By the way, some people try to pull the ‘he didn’t discover it; there were people there.’ For the purposes of human history, it was undiscovered. The pre-columbian American continents are black holes with flashes of light, mostly in the form of artifacts (i.e. unreadable to any but a civilized mind). As far as human civilization was concerned, they went nowhere and did nothing. I’m sure someone will call this ‘Euro-centrism,’ but it isn’t; the existence of the American continents was equally unknown and irrelevant to China, Japan, India, and the Islamic world before 1492. Historically speaking, Columbus shone a spotlight on about a third of the planet that had spent the whole of the preceding story of mankind in darkness.

In short, Columbus is a towering figure in history and, despite his failings and cruelties, deserves to be honored for the great contribution he made to human knowledge and civilization, and for the example of perseverance, courage, and magnanimity he displayed.

It is true [The Church] reserves her special and greatest honours for virtues that most signally proclaim a high morality, for these are directly associated with the salvation of souls; but she does not, therefore, despise or lightly estimate virtues of other kinds. On the contrary, she has ever highly favoured and held in honour those who have deserved well of men in civil society, and have thus attained a lasting name among posterity. 

-Pope Leo XIII

My Imperialism

I like to describe myself as an imperialist, or at least as having imperialist sympathies. That’s admittedly a bit of an exaggeration, but is certainly true relative to most of my contemporaries, if only because I don’t automatically equate ‘colonialism’ and ’empire-building’ with ‘evil.’ My admittedly-limited knowledge of history tells me that the world is at its safest and most prosperous when one or two large ruling powers of high culture exert dominance over most of the world. Nor am I much moved by talk about it not being ‘their land.’ For the vast majority of mankind, who is ruling them matters much less than how they are ruled, and, especially, how much they’re left alone. If an imperial power rules a certain region, and in so doing largely leaves the locals to manage their own affairs while shielding them from invaders, preventing local rivalries from boiling over into violence, and linking them up with a prosperous economic system, I don’t see how that can be considered a worse state of affairs as far as the local populace is concerned than that region being left to govern itself, fight off its own enemies, deal with its own inner rivalries, and sift for itself in the global economy.

(On the subject of this kind of benign neglect, I remember reading about a survey conducted after the British departure from India where some people travelled around to see what the rural villages and farming communities thought of the British departure. The most common response was ‘who are the British?’).

Now, I’m not discounting the great evils done by the various colonial empires, but we should note that in most cases the alternative was not ‘brutal dominance by Western powers’ and ‘free and happy independence.’ The alternative is more ‘brutal dominance by Western powers’ and ‘brutal dominance by the nearest powerful neighbor’ or ‘brutal dominance by local ruler, with accompanying sectarian violence, probably soon to be followed by dominance by nearest powerful neighbor.’ Whatever the flaws of the Western powers, they at least had the temporizing influence of civilized and Christian values that might conceivably restrain them.

I also note that, at least as far as the British Empire is concerned, the two main counter-arguments to British rule – Ireland and America – were instances where they did not practice the kind of benign neglect that they generally employed elsewhere. And there are other issues there (i.e. the religious question in Ireland), but that’s for another time.

In any case, I think there are serious arguments in favor of western imperialism. Actually, I think it would be more justified today than it was in its heyday (since today, unrest in one region can lead to violence and humanitarian crises on the other side of the world), but that hardly matters, since it’s not coming back any time soon. Mostly this was all just a long intro to the following video, which is a summation of the positive effects of the British Empire. It’s a little over-sunny, but since most people today tend towards the opposite extreme I’m not going to knock it for that. Enjoy!


St. Bernard on the New Knighthood

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the great Cistercian Abbott and Doctor of the Church, was one of the most influential men in Christendom during his lifetime. It’s no surprise, therefore, that his friend, Hughes de Paynes sought his help in promoting his fledgling Order of Knights Templar, and, since St. Bernard was an ardent supporter of the Crusading efforts and was the main catalyst behind the Second Crusade, not surprising that he was only too happy to do so. Below are the first three chapters from his letter to de Paynes, praising the “new knighthood” on behalf of Christ. It seemed to me to be highly relevant, given recent events.



IT SEEMS THAT A NEW KNIGHTHOOD has recently appeared on the earth, and precisely in that part of it which the Orient from on high visited in the flesh. As he then troubled the princes of darkness in the strength of his mighty hand, so there he now wipes out their followers, the children of disbelief, scattering them by the hands of his mighty ones. Even now he brings about the redemption of his people raising up again a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

This is, I say, a new kind of knighthood and one unknown to the ages gone by. It ceaselessly wages a twofold war both against flesh and blood and against a spiritual army of evil in the heavens. When someone strongly resists a foe in the flesh, relying solely on the strength of the flesh, I would hardly remark it, since this is common enough. And when war is waged by spiritual strength against vices or demons, this, too, is nothing remarkable, praiseworthy as it is, for the world is full of monks. But when the one sees a man powerfully girding himself with both swords and nobly marking his belt, who would not consider it worthy of all wonder, the more so since it has been hitherto unknown? He is truly a fearless knight and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armor of faith just as his body is protected by armor of steel. He is thus doubly armed and need fear neither demons nor men. Not that he fears death–no, he desires it. Why should he fear to live or fear to die when for him to live is Christ, and to die is gain? Gladly and faithfully he stands for Christ, but he would prefer to be dissolved and to be with Christ, by far the better thing.

