Notes and Summary of the President's Address -- "Easter"
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This weekend, families across America are coming together to celebrate Easter. This is the most important holiday in the Christian faith. And during this special and holy time each year, millions of Americans pause to remember a sacrifice that transcended the grave and redeemed the world.
How does the message of Easter affect law, politics, and economics?
What is the message of Easter?
Does it matter? is "Easter" an appropriate subject for a political webpage like this?
Each year millions of Americans show up at church dressed in new Spring outfits. Children sometimes bring their colored eggs and chocolate bunnies to Sunday School. Other than at Christmas, this may be the only time they're seen in church. They hope to hear an inspiring, uplifting Easter message.
But there's a lot about Easter that's not "inspiring" or "uplifting."
Easter is a memorial for the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
But how did He die?
He was assassinated. The government would say He was "executed," but that has the connotation of "legal." Jesus was murdered. And crucifixion was the most barbaric, sadistic form of death-by-torture conceived. Mel Gibson's movie graphically depicted this violent torture.
This violence is somewhat acceptable to Americans, and even breaks box-office records. But there's another kind of violence displayed at Easter which is less acceptable to many people.
The execution of Christ was not an unforeseen event, but was planned and predestined even before we were created (Revelation 13:8).
he violence directed against Jesus by the Jews and the Romans was actually the anger of God toward us, and Jesus became the scapegoat, the propitiation of His Father's wrath. Some ostensibly Christian leaders have found this account to be a form of "cosmic child abuse." (Government schooling, which leaves millions of children functionally illiterate and unable to comprehend the concept of "propitiation," and thus the meaning of Easter, is not child abuse, of course.)
An angry God is bad enough, but anger directed at us -- that's intolerable. That's bad religion.
Violence is an inescapable part of the Bible. The God of the Bible is a very angry God. And contrary to the popular myth, Jesus was more angry and violent than the God of the Old Testament. But what offends modern sensibilities is that this violent anger is directed against us. The Bible says we are "sinners in the hands of an angry God."
In order to escape God's anger, the Hebrews were instructed to slaughter animals in the Temple. Jesus was said to be the last sacrificial animal, "the Lamb of God." His execution was the substitution of Jesus for the violent wrath of God that was directed at us for trying to be our own gods.
But the death of Jesus was not the end of the story, and here's where "bad religion" becomes "bad politics" -- at least for politicians. Jesus rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God -- "the throne of David" -- ruling the universe. The Lamb who was slain in an act of "cosmic child abuse" becomes a cosmic dictator (Revelation 5:12) and terrorist, taking vengeance against His enemies, driving them to say to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!" (Revelation
These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
It is now our duty to serve the Lamb-King before His throne (Revelation 22:3).
This means suffering martyrdom rather than worshiping Caesar.
This means paying more at the pump rather than asking Caesar to create an empire, enslaving or killing millions, in order to keep the oil flowing to the homeland.
In his Saturday morning radio address, President Bush -- who famously said that Jesus Christ was his favorite political philosopher -- said Easter "is the most important holiday in the Christian faith." Indisputable.
But how do Christians live once they have been transformed by Easter? How do Christians serve the Lamb-King? According to Bush, Easter is lived out in the war in Iraq:
On Easter, we remember especially those who ... have lived out the words of the Gospel: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Is this really what the Christ of Easter bids us to do: take up arms and overthrow foreign governments, killing tens of thousands of innocent women and children in the process? Or is that really bad politics?
Perhaps the first question we should ask is, "Who sez?" Where should we turn to learn the real meaning of Easter. Who is the expert? Who is the authority? Does Bush define Easter?
An encyclopedia maybe? The long article on Easter in Wikipedia begins with this statement:
Christians celebrate this day in observance of their belief that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion, now estimated to have taken place between the years AD 26 and AD 36.
Good enough. But the rest of the article consists almost entirely of ecclesiastical discussions about which day or month Easter should be celebrated, and sections on "The Religious Observance of Easter" (church services) and Non-Religious Easter Traditions (coloring eggs). Was Christ tortured to death and raised from the dead so we could have a wide variety of church services to choose from on Easter Sunday? Is Easter over at midnight on Sunday?
There is nothing in the Wikipedia article that would tell anyone if President Bush's recommended Easter tradition of armed invasion and military occupation is correct or not.
How about the Bible. Can we trust the Bible?
The men who signed the U.S. Constitution would have said yes.
