March 10, 2008

TOUGH QUESTIONS: May 05, AU Edition

IAN WISHART
Debating the Resurrection – is it important?

So that was Easter. You know, the time of year when we all jump in cars for a long weekend away, enjoying the rain and high winds, before coming back to a week of sunshine. You know, the time of year when the Good Friday movie on television is invariably something like Deep Throat or – as it was this year – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

In the midst of the stormy weather and the Bacchanalian dancing on the cross of Christ by hostile TV programming mavens, hundreds of thousands of people nevertheless turned out to Easter services nationwide where they would have also heard a wide range of opinions on the Resurrection of Christ.

If you’d gone to the liberal New Age Buddhist hang-out centre formerly known as St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican “church” in Auckland, you’d have heard a sermon telling you Easter has nothing to do with whether Jesus Christ was resurrected – because he probably wasn’t – it was all about the circle of life, and rebirth and other symbolic New Age concepts.

In other words, a sermon based entirely around the Easter Egg. Across town, at a genuine Christian church, you’d be more likely to hear a sermon on the real significance of the crucifixion and resurrection. In other words, a sermon based on hot cross buns.

Out of all that, the ordinary punter is expected – once a year, anyway – to try and make some sense out of Christian doctrine when it seems even the churches don’t know what they stand for or what they believe. Is the actual resurrection important? Yes it is, and here’s why.

Without the real death of Christ on the cross, and a real, bodily resurrection out of the tomb, there is no Christianity. Sure, Jesus was a wise man and a great teacher, but if he’s ultimately still in the grave then he cannot have been God and cannot have been telling the truth in that regard. He’s just another wild-eyed wannabe and whether you follow his principles of living or not is entirely up to how you feel.

But, if Christ was indeed resurrected such a feat would prove his claim to be God, to be someone far more powerful than mere mortal humans. In short, if Jesus really was resurrected then everything else he said must be true, because he is the only person in all human history to have not only claimed to be God, but given evidence to prove his claim and done so in front of witnesses.

Buddha, Muhammed, Confucius? They’re all still dead and buried. Of all the great religious leaders, only Jesus Christ actually claimed to be God the Creator and performed miracles to prove it.

Buddha said there were many paths to Nirvana, but offered no evidence of his authority to make the statement. Hinduism bases its religion on ancient legends, not demonstrable historical figures whose existence we can prove. Moreover, Hinduism is like a throwback to the ancient Greek and Roman gods. Hinduism believes in different classes of humans, that some people are scum just because of the social class they’re born into. Does that sound like a religion founded by the Creator of the Universe?

Muhammed claims God can only be attained through his teachings, but he never performed the miracles that Christ did to show his divine authority.

So we’re left with a resurrected Jesus Christ saying “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me”.
So it all hinges on the resurrection. If it happened, then his comment immediately above affects every living human on this planet, regardless of what religion they think they follow. If the resurrection really happened, then Jesus’ call to the disciples to preach that fact to all nations is not just Christianity seeking “equal time” alongside other religious beliefs; it is Christianity saying every other belief system out there is wrong, and if you choose to follow them you’ll be committing spiritual suicide.

Did the resurrection happen?

The evidence clearly suggests it did. Firstly, we are struck with the fact of an empty tomb. It is abundantly clear both from the Gospel accounts and from Jewish writings that Jesus’ body was missing. The Jews accused the Christians of stealing it. So fact one: the tomb
was empty.

Then there’s the role of women. In the Gospel accounts, women were the first to witness the empty tomb, and witness the risen, resurrected Jesus. So what? Well it may not seem a big deal in our modern world where men and women both get to vote, but in Middle Eastern countries of the time, as today, women were second-class citizens whose testimony was so worthless they couldn’t even be witnesses in court.

If the Gospel accounts were fiction, the authors would definitely have made men the first witnesses, to lend credibility to the accounts. They would not in a million years have dreamed of making women the first witnesses unless, of course, that’s what really happened and they regarded the facts as more important than the spin.

Fact two: with women being first to witness the risen Christ, this indicates the story is more likely to be factual because it is counter-cultural – it runs against what people of the day would have expected, yet tells the story straight despite the risk of alienating potential converts.

Which then brings us to the other witnesses. A resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to the women and the 11 surviving disciples and around 500 others during the six weeks after his death on the cross. Search the annals of Sigmund Freud’s cases, or search every library of every psychology department at every university in the world, and you will never find one case of a hallucination appearing to hundreds of people at different times, or 11 people in a room all reporting that a hallucination sat down and ate fish with them, or that they could touch the hallucination. So the only other possible option here is that all the witnesses were simply liars who constructed a fictional story to help sell their message.