Go forth confidently then, you knights, and repel the foes of the cross of Christ with a stalwart heart. Know that neither death nor life can separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, and in every peril repeat, “Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” What a glory to return in victory from such a battle! How blessed to die there as a martyr! Rejoice, brave athlete, if you live and conquer in the Lord; but glory and exult even more if you die and join your Lord. Life indeed is a fruitful thing and victory is glorious, but a holy death is more important than either. If they are blessed who die in the Lord, how much more are they who die for the Lord!

  1. To be sure, precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his holy ones, whether they die in battle or in bed, but death in battle is more precious as it is the more glorious. How secure is life when the conscience is unsullied! How secure, I say, is life when death is anticipated without fear; or rather when it is desired with feeling and embraced with reverence! How holy and secure this knighthood and how entirely free of the double risk run by those men who fight not for Christ! Whenever you go forth, O worldly warrior, you must fear lest the bodily death of your foe should mean your own spiritual death, or lest perhaps your body and soul together should be slain by him.

Indeed, danger or victory for a Christian depends on the dispositions of his heart and not on the fortunes of war. If he fights for a good reason, the issue of his fight can never be evil; and likewise the results can never be considered good if the reason were evil and the intentions perverse. If you happen to be killed while you are seeking only to kill another, you die a murderer. If you succeed, and by your will to overcome and to conquer you perchance kill a man, you live a murderer. Now it will not do to be a murderer, living or dead, victorious or vanquished. What an unhappy victory–to have conquered a man while yielding to vice, and to indulge in an empty glory at his fall when wrath and pride have gotten the better of you!

But what of those who kill neither in the heat of revenge nor in the swelling of pride, but simply in order to save themselves? Even this sort of victory I would not call good, since bodily death is really a lesser evil than spiritual death. The soul need not die when the body does. No, it is the soul which sins that shall die.



WHAT, THEN IS THE END OR FRUIT of this worldly knighthood, or rather knavery, as I should call it? What if not the mortal sin of the victor and the eternal death of the vanquished? Well then, let me borrow a word from the Apostle and exhort him who plows, to plow in hope, and him who threshes, to do so in view of some fruit.

What then, O knights, is this monstrous error and what this unbearable urge which bids you fight with such pomp and labor, and all to no purpose except death and sin? You cover your horses with silk, and plume your armor with I know not what sort of rags; you paint your shields and your saddles; you adorn your bits and spurs with gold and silver and precious stones, and then in all this glory you rush to your ruin with fearful wrath and fearless folly. Are these the trappings of a warrior or are they not rather the trinkets of a woman? Do you think the swords of your foes will be turned back by your gold, spare your jewels or be unable to pierce your silks?

As you yourselves have often certainly experienced, a warrior especially needs these three things–he must guard his person with strength, shrewdness and care; he must be free in his movements, and he must be quick to draw his sword. Then why do you blind yourselves with effeminate locks and trip yourselves up with long and full tunics, burying your tender, delicate hands in big cumbersome sleeves? Above all, there is that terrible insecurity of conscience, in spite of all your armor, since you have dared to undertake such a dangerous business on such slight and frivolous grounds. What else is the cause of wars and the root of disputes among you, except unreasonable flashes of anger, the thirst for empty glory, or the hankering after some earthly possessions? It certainly is not safe to kill or to be killed for such causes as these.



BUT THE KNIGHTS OF CHRIST may safely fight the battles of their Lord, fearing neither sin if they smite the enemy, nor danger at their own death; since to inflict death or to die for Christ is no sin, but rather, an abundant claim to glory. In the first case one gains for Christ, and in the second one gains Christ himself. The Lord freely accepts the death of the foe who has offended him, and yet more freely gives himself for the consolation of his fallen knight.

The knight of Christ, I say, may strike with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he strikes, and serves himself when he falls. Neither does he bear the sword in vain, for he is God’s minister, for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of the good. If he kills an evildoer, he is not a mankiller, but, if I may so put it, a killer of evil. He is evidently the avenger of Christ towards evildoers and he is rightly considered a defender of Christians. Should he be killed himself, we know that he has not perished, but has come safely into port. When he inflicts death it is to Christ’s profit, and when he suffers death, it is for his own gain. The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because Christ is glorified; while the death of the Christian gives occasion for the King to show his liberality in the rewarding of his knight. In the one case the just shall rejoice when he sees justice done, and in the other man shall say, truly there is a reward for the just; truly it is God who judges the earth.

