Friday, April 28, 2006

The heteronormative majority

The following is an excerpt from an article by Katherine Kersten published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 19, 2006:

“Supporters of same-sex marriage often insist that ‘extending marriage rights’ to gay people is no big deal. It won't change life for the rest of us, they say. But if same-sex marriage becomes a civil right, the belief that one-man, one-woman marriage is best for kids becomes discriminatory, and those who hold it become bigots. Last year, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, the wife of movie star Will Smith, got a taste of what this might mean. In a speech at Harvard University in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, she told the audience, ‘Women, you can have it all -- a loving man, devoted husband, loving children, a fabulous career. ... You can do whatever it is you want.’ Harvard's Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance bristled. ‘Some of the content was extremely heteronormative, and made BGLTSA members feel uncomfortable,’ a spokesman complained to the Harvard Crimson. The BGLTSA demanded, and got, an apology. You better not speak up for traditional marriage in the Boston public schools. In May 2004 the district superintendent…emphasized the district's ‘zero tolerance’ for ‘discrimination’ and ‘hateful speech’ on issues of gay marriage and sexual orientation, and stated that students and staff members who breach the policy may be expelled or terminated. All this suggests the shape of things to come, says Mary Ann Glendon, a professor at Harvard Law School. In the future, she writes, religious organizations that promote one-man, one-woman marriage may risk losing tax-exempt status or academic accreditation. As the law changes to allow same-sex marriages or their equivalent, religious institutions, including schools, charities and ministries, ‘may be forced to retreat from their practices, or else face enormous legal pressure to change their views.’ In this brave new world, it's the ‘heteronormative’ majority that's starting to feel uncomfortable.”

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Scott Savage and Ohio State University

Last week, Recliner Commentaries reported on the case of an Ohio State University librarian who was charged with sexual harassment for recommending conservative books. According to the American Library Association Web page, the librarian, Scott Savage was "on the campus First Year Reading Experience Committee, which selects books for incoming freshmen to read as part of their immersion into campus life. In response to the suggestions of others on the committee that the list include liberal titles by such authors as Richard Dawkins and Jared Diamond, Savage responded by recommending—tongue-in-cheek, he later claimed—books by conservative authors David Kupelian, David Horowitz, Bat Ye’or, and Sen. Rick Santorum.”

The ALA article goes on to say, “Two English professors on the committee…filed a harassment complaint against Savage March 16, saying that the book he had recommended by Kupelian, The Marketing of Evil, was homophobic and that the librarians' recommendation created a “hostile work environment” and made them feel “fearful and uneasy” about being gay men.” Hmmm, what could be so offensive and threatening about this book?The following are some quotes from Kupelian’s book:

“In February 1988 some 175 leading activists representing homosexual groups from across the nation held a war conference in Warrenton, Virginia, to map out their movement’s future. Shortly thereafter, activists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen put into book form the comprehensive public relations plan they had been advocating with their gay-rights peers for years.” (23)

“Together they wrote After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the ‘90’s.” (23) “As cynical as it may seem,’ they explained at the outset, ‘AIDS gives us a chance, however brief, to establish ourselves as a victimized minority legitimately deserving of Americas’ special protection and care.” (23-24)

“The bottom line of Kirk and Madsen’s master plan? ‘The campaign we outline in this book, though complex, depends centrally upon a program of unabashed propaganda, firmly grounded in long-established principles of psychology and advertising.” (24)

“After the Ball became the public-relations ‘Bible’ of the movement.” (24)

The gay rights marketers explain: “When you’re very different, and people hate you for it’, they explain, ‘this is what you do: first, you get your foot in the door, by being as similar as possible; then, and only then—when your one little difference is finally accepted—can you start dragging in your other peculiarities, one by one. You hammer in the wedge narrow end first.” (25)

“In other words, sadomasochists, leather fetishists, cross-dressers, transgenders, and other ‘peculiar’ members of the homosexual community need to keep away from the tent and out of sight while the sales job is under way.” (25)

“Another important technique promoted by After the Ball, and employed repeatedly to great effect in recent years, is to claim that famous historical figures…were homosexual or bisexual. Although the authors know these claims are unproven at best and often baseless…, that doesn’t stop them from advocating the tactic.” (28)

“Thus 1990 saw the launch of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), which has since grown into a formidable organization. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, homosexual journalists from many major news organizations gathered in San Francisco for NLGJA’s gala conference held September 7, 2000. The discussion on center stage was surreal. It focused on the question of whether or not, when reporting on stories related to homosexuality, mainstream journalists have a responsibility to include any viewpoints that contradict those of homosexuals.” (30).

You would think that the entire faculty at this university would be in an uproar over the fact that faculty members would challenge books in the university library! Instead, many (if not most) of them seemed to side with the protesters. This incident at Ohio State just rips the mask off much of modern liberalism. Liberals and academics have long been at the forefront of the battle against censorship but the fact is that their long battle against censorship was a battle against the censorship of their ideas. Many modern liberals don’t seem to mind censoring ideas with which they disagree. If you think I'm exagerating, please read The New Thought Police by Tammy Bruce, a former director of the Los Angeles branch of the National Organization for Women. She provides an inside look into the censorship of the Left.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Adam and Steve

It has never been uncommon in America for a man to share an apartment with one or more men, or for a woman to share an apartment with one or more women. This has never been seen to be inappropriate and people didn’t usually question what they were doing behind closed doors.

So, if Adam and Steve want to share an apartment or house, for whatever reason, it is really none of anyone’s business. Likewise, if Adam and Steve have a very close personal bond (like David and Jonathan in the Bible) and, (unlike David, I don’t remember about Jonathan) choose never to get married, that’s none of anyone’s business either. If Adam and Steve want to create some kind of contractual legal partnership which would allow one to leave his financial assets to the other, or that would allow them to act as the legal proxy for each other, there is certainly nothing “sinful” about that and few people would object. Most people really don’t want to know what Adam and Steve may or may not be doing behind closed doors. It’s none of anyone’s business.

