To say that not every Jew was happy about the census and taxation which the Romans were imposing through Cyrenius would be the height of understatement: there had been other census/taxations before Cyrenius, but Mary and Joseph’s trip was Cyrenius’ first. A Pharisee named Sadduc and Judus of Gamala became zealous to lead a revolt: they both said this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty. Basically, they instructed the people to violence by passionately convincing them that God helps those who help themselves. Josephus states “the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree.” Violent war after war ensued, as well as great robberies and murders of the Jewish nation’s principle men on the pretext for the public welfare but really for personal gain.

So, by the time Mary was ready to deliver, the new Zealot sect was well in play within the Jewish nation. They were looking for a Savior– a perfect storm.

(Josephus also recorded Judas of Galilee elsewhere, but Galilee and Gamala are on opposite sides of the river Jordon.)

Josephus: The Complete Works. The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, verses 1 to 10.

We see the strength of Mary as she accepts the charge of bearing the truth teller, the shower of the way, and who is life-breathed by the Holy Spirit. Her strength only matured over time and she authoritatively began her son’s ministry at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) by doing what all good mothers do—she set the stage for the action to take place: she alerted her son that the wine was all gone; he began his response in the salutation of the day, “woman,” denoting respect according to some commentaries; Mary told the servants to do whatever he told them to, thereby passing on the torch of authority onto Jesus and revealing her authority over the servants as well. Jesus responded in obedient respect to his mother.

Mary truly was a powerful helper (ezer).

How do the political tensions of today relate to burgeoning reactive sects such as the Zealot sect spoken of above? Who are the truth tellers of peace and love in our day?


It is often said that it is human to make errors but to forgive is divine.

But how do you forgive yourself, let alone forgive others?

Memories plague us with unfinished emotional business. Our emotions range from anger, guilt, and despair. We lose sleep. We self-medicate. We question the correctness of forgiveness. Resentment and self-absorption act like bullies to block this restoration process. We are closed off from others in ways we are not even aware as our self-delusion limits our personal growth and we get stuck.

The Loving Community Infoletter, Volume 1, Issue 11 is now available to help you, and those you meet, with these protracted issues. Let us make healthy communities in these troubling times. Add to Cart View Cart


When reading the Daily Mail online about the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for “blasphemous comments” about Mohammad after she was denied water by Muslim women, I couldn’t help but see parallels with the persecution of Christians in the Roman era. It would seem that some of the Shariah law was taken from the Roman empire. There are several parallels seen in the Daily Mail of October 17, 2014.

Misunderstanding abounds.

Christian rituals were privately held in homes and not in public: the felt secrecy of their rituals inflamed the collective imagination of those who did not follow Jesus’ teachings. Indeed, in the early years Christians were accused of being impious atheists.

The Passover feast to remember Jesus’ act on the cross on humanity’s behalf was performed in the homes–thus a private affair. [No public prayers five times a day.] Not being able to do key word searches, the polytheistic population accused Christians of cannibalism due to the terms “body and blood” which actually referred to remembrance of sacrifice of the lamb God provided, not a humanly provided lamb.

The early Christians were also accused of incest referring to each other as “brothers” and “sisters”. Since then, many faith groups refer to other followers of the same faith in this way, Islam inclusive (The Muslim Brotherhood, for example) . The Christians’ refusal to participate in public religion and choose to retain maintain monotheism actually was quite threatening of the status quo since there was a superstition that bad things would befall the society if the public worship of established gods were not maintained.

The fabric of society was the combining of custom and education, that people in Roman society were obliged to revere the religious institutions of their country. Open disrespect of family beliefs by not following them and what they reverenced as true and sacred was deemed renouncing of family and country. Theocratic countries still have these issues. Pakistan’s Shariah law doesn’t help create people with differences to be equal citizens.

The Roman governor’s personal opinion reigned during adjudication. The law was fuzzy about dealing with Christians, just as the definition of blasphemy is just as wooly. An accuser/prosecutor could either be an official or a citizen. A charge of Christianity was enough for a governor to pass judgement. The accuser/prosecutor could be rewarded with some of the accused’s property if he made an adequate case. Indeed, the Daily Mail article side-bar draws attention to that lucrative loop-hole when accusing of blasphemy.

The Roman governor oversaw the trial from start to finish: he heard the arguments, decided on the verdict, and passed the sentence. Christians sometimes offered themselves up for punishment, and the hearings of such voluntary martyrs were conducted in the same way. I feel for Asia Bibi’s sense of fed-up and taking a stand to be treated as an equal human being. The civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s experienced just such change agents.

Political leaders in the Roman Empire were also public cult leaders. Political and religious life blended. This public religious practice was in their estimation critical to the social and political stability and success of both the local community and the empire as a whole.