I do not mean to say that the pagans are to be slaughtered when there is any other way to prevent them from harassing and persecuting the faithful, but only that it now seems better to destroy them than that the rod of sinners be lifted over the lot of the just, and the righteous perhaps put forth their hands unto iniquity.

  1. What then? If it is never permissible for a Christian to strike with the sword, why did the Savior’s precursor bid the soldiers to be content with their pay, and not rather forbid them to follow this calling? But if it is permitted to all those so destined by God, as is indeed the case provided they have not embraced a higher calling, to whom, I ask, may it be allowed more rightly than to those whose hands and hearts hold for us Sion, the city of our strength?

Thus when the transgressors of divine law have been expelled, the righteous nation that keeps the truth may enter in security. Certainly it is proper that the nations who love war should be scattered, that those who trouble us should be cut off, and that all the workers of iniquity should be dispersed from the city of the Lord. They busy themselves to carry away the incalculable riches placed in Jerusalem by the Christian peoples, to profane the holy things and to possess the sanctuary of God as their heritage. Let both swords of the faithful fall upon the necks of the foe, in order to destroy every high thing exalting itself against the knowledge of God, which is the Christian faith, lest the Gentiles should then say, “Where is their God?”

  1. Once they have been cast out, he shall return to his heritage and to his house, which aroused his anger in the Gospel, “Behold,” he said, “your house is left to you desolate.” He had complained through the Prophet: “I have left my house, I have forsaken my heritage,” and he will fulfill that other prophecy: “The Lord has ransomed his people and delivered them. They shall come and exult on Mount Sion, and rejoice in the good things of the Lord.”

Rejoice Jerusalem, and recognize now the time in which you are visited! Be glad and give praise together, wastes of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people. He has ransomed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all peoples. O virgin of Israel, you were fallen and there was none to raise you up. Arise now and shake off the dust, O virgin, captive daughter of Sion. Arise, I say, and stand on high. See the happiness which comes to you from your God. You will no longer be referred to as the forsaken one, nor your land any more termed a wilderness; for the Lord takes his delight in you, and your land shall be peopled. Raise your eyes, look about you and see; all these are gathered together and come to you. Here is the help sent to you from the Holy One! Through them is already fulfilled the ancient promise, “I will make you the pride of the ages, a joy from generation to generation. You will suck the milk of the nations and be nourished at the breasts of their sovereignty.” And again, “As a mother consoles her children, so will I console you, and in Jerusalem you will be comforted.”

Do you not see how frequently these ancient witnesses foreshadowed the new knighthood? Truly, as we have heard, so we have now seen in the city of the Lord of armies. Of course we must not let these literal fulfillments blind us to the spiritual meaning of the texts, for we must live in eternal hope in spite of such temporal realizations of prophetic utterances. Otherwise the tangible would supplant the intangible, material poverty would threaten spiritual wealth and present possessions would forestall future fulfillment. Furthermore, the temporal glory of the earthly city does not eclipse the glory of its heavenly counterpart, but rather prepares for it, at least so long as we remember that the one is the figure of the other, and that it is the heavenly one which is our mother.

A Trip into the Past

If you have any turn for history, especially if, like me, you’re interested in the Victorian/Edwardian eras, check out this eye-popping film from 1906.

Called “A Trip Down Market Street,” it’s simply thirteen minutes’ worth of footage shot from a cable car as it travels the length of San Francisco’s market street, and it is fascinating. It’s like looking through a time capsule 110 years in the past. We get to see real people, real buildings, real traffic (well, mostly real; the director had the automobiles circle the car several times to give the illusion that there were more of them than there really were), and just a scene of real life from a spring day more than a century before. The footage is incredibly crisp (I suspect the result of digital enhancement), and the version I have adds in some sound effects to help with the immersion.

To make the film even more intriguing, this footage was shot mere days before the great San Francisco Earthquake and fire that leveled the city.

Watch and enjoy this trip into the past:

Theodore Roosevelt Addresses the Knights of Columbus

Another speech for the Fourth.

On October 12, 1915 (Columbus Day), former President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech to the Knights of Columbus in New York. His subject that day was the essential unity of all Americans, whatever their origin, and, of course, the glories of that great nation. Without further adieu, I present the former President of the United States:


FOUR centuries and a quarter have gone by since Columbus by discovering America opened the greatest era in world history. Four centuries have passed since the Spaniards began that colonization on the main land which has resulted in the growth of the nations of Latin-America. Three centuries have passed since, with the settlements on the coasts of Virginia and Massachusetts, the real history of what is now the United States began. All this we ultimately owe to the action of an Italian seaman in the service of a Spanish King and a Spanish Queen. It is eminently fitting that one of the largest and most influential social organizations of this great Republic, a Republic in which the tongue is English, and the blood derived from many sources, should, in its name, commemorate the great Italian. It is eminently fitting to make an address on Americanism before this society.