So if the gay rights movement was just about Adam and Steve living in the same house with a contractual arragnement providing legal benefits similar to that found in marriage, few people would bother to raise a fuss. Evangelicals, of course, would continue to preach against sexual relationships between members of the same sex, but they will also continue to preach against adultery or sex before marriage—that doesn’t mean they want to have government monitoring or arresting people for what they do in their bedrooms. So what is all the fuss about?

What many Americans object to are those in the more radical wing of the gay rights movement who don’t just want to live together or have legal contractual partnerships, they want you to know what they’re doing in the bedroom (it’s called, “coming out”). Some want to intimidate you into accepting what they are doing in the bedroom as a valid, morally acceptable, alternative lifestyle. Some want to use the public school system to indoctrinate your children to accept what they are doing in the bedroom as morally acceptable. Some want to encourage “questioning” kids to try out their “lifestyle.” Some want to force religious organizations to violate their own religious convictions on this issue. Some want to use legal tactics or intimidation to silence all opposition.

If the gay rights movement was just about letting Adam and Steve share a house, have some kind of a contractual, legal partnership, I doubt that the opposition would rise above a whimper.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Gospel of Judas commentary: part six

One of the key passages in the Gospel of Judas comes when Jesus tells Judas that Judas will “sacrifice the man that clothes me.” After this, Judas sees a “luminous cloud” and enters it.

Many years ago, critics of the biblical Gospels came up with numerous criteria with which to separate information in the biblical Gospels that was historically reliable from that which supposedly was not. For example: It is widely accepted that 1) the closer the event or saying was recorded to the time of Jesus, the more likely it is to be historically reliable, 2) events or sayings that are attested in more than one independent document are more likely to be reliable, and 3) if the information is contextually credible, that is, it “fits” with the historical, cultural, and religious background of first century Palestine and Judaism in which Jesus lived, it is more likely to be reliable.

First, the idea that Jesus collaborated with Judas is attested (actually, only hinted) in only one document (strike one) written 110 to 150 years after the time of Jesus (strike two). When the radical Jesus Seminar scholar, John Dominic Crossan was evaluating evidence about Jesus, either one of these "stikes" would have been enough for him to dismiss the evidence completely!
It was amazing, therefore, to see critics on the National Geographic documentary hyping the Gospel of Judas as if it had any credibility.

For decades the critics have rejected the Gospel of John as being historically unreliable, in part because it was written up to 70 years after the time of Jesus and was more abstract in nature than the other Gospels. The notorious Jesus Seminar, for example, rejected almost the entire Gospel of John as historically unreliable. The Gospel of Judas, on the other hand, is far more "abstract" than the Gospel of John, and was written much later, yet some biblical critics hype it up as if it had credibility!

Second, the idea that Jesus was betrayed by Judas comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts—at least two of these, Mark and John, are independent and all of these were written long before the Gospel of Judas.

Third, the Gospel of Judas is not contextually credible at all because it completely removes Jesus from his Jewish context. So by the critic’s own criteria, the weight of historical probability comes down strongly against the Gospel of Judas presentation of Judas as the hero.

In the last part of the Gospel of Judas, Jesus goes into the upper room for prayer and the high priests murmur. The Scribes want to arrest Jesus but are afraid to do so because all the people regard him as a prophet. Then, without transition or explanation, they ask Judas what he was doing there, Judas told them what they wanted to know, received his money, and handed Jesus over to them. Thus ends the Gospel of Judas.

There really was a Jesus. He really had disciples, one of whom was Judas who handed Jesus over to the authorities. Otherwise, Irenaeus (AD 180) was right. The Gospel of Judas is pure fiction. But what can you say? There are actually people who take the Da Vinci Code seriously too.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Gospel of Judas commentary: part five

According to the Gospel of Judas, “Nebro” or “Yaldabaoth” appears out of a cloud and creates six angels as his assistants. One of these is Saklas,” a reference to the God of the Bible. These six angles produce twelve more angels. Five angels rule over the underworld: Christ, Harmathoth, Galila, Yobel and Adonaios. “Then Saklas said to his angels, ‘Let us create a human being after the likeness and after the image.” They then create Adam and Eve.

Names like Yaldabaoth and Saklas (Aramaic for fool) are well known from other 2nd to 4th century Gnostic literature. For example, in the Apocryphon of John, the divine Sophia, one of the aeons from the great, invisible, virginal Monad, decides to conceive a child without the aid of a consort or, more importantly (gasp!), without the approval of the great virginal Monad. The result was dissimilar to “its” mother. It immediately changed in form to that of a lion-faced serpent, so Sophia put it in a luminous cloud so no one could see it except the mother of the living (Barbelo). She called it Yaldabaoth, also known as Saklas and Samael.

Note that Saklas is the God of the Bible in both the Gospel of Judas and in the Apocryphon of John, but in the Apocryphon of John, Yaldabaoth and Saklas are the same, where as in the Gospel of Judas Saklas is an angel-assistant of Yaldabaoth, but with so many gods to look after, I’m sure it’s hard to keep them straight. For example, Yobel and Adonaios are also found both in the Gospel of Judas and in the Apocryphon of John. In the Gospel of Judas, they are angels who rule over the underworld with Christ. In the Apocryphon of John they are aeons created in arrogance by Yaldabaoth.

Anyway, the Apocryphon of John portrays Yaldabaoth/Saklas as an arrogant, impious, ignorant being who thinks he is the only God. Yaldabaoth/Saklas is supposedly the Jewish God of the Old Testament. The writer of the Gospel of Judas, as well as the writers of other Gnostic writings, present God, the Father of Jesus, the God of the apostles and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as an evil fool, and the critics have the audacity to call these Anti-Christian, Anti-Semitic groups “Christian.” Although they sometimes thought of themselves as Christians, they have about as claim to being Christian as Muhammad who also had a lot to say about Christ.

The interesting thing is that the scholars who keep referring to these groups as "Christian" are not stupid—they know full well how anti-Christian and anti-Semitic many of these groups were. Clearly something other than objective scholarship is going on with these attacks.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Gospel of Judas commentary: part four

According to the Gospel of Judas, Jesus takes Judas away from the rest of the disciples to tell him the secret mysteries. Jesus tells Judas that someone will replace him so the disciples can “come to completion with their god”

Note the recurring themes of “secret mysteries” and “their god.” The god of Jesus in the Gospel of Judas is not the Jewish God of the disciples or the Christian church.

