"… A Decree From Caesar Augustus For All To Be Taxed"
(Understanding Our Most Recent ‘War on Prayer’)
My first Gazette Christmas column contemplated how many are still haunted by Miss Greer Garson’s voice in the opening narration of the 1958 animated version of “The Little Drummer Boy,” one of the few indelible memories which remain from Christmases of my youth. The King James Version of Luke 2:1 reads:
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”
Her narration continued with, “To disobey the Roman Emperor meant certain death,” as the viewer watched the diverse procession to Bethlehem, “…young and old; famous and mighty; and some not yet known, but would be revered for all time. They were good people who could ill afford the cruel tax about to be imposed upon them.”
For those like myself who believe in the power of God’s word or the hardest zealot of the atheist religion (I don’t share their belief in negative proof but God teaches me to be tolerant) it certainly is worthy to note the details of this child’s birth celebrated every Christmas. The Gospels make it difficult to dismiss this Roman decree which determined Christ’s grim birthplace into this world - in a cave with lowly animals and shepherds in the City of David. Perhaps a little history on this Roman Emperor is apropos.
Most consider Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (September 23, 63 - August 19, 14BC) the first Emperor installed to proffer further concentration and usurpation of power from the Roman people. As a young man he was adopted in the last will and testament of his great-uncle Julius Caesar following his (in)famous death in 44 BC. In 27 BC the Senate conferred upon him the title Augustus - i.e., "the revered one." Upon his death, after a 40 year reign, Augustus was declared a god by the Senate compelling all to worship him. The reign of Augustus was succeeded by his former son-in-law and adopted step-son, Tiberius. Tiberius was the Emperor in power when Jesus is wrongly crucified between two common thieves.
To those interested in reading more on this economic tax history, I always recommend Prof. Charles Adams’ book entitled, “For Good & Evil: the Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization,” to illustrate how encompassing the power of Rome applied to Christ’s time on earth. This earthly journey begins with Christ’s birthplace soiled and dictated by Roman despotism as Caesar Augustus mandated return to cities of origin to be taxed. To understand the meaning of Jesus coming from the lineage of David is very powerful, if not predictable to anyone familiar with the history of that era and Old Testament teachings.
Jesus witnessed firsthand the cruelty of Rome which tormented souls of young and old alike - think of the demon “Legion” (one of many) He cast into swine, which some theologians consider a purposeful, thinly veiled symbol of despotic Roman rule. As a teacher, Jesus knew the meaning of David defeating the Philistines (Star of David) the reason for the Maccabean Revolt (Menorah) and other common teachings of this sort to Jewish children; just as our young once knew about Washington’s 1783 victory over the British, War of 1812, War Between the States, etc… when they were taught well to our youth. Along with Miss Garson’s voice, some may also recall many Stars of David and Menorahs displayed so closely aligned with Christian symbols this time of year before little red suits and materialism diverted focus from the powerful meanings of this blessed season.
Not surprisingly, the Romans also understood, taking great efforts to remove Menorahs, Stars and statues of David whenever they (re)conquered the Jews, as known symbols of tax revolt. Think today how our governments and their minions hate when good folks show up with symbols of the Boston Tea Party and flags from our wars for independence. Is anyone genuinely surprised by the most recent ‘War on Prayer’ espoused by Speaker Mike Hubbard (9/22/13 Opelika-Auburn News) even when evoked/used as rhetoric by this political hypocrite? Disdain for God and what the Christian Cross truly represents is a rational forecast as more of the mainstream populace expiates to government as their god in the collective extremism of mandating more of their will/tyranny upon others.
Tiberius, who followed Augustus, Emperor at the time of Christ’s crucifixion was by most accounts one of very poor character. To overcome shortcomings with the public, Tiberius devoted a great deal of effort toward his propaganda campaign “Ti Caesar Divi Aug F Augustus,” - i.e., “Tiberius Caesar, Worshipful Son of the God Augustus.” This was very important to establish after Augustus, who had set himself up as god. For most readers (esp. those who read my column on the First Commandment or understand the scribes’ attempt to trick Jesus with this inscription on the Roman coin handed to Him) little type is required to explain Jesus proclaiming He is the Son of the true God (obviously NOT Augustus) placed him at odds with the pro-government thugs of his day. This included pro-Roman clergy like Annas and Caiaphas comfortable with their place under Roman rule. It would only be a matter of time till Pontius Pilate, the Procurator of Judea responsible for tax collection (with sufficient Roman soldiers in his charge to easily secure the task) would be at odds with the mind, body and spirit of Christ.