We of the United States need above all things to remember that, while we are by blood and culture kin to each of the nations of Europe, we are also separate from each of them. We are a new and -distinct nationality. We are developing our own distinctive culture and civilization, and the worth of this civilization will largely depend upon our determination to keep it distinctively our own. Our sons and daughters should be educated here and not abroad. We should freely take from every other nation whatever we can make of use, but we should adopt and develop to our own peculiar needs what we thus take, and never be content merely to copy.

Our nation was founded to perpetuate democratic principles. These principles are that each man is to be treated on his worth as a man without regard to the land from which his forefathers came and without regard to the creed which he professes. If the United States proves false to these principles of civil and religious liberty, it will have inflicted the greatest blow on the system of free popular government that has ever been inflicted. Here we have had a virgin continent on which to try the experiment of making out of divers race stocks a new nation and of treating all the citizens of that nation in such a fashion as to preserve them equality of opportunity in industrial, civil, and/ political life. Our duty is to secure each man against any injustice by his fellows.


One of the most important things to secure for him is the right to hold and to express the religious views that best meet his own soul needs. Any political movement directed against any body of our fellow-citizens because of their religious creed is a grave offense against American principles and American institutions. It is a wicked thing either to support or to oppose a man because of the creed he professes. This applies to Jew and Gentile, to Catholic and Protestant, and to the man who would be regarded as unorthodox by all of them alike. Political movements directed against men because of their religious belief, and intended to prevent men of that creed from holding office, have never accomplished anything but harm. This was true in the days of the “Know-Nothing ” and Native-American parties in the middle of the last century; and it is just as true to-day. Such a movement directly contravenes the spirit of the Constitution itself. Washington and his associates believed that it was essential to the existence of this Republic that there should never be. any union of Church and State; and such union is partially accomplished wherever a given creed is aided by the State or when any public servant is elected or defeated because of his creed. The Constitution explicitly forbids the requiring of any religious test as a qualification for holding office. To impose such a test by popular vote is as bad as to impose it by law. To vote either for or against a man because of his creed is to impose upon him a religious test and is a clear violation of the spirit of the Constitution.

Moreover, it is well to remember that these movements never achieve the end they nominally have in view. They do nothing whatsoever except to increase among the men of the various churches the spirit of sectarian intolerance which is base and unlovely in any civilization, but which is utterly revolting among a free people that profess tle principles we profess. No such movement can ever permanently succeed here. All that it does is for a decade or so to greatly increase the spirit of theological animosity, both among the people to whom it appeals and among the people whom it assails. Furthermore, it has in the past invariably resulted, in so far as it was successful at all, in putting unworthy men into office; for there is no thing ^ that a man of loose principles and of evil practices in public life so desires as the chance to distract attention from his own shortcomings and misdeeds by exciting and inflaming theological and sectarian prejudice.

We must recognize that it is a cardinal sin against democracy to support a man for public office because he belongs to a given creed or to oppose him because he belongs to a given creed. It is just as evil as to draw the line between class and class, between occupation and occupation in political life. No man who tries to draw either line is a good American. True Americanism demands that we judge each man on his conduct, that we so judge him in private life and that we so judge him in public life. The line of cleavage drawn on principle and conduct in public affairs is never in any healthy community identical with the line of cleavage -between creed and creed or between class and class. On the contrary, where the community life is healthy, these lines of cleavage almost always run nearly at right angles to one another. It is eminently necessary to all of us that we should have able and honest public officials in the nation, in the city, in the state. If we make a serious and resolute effort to get such officials of the right kind, men who shall not only be honest but shall be able and shall take the right view of public questions, we will find as a matter of fact that the men we thus choose will be drawn from the professors of every creed and from among men who do not adhere to any creed.

For thirty-five years I have been more or less actively engaged in public life, in the performance of my political duties, now in a public position, now in a private position. I have fought with all the fervor I possessed for the various causes in which with all my heart I believed; and in every fight I thus made I have had with me and against me Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. There have been times when I have had to make the fight for or against some man of each creed on grounds of plain public morality, unconnected with questions of public policy. There were other times when I have made such a fight for or against a given man, not on grounds of public morality, for he may have been morally a good man, but on account of his attitude on questions of public policy, of governmental principle. In both cases, I have always found myself 4 fighting beside, and fighting against, men of every creed. The one sure way to have secured the defeat of every good principle worth fighting for would have been to have permitted the fight to be changed into one along sectarian lines and inspired by the spirit of sectarian bitterness, either for the purpose of putting into public life or of keeping out of public life the believers in any given creed. Such conduct represents an assault upon Americanism. The man guilty of it is not a good American. I hold that in this country there must be complete severance of Church and State; that public moneys shall not be used for the purpose of advancing any particular creed; and therefore that the public schools shall be non-sectarian. As a necessary corollary to this, not only the pupils but the members of the teaching force and the school officials of all kinds must be treated exactly on a par, no matter what their creed; and there must be no more discrimination against Jew or Catholic or Protestant than discrimination in favor of Jew, Catholic or Protestant. Whoever makes such discrimination is an enemy of the public schools.


