Two men lived through this time. One on the side of the Third Reich’s crushing dictatorship. The other as a resistance fighter, spy and pastor. Joseph Goebbels was the head of propaganda for Hitler’s Nazi regime and he ruthlessly lied to an entire generation of Germans, entrancing them to follow a crazed Fuhrer off the cliff of world domination. On the other hand, pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer refused to escape from his native Germany because of his desire to alleviate the plight of innocent countrymen. By the end of the war, both men were dead. But it was how they lived that separated them in breathless fashion.
With all of its fairly stenchy warts and wobbles, the “Western World” (i.e.: North America and western Europe) is the “go to” spot for the world’s down and outers. As the Muslim world implodes on itself they are not rushing Chinese or African borders, they are going “west.” Before our modern refugee crisis, the West was still the epicenter of cultural, commercial and scientific revolutions that had never occurred anywhere else. And it did so while it was predominantly gripped by a Christian worldview. It was a Christianized Roman Empire that began reforming from barbarism towards the slowly evolving European world which eventually gave birth to British Common Law, the U.S.’s Bill of Rights and the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. Nowhere on planet earth today – or in history – have people enjoyed greater protection under the law from their governments than here in the “First” or “Western” world. Atheistic thinkers such as Harvard’s Steven Pinker readily admit that judeo-christian ethics are the foundation of North American and European views of mankind’s special position in the natural realm. Pinker is a radical philosopher that would sacrifice a handicapped baby in order to save the life of a non-handicapped one.1 This type of triage occurs all the time in societies that do not see humans as possessing a different value than animals and things. Continue reading “5 Things About Life That Show Christianity is True”→
After Rome destroyed Israel in A.D. 70, the Jews wandered the world for nearly 2,000 years without a country to call their own. Many Jews traveled through Israel and settled throughout its borders (including Jerusalem), but they did not have a nation. It would take the Western world in the 20th century to help birth the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. During the long stretch of orphanage, the Jewish holy land was mainly in the hands of the Muslim world. From A.D. 638 until the end of World War 1, Islamic Caliphates owned and ran the Jewish homeland. Continue reading “ISLAM PART 5: CREATION OF THE NATION OF ISRAEL”→
As the Muslim Caliphates expanded their territory across eastern Europe, northern Africa, Spain and many isles in the Mediterranean, the Christian world was seeing its territories fall, one after the other. The third Islamic caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate (A.D. 750-1298), saw the Muslim Moors cross into Spain and conquer it.
A turning point in western attitudes towards the east came in the year 1009, when the Fatimid caliph of Cairo, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, had the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem destroyed. His successor permitted the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it under stringent circumstances, and pilgrimage was again permitted, but many stories began to be circulated in the West about the cruelty of Muslims toward Christian pilgrims; these rumors then played an important role in the development of the crusades later in the century. Continue reading “Islam Part 3: The Crusades”→
Islam is the planet’s 2nd biggest religion, second only to Christianity. Problems between our Western Civilization and the Islamic movement are very relevant today. It is not simply a matter of historical interest. In our series we will learn about the geopolitical and theological aspects surrounding Islam. Where else could we begin than with the origins of the Muslim religion…
Often, people associate Islam with people of Arab descent. Arabs are an ethnicity whereas Islam is a religious system. The only reason the two are seemingly intertwined is that the prophet Mohamed and the first several generations of Muslims were from the Arabian Peninsula (modern day Saudi Arabia). As Islam spread throughout northern Africa, Asia Minor and south east Asia, the ethnic variability of Islam has changed drastically. Most Muslim immigrants to Europe and North America are from the Middle East, therefore most Westerners’ perspective of Islam is that it is synonimous with Arab descent. Yet there was a large variety of Arab peoples for thousands of years prior to the appearance of Islam. Continue reading “Islam Series – Part 1: Origins”→
Donald Henry Gaskins had been beaten and neglected as a child and had been in and out of court to face several burglary, sexual and physical assault charges throughout his life. Then he graduated to raping a twelve year old girl and killing at least 8 people. On September 6, 1991 he was executed by electric chair in South Carolina.
