Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Church and Violence

Knights and Chivalry, a video by Ryan Reeves

Given the warring nature of society during the early Middle Ages, especially in the regions of today’s France, and the not uncommon attacks against non-warring peasants, the Church stepped in to address this via a series of actions and decrees.

The first tactic was to scold the knights.  This evolved eventually into a meaningful and formal attempt, captured under the banner of the Peace and Truce of God.  it was not an avenue to bless fighting; it was designed as a means to curtail the fighting that was in any case occurring.

The Peace of God

The Peace of God or Pax Dei was a proclamation issued by local clergy that granted immunity from violence to noncombatants who could not defend themselves, beginning with the peasants (agricolae) and with the clergy. The Synod of Charroux decreed a limited Pax Dei in 989, and the practice spread to most of Western Europe over the next century, surviving in some form until at least the thirteenth century.

Further protections would be offered, regarding women and children, the theft of farm animals, protection of church property, etc.  The penalty for violations could rise to excommunication.

Its origins coincided with the failure of the last Carolingian rulers to keep order in West Frankland, and the accession of Hugh Capet, founder of a new dynasty in 987.

This was a popular movement, as the discussions involved many people in large, open fields, and not merely a discussion amongst the bishops and nobles.  Saints’ relics were brought from the region; the warriors would then swear an oath on the relics in the presence of the crowds.  Paul Collins would write, in The Birth of the West:

The biggest threat to those breaking the peace was the use of relics and the bodies of the saints to frighten warlords with curses of from the afterlife if they engaged in warfare.

Those who refused to keep the peace were excluded from Mass and Communion, refused forgiveness of sin, and denied church burial in consecrated ground, which effectively condemned them to hell.

Tom Holland would add, from his book Millennium:

Fearsome were the sanctions proclaimed against any horseman who might subsequently go back upon his word.  A lighted candle, extinguished by the fingers of a bishop himself and dropped into the dust, would serve to symbolise the terrible snuffing out of all his hopes of heaven.  “May he render up his bowels into the latrine.”

The movement gained momentum around the millennium anniversary of Christ’s death – assumed 1033.  Such popular movements, however, did not instantly transform the nobility.  Many historians traditionally looked at the movement as a failure:

That traditional view, however, by concentrating on the failure of the movement to accomplish its quasi-messianic goals, misses the indirect impact it had. More recently historians accord a central place to the Peace in the transformations of European culture in this period, a period often characterized as the birth of Western (as opposed to Mediterranean) civilization.

The lack of a coercive force behind the demand for peace may have been what moved European culture and tradition:

For without recourse to force, it had to depend on more fundamental cultural activity: building a wide and powerful social consensus, developing courts of mediation, educating a lay populace, high and low, to internalize peaceful values.

In other words, don’t look to the state (or king) to enforce a proper cultural view; the only way to transform a culture is to transform the culture.  This had many follow-on effects: it awakened the populace to the possibility of self-organization; it Christianized the nobility, leading to a chivalric code (with more on this shortly); it gave authority to the Church, giving it space as a major player in the political and social life of the time; it opened up a dialogue on the true meaning of Christianity.

The Peace of God evolved to include the idea that the shedding of a Christian’s blood was the shedding of Christ’s blood.  This had ramifications for the peace internally, but also toward views regarding those on the outside – primarily Muslims.

Through its high moral vision and its appeals to communal action, the Peace of God furthered the peaceful organization of a violent society.

And this, I think is key: the society was violent; the Church led action to curb this violence.  That heaven on earth was not achieved is almost irrelevant; that the culture was shifted toward considerations of peace is both valuable and without doubt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Hell’s Comin’

The Milwaukee Bucks have decided not to play basketball today.  They are the favorite in the East, and this is the playoffs.  They did not come on to the court in their game against the Orlando Magic.  Thereafter, the other two games scheduled today were postponed.

This in response to a police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Yes, the shooting of a black man.

A reminder of something I wrote about four weeks ago:

…the tale will be told in two sports: professional basketball and football – in the case of the latter, two leagues will matter: the National Football League, and the SEC for college.

If some combination of these three leagues stops or cancels the season, know that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet – neither in lockdown actions or riot actions.  I say one or more of these leagues will not finish what it starts.

At least one month before election day.

There is talk in other leagues about taking some similar action.

Let’s see if the NBA resumes play in the coming days.  Even if they do, I hold to my view: sometime before the election, one or more of these leagues will shut down.  And then the fun really begins.

We are already seeing some pushback – both with armed men in defense of property and with democratic spokespeople (AKA CNN and the like) worried that the continued riots are only going to add to more support for Trump.

Tonight is going to be interesting.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

What is Going On?

A conversation started by RMB, regarding what might happen if Trump is re-elected:

The 2 plausible choices for the Right [are] 1) secession of blue and red states from one another, leading to a peace but disunion or 2) Trump or some other leader of the Right goes dictator and snuffs out the Left's rebellion with no mercy. A Pinochet type of character.