What is true of creed is no less true of nationality. There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts “native” before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance. But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.

The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic. The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American. There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

I appeal to history. Among the generals of Washington in the Revolutionary War were Greene, Putnam, and Lee, who were of English descent; Wayne and Sullivan, who were of Irish descent; Marion, who was of French descent; Schuyler, who was of Dutch descent, and Muhlenberg and Herkimer, who were of German descent. But they were all of them Americans and nothing else, just as much as Washington. Carroll of Carrollton was a Catholic; Hancock a Protestant; Jefferson was heterodox from the standpoint of any orthodox creed; but these and all the other signers of the Declaration of Independence stood on an equality of duty and right and liberty, as Americans an.d nothing else.

So it was in the Civil War. Farragut`s father was born in Spain and Sheridan`s father in Ireland; Sherman and Thomas were of English and Custer of German descent; and Grant came of a long line of American ancestors whose original home had been Scotland. But the Admiral was not a Spanish-American; and the Generals were not Scotch-Americans or Irish-Americans or English-Americans or German-Americans. They were all Americans and nothing else. This was just as true of Lee and of Stonewall Jackson and of Beauregard.

When in 1909 our battlefleet returned from its voyage around the world, Admirals Wainwright and Schroeder represented the best traditions and the most effective action in our navy; one was of old American blood and of English descent.; the other was the son of German immigrants. But one was not a native-American and the other a German-American. Each was an American pure and simple. Each bore allegiance only to the flag of the United States. Each would have been incapable of considering the interests of Germany or of England or of any other country except the United States.

To take charge of the most important work under my administration, the building of the Panama Canal, I chose General Goethals. Both of his parents were born in Holland. But he was just plain United States. He wasn`t a Dutch-American; if he had been I wouldn`t have appointed him. So it was with such men, among those who served under me, as Admiral Osterhaus and General Barry. The father of one was born in Germany, the father of the other in Ireland. But they were both Americans, pure and simple, and first-rate fighting men in addition.

In my Cabinet at the time there were men of English and French, German, Irish, and Dutch blood, men born on this side and men born in Germany and Scotland; but they were all Americans and nothing else; and every one of them was incapable of thinking of himself or of his fellow-countrymen, excepting in terms of American citizenship. If any one of them had anything in the nature of a dual or divided allegiance in his soul, he never would have been appointed to serve under me, and he would have been instantly removed when the discovery was made. There wasn`t one of them who was capable of desiring that the policy of the United States should be shaped with reference to the interests of any foreign country or with consideration for anything, outside of the general welfare of humanity, save the honor and interest of the United States, and each was incapable of making any discrimination whatsoever .among the citizens of the country he served, of our common country, save discrimination based on conduct and on conduct alone.

For an American citizen to vote as a German-American, an Irish- American, or an English-American, is to be a traitor to American institutions; and those hyphenated Americans who terrorize American politicians by threats of the foreign vote are engaged in treason to the American Republic.


Now this is a declaration of principles. How are we in practical fashion to secure the making of these principles part of the very fiber of our national life? First and foremost let us all resolve that in this country hereafter we shall place far less emphasis upon the question of right and much greater emphasis upon the matter of duty. A republic can`t succeed and won`t succeed in the tremendous international stress of the modern world unless its citizens possess that form of high-minded patriotism which consists in putting devotion to duty before the question of individual rights. This must be done in our family relations or the family will go to pieces; and no better tract for family life in this country can be imagined than the little story called “Mother,”  written by an American woman, Kathleen Norris, who happens to be a member of your own church.

What is true of the family, the foundation stone of our national life, is not less true of the entire superstructure. I am, as you know, a most ardent believer in national preparedness against war as a means of securing that honorable and self-respecting peace which is the only peace desired by all high-spirited people. But it is an absolute impossibility to secure such preparedness in full and proper form if it is an isolated feature of our policy. The lamentable fate of Belgium has shown that no justice in legislation or success in business will be of the slightest avail if the nation has not prepared in advance the strength to protect its rights. But it is equally true that there cannot be this preparation in advance for military strength unless there is a social basis of civil and social life behind it. There must be social, economic, and military preparedness all alike, all harmoniously developed; and above all there must be spiritual and mental preparedness.