The Gospel of Judas seems to contain several allusions to the New Testament. The reference to replacing Judas is apparently an allusion to the replacement of Judas recorded in the Book of Acts. Just a few lines later the Gospel of Judas makes reference to “generations of stars,” and “trees without fruit and “in shameful manner." Wandering stars, fruitless trees and shame are all concepts mentioned in the very short letter of Jude 12-13. Later in the text, the Gospel of Judas makes reference to Jesus’ parable of the sower from the Gospel of Matthew. The Gospel of Judas also contains an allusion to First Corinthians 2:9. Matthew, Acts, First Corinthians and Jude are all, of course, in the New Testament.

Like so many Gnostic texts, the Gospel of Judas borrows ideas from the emerging core of the New Testament—The Gospels and Paul’s letters were recognized as sacred from as early as the late first century. The Christian leader, Irenaeus (AD 180) was so exasperated with these Gnostic groups—not because they rejected the New Testament, but because they pulled New Testament words and phrases out of context and twisted them to say things they couldn’t possibly have meant in their original contexts! This is exactly what we find in many of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts.

According to the Gospel of Judas, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the twelve priests in their dream and that the cattle they sacrifice are the men they lead astray. Jesus says others will come after them who kill children, sleep with men, and assure people that God has received their sacrifice from the priest.

The reference to sacrifices of priests is possibly a reference to the second century Christian priests and to the Eucharist. The derogatory reference to sleeping with men may possibly be an attack against the increasing avoidance of marriage by Christian priests. According to the Gospel of Judas, the bad guys in this story are the disciples of Jesus, and those who followed after them (i.e. church leaders). In fact, just a few lines later Judas reports a dream in which the disciples of Jesus were stoning and persecuting him. This is important. The Gospel of Judas portrays those who follow the teachings of Jesus as handed down through Jesus’ disciples, as the bad guys! Only Judas supposedly has the secret knowledge! To imagine that this comes from a Christian group (just because it talks about Jesus, Judas and the disciples) is absurd—ahh, but wait until Monday! That’s when the real absurdity begins!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Gospel of Judas commentary: Part three

According to the Gospel of Judas, when Jesus challenges his disciples to stand before him, only Judas rises to the challenge. Judas tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is really from the immortal aeon of Barbelo.

Barbelo is often referred to in 2nd to 4th century Gnostic literature. In the Apocryphon of John, for example (which was written about 100 years or more after the Gospel of Mark), Barbelo is the forethought of the great Monad, the invisible, virginal spirit who is over all (it will become clear later in my commentary, that this great Monad is absolutely not the Jewish God). With the “pure light” and “spark” from the invisible virginal spirit, Barbelo conceived and brought fourth an only-begotten child, Christ, the divine autogenes (or “self-generated,” another term found in the Gospel of Judas).

These three are called “The Father, the Mother, and the Son” in the Apocryphon of John and other Gnostic writings. As a side-note, I am personally convinced that it is from Gnostic groups calling themselves “Christian” that Muhammad, much later, came to think that Christians believed that God the Father had sex with God the Mother and produced God the Son. Muhammad rightly thought this idea was repulsive—but he was completely unaware of what true Christians really taught about the Trinity. I seem to recall Muhammad also referring to Allah as a “monad” in the Qur’an but I could be mistaken.

Anyway according to the Apocryphon of John, Christ requested that “it” (the Christ is referred to as “it”) asked for a fellow worker, and “mind” came forth. Then “word” appeared with “mind” and Christ, the divine Autogenes, created the world because of the word. After that numerous other aeons are created to attend Christ, Barbelo, and the virginal spirit. Some of these aeons include “will,” “thought,” life,” understanding,” “grace,” perception,” “prudence.” Then various “lights” were created, including Armozel, Oriel, Daveithai, Eleleth, etc. Then the divine Seth is placed over these lights. (Seth is also mentioned in the Gospel of Judas).

The point of this little essay on Barbelo is to show that while many of these Gnostic writings engage almost entirely in weird, heavenly, philosophical speculations about the origin and actions of a huge multitude of divine, and semi-divine beings, the biblical Gospels all talk about the earthly ministry of a human Jesus who, according to the biblical Gospels, had the extraordinary idea that he was the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies, not only about a coming Messiah, but about God visiting His people.

You may think that such an idea is insane, and you’re not alone. Most of Jesus’ own countrymen thought he was a blasphemer, insane, or even demon possessed Hmm, why would this be if Jesus was just thought of as a good teacher or a Jewish Cynic?. Anyway, those of Jesus’ followers who believed in Jesus apparently did so for several reasons. Some of those reasons are 1) because they were genuinely convinced that he really had fulfilled Jewish prophecies, 2) they were convinced that his miracles were genuine and far beyond what the magicians of his day or even the prophets of old had ever done before (as far as we know, no one denied that Jesus did miracles. His opponents just said he did them by the power of the Devil or that he was a great magician), and 3) because they were absolutely convinced that Jesus really had bodily risen from the dead--even the world-renowned Jewish scholar, E.P Sanders, and the secular scholar, Bart Ehrman (who was involved in the Gospel of Judas documentary) concede that it is historical fact that the disciples of Jesus were convinced that Jesus really had risen from the dead, though both of them would say that dead people simply don’t come back to life—ever.

Regardless of which side you come down on, it is clear that the biblical Gospels swim in an entirely different worldview ocean than most of these Gnostic gospels, including the Gospel of Judas.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Leftist Fascism in action

I need to interrupt my commentaries on the Gospel of Judas to make readers aware of something so egregious that it boggles the mind that this could actually happen in America! A librarian at Ohio State University is being charged with sexual harassment for recommending conservative books to library patrons (one of the books was written by a U.S. Senator)! What makes this story so astonishing, is that the charges don’t come from some emotionally disturbed student or a single left wing wacko, rather three professors filed charges with the Human Relations Department saying that the book suggestions made them feel “unsafe.” No only that, but the entire faculty voted to proceed with the investigation! See the Alliance Defense Fund,which is defending the librarian, for the full story (where is the ACLU or the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom when you need them? We’ll see if they jump in to help the librarian, but I’m not holding my breath. In fact, the ACLU is just as likely to support the school).