To which I suggested that Angelo Codevilla offered the possibility of option 2) even before Trump won the election in 2016.  Citing from Codevilla:

We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. Our ruling class’s malfeasance, combined with insult, brought it about. Donald Trump did not cause it and is by no means its ultimate manifestation. Regardless of who wins in 2016, this revolution’s sentiments will grow in volume and intensity, and are sure to empower politicians likely to make Americans nostalgic for Donald Trump’s moderation.

To which I added at the time:

For those who fear that some form of extreme fascism is coming to the United States, they need not fear Trump; the fear is in who (or what) comes next – win or lose for Trump.

I pray for RMB’s option 1, but the left won’t have it.  Absent this, some version of option 2 is inevitable, as there are too many people in this country in opposition to the insanity.  In any case, a tyrannical dictator promising to restore order always follows revolution.

Returning to the conversation started by RMB, ATL asks: “what is really going on?”  Were they just trying to get Trump to go dictatorial and invade the cities to restore order?

Or are they just looking to use physical intimidation to get people to accept some of their newly proposed radical policies? Is this their vehicle for reparations? Green New Deal? Seems unlikely.

Maybe they just want to make Trump's America look as bad as possible before the election, even if it means allowing hooligans to burn down their own cities on their watches. That seems like a plan likely to backfire.

A revolution has many fathers.  Today’s revolution began long ago.  One could make the case for the Enlightenment as the start; one could also make the case for what we now refer to as Cultural Marxism and the transformation of education – both K – 12 and university – from one that valued science and Western Civilization to one that has worked to destroy both.  We see the fruits of this labor on the streets, on our television, in the press.

But this is too long a history to trace, and others have done it well.  Just focusing on the last few years…the condition described as Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) has been evident for four years: Russiagate, impeachment, anything he says about the corona, etc. 

But Trump is nothing other than a manifestation of the pushback by many against political centralization and universalist political and social desires.  Those afflicted with TDS will do anything (and this means anything) to get rid of him and crush any hope of those who favor the individual, the local, the national.

Speaking of those willing to do anything…fast forward to the year 2020.  When the corona lockdowns began in March (putting 40 million or more out of work), I felt (and still feel) that the primary driver was financial: the markets required liquidity, and a 2008-style bailout was not politically possible.  Then, the lockdown was an obvious gift to the financial industry – and it created tremendous non-violent backlash.  So, the virus was the pretext, and something like $8 or $10 trillion of liquidity has been added just via the Federal government and Federal Reserve – almost instantaneously.

What has happened since then, or in addition?  Not wanting to let a crisis go to waste…the pharmaceutical industry is all in; further tracking and monitoring is inevitable; governors, mayors, and county commissioners are flexing their dictatorship; congress has an open door to spend; rioters are given free reign; churches are closed. 

Add in the green new deal and reparations if you like – add in the teacher’s unions insisting that because of corona they won’t go back to work unless charter schools are closed.  None of it has to make sense or even be connected to the original issue – they are revolutionaries.

The objective of Cultural Marxists – the destruction of science and Western Civilization (most importantly, Christianity) – is clearly proving successful.

All revolutionaries are happy recipients of the largess offered by revolution.  They need not have identical objectives – revolutionaries never do, as they only agree on what they are against.  This revolution – like the French and Russian before it – will devour its young (along with many of us).  I hope to live to see that day.  I know, some will say that this is not very Christ-like of me; just remember Revelation 19:

13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Bring it on.


Which comes back to Codevilla, and a podcast from LRC just a few weeks into Trump’s term, and from which I cite:

Hear me…you see the entire ruling class essentially rejecting the Constitution, the American way, rejecting the legitimacy of elections.  There can be no mild response to that, and there isn’t one.  Trump’s voters want certain results and they don’t particularly care how they get them.  The ruling class wants its power and doesn’t particularly care how it holds on to it.

Win or lose for Trump in 2020, demands for dictatorial and even tyrannical power will rise.  If Trump wins, the left will go even more berserk and the right (and I divide left and right by where one falls, knowingly or unknowingly, regarding natural law) will come to a point of demanding action – or taking it individually and in small groups.  If Trump loses, the left needs no pretext for demanding dictatorial or tyrannical power.  This defines the left. 

Either way, there are too many people in too many towns – especially in what is known as “flyover country” but also in other parts of the country – that are well capable of taking matters into their own hands by defending their own.

The only peaceful outcome is decentralization.  The right will be happy with this; the left won’t allow it.


The left, as represented by the Democratic Party in the United States, held office to push America into World War One (Wilson), World War Two (Roosevelt), Korea (Truman), Vietnam (Kennedy in a small way, Johnson all in), Libya, Syria, Yemen (Obama).  The two major exceptions in the last hundred years: Carter started no major conflict; Bush junior started two.

Revolution – and war (for other than defense) is the ultimate expression of this – is an inherent feature of the left.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

History Often Rhymes, Sometimes Repeats

The Nika riots, Nika revolt or Nika sedition took place against Emperor Justinian I in Constantinople over the course of a week in 532 CE. They were the most violent riots in the city's history, with nearly half of Constantinople being burned or destroyed and tens of thousands of people killed.

I came across the story of these riots while watching a series of lectures by Ryan Reeves on Early and Medieval Church History.  The mirror to our time is uncanny.