There must be not merely preparedness in things material; there must be preparedness in soul and mind. To prepare a great army and navy without preparing a proper national spirit would avail nothing. And if there is not only a proper national spirit, but proper national intelligence, we shall realize that even from the standpoint of the army and navy some civil preparedness is indispensable. For example, a plan for national defense which does not include the most far-reaching use and cooperation of our railroads must prove largely futile. These railroads are organized in time of peace. But we must have the most carefully thought out organization from the national and centralized standpoint in order to use them in time of war. This means first that those in charge of them from the highest to the lowest must understand their duty in time of war, must be permeated with the spirit of genuine patriotism; and second, that they and we shall understand that efficiency is as essential as patriotism; one is useless without the other.

Again : every citizen should be trained sedulously by every activity at our command to realize his duty to the nation. In France at this moment the workingmen who are not at the front are spending all their energies with the single thought of helping their brethren at the front by what they do in the munition plant, on the railroads, in the factories. It is a shocking, a lamentable thing that many of the trade-unions of England have taken a directly opposite view. I am not concerned with whether it be true, as they assert, that their employers are trying to exploit them, or, as these employers assert, that the labor men are trying to gain profit for those who stay at home at the cost of their brethren who fight in the trenches. The thing for us Americans to realize is that we must do our best to prevent similar conditions from growing up here. Business men, professional men, and wage workers alike must understand that there should be no question of their enjoying any rights whatsoever unless in the fullest way they recognize and live up to the duties that go with those rights. This is just as true of the corporation as of the trade-union, and if either corporation or trade-union fails heartily to acknowledge this truth, then its activities are necessarily anti-social and detrimental to the welfare of the body politic as a whole. In war time, when the welfare of the nation is at stake, it should be accepted as axiomatic that the employer is to make no profit out of the war save that which is necessary to the efficient running of the business and to the living expenses of himself and family, and that the wageworker is to treat his wage from exactly the same standpoint and is to see to it that the labor organization to which he belongs is, in all its activities, sub-ordinated to the service of the nation.

Now there must be some application of this spirit in times of peace or we cannot suddenly develop it in time of war. The strike situation in the United States at this time is a scandal to the country as a whole and discreditable alike to employer and employee. Any employer who fails to recognize that human rights come first and that the friendly relationship between himself and those working for him should be one of partnership and comradeship in mutual help no less than self-help is recreant to his duty as an American citizen, and it is to his interest, having in view the enormous destruction of life in the present war, to conserve, and to train to higher efficiency, alike for his benefit and for its, the labor supply. In return any employee who acts along the lines publicly advocated by the men who profess to speak for the I. W. W. is not merely an open enemy of business, but of this entire country and is out of place in our government.

You, Knights of Columbus, are particularly fitted to play a great part in the movement for national solidarity, without which there can be no real efficiency in either peace or war. During the last year and a quarter it has been brought home to us in startling fashion that many of the elements of our nation are not yet properly fused. It ought to be a literally appalling fact that members of two of the foreign embassies in this country have been discovered to be implicated in inciting their fellow-countrymen, whether naturalized American citizens or not, to the destruction of property and the crippling of American industries that are operating in accordance with internal law and international agreement. The malign activity of one of these embassies has been brought home directly to the ambassador in such shape that his recall has been forced. The activities of the other have been set forth in detail by the publication in the press of its letters in such fashion as to make it perfectly clear that they were of the same general character. Of course, the two embassies were merely carrying out the instructions of their home governments.

Nor is it only the Germans and Austrians who take the view that as a matter of right they can treat their countrymen resident in America, even if naturalized citizens of the United States, as their allies and subjects, to be used in keeping alive separate national groups profoundly anti-American in sentiment, if the contest comes between American interests and those of foreign lands in question. It has recently been announced that the Russian government is to rent a house in New York as a national center to be Russian in faith and patriotism, to foster the Russian language and keep alive the national feeling in immigrants who come hither. All of this is utterly antagonistic to proper American sentiment, whether perpetrated in the name of Germany, of Austria, of Russia, of England, or France or any other country.


We should meet this situation by on the one hand seeing that these immigrants get all their rights as American citizens, and on the other hand insisting that they live up to their duties as American citizens. Any discrimination against aliens is a wrong, for it tends to put the immigrant at a disadvantage and to cause him to feel bitterness and resentment during the very years when he should be preparing himself for American citizenship. If an immigrant is not fit to become a citizen, he should not be allowed to come here. If he is fit, he should be given all the rights to earn his own livelihood, and to better himself, that any man can have. Take such a matter as the illiteracy test; I entirely agree with those who feel that many very excellent possible citizens would be barred improperly by an illiteracy test. But why do you not admit aliens under a bond to learn to read and write within a certain time? It would then be a duty to see that they were given ample opportunity to learn to read and write and that they were deported if they failed to take advantage of the opportunity.