I can’t help thinking that this is the true face of leftist fascism with its mask off. For years they have screamed bloody murder about the terrible censorship of the religious right—How dare those terrible right wing religious fanatics try to censor pornographic books, videos and TV programs from little children! But for a college librarian to recommend conservative books to college students, well, that’s a different story! We just can't have that!

Be sure to read Tammy Bruce’s insightful blog on this story.

The Gospel of Judas commentary: Part two

This is a continuation of my commentary on selected parts of the Gospel of Judas.

The Gospel of Judas says that Jesus appeared, doing great miracles “for the salvation of humanity.”

Did anyone notice that all the hype surrounding the Gospel of Judas centered on Judas’ betrayal—or lack thereof—while none of the hype mentioned a lost gospel that supported the idea that Jesus did great miracles for the salvation of humanity?

The Gospels of Judas says that Jesus chose twelve disciples and would sometimes appear to them as a child.

While the biblical Gospels agree that Jesus is “God with us,” they also present Jesus as thoroughly human. By contrast, the Gnostic writings all agree that Jesus was some kind of divine being, but they tend to deny his humanity (note that this is contrary to the Da Vinci Code which says that these writings affirm only his humanity and not his divinity). In some of these writings Jesus is kind of a shape-shifter who can appear as a child or in various other forms. The theme of the child appears often in Gnostic writings—they apparently viewed children as closer to the ideal androgynous state.

According to the Gospel of Judas, one day Jesus found his disciples praying and he laughed, saying they were just trying to praise their god.

The key phrase here is “their god.” This is not an accident. Just a few lines later in the Gospel of Judas, Jesus tells the disciples that their god has provoked them to anger. In the Gospel of Judas, the God of the disciples, i.e. the Jewish God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is their God, not his. The historical choice is clear. Either the New Testament documents (written in the first century), are right that the God Jesus called “Father” is the Jewish God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or the Gnostic writings (written from the 2nd to 4th centuries), are right that the god Jesus referred to was not the Jewish God. Frankly, none of the critical Jesus’ scholars think the Gnostic Gospels are historically reliable. The critics just want to undermine the biblical Gospels and traditional Christianity.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Gospel of Judas commentary: Part one

Over the next few days I’ll provide a very tentative commentary on selected parts of the Gospel of Judas based on my summary (yesterday’s post). To read the actual translation of the Gospel of Judas, see The Gospel of Judas, edited by Rodolphe Kasser et al., Washington DC : National Geographic, 2006). Phrases in quotes below are quotations from this translation.

The Gospel of Judas begins by saying this is a secret account that Jesus revealed to Judas just days before Jesus’ death.

This idea of secret knowledge communicated by Jesus to Judas is a recurring theme in the Gospel of Judas. In the second century AD, Irenaeus argued that we Christians could trace our core teaching about Jesus back to those taught by the apostles, to the apostles themselves and ultimately to Jesus. This succession of teaching was apparently so well known that, generally speaking, the Gnostics didn’t even try to dispute it. What they did was to simply side-step the issue by claiming that Jesus had privately revealed secret knowledge to a particular disciple or associate of Jesus--knowledge that the rest of the disciples (and, therfore, the church) didn’t have.

In other words, these Gnostic groups would argue that the church was teaching essentially what Jesus taught publicly to his disciples and to the people, but in private he taught something entirely different to one of his followers. The Gospel of Mary, or the Gospel of Judas, or the Gospel of Thomas, or the Gospel of Philip, etc. was supposedly that secret revelation. Of course, the content of the teaching in these Gnostic gospels was often very different not only from the biblical Gospels, but from each other. What many of the Gnostic writings did agree on was that we live in an essentially polytheistic universe and that the God of the Old Testament was an evil, ignorant, and malevolent god. This raises a couple of questions:

First, why do many of the more radical Jesus scholars insist on calling these Gnostic groups “Christian” when the entire worldview of most Gnostic writings was decidedly polytheistic, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish? (It would be like calling Muslims “Christians” just because Muhammad had good things to say about Jesus—come to think of it, Islam’s view of God is closer to Christianity than were these Gnostic groups. At least Islam is monotheistic and claims to worship the God of Abraham. The answer to my question is that many of these scholars apparently want to re-write Christian history in an attempt to make orthodox Christianity appear to have no more historical legitimacy than any of these second century Gnostic groups.

Second, since most of the Gnostic documents present an entirely different worldview from that Christianity or the Judaism from which Christianity grew, why should anyone be surprised that Christians never even considered these anti-Semitic, anti-Christian documents as part of their New Testament? And why do some scholars try to pretend this was all part of some conspiracy by supposedly powerful Christian bishops in the fourth century? The answer is that many modern academics want you to think that the collection of the New Testament was entirely about power and had nothing to do with the reliability of the tradition about Jesus.

Surely something other than honest, objective scholarship is going on in the recent attacks against Jesus and orthodox Christianity.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Gospel of Judas: a summary

So what does the Gospel of Judas really say? Because of copyright laws, I can’t reproduce the Gospel of Judas here, but I can provide a detailed summary in my own words. The following, therefore, is my detailed summary of The Gospel of Judas, based on the account published in The Gospel of Judas, edited by Rodolphe Kasser et al., Washington DC : National Geographic, 2006). Phrases below in quotes are direct quotations from this book. My explanatory comments are in brackets.

The Gospel of Judas begins by saying this is a secret account that Jesus revealed to Judas just days before Jesus’ death. Jesus appeared, doing great miracles for people's salvation. He chose twelve disciples and would sometimes appear to them as a child. One day Jesus found his disciples praying [in context, probably a reference to the Last Supper] and he laughed, saying they were just trying to praise their god. His disciples say that he is the Son of God and he responds by saying that no one really knows him.

This infuriates the disciples and they begin thinking blasphemous thoughts against him. Jesus says that their God within them has provoked them to anger, and challenges any of them to stand before his face. Judas alone rises to the challenge and tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is really from the immortal aeon of Barbelo [a virgin god mentioned constantly in 2nd-4th century Gnostic literature]. Jesus calls Judas away from the rest of the disciples to tell him the secret mysteries. Jesus tells Judas that someone will replace him so the disciples can “come to completion with their god." Jesus then goes away.