The 7th Amendment of the Constitution (part of the "Bill of Rights") says:
A unanimous US Supreme Court wrote 100 years ago:
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning. They affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people. While because of a general recognition of this truth the question has seldom been presented to the courts, yet we find that in Updegraph v. Comm., 11 Serg. & R. 394, 400, it was decided that, "Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law of Pennsylvania; * * * not Christianity with an established church and tithes and spiritual courts, but Christianity with liberty
of conscience to all men." And in People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290, 294, 295, Chancellor KENT, the great commentator on American law, speaking as chief justice of the supreme court of New York, said: "The people of this state, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity as the rule of their faith and practice; and to scandalize the author of those doctrines in not only, in a religious point of view, extremely impious, but, even in respect to the obligations due to society, is a gross violation of decency and good order. * * * The free, equal, and undisturbed enjoyment of religious opinion, whatever it may be, and free and decent discussions on any religious [143 U.S. 457, 471] subject, is granted and secured; but to revile, with malicious and blasphemous contempt, the religion
professed by almost the whole community is an abuse of that right. Nor are we bound by any expressions in the constitution, as some have strangely supposed, either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately the like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet or of the Grand Lama; and for this plain reason that the case assumes that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply ingrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors." And in the famous case of Vidal v. Girard's Ex'rs, 2 How. 127, 198, this court, while sustaining the will of Mr. Girard, with its provisions for the creation of a college into which no minister should be permitted to enter, observed: "it is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common
law of Pennsylvania."
Notice the decision of the US Supreme Court against the Mormons in 1890:
It is true, no formal declaration has been made by congress or the territorial legislature as to what system of laws shall prevail there. But it is apparent from the language of the organic act, which was passed September 9, 1850, (9 St. 453,) that it was the intention of congress that the system of common law and equity which generally prevails in this country should be operative in the territory of Utah, except as it might be altered by legislation. In the ninth section of the act it is declared that the supreme and district courts of the territory 'shall possess chancery as well as common-law jurisdiction,' and the whole phraseology of the act implies the same thing. The territorial legislature, in like manner, in the first section of the act regulating procedure, approved December 30, 1852, declared that all the courts
of the territory should have 'law and equity jurisdiction in civil cases.' In view of these significant provisions, we infer that the general system of common law and equity, as it prevails in this country, is the basis of the laws of the territory of Utah. We may therefore assume that the doctrine of charities is applicable to the territory, and that congress, in the exercise of its plenary legislative power over it, was entitled to carry out that law and put it in force, in its application to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The man usually thought of as the co-founder of the Harvard Law School was also America's expert on the Law of Evidence in the common law system. Simon Greenleaf also wrote a book which argued that if the Testimony of the Evangelists (the authors of the four Gospels) were to be tested in a court of law using the common law rules
of evidence, the court must conclude that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact.
But this is actually circular reasoning of a sort, because Western Civilization is Christian Civilization, and the common law is built on Christianity. As we saw last week, while the Roman Empire was crumbling, St. Patrick and the Irish monks were creating Christian civilization. Following the command of the Resurrected Lamb-King, Christians were bringing every nation before His Throne, re-working the legal codes of the day and making them conform to Biblical Law, as did Justinian,
Ethelbert, and Alfred.
Long before Lord Hale declared that Christianity was a part of the laws of England, the Court of Kings Bench, 34 Eliz. in Ratcliff's case, 3 Coke Rep. 40, b. had gone so far as to declare that "in almost all cases, the common law was grounded on the law of God, which it was said was causa causans," and the court cited the 27th chapter of Numbers, to show that their judgment on a common law principle in regard to the law of inheritance, was founded on God's revelation of that law to Moses.
State v. Thomas Jefferson Chandler, 2 Harr. 553 at 561 (Del.Sup.Ct.1837)
Every single person who signed the Constitution agreed with Locke's position:
[T]he Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions must . . . be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e., to the will of God. [L]aws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.
Two Treatises on Government, Bk II sec 135.
Locke here was quoting Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity which shows the influence of the Puritans. The pattern set by the Puritans was to insert the Biblical references in the margins of the criminal and civil codes. (See the 1641 code from Massachusetts, the "Body of Liberties.")
Easter therefore transforms individuals from enemies of God to the friends of God (John 15:14; John 15:15; James 2:23; Matthew 11:19), and transforms nations from empires of conquest into something we may not have a word for: a "Vine & Fig Tree" society.
A government or legal system that does not begin with Easter ends with a gulag.
Easter is certainly a time of joy and celebration for the Christian, but it is also more. For example, Founding Father Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence and a framer of the Bill of Rights, saw Easter as a time to evangelize his own son, telling him: "The approaching festival of Easter and the merits and mercies of our Redeemer's abundant redemption . . . have inspired me with the hope of finding mercy before my Judge and of being happy in the life to come -- a happiness I wish you to participate with me by infusing into your heart a similar hope. . . . and impart to you that peace of mind which the
world cannot give." (To obtain the writings of this Founding Father, click here.)
Founding Father Benjamin Rush, another signer of the Declaration of Independence, saw Easter as a time for reconciliation. He explained: "Jesus forgave the crime of murder on His cross; and after His resurrection He commanded His disciples to preach the gospel of forgiveness, first at Jerusalem where he well knew His murderers still resided. These striking facts are recorded for our imitation, and seem intended to show that the Son of God died not only to reconcile God to man but to reconcile men to each other." (To obtain a biography of this remarkable Founding Father, click
How the President Differs from the American vision of "Liberty Under God":