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.


retrieved Oct 18, 2014


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

Effectiveness, economies of scale, terms and rates, lack of equity among municipal governments, effective accountabilityare all issues that face one in municipal governments. With municipal government not entrenched in the constitution, receiving an appropriate amount of the fiscal pie to meet demands is daunting.

The three E’s effectiveness, efficiency, economy in provision of services, facilities and programs are crucial to a viable community.
Equity – fairness in the distribution of revenue resources. Disentanglement of intergovernmental responsibilities. Dual accountability to provincial municiple affairs departments and to the electorate. Sustain the diversity of the community. Municipalities are a matter of provincial statute, subject quite unilaterally to change by the legislature. Provincial wide standards – public services – economy, environment and justice in application of law. Weak constitutional position of munincipalities.
Housing, environment social welfare and policing with a joint three-level responsibilities

The allocation of government resources and the balancing of priorities should be done by elected local bodies . Existing government structures should be explored to the fullest before resorting to special purpose bodies.

Tax credits – poor entitlement on income tax return, to establish property tax as a proportional tax

Characteristics of a good tax, evenly distributed for fairness, easy method of collection, visible for acountability and you know how much you pay every year. Speak in camara to prevent fear of libel.
Conflict of interest- when employer has pecuniary interest, so does employee. Declare conflict of interest at beginning of agenda. We must look toward a new regime which empowers citizens and local governments. We must maintain and enhance our sophistication and innovation as judgements rest on ourselves rather than big brother at the provincial government level effective, cost-efficient, directly accountable, representative and responsible, in such a permissive, rather than prescriptive environment. We need responsible leadership more now than ever.

Special purpose bodies

Municipal governments deal with agencies, boards, commissions, and voluntary associations which have a degree of autonomy from local government. Agencies, boards and commissions have no authority to tax. Most funds are from local government.

Police, public health and children’s aid have been our inheritance since before local government. At the turn of the century planning, hydro, water and sewers were the main issues. We need to ask ourselves whether we need a separate hydro commission when the city engineer can we have our own engineers on tap. Economical efficiency and effectiveness can only be achieved by innovative thinking, leadership and cooperation among people and groupings of all kinds. We need at the municipal level a more entrepreneurial philosophy which embraces total quality management which requires absolute accountability within the city council and within the special purpose bodies. We have gone too far in separating special purpose bodies from policy decisions by the municipality which is providing funding.

 To Be or Not….

Does society have any rights in terms of deciding whether someone else should die? What is your take on capital punishment? How do we value life, and human life in particular? Where stands the validity and integrity of our justice system?

 What do we do with offenders? Did society make them that way? Is being poor and without a job an “offence?” Does that make us responsible to compound our sins to let the negative elements feed off one another in prison, only to worsen their own conditions while we pat ourselves on the back over their incarceration?

 It is like the plague of ferel rabbits on the University of Victoria campus: there are so many rabbits – 2,000 or so in an Alice-in-Wonderland-rabbit-nightmare – that these breathing little warts on campus greens were sterilized at great cost and then let loose into the same campus environment to continue to destroy the historical trees and gardens that only Victoria, with its coastal location and modulated weather, can provide Canada. It is like setting burglars loose in a museum with hatchets to do what comes “naturally.”

 Students over the years have been dumping onto the campus lawns these hungry fur balls after these young women and men’s tour of duty in these Ivory Halls of Knowledge are completed, creating a massively intriguing collection of varieties of colour, tails, fur and ears, to suffer living off the land like the growing volume of homeless humans that greet the housing strapped province of British Columbia. Instead of dealing with more serious matters, like learning to run this country and to promote housing for the poor [please correct me if I am in error], students have obsessed with the idea that the university might secretly be “culling the herd” of these bundles of cuteness at night.

 Sentimentality, private and public, can really mess with righteousness, justice and mercy. Self congratulatory humans have stepped in, not to provide the creatures with new homes, but to feel a misplaced self-righteousness that only urbanites can feel in their serious disconnect to the land. Now the plan is to legislate sterilization of rabbits before pet stores can sell the creatures.

 Can sterilizing the poor be far behind with such a botch job on dealing with these little creatures? The welfare system with its defacto below-most-housing-costs policy is set up to keep people out of housing considering housing shortages and high costs due to high demand. They are vulnerable to the harsh realities that these ferel creatures suffer and worse – humans on the street have less protection from other humans than these Victoria-style tribbles have. At best, the haves are in serious disconnect with the have-nots in society. At worst, those who have all the sustenance they need simply do not care as long as impoverishment doesn’t happen to them.

Would capital punishment in the form of culling the rabbits be a deterrent to future rabbit owners from letting their cherished pets loose, pets that helped them cope with term papers and exams? You bet it would be. A return policy from the pet stores would help along with a rabbit adoption centre on campus, run like a lending library. Any takers?

Clearly these issues cannot be fully explored in this blog. It would take a few series of books to do so. But I hope I have given you cause to pause.

King William of England adopted feudalism, a system of government which was already established in Western Europe. Rights, duties and obligations were set down. Predictably, the monarch was at the top of this system owning all the land. His lords and barons were assigned large sections or “manors” thereby buying their allegience and military service as his vassals providing administrative duties. The freemen and serfs worked the lord’s lands and their own. Shares of the produce was given to the lord and the church. This feudalism is the basis for all our modern property laws.
The lord of each manor was the sole judge in trials involving any of his vassals. Inequity resulted from this system of justice whereas one lord mercifully sentenced restitution for theft but a different lord sentenced death. The king saw that this inequity was rather problematic and responded by appointing a number of judges who travelled the country-side and held hearings or “assizes”. Regular meetings in London enabled these judges to share experiences. Bit by bit, common agreement slowly arose from these discussions. By the 12th and 13th Centuries there was more consistency of ruling –the roots of English common law, common to all people throughout England. Only when no custom existed did judges make their own decisions. We can see a sense of status quo here and the need for legislative powers to bring forward new law to better direct a changing society. [In other words, we need good and honourable politicians to be elected to facilitate this process or judges will run our countries. So get politically involved–it does matter.]
This common-law system of standing by earlier decisions (Latin: stare decisis) was introduced to North America by the colonists who first settled here. Judges from the highest courts in many Canadian provinces still travel to the provincial counties. There they hold regional assizes to deal with the most serioius criminal and civil offences.

Precedent was established as case after case ensued and was later referred to as a guide and reference point. Similar cases were treated alike, establishing a standard and common system of judging offences throughout the country. At first, these case decisions existed only in the judges memories and were known as “unwritten law”. The king as the fountainhead of justice whom people appealed to when they felt common law had failed them. As occasion demanded the king had the authority to overrule judge’s decisions when he felt it was necessary to do so.

Old precedents can be a problem when circumstances change. Common law managing horse-drawn carriages cannot adequately rule on automobiles. But precedent has its uses:

  • It introduces a degree of certainty into the law. A person or his or her lawyer going before the courts can examine previously similar cases and the arguments that were used. The objective and expectation is to reach a similar result.
  • It causes the courts to act impartially rather than favour any of the parties in an action. Lawyers present reports of earlier cases to persuade judges to reach similar decisions arrived at in those cases.
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