The next day, Jesus explains that he went away to another realm. When asked about this realm, Jesus laughs and says that no one of this aeon, of mortal birth, will see that generation.

On another day, the disciples tell Jesus about a dream they had, in which twelve priests commit many sins, such as sacrificing their children and sleeping with men. These priests invoke Jesus’ name as they stand before the altar. Jesus responds saying something about the “generations of the stars” [part of the text is missing] and that they “have planted trees without fruit…in a shameful manner.” Jesus tells his disciples that they are the twelve priests and that the cattle they sacrifice are the men they lead astray. Jesus says other men will come after them, who kill children, sleep with men, and assure people that God has received their sacrifice from the priest [possibly a reference to the offering of Eucharist]. Jesus says they will be put to shame on the last day and commands them to stop sacrificing and “struggling” with him.

Judas asks what kind of fruit this generation produces and Jesus responds saying that people’s body will die but their souls will be taken up. Judas asks about the rest of humanity and Jesus says fruit cannot be harvested from seed sown on rock. Jesus says this is the way of the “corruptible Sophia.” Then Jesus left.

The next thing that happens, without transition or explanation, is that Judas tells Jesus that he has seen a vision. Laughing, Jesus calls Judas “You thirteenth spirit” and says he will listen. In Judas’ vision, the twelve disciples were stoning Judas. Judas came to a huge house with many people around. Jesus tells Judas that Judas’ star has led him astray and that no one “of mortal birth” was worthy to enter that house because it was only for the holy. Jesus says he has explained the “mysteries of the kingdom and has taught “about the error of the stars,” and something about “the twelve aeons” [the text is defective].

Judas asks if “his seed” could be under control of the archons. Jesus says that Judas “will become the thirteenth,” and “will be cursed” but will eventually “rule over the other generations. Jesus then invites Judas to learn about secrets no one has ever seen. Jesus tells Judas about “a great and boundless realm” in which there is a “great invisible Spirit,” using language very similar to First Corinthians 2:9. Then “the enlightened divine Self-Generated” comes out of a “luminous cloud” and creates “myriads” of angelic beings and “enlightened aeons.” Someone [Adamas, or Adam is mentioned in the context, but the text is defective] makes the incorruptible aeon of Seth appear, as well as seventy-two luminaries. The seventy-two incorruptible luminaries cause “three hundred sixty” incorruptible luminaries to appear. Then there are “twelve aeons, and “six heavens for each aeon” for a total of “seventy-two heavens for the seventy two luminaries.” Each of them have five “firmaments” totaling three hundred sixty firmaments.

Then out of a cloud appears “Nebro” or Yaldabaoth [in other Gnostic writings, Nebro mates with Saklas, resulting in twelve aeons. Yaldabaoth is often associated, in one way or another, with the God of the Bible]. “Nebro creates six angels as his assistants. One of these is Saklas [Aramaic for “fool,” a reference to the God of the Bible]. These six angles produce twelve more angels. Five angels rule over the underworld: Christ, Harmathoth, Galila, Yobel and Adonaios. “Then Saklas said to his angels, ‘Let us create a human being after the likeness and after the image.” They then create Adam and Eve.

Judas then asks Jesus how long people will live and Jesus responds saying that God ordered the angel “Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan” but he ordered the angel of Gabriel to give spirits to the “great generation” apparently as a gift.

Judas asks what those generations will do. Jesus says “the stars bring matters to completion” and when Saklas’ time is completed, “their first star will appear with the generations,” and that they would fornicate in Jesus’ name and kill their children. Then Jesus laughs because the “six stars wander about with these five combatants, and they will be destroyed….”

Judas then asks about those baptized in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ response is unclear due to defective text, but he apparently says something about those who offer sacrifices to Saklas and something about “everything that is evil.”

Then comes one of the key passages in the whole gospel: Jesus tells Judas that Judas will “sacrifice the man that clothes me.” After this, Judas sees a “luminous cloud” and enters it.

Finally, Jesus goes into the upper room for prayer and the high priests murmur. The Scribes want to arrest Jesus but are afraid to do so because all the people regard him as a prophet. Then, without transition or explanation, they ask Judas what he was doing there, Judas told them what they wanted to know, received his money, and handed Jesus over to them. Thus ends the Gospel of Judas.

If you think the summary is confusing, the original is just as confusing. Come back tomorrow for some commentary and explanation of this nonsense.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Anti-Semitism and the Gospel of Judas documentary

No doubt about it, the Christian Church has a terrible and shameful record of anti-Semitism. Much of this anti-Semitism comes from people who, while claiming to be Christian, were actually no more Christian—in the New Testament sense—than Osama Ben Laden! For example, it is nonsense to imagine that the Nazi generated holocaust was in any sense “Christian." True Christians were those who risked their lives hiding Jews from the Nazis.

The sad fact remains, however, that many genuine Christians, like Martin Luther, for example, were guilty of anti-Semitism. This is certainly inexcusable, but to blame anti-Semitism on the New Testament--as did some of the scholars interviewed on the Gospel of Judas documentary--is a misguided (or deliberate?) misunderstanding of the New Testament.

The fact is that Jews have been critiquing themselves since the very earliest times. The Jewish prophets, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, Amos and others, were merciless in their criticism against their fellow Jews. In fact, even Moses was particularly critical against his own Jewish followers. None of these Jewish prophets, however, attacked the Jewish God of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob—they criticized their fellow Jews for departing from their own God to serve other gods, or for living lives of corruption and immorality, or for piously going through the rituals of sacrifice but then continuing to oppress their neighbor.

Far from being anti-Semitic, the portrayal of Jesus in the biblical Gospels fits precisely the pattern of these earlier prophets. Far from being anti-Semitic, St. Paul, the former Pharisee, writes that he would willingly go to hell if it would save his own Jewish countrymen! That is certainly not anti-Semitism.

