Sunday, December 9, 2012

Opulent Civility

The use of language can be deceptively simple.
If the evangelist Luke had been content to address a purely religious audience, he would have simply said, “The word of God came to John ,son of Zachariah, in the wilderness during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.” (Luke 3:2)  The fact that he prefaced this statement with qualifications of who the main authorities for the time were shows that he was evangelizing. He was reaching out to the Gentiles; the group from which he had come; Greco-Roman society:
“It was the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea. Herod (Antipas) was tetrarch of Galilee. Philip, his brother, was tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis. Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene. The word of God came to John, son of Zecharias, in the Judean wilderness during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.” (Luke 3:1-2)
The fifteenth year was significant because Tiberius had moved from Rome to Capri.
Capri is located off the coast of Italy; closer to Naples than to Rome.
Things were rumored to have happened. Historians recorded accusations of criminal acts.
Tiberius was accused of cruel homosexual perversion on the island.
Capri had "...the "Tiberius Leap" (Salto di Tiberio) which is a giant 1000 foot cliff [from which], according to the historians Suetonius and Tacitus, Tiberius hurled his discarded young sexual conquests and victims into the sea to their deaths for orgasmic pleasure."
It was believed that he suffered from mental illness.
"After briefly mentioning some of the successes of Tiberius, Suetionus goes into depth regarding his madness. He would have sex with people of all ages and sexes. He was very cruel to his subjects. He would arbitrarily have people executed, for crimes as harmless as speaking ill of Augustus. Suetonius describes one example of Tiberius' madness where Tiberius would force a subject to drink large quantities of wine. He would then have their genitals tied so tightly that they could not urinate."
He was smothered with a pillow so Caligula, his successor and adopted grandson, could succeed him as emperor.
"Tiberius died at Misenum on March 16 37 A.D. at age 79. Although suffering from a terminal illness, he apparently wasn't dying fast enough for his successor's liking - so they smothered him with a pillow."
If the accusations against the emperor were true, Tiberius was guilty of torture and multiple homicides. Caligula, his successor, was also accused of moral indecency as related to tyrannical leadership. Nero was reputed to have played his violin while Rome burned.
There is some consensus of agreement regarding the Roman republic. The republic started off as a representative body for the people, then when the king was proclaimed emperor, it degenerated into a dictatorship. There is however question regarding the content of the accusations. Were the accusations made as a statement for another imperial candidate; against the existing emperor; or against empire as a political entity in its own right?
Even in today’s society some hold that it is the size of the government that makes it good or evil. A smaller government, like a state or a kingdom, is possible to manage. A large government is incapable of management according to this view. It is inherently evil.
If all states were managed properly, the argument that smaller government is inherently better, would have substance. Judgment regarding goodness in states, kingdoms, large nations or empires however, is not based on the size of the political body, it is formed by fairness in representing the people.
It is also incorrect to argue that political leadership is always wrong whereas religious leadership never is.
Ambrose was bishop of Milan. He was not qualified by desire, training or experience to serve as a church leader.
“Ambrose really didn't want to be an ecclesiastical leader; he was doing quite well as a political one. And he hadn't even been baptized yet! But the people wrote to Emperor Valentian, asking for his seal on their verdict.”
If Ambrose was deceptive, he could have had a “guest registry” set out at a church gathering in Milan. The signatures could have been sent to the emperor with the claim that all had signed it to have him declared bishop. Church leadership was not even supposed to be determined by the emperor. This was after the conversion of Constantine. Things had changed but canon law did not cite the emperor as the power who determined the apostolic succession. A bishop was supposed to be ordained by incumbent bishops; not an “imperial” authority.
Ambrose displayed a sectarian agenda when he refused to recognize the rights of other religious groups. He refused to give communion to the emperor for having punished someone who had burned a Jewish synagogue.

“An imperial court frequently sat in Milan. In confrontations with this court, Ambrose showed a directness that combined the republican ideal of the prerogatives of a Roman senator with a sinister vein of demagoguery. In 384 he secured the rejection of an appeal for tolerance by pagan members of the Roman senate, whose spokesman, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, was his relative (Letters 17, 18)…. In 388 he rebuked the emperor Theodosius for having punished a bishop who had burnt a Jewish synagogue.”
 History has shown that it is not appropriate to condemn all government or all religion. Freedom of religion provides the line for interaction. The state is not to make laws that establish a religion as official or prevent the free exercise of faith. Religion is not to dictate policy to government.
If you are honest in your religion, then you recognize that government is “godly” when it represents fairness for the people. Religion has to satisfy the same condition, fairness in representation; it simply has different forms for assembly and expression. This said, ecclesiastical government needs to be conducted with democratic procedures.
A major factor in the determination of corrupt action is determined by the injunction against killing. Whether it is the commandment against killing in religion or the laws against terrorism, murder, genocide, wars of aggression or state sponsored terrorism in the civil government; killing is irreversible; killing as a means for attaining profit or power is outlawed. Slavery is outlawed as well.
The law is against murder and slavery. This prohibition implies support for civility. This means that God is for civility for those of us who believe that it is true. The following song celebrates opulent civility.  
Opulent Civility
Fm Baruch 5:1-9
Take off the attire of affliction, tired city.
Accept the heritage of radiant desire.
Put on the honor of honesty.
Don the diadem of the dawn.
Revel in effulgent glory
from the emerging euphoria
of the aurora.
The crown of our light will shine
for truth with justice and joy for you.
God will show you the splendor of existence.
Splendid opulence will glow
with the growth of love
in experience.
Your name will be,
 “Wonderful. Counselor.
Righteous City. Godly Peace.”

Arise, city of light! Attain the height of heaven.
Look upon your people. See your children
gathered from every direction;
listening to the word of God;
rejoicing with the remembrance
of what has been learned from history.
They had left on foot.
They had gone the way of prisoners.
They had been taken away as slaves.
They had been held captive by thieves.
They had tread the trodden trails of tyranny;
swept by the sway of cruelty and oppression.
We have returned to you, city of angels.
God has brought us back on wings of glory;
resplendent with honor to the royal home.
We will move forward.
Where no road had been,
a path will be made.
The obstacles of war, oppression, greed and cruelty
will be brought down.  Every mountain
made by tyranny will be laid low.
The valleys of economic depression
will be filled. We will have a level playing field.
The rules for competition will be observed with joy;
we will learn to win together.
Human being will walk safely in the light of revelation
acquired by investigation and reflection
with faith in the glory of God.
Any tree will give shade
from the heat of too much light.
We will be lead by life with joy
with mercy in morality
and correction from the judgments
of experience with education.
Shine! Shine! O, new Jerusalem!
The experience of your existence
will shine with opulent civility
for humanity!
Civility for those who believe in "winning" by aggression is often conditioned by aggression against those who are civil. The law often has to become a mechanism for the defense of those who are victimized by aggression.
Non-aggression is "darkness" for those who believe in aggression. It becomes light when civility is added to sight.
Natasha Bedingfield – Pocketful of Sunshine
There's a place that I go
That nobody knows
Where the rivers flow.
I call it home.
There's no more lies.
The darkness is light
And nobody cries
there's only butterflies”
Move forward.
Where no road had been,
a path will be made.

Shine! Shine! O, new Jerusalem!
The experience of your existence
will shine with opulent civility.
Steve K.


No comments:

Post a Comment