No man can be a good citizen if he is not at least in process of learning to speak the language of his fellow-citizens. And an alien who remains here without learning to speak English for more than a certain number of years should at the end of that time be treated as having refused to take the preliminary steps necessary to complete Americanization and should be deported. But there should be no denial or limitation of the alien`s opportunity to work, to own property, and to take advantage of civic opportunities. Special legislation should deal with the aliens who do not come here to be made citizens. But the alien who comes here intending to become a citizen should be helped in every way to advance himself, should be removed from every possible disadvantage, and in return should be required under penalty of being sent back to the country from which he came, to prove that he is in good faith fitting himself to be an American citizen.


Therefore, we should devote ourselves as a preparative to preparedness, alike in peace and war, to secure the three elemental things : one, a common language, the English language; two, the increase in our social loyalty citizenship absolutely undivided, a citizenship which acknowledges no flag except the flag of the United States and which emphatically repudiates all duality of intention or national loyalty; and third, an intelligent and resolute effort for the removal of industrial and social unrest, an effort which shall aim equally at securing every man his rights and to make every man understand that unless he in good faith performs his duties he is not entitled to any rights at all.

The American people should itself do these things for the immigrants. If we leave the immigrant to be helped by representatives of foreign governments, by foreign societies, by a press and institutions conducted in a foreign language and in the interest of foreign governments, and if we permit the immigrants to exist as alien groups, each group sundered from the rest of the citizens of the country, we shall store up for ourselves bitter trouble in the future.


I am certain that the only permanently safe attitude for this country as regards national preparedness for self-defense is along its lines of universal service on the Swiss model. Switzerland is the most democratic of nations. Its army is the most democratic army in the world. There isn`t a touch of militarism or aggressiveness about Switzerland. It has been found as a matter of actual practical experience in Switzerland that the universal military training has made a very marked increase in social efficiency and in the ability of the man thus trained to do well for himself in industry. The man who has received the training is a better citizen, is more self-respecting, more orderly, better able to hold his own, and more willing to respect the rights of others and at the same time he is a more valuable and better paid man in his business. We need that the navy and the army should be greatly increased and that their efficiency as units and in the aggregate should be increased to an even greater degree than their numbers. An adequate regular reserve should be established. Economy should be insisted on, and first of all in the abolition of useless army posts and navy yards. The National Guard should be supervised and controlled by the Federal War Department. Training camps such as at Plattsburg should be provided on a nation-wide basis and the government should pay the expenses. Foreign-born as well as native-born citizens should be brought together in those camps; and each man at the camp should take the oath of allegiance as unreservedly and unqualifiedly as the men of its regular army and navy now take it. Not only should battleships, battle cruisers, submarines, ample coast and field artillery be provided and a greater ammunition supply system, but there should be a utilization of those engaged in such professions as the ownership and management of motor cars, in aviation, and in the profession of engineering. Map-making and road improvement should be attended to, and, as I have already said, the railroads brought into intimate touch with the War Department. Moreover, the government should deal with conservation of all necessary war supplies such as mine products, potash, oil lands, and the like. Furthermore, all munition plants should be carefully surveyed with special reference to their geographic distribution and for the possibility of increased munition and supply factories. Finally, remember that the men must be sedulously trained in peace to use this material or we shall merely prepare our ships, guns, and products as gifts to the enemy. All of these things should be done in any event, but let us never forget that the most important of all things is to introduce universal military service. But let me repeat that this preparedness against war must be based upon efficiency and justice in the handling of ourselves in /time of peace. If belligerent governments, while we are not hostile to them but merely neutral, strive nevertheless to make of this nation many nations, each hostile to the others and none of them loyal to the central government, then it may be accepted as certain that they would do far worse to us in time of war. If they encourage strikes and sabotage in our munition plants while we are neutral, it may be accepted as axiomatic that they would do far worse to us if we were hostile. It is our duty from the standpoint of self-defense to secure the complete Americanization of our people, to make of the many peoples of this country a united nation, one in speech and feeling, and all, so far as possible, sharers in the best that each has brought to our shores.


The foreign-born population of this country must be an Americanized population no other kind can fight the battles of America either in war or peace. It must talk the language of its native-born fellow-citizens, it must possess American citizenship and American ideals. It must stand firm by its oath of allegiance in word and deed and must show that in very fact it has renounced allegiance to every prince, potentate, or foreign government. It must be maintained on an American standard of living so as to prevent labor disturbances in important plants and at critical times. None of these objects can be secured as long as we have immigrant colonies, ghettos, and immigrant sections, and above all they cannot be assured so long as we consider the immigrant only as an industrial asset. The immigrant must not be allowed to drift or to be put at the mercy of the exploiter. Our object is not to imitate one of the older racial types, but to maintain a new American type and then to secure loyalty to this type. We cannot secure such loyalty unless we make this a country where men shall feel that they have justice and also where they shall feel that they are required to perform the duties imposed upon them. The policy of “Let alone” which we have hitherto pursued is thoroughly vicious from two standpoints. By this policy we have permitted the immigrants, and too often the native-born laborers as well, to suffer injustice. Moreover, by this policy we have failed to impress upon the immigrant and upon the native-born as well that they are expected to do justice as well as to receive justice, that they are expected to be heartily and actively and single-mindedly loyal to the flag no less than to benefit by living under it.