On the other hand the Nag Hammadi documents—you know, the ones rejected by those terrible fourth century Christian bishops—have a lot to say about the God of the Jews. In fact, they launch a full frontal attack against the core of Judaism itself. Over against the monotheism of both Christianity and Judaism, these documents are essentially polytheistic! They espouse a world view filled with gods and goddesses, archons, aeons, totalities, etc. In fact, they repeatedly teach that the god of the Jews is an ignorant, evil low order god! Talk about anti-Semitism!

The point of all this is to highlight some amazing hypocrisy. Some biblical critics who attack the New Testament for anti-Semitism—most recently exemplified in the documentary on the Gospel of Judas—are often the same ones who are glorifying the Nag Hammadi documents that are positively vile in their anti-Semitic denunciations of Jewish belief. And yet these critics have the nerve to attack early Christian bishops for rejecting these anti-Semitic documents!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Women and Christian bishops

Many modern critics—exemplified by those in the documentary abut the Gospel of Judas—are eager to heap scorn on early Christian bishops for rejecting so many documents from the New Testament. Some critics also vent their wrath on St. Paul for offending modern sensibilities by telling women to keep silent in their church meetings. It is fascinating, therefore, to read the views about women contained in the very documents these critics seem so eager to support. For example:

Gospel of Thomas
Jesus said, I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every women who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven

Book of Thomas the Contender
Woe to you (pl.) who love intimacy with womankind and polluted intercourse with them!

Flee from the madness and bondage of femaleness and choose for yourselves the salvation of maleness

Letter of Peter to Philip
First of all concerning [the deficiency] of the aeons, this [is] the deficiency, when the disobedience and the foolishness of the mother appeared without the commandment of the majesty of the Father

Tripartite Tractate
When he who produced himself as perfect actually did bring himself forth, he became weak like a female nature which has abandoned its virile counterpart

And it is these who took form with him, but according to the image of the Pleroma, having their fathers who are the ones who gave them life, each one being a copy of each one of the faces, which are forms of maleness, since they are not from the illness which is femaleness…”

The Sophia of Jesus Christ
Every aeon and chaos that the defect of the female might

Dialogue of the Savior
The Lord said, ‘Pray in the place where there is no woman.’ Matthew said, ‘Pray in the place where there is [no woman], he tells us, meaning, Destroy the works of womanhood…”

Paraphrase of Shem
And my garment rubbed Nature in her covering. And her unclean femininity was strong. And the wrathful womb came up and made the mind dry…

Second Treatise of the Great Seth
And do not become female, lest you give birth to evil and (its) brothers: jealousy and division, anger and wrath, fear and a divided hearth, and empty, non-existent desire

For those who were in the world had been prepared by the will of our sister Sophia—she who is a whore—because of the innocence which has not been uttered

Apocalypse of James
The perishable has [gone up] to the imperishable and the female element has attained to this male element

(The quotes above come from The Nag Hammadi Library edited by James Robinson, San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, 1988)

Can you imagine the uncontrollable rage and frothing-at-the-mouth wrath that biblical critics would have vented against the church, if these documents had been accepted into the New Testament? Isn’t it ironic that these are the very documents modern critics seem so eager to support? Can anyone seriously doubt that something other than honest scholarship is going on in these bigoted attacks against traditional Christianity—like those seen most recently in the Gospel of Judas documentary?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On writings suppressed by bishops

One of the underlying themes of the Gospel of Judas documentary was that powerful Christian bishops in the fourth century selected the four gospels that agreed with their theology, and kicked out all the rest. Although this idea is remarkably misleading, let’s pretend for a minute that this is really what happened. Exactly what was it that these powerful Christian bishops were rejecting (and that the modern critics seem so determined to support)? Here’s a small sample:

Gospel of Truth
Therefore, all the emanations of the Father are pleromas, and the root of all his emanations is in the one who made them all grow up in himself

Gospel of Thomas
Jesus said, ‘When you disrobe without being ashamed and take up your garment and place them under your feet like little children and tread on them, then [will you see] the son of the living one, and you will not be afraid

Gospel of Philip
Echamoth is one thing and Echmoth another. Echamoth is Wisdom simply, but Echmoth is the Wisdom of death with is the one which knows death which is called ‘the little Wisdom”

Gospel of the Egyptians
…the aeons of light of the unrevealable, unmarked, ageless, unproclaimable Father, the aeon of aeons, Autogenes, self-begotten, self-producing, alien, the really true aeon. Three powers came forth from him; they are the Father, the Mother, (and) the Son

The second ogdoad-power, the Mother, the virginal Barbelon epititioch [….] ai, memeneaiment[…who] presides over the heaven…”

Then the great Seth gave praise to the great, uncallable, virginal Spirit, and the male virgin Barbelon, and the thrice-male child Telmael Telmael Heli Heli machar Marhar Seth…

Gospel of Mary
When the soul had overcome the third power, it went upwards and saw the fourth power, (which) took seven forms. The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance, the fourth is the excitement of death, the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the foolish wisdom, the seventh is the wrathful wisdom. These are the seven powers of wrath.

Apocryphon of John
…the glory of Barbelo, the perfect glory in the aeons, the glory of the revelation, she glorified the virginal Spirit and it was she who praised him…she became the womb of everything for it is she who is prior to them all, the Mother-Father, the first man, the holy spirit, the thrice-male, the thrice powerful, the thrice-named androgynous one and the eternal aeon…

On the Origin of the World
After the natural structure of the immortal beings had completely developed out of the infinite, a likeness then emanated from Pistis (Faith); it is called Sophia (Wisdom).