Fact three, then: the resurrection appearances to hundreds of people were not hallucinations, and must either be true or the deliberate false creation of the early Christians.

So could the resurrection appearances have been deliberate lies to sell the Christian message? Let’s examine that for a moment. Such deceit stands in direct opposition to everything Jesus Christ stood for, and everything preached in the Gospels. In other words, if you truly believed Jesus was the way and the truth, how was inventing the mother of all fairy stories going to reflect that “truth”?

Secondly, after the crucifixion, the record shows the disciples were crushed men. They’d been expecting to see the man they followed as God be triumphant at the cross, perhaps smiting all the Roman soldiers and proving to all that he was God come to deliver justice and vengeance against those who had dared to harm him. Instead, whipped and scourged to within an inch of his life, they’d watched from the sidelines as the Romans taunted Jesus on the cross before he drifted away suddenly crying out that even God had forsaken him. Maybe, thought the disciples, he really was only a man after all. So their own visions and dreams of the Messiah died on the cross with Christ, and when the women first talked about a risen Jesus they thought the women were insane. It just wasn’t computing in their heads.

Let’s assume, for the sake of this, that Jesus only fainted on the cross and woke up in the tomb, still alive. A Roman crucifixion was not a smack on the hand with a wooden spoon. It was a bloody and brutal affair where death was guaranteed. On the remote offchance that Jesus was only a human who survived the cross, are we to believe that – after rolling away the two-tonne boulder – a half-dead Jesus, blood-encrusted, gaping nail wounds in hands and feet and a spear gash in his heart, crawled into the disciples’ meeting room triumphantly muttering, “see, I’ve beaten death, I’m Lord and master of the Universe”? Would such a spectacle have inspired the disciples, or would they assume, like you and I, that he must simply have survived and not died at all? Hardly a triumph over death.

But the Gospel accounts speak of a radiant resurrected Jesus. An inspiring figure. Could the disciples have invented the resurrection accounts? Obviously they could have, but it is extremely unlikely. First and foremost, virtually all the disciples were later executed by Rome for continuing to claim that Christ really was God and really had been resurrected. Roman documents in British and European museums show the Roman emperors gave instructions that Christians were to be shown mercy if they publicly renounced their faith, and executed if they did not.

It is highly significant that the disciples were fed to lions; dipped in tar and set alight as garden lanterns; and put to death by crucifixion because they refused to renounce their claims. It is one thing to die for something you believe to be true, but we’re not arguing here over whether the disciples “believed” it – critics say the disciples knowingly made the story up.

Question. Would you volunteer to be torn apart by starving lions to defend a story you’d made up, when you could go free just by admitting to the con? Why would the disciples die such horrible deaths for something they knew was fake? It doesn’t make sense. The only rational explanation for it is that the disciples genuinely believed they’d seen the resurrected Christ (which, for reasons covered above, must have been the genuine Jesus), and that fact gave them enough faith to endure a few moments of pain from lions, rather than give up an eternity in heaven.

And that, folks, is the ultimate power of the resurrection. It is Christianity saying to the world, in the words of a recent song: No matter what they tell you / No matter what they do / No matter what they teach you / What you believe is true.

A liberal, symbolic, Easter Egg, counterfeit construction of the resurrection may be non-threatening to followers of other religions, but it will never set them free like the Truth. If I was on a road to Hell, I’d want to be told. Wouldn’t you?

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

Tough Questions, Mar 05, AU Edition

TOUGH QUESTIONS

IAN WISHART
Been sucked in by The Da Vinci Code yet?

Along time ago, in a lifetime far, far away, I bought a book called The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail. Hundreds of people queued at my city’s biggest bookshop to obtain the first copies of what was billed as the biggest blow to Christianity in 2000 years.

That book made its authors millions. It took off around the world, all because of its highly controversial allegations – that Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross, but slipped away and secretly married Mary Magdalene before escaping to France and having babies. The essence of the story was that the “Holy Grail” of ancient repute was not, in fact, the chalice from which Christ gave the disciples Communion, but that the real “Grail” was in fact “Sang Real”, or Sang Royale – the royal bloodline of Christ as the authors perceived the story.

According to their “exposé”, a vast network of co-conspirators had worked through the ages to protect the descendants of Jesus – still living in France – and that protection included the Knights Templar and a mysterious monastic organisation named the Priory of Zion which allegedly continues to this day.

Except, as all good adventure story readers know, ripping good yarns like this one are generally a crock, and this one in particular was the Mother of all Crocks. Seems poor old Dan Brown, the author of the bestselling Da Vinci Code, fell for it though.