On March 1, 1932 Richard Hauptmann snuck into the bedroom of a 20 month old infant and kidnapped him. He left a note to the boy’s famous and wealthy father, Charles Lindbergh, demanding $50,000 for the return of the child. The money was delivered but the baby was never returned. A couple of weeks later the infant’s lifeless body was found in a nearby field, apparently dead from a blow to the head.
Richard Hauptmann was later arrested and charged with the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby boy. Court proceedings for Hauptmann were called the “Trial of the Century” due to the heinous nature of the crime. Hauptmann was dubbed by the press as the “most hated man in the world.” On April 3, 1936, Hauptmann was strapped into the New Jersey State Prison electric chair (dubbed “Old Smokey”) and executed.
Ted Bundy confessed to at least 30 murders across seven states in the U.S. during the 1970’s. His crimes were so horrendous that they redefined the notion of human depravity. Bundy not only killed his victims but often engaged in sex acts with them post mortem.
He even decapitated several victims and kept their heads as souvenirs. This degree of vicious perversion is usually not even found in horror cinema.
Bundy escaped while on trial in Colorado. He was recaptured in Florida some time later after committing more murders in a college dorm room. His trial and sentencing led to his January 24, 1989 execution in the electric chair.
All of these criminals were executed by electrocution. There is nothing glamorous about the electric chair. No one boasts about a family member that was put through this procedure. As we can see, the unsavory characters that are put through this type of death penalty are not beloved members of human society. Often their crimes are so dreadful that it is sickening to contemplate.
This is where Easter can come into a new focus. Easily the most beloved and revered figure in all of history, Jesus Christ is a man who was, like the murderers mentioned above, killed by a state execution. Yet even the dreadful criminals in our modern times received better treatment than Him. The method by which Jesus was killed was even more gruesome and obscene than the electric chair. He died a death more loathsome than Ted Bundy’s.
Today the Christian cross is a classic symbol of righteous triumph. Yet during Jesus’ generation it was a grotesquely slow and painful method of execution that was reserved for the bottom of the barrel criminals. In comparison the electric chair is a sanitary and dignified death penalty. Crucifixion on the other hand took several days of slow suffocation in which the criminal was exposed in public — often in the nude — and could be jeered at, spat upon and continually mocked until death overtook him due to kidney or heart failure. It was so depraved that Roman citizens were forbidden to be crucified, no matter their crimes.
Perhaps it is easier now to understand the shock of Peter and the disciples when Christ told them that He had to die by crucifixion. Imagine our disgust at having our beloved mentor be put through the same treatment as the 3 criminals mentioned at the beginning of this post. Imagine early Christians using the symbol of the electric chair to happily remember their Teacher. And now, imagine the likeness of electric chairs on every church roof throughout history, or millions of necklaces with electric chair pendants around the necks of grandmothers, fathers, pastors and people attending church.
What a strange and gruesome thought. Yet the cross is much more grotesque and unsophisticated. The only reason the symbol of the cross is palatable to Christians is that it is not the end of the story. No fan of John F Kennedy commemorates him by wearing a rifle necklace. Nor do friends, family and admirers celebrate the day Harvey Oswald shot him (Nov. 22, 1963). Yet the day of Christ’s execution is labelled “Good Friday” and Easter weekend is the single most important Christian holiday.
Absolutely none of this makes sense without the Resurrection.
The Resurrection makes the cross a symbol of the death of death itself. The victory of Life over death. No longer is even as gruesome an execution as crucifixion able to overshadow the size, brightness and power of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The conquering of the grave has inoculated crucifixion and turned the day of Christ’s execution into a Good day. On that day our death and judgment was cancelled.
Praise God for that. Take a moment to really thank Him.