And thus the number of the six authorities of chaos was achieved. Then Death, being androgynous, mingled with his (own) nature and begot seven androgynous offspring. These are the names of the male ones: Jealousy, Wrath, Tears, Sighing, Suffering, Lamentation, Bitter Weeping. And these are the names of the female ones: Wrath, Pain, Lust, Sighing, Curse, Bitterness, Quarrelsomeness. They had intercourse with one another, and each one begot seven, so that they amount to forty-nine androgynous demons

The Apocalypse of James
The Lord said, ‘James, do not be concerned for me or for this people. I am he who was within me. Never have I suffered in any way, nor have I been distressed

The Apocalypse of Adam
The tenth kingdom says of him that his god loved a cloud of desire. He begot him in his hand and cast upon the cloud above him (some) of the drop, and he was born. And the eleventh kingdom says that the father desired his [own] daughter. She herself became pregnant [from] her father

The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth
Therefore I command that this teaching be carved on stone, and that you place it in my sanctuary. Eight guardians guard it with[…] of the sun. The males on the right are frog-faced, and the females on the left are cat-faced. And put a square mild-stone at the base of the turquoise tables and writ the name on the azure stone tablet in hieroglyphic characters

The Paraphrase of Shem
And when Darkness had acquired the likeness of the mind, it resembled the Spirit. For Nature rose up to expel it; she was powerless against it, since she did not have a form from the darkness. For she brought it forth in the cloud. And the cloud shone. A mind appeared in it like a frightful, harmful fire. It (i.e. the mind) collided against the unbegotten Spirit since it possessed a likeness form him. In order that Nature might become empty of the chaotic fire, then immediately nature was divided into four parts. They became clouds which varied in their appearance. They were called hymen, Afterbirth, Power, (and) Water

And when her forms returned, the rubbed their tongue(s) with each other; they copulated; they begot winds and demons and the power which is from the fire and the Darkness and the Spirit. But the form which remain alone cast the beast from herself. She did not have intercourse, but she was the one who rubbed herself alone. And she brought forth a wind which possessed a power from the fire and the Darkness and the Spirit

But the winds, which are demons from water and fire and darkness and light, had intercourse unto perdition. And through this intercourse the winds received in their womb foam from the penis of the demons. They conceived a power in their womb

She was called Barbelo because (of her being) thought; the triple [race] (which is) male, virginal (and) perfect and her knowledge through which she came into being…

For [the power] is attending [to me, leading] me into [the Aeon which] is Barbelo, [the] male [Virgin]. For this reason the Virgin became male, because she had been divided from the male

Trimorphic Portennoia
I am androgynous. [I am Mother (and) I am] Father since [I copulate] with myself. I [copulated] with myself [and with those who love] me [and it is through me alone that the All [stands firm]. I am the Womb [that gives shape] to the All by giving birth to the Light that [shines in] splendor. I am the Aeon to [come…

(The quotes above come from The Nag Hammadi Library edited by James Robinson, San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, 1988. The reader is encouraged to purchase a copy to see that the above quotes are not just isolated examples of such nonsense)

Can any honest, intelligent human being seriously question why early Christian churches might have left such dung out of their New Testament? Can you imagine the additional scorn and ridicule that that critics would heap on Christians if any of this nonsense were included in the Bible? You see, it’s a matter of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t." The critics act as if these so-called powerful Christian bishops were in some kind of conspiracy to keep the “truth” from people, but if the Church had included these documents, you can bet the house that the critics' scorn would have known no bounds! Do you suppose that something other than serious, objective scholarship is going on in the radical critical attacks on Jesus and the New Testament?

Ahh, but it gets worse. Come back tomorrow to find out how these rejected writings portrayed women.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Gospel of Judas and critical scholarship

I watched National Geographic’s special on the Gospel of Judas last night and was stunned. To understand my reaction, you need to understand something about critical scholarship and the biblical gospels.

For years critics and skeptics have argued incessantly that we really can’t trust the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, because they are supposedly filled with decades of encrusted tradition (To get the effect you need to emphasize the part about decades of encrusted tradition as if 40-70 years were an eternity)!

The Gospel of John especially falls under the critics’ scorn since it was written last, probably 60-70 years after Jesus’ death, and is more theological in nature than Matthew, Mark and Luke. The infamous "Jesus Seminar," for example, dismissed almost the entire Gospel of John as being unhistorical.

Enter the Gospel of Judas. Unlike the biblical gospels, the Gospel of Judas takes Jesus out of his historical Jewish context, is even more esoteric in nature than the Gospel of John, and was written 30-80 years after the Gospel of John—100-150 years after Jesus death! Surely any scholars who were so skeptical of the biblical gospels would have much more reason to be skeptical of the Gospel of Judas, wouldn’t they?

Although I suspected that this program was going to be a snow job (it was) I was still amazed to see scholars who are so critical of the historical reliability of the biblical gospels, treating the Gospel of Judas as if it should be taken seriously! In fact, one scholar who spoke so glowingly about the Gospel of Judas had actually been a member of the same Jesus Seminar that did such a hatchet job on the biblical gospels! Could it be that something other than objective scholarship is going on here? More specifics on this tomorrow.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

Yesterday, the discovery of the ancient Gospel of Judas was announced with much fanfare. It was a leading story on one of the TV news shows this morning and will be the subject of a National Geographic documentary this weekend.

Although the particular manuscript copy actually discovered was carbon dated to the 3rd/4th century AD, the original document was written as early as AD 140-180. Discovered in 1978, this ancient papyrus document may be the same Gospel of Judas referred to by Irenaeus.

In the 180's AD, Irenaeus wrote extensively on numerous ancient religious cults. One of these groups, known as the Cainites, thought they were descendants of “Esau, Korah, [and] the Sodomites.” Irenaeus wrote that “They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.”

Writing fictitious gospels was the “in” thing in the second to fourth centuries AD. Numerous second to fourth century gospels and documents were discovered in 1945, including “The Gospel of Thomas.” These documents, not including the Gospel of Judas, have been translated in a book called, The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James Robinson.

Anyone who has actually ever read the Nag Hammadi documents knows that they are usually so absurdly bizarre that they have virtually no claim to historical reliability—unless, of course, you think that women must become men in order to be saved, or that being female is a "defect," an "illness," or “madness” or that Jesus never suffered in any way and, in fact, was laughing at everyone while on the cross. Or perhaps you believe that the androgynous god "Death" begot seven androgynous female offspring named "Wrath, Pain, Lust, Sighing, Curse, Bitterness, [and] Quarrelsomeness." Hmmm, I wonder why no early church leaders considered these Nag Hammadi documents as part of their New Testament?

Still, the media is having a great time with this, partly out of their lack of knowledge and partly, no doubt, for ratings.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Illegal immigrants: a modest proposal

Kudos to America’s illegal immigrants—in mass protest marches our illegal immigrants conducted themselves far more honorably than some of the protesters who live in France legally!