Brown’s book has spent more than a year sucking people’s money from
their own pockets and into his like a Hoovermatic vacuum cleaner. Brown himself has earned somewhere in the region of $30 million from it to date. So what are his central claims?

Well, he draws heavily on The Holy Blood for inspiration, and has one of his central characters, fictional historian Leigh Teabing, fire a supposed bullseye shot at Christianity in this exchange:

Teabing says to an eager young acolyte, “The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book…

“More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.”

“Who chose which gospels to include?” Sophie asked.

“Aha!” Teabing burst in with enthusiasm. “The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the Pagan Roman emperor, Constantine the Great!”

First rule of pulp fiction: never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Let’s examine the illustrious Teabing’s assertion.

What he’s really saying is that by way of some grand Roman political conspiracy, the New Testament Gospels we have today are the ones that suited the Roman Empire’s purposes, and that the vast bulk of “gospels” about Jesus were deliberately left out. Ergo, every poor deluded creature who’s ever entered a church and sung a hymn through the ages has been the victim of a Roman hoax, kept alive through the centuries by church and governmental authorities desirous of retaining power over the peasantry by giving them some spiritual opium. Karl Marx had pretty much the same view. If true, then Christians everywhere have good reason to be concerned about the rationality of their faith. But it’s not true.

Firstly, many of the references to so-called ancient records in The Da Vinci Code are false. Author Dan Brown’s direct claim, via the mouth of his character Teabing, about there being “eighty” suppressed gospels is simply a blatant untruth.

You’d be hard pressed to find eighty bits of paper from 2,000 years ago, let alone eighty gospels. Quite simply, as any recognised university professor can confirm, there were never “eighty” alternative gospels in existence. At most, there were perhaps a dozen or two, ranked in a sliding scale of 1 to 10 in terms of authenticity and credibility.

The top four are the Gospels we have today, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The reason they are at the top of the list is that they were written as early as ten years after the death of Christ. Liberal scholar Dr John A. T. Robinson – no friend of fundamentalists – believes the old view that the Gospels were written up to a hundred years after Jesus died is utterly false, and that the earliest of the Gospels was written and circulating as early as 40 AD.

Those four gospels, and Paul’s letters, had already been meticulously copied dozens of times by hand and sent to Christian communities around the Mediterranean by the end of the first century, and by the end of the second century AD there were hundreds of copies of our New Testament in existence and daily use.

Archaeologists and historians have found numerous letters and sermons, dating from as early as 90 AD, quoting the Gospels and other New Testament books. Those same documents also show the rival alternative “gospels”, such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Philip, didn’t appear on the scene until around 140 AD and were not accepted by Christians at the time as genuine. Early Christians regarded those “gospels” as frauds, and so should we.

For The Da Vinci Code to claim that the Catholic Church and a Roman Emperor had any power, by the time they met in 325 AD, to suddenly reinvent the Bible without anyone knowing is so ludicrous it makes the Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory look
utterly sensible.

The 325 AD meeting with Constantine was no more than a rubber-stamping exercise that formally recognised what hundreds of thousands of Christians already knew – the four Gospels, Acts and the Epistles were the true and inspired New Testament given to Christians by God. The first Christians – those people who had seen Jesus alive, watched his crucifixion and witnessed the Resurrection – welcomed the four Gospels as authentic and truthful. The reason the four Gospels were revered by the first Christians is because they were written either directly by Jesus’ apostles (Matthew and John), or by assistants to the apostles (Mark and Luke).

Unlike the much later alternative “gospels”, the top four read like historical narratives with acute attention to detail. Contrast Luke’s writing with later fictitious gospels featuring such additions as a “talking cross” that walked out of the tomb behind Jesus on the morning of his resurrection before, presumably, both he and the talking cross dashed off for coffee somewhere.

As a point of fact, nearly every one of the alternative “gospels” was created by followers of the religion “Gnosticism” which maintains that real spiritual truth can only be obtained by secret knowledge passed from Master to Initiate. Gnosticism was working frantically to counter the rapidly growing Christian faith, and it tried to do so by hijacking orthodox Christian gospels and re-writing them in accordance with its own beliefs.

Gnosticism is at the heart of the New Age movement today, and both The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail, and The Da Vinci Code are nothing more than extended advertisements for Gnosticism.