At its base, the power of Rome was facilitated by a complete (some may consider irrational) fear of death. Those who Rome wished to use and control via this overpowering fear could be sent into the depths of mines to provide their government’s huge resource demands; could be chained to oars to power Rome’s ships to their very last breath; entertain Romans in blood sports to the death; etc… Consider how our modern Rome has citizens so afraid to die they are willing to mandate theft from others, even steal their own children’s future to continue their existence for another breath. Sad to witness how little regard they have for their dignity and souls to continue ‘life’ in this world to propagate a leviathan which no doubt will make their (and their posterity’s) existence dark and grim. This is highlighted to orthodox Christians witnessing a politician who names their own children after fellow hero corrupt ‘public servants instead of those who in fact suffered their faith following Christ’s path; further illustrated by political hacks covetous of buildings and streets in their name instead of living a righteous life where the memory of their deeds are eternal through Christ’s name and Spirit.
Rome would fear the righteous teachings of this Rabbi carpenter as they took hold and spread in a region which championed freedom and their true God over government. The power of His words and ideas provided a cure to the growing cancer Roman despotism was on mankind. If Jesus had the will to follow His heavenly Father into the next world - even upon suffering the most horrific death Romans could devise; AND others were also willing to follow -- the tyranny of Rome could not survive. There were those who understood and wanted Christ’s body, passion, spirit and teachings to be buried and forgotten. Others, more cunning, use Christian symbols and teachings (feigning concern for the poor, etc.) to cloak their own avarice. Thanks to the wise disciples’ efforts (including Peter who denied Him in the aforementioned fear) and countless martyrs who followed Christ, His memory and call to righteousness remains.
I pray more will accept His call and give thanks for those who resist tyranny fight corruption and have the courage to endure the hatred levied upon them. Sadly, those who act when pressed by despots are oft despised by those who will benefit most from efforts to stop the wicked before they’re too empowered to remove without great death and destruction. Even fewer seem able to identify and admonish the ‘Judas rhetoric’ (false piety, feigned concern for mankind to hide their own greed and corruption) of our ruling elite today. A recent illustration being our powerful speaker of the House in Montgomery touting Alabama as the “second most religious state” in the US which he claims is the reason why the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) targeted Alabama as its first battlefield state in what he believes is an organized and determined “war on prayer.” Mr. Hubbard and his ‘hero’ minion public servant Gov. Riley were noticeably absent when they attacked Chief Justice Roy Moore and our Rotunda. Where were they then? Is it because voters have reversed their efforts and the ruling of a despotic/incompetent federal judge Mr. Hubbard now adamantly claims to care about the war on prayer?
I’ve made it clear Judge Moore argued his case poorly and public servants like Riley and Thompson are empowered to protect our civil rights, even poor jurists like Moore; instead of using Roy Moore types to advance their ends. Imagine if Hubbard and Riley had made a stand then and refused to remove this poor jurist, not because of his poor arguments but because of the rule of law which often escapes federal judges of Myron Thompson’s intelligence and integrity. In short, there were already two remedies in place which Thompson ignored - the legislature could change the chief justice’s role as steward of the Rotunda or the voters of Alabama could remove Judge Moore if they found his interior decorating skills of great import and not to their liking. The absurd Thompson ruling means Chief Justice Roberts must be removed since the US Supreme Court continues to display The Ten Commandments - no doubt this incompetent/poor Chief Justice will not be removed by the same powers which removed Judge Moore.
Speaker Hubbard continued his rant about FFRF extremists’ war on prayer in the Cullman County public schools. Dare I type it escapes most ‘public servants’ of such poor intelligence and character that the extremism they promote positions FFRF to make a compelling case? Federal funding to education is unconstitutional (think Bush’s no child left behind, imposing federal common core standards, etc. - worse still federal faith based initiatives) but once a schoolhouse, courthouse, firehouse, etc. takes federal funding the FFRF extremist can make a case. Some suspect Mr. Hubbard’s new found concern for prayer (after his noticeable absence where it may have made a difference or better still had not supported his corrupt party’s extremist policies) has more to do with worries of facing Tea Party voters in the next election and possible indictment for his deeds as a ‘public servant’ who appears to have served himself very well.