Of course, I’m being semi-cynical, but perhaps rather than punishing our illegal immigrants, we should start prosecuting all the business owners who avoid paying a living wage by hiring illegal immigrants in the first place. And then prosecute those who for years have refused to uphold or enforce the immigration laws already on the books!

We provide jobs, education, and medical care at public expense and wonder why people come across our borders illegally? We literally hold out the promise of food and medical care to needy families and then vilify them for taking it! We enjoy the slightly lower cost of food and services made available because of cheap illegal labor, and then want to prosecute the illegals for making this possible! My guess is that if all jobs and public funding dried up, the flood of illegal aliens would be headed south, not north!

My tentative proposal is this: Provide a guest worker program to virtually all illegal aliens who do not have a criminal record or terrorist ties. Give them up to one year to sign up as a guest worker, after which, all public, tax-based funding, entitlements and support for those who remain illegal would stop cold—no public education, no tax-supported medical care, no food stamps, no welfare, no drivers’ licenses—absolutely nothing at government expense except accommodations in Arizona's tent prisons for those who did not sign up.

Anyone who knowingly violated this law—all the way from mayors, police chiefs, or principals who refused to enforce the law, to business owners who hire undocumented aliens—would be subject to prison time. Then double or even triple the number of immigrants who could come the U.S. legally, and hire enough immigration officials to process them expeditiously. Finally, put the U.S. military on the boader with authorization to use deadly force against anyone headed north.

Obviously a lot of details would have to be worked out in this proposal, but in broad outline, what's wrong with it?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Congresswomen McKinney and racism

Chalk up another set-back for race relations. Last week black congresswomen Cynthia McKinney was entering the Capital building when she went around the metal detectors. She wasn’t wearing her security lapel pin and a security officer didn’t recognize her (there are, after all, several hundred members of congress). The officer asked her to stop—three times—before finally reaching out to grab her. She responded by striking the officer (I’m not sure the officer should have grabbed Ms. McKinney—he probably should have knocked her to the ground and put her in handcuffs)!

Rather than apologizing, Ms. McKinney’s initial response was a responsibility-avoiding “regret” that the incident happened. Now, however, her tone has changed. She now says that inappropriate touching and racial profiling were the issue. In a press conference, McKinney’s supporters (all black as far as I could tell), dogmatically charged that she was a victim of racism.

Ms. Mc Kinney was interviewed only moments ago on Fox and Friends. When asked “what did you do,” Ms. McKinney responded saying it was all “much ado about a hairdo” and that Capital security “ought to be about face recognition.” When asked if Capital security should be able to stop those they don’t recognize, Ms. McKinney said it should be part of the job description to recognize everyone in congress. When asked about her charges of racism, Ms. Mc McKinney said that issues of racial profiling needed to be addressed. When asked bluntly, “did you hit him” Ms. Mc Kinney filibustered until her lawyer jumped in and said the incident was under investigation.

Quite frankly, I felt sickened after seeing the press conference, and the interview did nothing to ease my concern. In the interview Ms. McKinney would not say what happened, and her lawyer said the incident was still under investigation, but before the facts were known or any investigation had been completed, her black supporters in the press conference had automatically assumed that since the officer was white, Ms McKinney must have been the innocent victim of racism! McKinney herself, rather than assuming that this may have been an officer who just hadn’t memorized the faces of hundreds of congress-people (or even if he had memorized their faces, just didn’t recognize Ms. McKinney in a different hairdo) automatically charged him and the entire Capital security force with racism!

This is not only sickening, it is despicable! White Americans have, for decades, tried to correct their sin of racism with affirmative action, education programs, racial reconciliation conferneces and endless racial sensitivity and multi-cultural workshops, seminars and training sessions. Maybe white America still has a long way to go, but we’ve certainly come a long way too. Now, however, if America is going to make any more progress on racism, it is time for black leaders to address the rampant racism in their own community. Unless they do so, the race problem in America will never go away—and maybe that’s just what some black leaders want, since they derive much of their political power precisely by exploiting real or imagined instances of racism.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Breaking News: Violence in France

As I write this many areas of France are in turmoil. Initial estimates run as high as a million people in 150 cities, marching in protests--and many of the protests have turned violent. As night begins to fall in France, police in riot gear are trying to restore order.

Ebola and mass murder

Shawn Carlson and Forest Mims of “The Citizen Scientist” have reported that Dr. Eric Pianka (an evolutionary ecologist from the University of Texas Arlington) gave a speech recently before the Texas Academy of Science in which he “endorsed airborne Ebola as an efficient means for eliminating 90 percent of the world’s population.” At one point he is reported to have said, “We are no better than bacteria.” After the speech he received “an enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation.”

The scary thing about this story, if true, is not so much that a mad scientist would advocate such views, but that he would be applauded by other scientists in a presumably mainstream scientific association! A quotation from St. Paul comes to mind: “Professing themselves to be wise they became as fools.”

Monday, April 03, 2006

Michael Astorga

Michael Astorga has been committing violent crimes since he was a teenager. He was arrested in 1994 for battery. In 1996 he and his brother were charged with first degree murder—his brother was convicted but Michael walked. He has a long list of other crimes including another battery charge, property crimes, and a long list of drug crimes including trafficking—usually while carrying a deadly weapon. In fact, in 1998 he was sentenced to prison for eight different felonies—but we released on good behavior only six years later. Not long after this release, in March 2005, he was arrested for violating parole—but was released again in June 2005. Then, in November 2005 a warrant was issued for Astorga’s arrest for shooting Candida Martinez in the head. She died a few hours later and Astorga walked out of a meeting with his parole officer just a few hours after the warrant had been sworn out for his arrest. Now, just a few days ago, after being pulled over for a routine traffic stop, Michael Astorga shot and killed Deputy Sheriff James McGrane, leaving McGrane’s wife a widow and his children fatherless. (KRQE News, KOAT News, America’s Most Wanted, Albuquerque Tribune, March 28, 2006).
How many innocent people have to be assaulted, robbed, raped, or murdered before this society decides to get serious with repeat, violent criminals?