Which brings me to Big Claim No. 2 in The Da Vinci Code:

The character Teabing refers to the Council of Nicea, which was that aforementioned gathering of bishops in the year 325, and he claims: “At this gathering…many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon – the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of the sacraments, and of course, the divinity of Jesus”
“I don’t follow. His divinity?”
“My dear,” Teabing declared, “until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.”
“Not the Son of God?”
“Right,” Teabing said, “Jesus’ establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea.”
“Hold on. You’re saying that Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?”
“A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing added.

While the above passage would certainly find some supporters out there in I-read-Dan-Brown land, you truly would have to be extremely gullible to believe it. It is, again, a blatant fiction.

Did Jesus Christ claim to be God in the Gospels? Repeatedly. Take John 10:25-33:

“Jesus answered... ‘I and my Father are one’,” at which point a Jewish crowd tried to stone him to death for blasphemy.

At John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’.”

Think about that statement for a moment. Worded very strangely, isn’t it? Unless of course you are indeed the immortal God who created Time and exists outside Time in an eternal Now. Under those circumstances, it makes perfect sense for Jesus to refer to himself existing before Abraham two thousand years earlier, and to refer to himself in the eternal present tense as “I AM”.

Makes even more sense when you go back to Exodus 3:14 and discover that God introduced himself to Moses as “I AM”.

And while Exodus records the first commandment as “Thou shalt have no other Gods but me” on pain of death, the New Testament shows Jesus clearly saying he is God, using God’s divine name for himself and, at Matthew 8:2, John 9:35-39 and elsewhere, accepting worship from people – something only God was permitted to do. Now of course anyone can claim to be God. Our psych units are full of delusional people who claim to be God. And Jesus was confronted with skeptics as the Bible records in Mark 2:9-12 when Jesus met a man paralysed from birth. He tells the man his sins are forgiven, prompting a gasp from the crowd who remind him only God has the power to forgive sins. So Jesus then asks the crowd which is the easier – to say “your sins are forgiven” or to say “rise and walk”? According to one biblical scholar commenting on this little dilemma, it is “an unanswerable question. The statements are equally simple to pronounce; but to say either, with accompanying performance, requires divine power.

“An imposter, of course, in seeking to avoid detection, would find the former easier. Jesus proceeded to heal the illness that men might know he had authority to deal with its cause.”

So it is abundantly clear all through the New Testament that Jesus both claimed to be God, and performed miracles to prove his claim. He accepted worship as if he were God. And writings from Roman imperial records around 100 AD show people “singing hymns to Christ, as if to a God”.

For Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code to claim that Jesus was never regarded as God before 325 AD is just an outright crock.

Yes, it’ll sell books. But then again a fool and their money are soon parted.

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 01:20 AM | Comments (0)

Dec 05, AU Edition

iStock_000000880227Large.jpgHe’s the “reason for the season” as the saying goes, but there’s still a surprising amount of controversy over the historical Jesus. Was He the Son of God, or just the imaginINg of an obscure Jewish sect 2,000 years ago? It’s time to take another look at

A CHRISTMAS STORY

By IAN WISHART with JAMES MORROW

True story: On a recent afternoon in Sydney, the not-particularly-religious mother of a three-and-a-half year old sat down with her son to try and explain what Christmas was all about. She wanted him to understand that there was more to the season than just Santa and presents and a great big tree in the lounge room, but she wasn’t quite sure how to explain it all.

“Well, you see, a long time ago, there was a little baby, and his name was Jesus…”, the mum began.

“Jesus? That’s a terrible thing to call a baby!”, the horrified child replied, having until that moment only known Christ’s name as something “naughty” that grown-ups sometimes said, but that he wasn’t supposed to utter. “That would hurt the baby’s feelings!”

Needless to say, that particular child’s parents have some work to do if they want to give their son religion (though they are clearly ahead of the game when it comes to “Thou shalt not take His name in vain”).

But the story highlights a bigger question – namely, the growing divorce between Christmas the holiday and Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Every year – not just in Australia but around the world – sees a series of pitched battles between secularists who would like to see Christmas turn into just another holiday (see sidebar) and those trying to keep at least some tradition and religion in the event.

Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The annual stoushes over watered-down politically correct “seasonal” displays have begun (Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore wisely backed down from her Grinch-like stance of 2004, meaning that Christmas will once again be bright in that city’s CBD); shopping malls have hung up their lights and baubles – even if they aren’t all that Christmasy; and the business pages are full of speculation about the strength of retail sales.

But lost in the annual furore over the growth of grating phrases like “seasons greetings” and whether celebrating Christmas too publicly could offend in a multicultural society is the theological elephant in the middle of a pretty secular room: Namely, the question of whether Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate on 25 December, really was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Anointed One, or just an itinerant preacher who happened to come up with what even critics regard as an impeccable moral code?