First, the repeating part: the Roman and Byzantine Empires had associations based on suburbs or subdivisions of the community, each supporting its own sports teams – particularly chariot racing.  In Constantinople there were four major factions, each team known by their colors.  The two strongest were the Blues and the Greens.

These associations were not merely focused on the sport; they became a focal point for various social and political issues, the team association providing an outlet for the people where none otherwise existed.

In 531 some members of the Blues and Greens had been arrested for murder in connection with deaths that occurred during rioting after a recent chariot race.  Relatively limited riots were not unknown at chariot races, similar to the football hooliganism that occasionally erupts after association football matches in modern times. The murderers were to be executed, and most of them were.

Two escaped, one Blue and one Green.  Justinian, facing external pressure from the Persians, wanted to keep things calm in the city.  He decided to restart the games and to commute the sentences to imprisonment.  The people, however, wanted a full pardon.

In addition to being unpopular with the masses, Justinian was also unpopular with the nobles – having been removed from the civil service, they lost their power.  Further, Justinian’s legal reforms made it difficult for the nobles to hide their dirty deeds via obscure laws and rulings.

In any case, Justinian refused to pardon the two offenders.  The riots began on January 13, 532.  Justinian’s palace was next to the Hippodrome, and the crowds broke out:

For the next five days, the palace was under siege. The fires that started during the tumult resulted in the destruction of much of the city, including the city's foremost church, the Hagia Sophia (which Justinian would later rebuild).

The senators saw this as an opportunity to overthrow Justinian; the rioters were likely controlled by members of the senate.  A new emperor was declared; Justinian was ready to throw in the towel, with an escape route prepared. 

This is where the repeating of history stops…certainly so far.  His wife, Theodora, talked him out of escaping, saying:

"Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress." She is also credited with adding, "[W]ho is born into the light of day must sooner or later die; and how could an Emperor ever allow himself to be a fugitive."

Justinian responded, killing about 30,000 rioters.  He executed the replacement emperor and exiled the senators behind the riots.


It should be pretty clear – just change a couple of names, and we see the headlines from the last four years and specifically the last six months.  It even has sports right in the middle of it.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Natural Law, Sola Scriptura

Can one arrive at natural law solely through Scripture?  I do not mean is the discovery of natural law only possible through Scripture; I recognize natural law can be discovered through man’s reason.  What I mean is: can one arrive at it through Scripture but without Aristotle, Aquinas, or Lewis? 

This is not to suggest that one can approach the topic of natural law without knowing something of these three men (and others); through them one gains an understanding of natural law, therefore gains an understanding of what to look for in Scripture. 

I write the following under the assumption that the reader has an understanding of natural law as developed by the aforementioned philosophers (and others); also, recognize that I am after natural law here, not natural rights – a related, but different topic. 

To summarize this second point:

·         Natural law describes the behavior expected of me, how I live, how I treat others; natural rights are those rights I can claim against others. 

·         Natural law requires me to act and behave in certain ways towards others; other than respecting life and property, no one has a natural right to demand any of these behaviors from me. 

·         Natural law describes ethics and behavior that is necessary for a free and peaceful society; natural rights define legal prohibitions – what could be called proper or good law.

 For a natural law ethic to be functional, I would expect to find the following points addressed:

·         Man’s reason for being

·         A recognized hierarchy

·         A recognition of man’s reason

·         A proper respect for one’s fellow man

·         An expected code of behavior

·         Some basis from which to determine prohibited acts

·         A properly ordered time preference

 There may be others, but this is what I have come up with.  So…can natural law be discovered or deduced solely through Scripture?  Let’s see….

 In the Beginning…

Genesis 1: 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

There is much to take away from this: first, that God made man – all men and all women – in His image.  This suggests, rather strongly, that we are to afford a level of respect to all human beings.  If God made all men and all women in His image, who are we to set some high and some low – at least on some level?  In this regard, we can consider all human beings as equal.  (Please note: I said “in this regard.”)

Second, man has dominion over everything of the earth.  This places man in the proper hierarchy, below God and above His earthly creation.

The Spark of the Divine

Genesis 2: 7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

What makes human beings different from the other non-human animals?  It is this: God breathed only into man, creating a living soul.

We are often told of how much human beings have in common with other beings on earth, how much DNA we share, etc.  With all of that in common, how did we end up with such different outcomes?  It is a waste of space to compare the creations of man – physical, emotional, philosophical, religious – to the creations of any other being on earth.  You get the point.

So, why so different?  God breathed into man – and only into man.  He gave us a soul.  More important for this discussion, we have something else that is far beyond any like ability in other animals: reason.  This, too, comes from God – from His breath, if you like.

God has no “image” in any physical sense.  So how is it that we are made in His image?  We look an awful lot like apes, but they are not made in God’s image; He did not breath into them.  So, what is it about humans that is different?  It is this: we have a soul; we are capable of reason.

The Role of the Woman

Genesis 2: 18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

I skipped the part where Adam had his choice of any of the other animals…. I am glad Adam held out.

A helper for man…. Oh, this will get me in so much trouble.  Please just hold that righteous anger, as I will come back to this later.