Interesting Mr. Hubbard evokes another of his heroes (Ronald Reagan, sadly not Jesus Christ) who also used school prayer to deflect the Iran/Contra affair pressing upon him. Reagan correctly gambled the big government conservatives would overlook this abuse of power and raising the debt ceiling 18 times with his crony Tip O’Neil to further advance the Rome we suffer today. Andy Rooney cited Reagan’s masterful school prayer ‘teflon president’ play with, “Prayer: the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Imagine if Americans had been less bamboozled by Reagan’s wonderful words while he was exploding debt per capita threefold; there could have been a chance to reverse the inevitable result of remaining on the path to leviathan Rome traditional Christians were taught to admonish. Again, how many modern Christians this season do you think will have this as the centerpiece of their Christmas celebration?
Our Speaker further touts, “every day when the Legislature is meeting, the Alabama House begins each session with a public prayer given by an invited pastor.” I doubt many pastors will be invited who will admonish the despotic actions of the Speaker and his fellow ruling elite Republocrats; if so, I doubt a pastor of this sort would ever be invited again. Furthermore, even if most pastors did convey the Holy Spirit to this body in desperate need of prayer to be reminded “resistance to tyranny is obedience to God” I doubt it would make much difference. Our legislature grows increasingly less representative and restrictive ballot access laws supported by despotic jurists makes these legislators feel untouchable. It will be God’s judgment and discipline which will address their deeds as voters continue to keep individuals of this sort in power, knowing they are corrupt. Sadly, Judgment of this sort is much more difficult to bear in the long-run than suffering the short-run toil of cleaning house before disease sets in.
The Speaker also evoked Alabama’s state motto “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” Frankly he should be ashamed at how weak he’s been in the past in this regard and I’m ashamed voters in my district have sent a ‘public servant’ of such poor character and intellect to Montgomery. Some assert Mr. Hubbard has shown much more daring in mandating insurance to transfer wealth to himself and his cronies; daring to position himself for State contracts; daring to use his position for $1 million dollar unsecured loans; than daring to defend/protect our civil rights - religious or otherwise. Mr. Hubbard’s O-A News editorial is quick to call out the FFRF bigoted bullies he’s aided & abetted, so I’ll evoke a little Ronald Reagan who may have suggested the Speaker begin with looking at the ‘man’ in the mirror.
This column is intended to be at least one sobering moment in your Christmas celebration to think about how important it is to be an integral part of standing against despotism in our federal, local and State governments. It is my sincere prayer all who know the power of Jesus Christ’s teachings will take Him into their hearts this blessed season and overcome the distraction of consumerism and destruction at the hands of the ruling elite who have made a modern Roman (Soviet style/command and control) government their god. I know the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, Son of the true God is indeed greater than the spirit of evil in the sons of Nimrod, Caesar(s) et al because it is His name which remains above all nations. This small Child of God, relegated to be born in a cave at the behest of a despot setting the world on a course toward increasing darkness; in the City of David, with the lowest of mankind by worldly standards would do more to bring light and the spirit of Zion to a wicked world than Rome could possibly contain. And yes… the spirit of Zion has nothing to do with geography - It does not recognise geopolitical boundaries of man.
Clearly the wicked want the righteous to go away and die… As you celebrate the beginning of Jesus Christ’s path in this world during the Christmas season, understand the magnitude of the mission His Father set Him upon. If you truly believe and adhere to His teachings, it destroys the power of death and darkness in this world. Without this fear Rome’s (and the many leviathans to follow) ability to advance their despotic ends is thwarted. Jesus showed us the way - it is up to us to have the courage, faith and wisdom to follow. If we do not stand well against evil and corruption in our everyday lives, we are failing Him and the righteous efforts many suffered so mankind may not be compelled to endure the agony of Roman despotism again.
Venerating the start of Christ’s journey as man in this world is indeed a beginning for us all… a time for renewal of our commitment to a better world and the courage to stand well against evil. How will you proceed? Better days are ahead if you follow His path - if not, the growing fear and darkness will continue to envelop us. I pray the powerful meaning of this season is not lost upon you, so our posterity may enjoy God’s blessings if we allow Him into our lives. Make the difficult effort to identify ‘Judas rhetoric’ of our despicable public servants. You can be God’s servant OR a servant to Rome; it is impossible to serve both… it really is that simple. The choice is yours to make or reaffirm every Christmas.