Thank God Jesus wasn’t conservative…

Steuben - Bataille de Poitiers.png

If Jesus had been conservative we might all be Muslim (i.e. and e.g.,no Battle of Poitiers“)…

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

What with the Coronavirus pandemic and the demands of working three days a week, it’s been tough to do posts on a consistent, timely basis. (See How Often Should You Blog in 2020?) But not for lack of topics or ideas. It’s because I blog mainly to learn, and for my own satisfaction. That means I “take enough time to do the job right,” not be consistent.

And I last posted here back on April 17, almost two weeks ago. So on this last day of April, 2020, I’m juggling four or five possible blog posts. Like “Memories of Lori,” based on listening today to  the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. (A movie that I saw back in 1980 with a lovely young copy editor at the St. Pete Times.)

Or a post on possible answers for really stupid Facebook posts. (Like my earlier Fighting right-wing distortions on Facebook.) So for this quick-response post I’ll go back to some thoughts I revisited five months ago, that have been percolating a good long while.

The topic is a favorite theme of mine – or Meme – that goes, “If so-and-so had been conservative, we’d all be ____!” And by the way, I take issue with today’s conservatives only because a reporter’s job – and by extension a blogger’s – is “challenge the prevailing quacks.”

And today’s conservatives are definitely the “prevailing quacks.”

For one example, “If the Founding Fathers had been conservative, we’d all be singing ‘God save the Queen’ at the start of our baseball games.” (If we weren’t playing cricket instead.) The idea – and the irony if not the incongruity – is that today’s conservatives act like they’re the only real Americans. The problem is that our forefathers came to this country mostly to get the hell away from conservatives – the ones who tended to stay back home.

In plain words, those old-time conservatives didn’t have the guts to put up with the challenges of creating a New World. It was the Independents and Dreamers who did all that.

Then there’s this, “If Jesus had been conservative, we’d all be talking Yiddish.” (“Oy vey,” to which might be added the Seinfeld meme, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”)

Or in the case of this post’s headline – “Thank God Jesus wasn’t a conservative” – the Punch line thereof would be:  “Otherwise we Americans might all be Muslim.” 

But don’t take my word for it. Kenneth Clark said that in his 1969 book Civilisation: “Without Charles Martel‘s victory over the Moors at Poitiers in 732, western civilization might never have existed…”  And by western civilization he meant western Christian civilization.

Which again means that if Jesus had been conservative – as many ostensible Christians claim today – there would have been no viable force to stop the “Islamic advance into Western Europe.”

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There’s a bit of background in the notes about how I happened on to Clark’s observation…

But – to cut to the chase – here’s the connection between Charles Martel and Jesus not being conservative. The idea is that if Jesus had been conservative, He wouldn’t have started the New Religion – the “New Testament” – that eventually bore His name. And Judaism would likely have stayed a relatively small religious movement. (Without the proselytizing that is such a trademark of Christianity, it would have been confined to the fringes of the eastern Mediterranean.)

In plain words, there would be nothing to stop Islam from taking over Western Europe.

At page 17 in his first chapter, “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Clark noted how close Western civilization came to be snuffed out. That is, with Fall of the Roman Empire, life in what we call the Middle (or “Dark“) Ages was generally nasty, brutish and short.

For one example, during those 500 years or so it was rare person indeed who could read or write. (“[P]ractically no lay person, from kings and emperors downwards, could read or write.”) And as Clark noted, it was only in the Church that reading and writing were preserved. “We survived because … for centuries practically all men of intellect joined the Church.” And it was Church scribes who preserved not only reading and writing, but also the classics of antiquity. “In so far as we are heirs of Greece and Rome, we got through by the skin of our teeth.”

Which is one reason to thank God that Jesus wasn’t conservative.

Another reason is that if Jesus had been conservative – and Judaism stayed a small religion without Christian proselytizing – there would be no Charles Martel, the French warrior-king (and “Hammer“) who saved Christian Europe. As historian Edward Gibbon noted:

[H]ad Charles fallen, the [Muslim armies] would have easily conquered a divided Europe… [T]he Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.

See Battle of Tours – Wikipedia. But that didn’t happen. Instead – and again cut to the chase – after many long centuries of struggle, mayhem and death, we now have a clearly-defined separation of church and state. Which started (arguably) with Charles Martel, an effective combination of ardent Christian, powerful military leader, and Independent.