As Piers Paul Read writes in his study of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, better known as the Knights Templar, The Templars, “Even at this distance in time, and if treated as a character in a work of fiction, the person of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels has a powerful effect on the reader. Unlike the books of the Old Testament which demonstrate the majesty of God through ‘the complexity of life, of emotions and desires beyond the range of intellect and language’, the Gospels are spare narratives virtually devoid of characterization that nevertheless persuade us ‘that this and no other way was how it was’.”
Of course, that’s not necessarily good enough for everyone. Last year’s Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ, also enflamed the passions of those looking to denigrate the historical record of the life of Jesus.

“The Bible can be a problematic source,” wrote Newsweek’s Jon Meacham in a cover story on the film last year. “Though countless believers take it as the immutable word of God, Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events; the Bible is the product of human authors who were writing in particular times and places with particular points to make and visions to advance.”

Meacham’s criticism is similar to those expressed by liberal theologians and sceptics everywhere, and naturally in the Newsweek article it goes unchallenged. But is it really true?

“Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events,” he wrote in the anchorpoint to both his paragraph and the entire premise of his article. However, Meacham is just plain wrong.

“Archaeology”, writes William Dever, a professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology and regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in his field, has been unable to “disprove the Bible’s assertions of the meanings of events.” Further, he writes in a scathing critique of liberals who recently tried to claim the Old Testament was a complete myth and there really was no “ancient Israel”, the liberals overlook the fact that the Bible writers “got right virtually every detail [of history] that we can now confirm”. And William Dever is an atheist.

In other words, the Bible has not only survived the heaviest onslaught critics could throw at it during the 20th century, it has passed absolutely unscathed in regard to its accuracy.

Nor is Dever the secular humanist alone in making such claims defending the historical accuracy of Scripture. So too does Norman Geisler, widely regarded as one of Christianity’s leading philosophers and historians.

“Not one error that extends to the original text of the Bible has ever been demonstrated,” claims Geisler, who takes the accuracy of the world’s most popular book seriously. So what would Geisler say to the second part of Meacham’s premise, where he wrote: “The Bible is the product of human authors” – automatically implying not just the capacity for error but also deliberate deception in the comments that followed, even though no errors have actually been discovered? Geisler sets out the logic behind the claim like this:

“Some biblical scholars argue that the Bible cannot be inerrant, through some faulty reasoning:
* The Bible is a human book
* Humans err
* Therefore, the Bible errs.
“The error of this reasoning,” says Geisler, “can be seen from equally erroneous reasoning:
* Jesus was a human being
* Human beings sin
* Therefore, Jesus sinned.”

But of course, there is no indication either inside the Bible or outside it that Jesus Christ ever sinned, and Geisler uses this as an example of where the logic goes astray.

“The mistake is to assume that Jesus is simply human. Mere human beings sin. But Jesus was not a mere human being. He was also God. Likewise, the Bible is not merely a human book; it is also the Word of God. There can no more be an error in God’s written Word than there was a sin in God’s living Word.”

Where Geisler does acknowledge that difficulties can arise is in human interpretation of the Bible.

But Meacham’s chief line of attack against The Passion is that Gibson took the New Testament “too literally” and his film is therefore anti-Semitic. Meacham lays the blame for that not just with Gibson but also the Gospel writers themselves.

“So why was the Gospel story – the story Gibson has drawn on - told in a way that makes ‘the Jews’ look worse than the Romans? The Bible did not descend from heaven fully formed and edged in gilt. The writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shaped their narratives several decades after Jesus’ death to attract converts and make their young religion – understood by many Christians to be a faction of Judaism – attractive to as broad an audience as possible.”

Again, Meacham’s key assumption, that “the Bible did not descend from heaven fully formed and edged in gilt” colours his whole approach, as does his subsequent comment that the Gospels were written “decades” after the events in question. In fact, even liberal scholar John A. T. Robinson has gone on record as being convinced that the whole of the New Testament must have been written and completed before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 – less than 40 years after the death of Christ and well within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses who could have contradicted any errors in the Gospel accounts.

However, Meacham goes on to develop the theme further when he accuses the Gospel writer Matthew of being “partisan” for including the line at Matt 27:25, “Let his blood be upon us and on our children” in reference to taunts from the Jewish crowd when Pilate was deciding whether to crucify Christ.