Once distinguished from Judaism, Christianity was no longer seen as simply a bizarre sect of an old and venerable religion; it was new and unknown, a superstition laden with connotation of religious practices that were corrosive to society. Following Jesus’ teachings was seen as worshiping a convicted criminal, treason for refusing to “swear by the emperor’s genius, harshly criticized Rome in their holy books” and held their rites in private (Wiki). Merely speaking ill of the dominant Roman way of religion was treasonous.

Jews refused to obey the decree for pagan religious observance as a testament of allegiance to the empire. They were tolerated because they followed their own Jewish ancestral (therefore legitimate) ceremonial law, and as second class citizens had to give a Jewish tax. In a Caliphate Jews and Christians are second class citizens who pay extra tax. That is the best they can hope for.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire

retrieved Oct 18, 2014

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2796178/pakistani-christian-woman-sentenced-death-blasphemy-making-derogatory-remarks-muslim-neighbours-loses-appeal.html


Islam’s perspective on political development begins with the spiritual concept of the community of believers (the umma), their individual responsibility to community and to God. With this, other faith groups are not in dispute concerning their own spiritual communities.

In turn, the spiritual community of believers takes precedence over institutional structure within the Christian community. It is understood that the Holy Spirit– God’s breath and power– is upon all followers of Jesus and joins them together. The Passover Feast was Jesus’ last meal, emphasizing the scapegoat motif. Followers of Jesus ritually partake of that communal feast, and despite the Reformation of some 500 years ago that led to institutional splits, believers are still spiritually united in communion and identify with one another.

In antiquity it was the responsibility of the community to hand out justice. The five centuries up to now slowly evolved as there were attempts to put Godly principles into play politically, but the respective faith institutions became private personal affairs of conscience. The Holy Roman Empire had finally lost its grip.

The political Islamic perspective is that it is the responsibility of the state as the organizer of the community to promote and facilitate ethical behaviour prescribed in the Quran. It is a moral mission and activist posture to build with a divine role in the world.1

It has been said the Western perspective is that “political development is inversely related to religion in politics because secularism is a fundamental criterion of political development.”2 Mackenzie King might have disagreed. King started out longing to put an end to class conflict with a growing idea that the union of “religion, politics, and education” would best deliver reform. Ramsay Cook wrote that in the late nineteenth century King, shunning laissez-faire orthodoxy, had blended Calvinism [indicating the hand to the plow and not quitting?] and social reform producing a ‘religious liberalism.’ King’s aim for the Kingdom of God on earth ironically saw the development of the secular city.3 Industrialization and urbanization brought the end of many of the old ways of life and livelihood.

Cultures organize themselves with mores and routines; at a sophisticated level, we have political-civil society expressed by John Locke (1632-1704) as a tool for interpreting political behaviour, affected by beliefs, social forces, material traits of a social group. National identity might be associated with tribal, or clan structures or sects, carrying a collective awareness of a common history. Historically we have been limited by affectations of distinctive language and culture, and seeing differences in spiritualities instead of discovering similarities once weeding through dialects and customs. We need common identifiers in a transient world. Everyone needs to know at their core that they are a vital part of the community or we become as lost ships at sea.

1. Esposito, John L., ed. (1980). Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, pp. 3,4.

2. Ibid, p. 3.

3. Wardhaugh, Robert A., (2000). Mackenzie King and the Prairie West. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p.9.; George Ramsay Cook (1985). The Regenerators: Social Criticism in Late Victorian English Canada, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p. 169.


I was about twenty years old ( a collection of decades ago) when I read Eusebius’s book on the early church. Everything seemed to make progressive logical sense until his explanation of how Constantine was suppose to have become a Christian and to have had a weird vision from the “Christian” god leading him to victory. Nothing could be more contradictory to the teachings of Rabbi/Guru Jesus. I was left feeling out of synch (not for the first time) with the rest of my faith group who, as far as I could tell, bought this stuff hook-line-and-sucker. Everything seemed to go sideways after that, historically speaking.

When we look at art history, we get a more complete picture. Persecution was not able to eradicate these believers of the way. These “little Christs” met quietly and secretly in their house churches. Certain houses had baptismal tanks for the ritual of the water and word to symbolize the washing away of our tending to be outside of God’s loving will. The psychological and visceral impact coupled with pure intent is quite impactful. Many other people groups used baptism rituals, but this one was brought along from those of the Jewish faith. It is an act of humility that we cannot follow a pure path alone. It is a path and a work in progress as one allows the Divine to be a vital part of one’s life. They were a tight knit community.

Constantine, not wanting to be bested by these cell groups that quietly came and went, offered an olive branch of non persecution. Eusebius gets to become a bishop in this deal, which probably explains his easy enthusiasm for an Emperor who has a passion with associating himself as Sol Invictus “Unconquered Sun.” Various mosaics and massive sculptures would feature his having the rays of the sun radiating from Constantine’s head.