Although Charles Martel ( d. 741)  is one of the most noted heroes in Christianity when studying one of the many violent encounters between Christian and Muslim forces, Charles “The Hammer” Martel was no marionette of the Church. He was quite an independent and practical thinker as a military leader and as a politician.

To which we could add, “Martel was an Independent, just like Moses and Jesus!” (And like me, for that matter. See A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter).”) 

Which is another way of saying that after Martel’s victory at the Battle of Tours (or Poitiers) neither the Church nor the governments of Europe gained complete control. The result was a “dynamic tension” between the two forces, which turned out to be a blessing.

That is, Charles Martel “begat” Charlemagne – actually his grandson – who has been called “the father of Europe.” (He “united parts of Europe that had never been under Frankish or Roman rule.”) Which again wouldn’t have happened without Martel’s victory at Tours.

The point is that in the fullness of time, Charlemagne traveled to Rome, where the Pope crowned him “emperor.” (At a Mass on Christmas Day, 800, “when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum (‘Emperor of the Romans’) in Saint Peter’s Basilica.”) Charlemagne later thought that episode was a mistake, in that it gave the pope a pretext of “supremacy” over him. (And future secular rulers.) Which led Clark to note:

But historical judgments are very tricky.  Maybe the tension between the spiritual and worldly powers throughout the Middle Ages was precisely what kept European civilisation alive. If either had achieved absolute power, society might have grown as static as the civilisations of Egypt and Byzantium.

(Clark, 20) And that – clearly – would have been the situation if Jesus had been either conservative or liberal. Instead, He and God seem to have worked together to maintain the Dynamic Tension that exists “even to this day,” between spiritual and worldly powers here in America. And why Jesus and God made sure that the foundations of American democracy included Freedom or religion and the separation of powers.

The result is that – whatever you might say about American democracy today – it is definitely not “static.” In short, if Jesus had been conservative, we here in America might have to see all our women togged out in those silly burqas, or otherwise covering themselves up…

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The upper image is courtesy of Umayyad invasion of Gaul – Wikipedia, rephrased in the main text as “Islamic advance into Western Europe.” The main point: “The Umayyad invasion of Gaul occurred in two phases in 720 and 732. Although the Muslim Umayyads secured control of Septimania, their incursions beyond this into the Loire and Rhône valleys failed. By 759 they had lost Septimania to the Christian Franks.” The caption for the painting: “The Battle of Tours” – also called the Battle of Poitiers – “in 732, depicts a triumphant Charles Martel (mounted) facing Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Tours. Painting (1837) by Charles de Steuben.” See also the link Reconquista:

The Reconquista (Portuguese and Spanish for “reconquest”) was the period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492.

The photo to the left of the paragraph beginning “But don’t take my word for it” is courtesy of Kenneth Clark Civilisation – Image ResultsThe quotations from Clark are from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), pages 18 and 20. And for an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife … he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even [the] wives of his close friends. This upright pillar of the Establishment was … as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

As to “Christian civilization,” see How Sir Kenneth Clark Defended Christian Civilization on PBS.

And here’s some background on how I happened on Clark’s observations. I used to exercise seven hours a week. Over two of those hours included stair-stepping. (With a 28-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.) And those two or more hours of stair-stepping were exceedingly boring. So to pass the time – and aside from listening to music on my iPod Shuffle – I watch VHS tapes, hooked up to a flat-screen TV. And my VHS collection includes a Box Set of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). And some time ago – while stair-stepping an hour or so – I heard again Clark’s saying that Charles Martel saved western Christian civilization.  (It was like a “sign from God…”) A side-note: I now exercise some eight hours a week, but have cut down on the “weighted” stair-stepping.    

For more on the topic of Jesus-as-not-conservative, see The Story of the Law: Rene A. Wormser, 1962 paperback edition,  by Rene A. Wormser, at page 32. Briefly, Wormser used 29 pages to describe Moses’ role as “law-giver,” but only two to cover Jesus. Mostly, he wrote, because Jesus simply “preached what Jewish liberals had taught.” That is,”Jewish liberal thought had already produced the fine flowering of ethics which we now know best from Jesus’ lips.” For more on Wormser himself, see RENE A WORMSER, 85, LAWYER –  (Obituary) The New York Times.

The lower image is courtesy of Coronavirus Mask – Image Results.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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