From the end of a phone line 10,000 kilometres away, leading New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg is saddened by those trying to make capital out of alleged anti-Semitism in the Gospels. “They’ve interpreted that as somehow a condemnation of the entire Jewish race,” comments Blomberg – author of the books The Historical Reliability of The Gospels and Jesus and the Gospels – currently based as a Professor of the New Testament at Denver Seminary, Colorado.

“As a historian, the important thing to stress is that Jesus was a Jew, all his first followers were Jewish, this was an internecine Jewish debate. The crowd was simply using the standard Hebrew idiom for saying ‘we accept responsibility for this person’s death’. In no way is it an indictment of the whole race or even the entire Jewish leadership.”

nativity.jpgLike many others, Blomberg is well aware of the anti-Passion spin the media have been creating at every opportunity. He’s also aware that attacking the Gospels has become somewhat of a cause celebre for liberals wanting to redefine and limit Jesus Christ.
In the Newsweek article, for example, there are many pointers to the writer’s hidden agenda.

“The Gospels were composed to present Jesus in the best possible light,” writes Meacham, “and to put the Temple leadership in the worst possible light.” He adds that Matthew must have been writing after the fall of Jerusalem because he presumes the “blood be on us” comment to refer to the Jewish rebellion that culminated in the events of AD 70.
And it is here in the Newsweek story that Meacham begins to proffer his own version of who Christ was – not a spiritual leader but a political one who posed a direct threat to Rome, not the Jews and who, presumably, got his comeuppance.

To back up this line of reasoning, Meacham first argues that the two men crucified beside Jesus were not criminals but freedom fighters.
“In the age of Roman domination, only Rome crucified. The crime was sedition, not blasphemy – a civil crime, not a religious one. The two men who were killed along with Jesus are identified in some translations as ‘thieves’, but the word can also mean ‘insurgents’, supporting the idea that crucifixion was a political weapon used to send a message to those still living: beware of revolution or riot, or Rome will do this to you, too.”

Meacham does not reveal the source of his “insurgents” interpretation, but the most authentic ancient texts use the Greek words “kakourgos” – or “worker of evil” – and “lestes” – or “robber, brigand, one who plunders openly and by violence”. The clear context in both cases is of a criminal, “for profit” motive.

In fact, the New Testament provides an ideal contrast in the language it uses to describe Barabbas, a man who was an insurgent and who stood beside Christ as a fellow Roman prisoner when Pontius Pilate asked the Jewish crowd which prisoner they’d prefer to see released on Passover. Luke’s Gospel records Barabbas had been arrested by the Romans for murder and trying to lead a revolution.

“If Jesus had not been a political threat,” writes Meacham, “why bother with the trouble of crucifixion? There is also evidence that Jesus’ arrest was part of a broader pattern of violence or feared violence this Passover. Barabbas, the man who was released instead of Jesus, was, according to Mark, “among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection”– suggesting that Pilate was concerned with “rebels” and had already confronted an “insurrection” some time before he interrogated Jesus.

“Clear evidence of the political nature of the execution – that Pilate and the high priest were ridding themselves of a “messiah” who might disrupt society, not offer salvation – is the sign Pilate ordered affixed to Jesus’ cross. The message is not from the knowing Romans to the evil Jews. It is, rather, a scornful signal to the crowds that this death awaits any man the pilgrims proclaim “the king of the Jews.”

The problem for Meacham and liberal critics is that – based on their argument – Pilate would presumably have sent an even stronger message to “the pilgrims” if he’d nailed the more popular Barabbas to the cross, not Christ. There is no suggestion in the Gospels, or outside the Bible, that Christ led “insurgents” in any political campaign against Rome. In fact, every reference to Christ outside the Bible talks more of Jesus’ alleged “sorcery”, and people worshipping him “as to a god”, rather than a political campaign.

“On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged”, records a Jewish Sanhedrin document from around 90 AD. “He has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy [rejection of orthodox Judaism].”

The Roman governor Pliny, writing to the Emperor Trajan around the same time, records: “[the Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up…”

Now, if that’s a political rebellion in the making then the Moon is made of green cheese.

Another Roman historian, Suetonius, writing of the period after Nero’s great fire of Rome about thirty years after the crucifixion, says, “After the great fire at Rome…punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.”

Meacham is right in only one respect, namely, that Rome ultimately had much to fear from the spread of Christianity. But to argue as Newsweek does that Pontius Pilate was fearful back in 33 AD of the impact of a non-violent itinerant Jewish preacher named Jesus who might lead an “insurgency” is widely regarded as laughable by many historians.