We cannot afford to continue to use hundreds of thousands of immigrants merely as industrial assets while they remain social outcasts and menaces any more than fifty years ago we could afford to keep the black man merely as an industrial asset and not as a human being. We cannot afford to build a big industrial plant and herd men and women about it without care for their welfare. We cannot afford to permit squalid overcrowding or the kind of living system which makes impossible the decencies and necessities of life. We cannot afford the low wage rates and the merely seasonal industries which mean the sacrifice of both individual and family life and morals to the industrial machinery. We cannot afford to leave American mines, munitions plants, and general resources in the hands of alien workmen, alien to America and even likely to be made hostile to America by machinations such as have recently been provided in the case of the two foreign embassies in Washington. We cannot afford to run the risk of having in time of war men working on our railways or working in our munition plants who would in the name of duty to their own foreign countries bring destruction to us. Recent events have shown us that incitements to sabotage and strikes are in the view of at least two of the great foreign powers of Europe within their definition of neutral practices. What would be done to us in the name of war if these things are done to us in the name of neutrality ?

Justice Bowling in his speech has described the excellent fourth degree of your order, of how in it you dwell upon duties rather than rights, upon the great duties of patriotism and of national spirit. It is a fine thing to have a society that holds up such a standard of duty. I ask you to make a special effort to deal with Americanization, the fusing into one nation, a nation necessarily different from all other nations, of all who come to our shores. Pay heed to the three principal essentials: (i) the need of a common language, with a minimum amount of illiteracy; (2) the need of a common civil standard, similar ideals, beliefs, and customs symbolized by the oath of allegiance to America; and (3) the need of a high standard of living, of reasonable equality of opportunity and of social and industrial justice. In every great crisis in our history, in the Revolution and in the Civil War, and in the lesser crises, like the Spanish war, all factions and races have been forgotten in the common spirit of Americanism. Protestant and Catholic, men of English or of French, of Irish or of German, descent have joined with a single-minded purpose to secure for the country what only can be achieved by the resultant union of all patriotic citizens. You of this organization have done a great service by. your insistence that citizens should pay heed first of all to their duties. Hitherto undue prominence has been given to the question of rights. Your organization is a splendid engine for giving to the stranger within our gates a high conception of American citizenship. Strive for unity. We suffer at present from a lack of leadership in these matters.

Even in the matter of national defense there is such a labyrinth of committees and counsels and advisors that there is a tendency on the part of the average citizen to become confused and do nothing. I ask you to help strike the note that shall unite our people. As a people we must be united. If we are not united we shall slip into the gulf of measureless disaster. We must be strong in purpose for our own defense and bent on securing justice within our borders. If as a nation we are split into warring camps, if we teach our citizens not to look upon one another as brothers but as enemies divided by the hatred of creed for creed or of those of one race against those of another race, surely we shall fail and our great democratic experiment on this continent will go down in crushing overthrow. I ask you here to-night and those like you to take a foremost part in the movement a young men`s movement for a greater and better America in the future.


All of us, no matter from what land our parents came, no matter in what way we may severally worship our Creator, must stand shoulder to shoulder in a united America for the elimination of race and religious prejudice. We must stand for a reign of equal justice to both big and small. We must insist on the maintenance of the American standard of living. We must stand for an adequate national control which shall secure a better training of our young men in time of peace, both for the work of peace and for the work of war. We must direct every national resource, material and spiritual, to the task not of shirking difficulties, but of training our people to overcome difficulties. Our aim must be, not to make life easy and soft, not to soften soul and body, but to fit us in virile fashion to do a great work for all mankind. This great work can only be done by a mighty democracy, with these qualities of soul, guided by those qualities of mind, which will both make it refuse to do injustice to any other nation, and also enable it to hold its own against aggression by any other nation. In our relations with the outside world, we must abhor wrongdoing, and disdain to commit it, and we must no less disdain the baseness of spirit which lamely submits to wrongdoing. Finally and most important of all, we must strive for the establishment within our own borders of that stern and lofty standard of personal and public neutrality which shall guarantee to each man his rights, and which shall insist in return upon the full performance by each man of his duties both to his neighbor and to the great nation whose flag must symbolize in the future as it has symbolized in the past the highest hopes of all mankind.