It was Constantine who initiated Sunday worship pushing the church to assume Sunday worship as their own. In the early years the followers of Jesus went to synagogue on the Sabbath. According to Wikipedia, Constantine decreed (March 7, 321) dies Solis –day of the sun, “Sunday”–as the Roman day of rest. Only farmers were exempt.

In a very deft move, Constantine routed the Christians out of hiding and gained complete control. The doctrine of the Trinity has the fingermarks of Constantine as with how he manipulated the Roman sun god imagery to his own advantage. Over interpretation and attribution of this document plagues and confuses people to this day, distracting from the core teachings of the prophet and rabbi Jesus.


I don’t know about you, but today I am fed up to the eyeballs about how our news and internet are being taken over by ISIS snuff videos and the reporting of same. It is enough to get my juices going and to wake me up, whereas parts of me have been sleeping. I am sure we have all fallen into that malaise. It has also resolved me to become bolder in terms of life applications of spirituality. The days of being raised that we (mostly Christians) are not to talk about religion and politics are long gone by absolute necessity.

We may think it happened after 9/11 and 7/7, but really what we are in the face of right now is unfinished business since the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the venting of the collective Arabic spleen, and others. World War One (the Great War) has little been talked about as my parents’ generation produced volumes of movies and documentaries of World War Two.

Ed Husain, who wrote “The Islamist,” made two points about rejecting the Jewish and Christian faiths when he was in a space of personal spiritual crisis, having left violent Islamism behind. He rejected Judaism out of hand because it was “race” based. It ignores the universal truths the Hebrew tribe early identified and uniquely expressed in legal logic language to clearly delineate our human relationship with the Creator. Sammy Davis Junior, may he rest in peace, would soundly disagree with Ed.

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) for personal and communal transformation honours the atonement message’s deep psychological wisdom. During its ten days of repentance that extend from the first day of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah (Yom Hazikaron–the Day of Remembrance) to Yom Kippur,  humanity through the Jewish faith tradition is encouraged to look at what we have done and what we have become in the past year. We are called to participate in an individual and collective reassessment of our lives and to reaffirm through prayer the possibilities of our lives individually and in community. Repentance (teshuvah) requires considerable detail exactly what we shall do differently in our lives while taking stock of what things will likely throw us off or undermine our resolve. Make concrete workable action plans based on our deepest and most searching self scrutiny.

In scapegoat imagery, the unblemished lamb on behalf of sins was a visceral contract rite to move the participant to accept letting go of guilt, accepting restoration of relationship. The altar was sanctified. The mechanism requires that we accept that the past errors of our lives need not stick to us as we embrace this living imagery of an internal transformative work.  The cross that Jesus  died on was a stumbling stone to the Jewish community in First Century.

So, the sensible reasoning goes, how can the vile criminal’s cross be sanctified to lay claim that the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross so everyone on the planet for all time can embrace this basic truth? This is where the drama in the last days and hours before the death of Jesus of Nazareth becomes essential for the imagery to have cohesive effect. In the end, the chief priests handed him over to Pilate whose form of execution was crucifixion, thus for this instance, sanctifying the cross Jesus died on. That was then.

Constantine, in the Fourth Century, foisted a belief system and made the followers of the way of the way, truth, and the life into dogmatists and doctrinaires including the new stumbling block of the doctrine of the Trinity, Ed Husain’s second pet peeve. Shall be  addressed in another blog.

Yom Kippur resources: Michael Lerner (1994). Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. HarperPerennial, New York, NY.

God’s dream is to not be alone, but to have humanity as a partner in the drama of continuous creation. By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


Normally I simply compile information with reflections on this site. However, today, this is a blog about some news: “NHS worker who ‘bullied’ Muslim by praying for her” by David Barrett, of the Telegraph, June 28, 2014. See http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/06/uk-christian-suspended-for-bullying-muslim-by-giving-her-christian-book and http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/06/uk-christian-suspended-for-bullying-muslim-by-giving-her-christian-book?utm_source=Jihad+watch+Daily+Digest&utm_campaign=3969b89d36-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ffcbf57bbb-3969b89d36-123486873

The comments on this blog site were most disturbing. First, we have devolved from a global society in which we share our spirituality with one another, to keeping “religion” out of the public or workplace discourse in order to not offend others of different backgrounds. As you read Victoria Wasteney’s comments in the above link you will see that she had a spiritual, not religious, communion with her. She was supportive, friendly, and welcoming. Her only “mistake” was to pass on the book for relatives to find it. This put the young lady in danger from her own family.  The real issue is freedom of public discourse, a matter Wasteney is attempting to address. The comments on these articles were not helpful.