Meacham writes: “It was as the church’s theology took shape, culminating in the Council of Nicaea in 325, that Jesus became the doctrinal Christ, the Son of God “who for us men and our salvation,” the council’s original creed declared, “descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead.”

xmas1.jpgBut if Meacham is correct here, how does he reconcile his claim that Christ only became “the Son of God” in 325 AD, when the passages above show Christ being worshipped as God virtually from the moment of his crucifixion almost three hundred years earlier?

Even more troublesome for Meacham is perhaps the oldest passage in the entire New Testament, Paul’s dissertation on the divinity of Christ at 1 Corinthians 15:3, where he says:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance – that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.”
Denver Seminary’s Craig Blomberg explains the significance.

“You have somebody like Paul describing Christian traditions and beliefs that were passed on to him from Day 1 of his conversion, which was within two years of the death of Christ! So you have full belief in the divinity and resurrection of Jesus two years, not 325 years, after the death of Jesus.

“Now, can you still dispute the truth of those claims even in that short period of time? Sure, but to say that no one believed in the divinity of Jesus or the exalted view until 325 AD is simply a flat out factual mistake. It simply is a flat-out lie and untrue to history to say that nobody made this claim until 325, when they’d made it long before 50 AD.”

So the liberal claim that Christ only “became God” hundreds of years later because of the Church is a myth with no factual backing, yet it repeatedly goes unchallenged.

“The climax comes when [Jewish High Priest] Caiaphas asks Jesus: ‘Are you the Messiah?’ and Jesus says, ‘I am...’ and alludes to himself as ‘the Son of Man.’ There is a gasp; the high priest rends his garments and declares Jesus a blasphemer… There is much here to give the thinking believer pause. ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of Man’ were fairly common appellations for religious figures in the first century. And it was not ‘blasphemy’ to think of yourself as the ‘Messiah’, which more than a few Jewish figures had claimed to be without meeting Jesus’ fate, except possibly at the hands of the Romans. The definition of blasphemy was a source of fierce Jewish argument, but it turned on taking God’s name in vain—and nothing in the Gospel trial scenes supports the idea that Jesus crossed that line.”

If it was quite common for people to call themselves the Son of God, why then did Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin react the way they did?
Meacham may attempt to shrug off the context, but Luke’s Gospel tells a different story:

“At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. ‘If you are the Christ,’ they said, ‘tell us.’

“Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God’.

“They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’

“He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am’.”
And in the Gospel of Matthew, it is recorded this way:

“The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’

“ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’.

“Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy!’ ”

It wasn’t a case, as Newsweek and the Herald imply, of a casual Messianic claim. The exchange between Jesus and the Sanhedrin is electric, loaded and definitive.

Sure, others may have claimed to be Messiahs, but none of them raised people from the dead, exorcised demons or healed the blind at a touch.
Craig Blomberg admits that many of the “Death of God” theologians and leading lights in the Jesus-wasn’t-divine movement are elderly men and women whose own theological training came decades ago when less was known about the New Testament than today. Like tall trees in a forest, their out of date biblical knowledge is overshadowing the real work on biblical scholarship.

“That tide is slowly turning. Certain views are accepted as standard and the time by which a generation of pastors trained under other folks retires and is replaced by new people who are familiar with the new scholarship, that takes time.”

“In many ways they are the ones appealing to an outmoded worldview, going back to [theologian] Rudolf Bultmann nearly 100 years ago when in some of his earliest writings he talked about how modern man in an Age of Science could no longer believe in the supernatural. That’s certainly not what philosophers of science are saying in the 21st century. They’re leaving the question of God very much open.”

In 28 years’ time, it will be exactly two thousand years since the man who claimed to be God incarnate was nailed to a Cross by Roman soldiers, at the instigation of some members of the Jewish high priesthood who wanted rid of “this turbulent priest”. And after 1971 years, Jesus is still managing to do what he predicted all those years ago:

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled…Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”

And as debate rages on, that division has never been more apparent.

Winterval Dispatches
Even if Christmas cheer is coming back to Sydney’s CBD, it’s a different story in other parts of the world. Especially England, where the perpetual British fear of causing offense has mated with political correctness, with unbelievable results. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is now being sung as “God Rest Ye Merry Persons” at churches in Wales; many schools refer to the Christmas holidays as “Winterval” to avoid mentioning the dreaded C-word; and a charity that sends out Christmas gifts to poor children has lost the support of Inland Revenue. And that’s not all:

* In Havant, England, town burghers have decided to scrap their annual Christmas decorations for a generic “festival of lights” – even dropping the word “Christmas” – to avoid offending non-Christians, at the cost of 5,000 British Pounds. Of course, no one bothered to ask the potentially offended; even the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement saying, “This sounds like a case of a local council taking it upon itself to decide what is offensive, rather than consult the community it serves. If the council took the trouble to ask local people what they thought, they would find that people of all faiths do not have a problem with this.”

* Meanwhile, in Lambeth, South London, council officials have engaged in a bit of Orwellian re-branding of their displays; no longer will the area display Christmas lights. By official edict, they are now to be called “celebrity lights”.

* The UK is not the only place to see such silliness: In the United States, the K-Mart retail chain has started selling Christmas trees under the anodyne names “Mountain Trees” and “Snow Trees”. And in the State of Victoria, in a rare bout of common sense, Premier Steve Bracks gave the order that it was perfectly OK to celebrate Christmas in schools after several schools ordered the cancellation of nativity scenes and pageants for fear of offending non-Christians.


Posted by InvestigateDesign at 12:46 AM | Comments (0)

TOUGH QUESTIONS: Apr 05, AU Edition

IAN WISHART
Going head-to-head with a reader over the Da Vinci Code fraud

Dear Mr Wishart: In reply to your article regarding Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, it would seem to me that Mr Brown has hit a nerve with you. I’m not sure I can put my religious beliefs into a box and label them nicely as one particular religion. I do, however, have a deep-seated interest in the Bible and all the people it talks about, especially Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

I say it hit a nerve because you were unable to support your views with scholarly investigative methods. In fact the only points raised in reply were from the very ‘book’ in question (and a few vague references to academics).

I’d like to comment on the two points you have issues with.

1) You have to remember that Mr Brown’s book is fiction with a few facts thrown in. “More than eighty gospels” is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but not for the reasons you stated. How then can you
explain the omission of the Gospel of Mary written by Mary Magdalene? She was there too! How is her Gospel any less credible or authentic than the others? You say in your article, “the first Christians - those who had seen Jesus alive, watched his crucifixion and witnessed the Resurrection...” This includes Mary Magdalene. I think it was because she was a woman and because although she was with Jesus throughout his ministry she has always been portrayed as the fallen woman, the repentant whore. I ask you to show me where in the Bible it says this. It doesn’t.

2) Jesus’ divinity. Perhaps another reason many gospels were not included in the Bible was that they showed Jesus as a real man, with needs and wants like any other man. There is no doubt in my mind that
he really did walk this Earth, as a mortal man, not a God. He ate, slept, and defecated, like we do. He loved and hated and cried and laughed, like we do. He bled when cut, like we do. He had human needs and human desires. How is it so inconceivable that he married too? That maybe he had a family? Funny how Mary Magdalene figures in this too.

The Council of Nicea decided what would be included in the Bible. This is fact. Research it. It was pointed out recently to me that all the gospels in the Bible tell the story while the ones which were omitted tell of the message. Which do you think is the more important? Have you actually read any of the other gospels? Doesn’t sound like it.
Is it fair to comment on something you have not investigated yourself?
Given your strong stance on the Bible and Jesus I was hoping you could explain a few things to me:

One story in the Bible which has always intrigued me is the story of when Jesus, Peter and Mary Magdalene go to the temple. Jesus and Mary go inside while Peter has to wait outside. Why? Why does Mary go inside and Peter stay outside? The only reason a woman would enter a temple is if she was a priestess herself. (Whoa! Another out-there theory to upset Mr Wishart). Think about it: she saw Jesus after his crucifixion. Why her, and how could she see a dead person? The only logical answer is that she was clairvoyant and she saw his spirit. Jesus could have been the most famous clairvoyant and healer we have ever seen. He was definitely an enlightened man. Whyis this such an impossible scenario?

It is never disputed that Jesus was of the House of David. How can he have a lineage from a mortal father (Joseph) and yet be divine with God as his father. How does this work? And if Mary was a virgin how come Jesus had brothers and sisters. He mentions them repeatedly throughout the Bible. Symbolic meanings, maybe? If so, does it not follow that other things may be symbolic also, like Jesus’ divinity, a virgin birth, miracles? No? Too many contradictions for me!
Jane Applegarth

Dear Jane: I’m not sure after that whose nerve was hit hardest. You dismiss with a mere wave of the hand my assertion that the other gospels came from “dubious sources”. I was actually much stronger than that, stating they were frauds written by followers of a rival religion, Gnosticism. Nor were they written within the lifetime of anyone who witnessed the crucifixion or resurrection of Jesus: the Gnostic “gospels”, including the Gospel of Mary you refer to, were written from about 140AD onwards. The Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Peter and a range of others could not have been written by the real Thomas, Mary, Peter, etc., because those disciples died at least 60 years before the Gnostics wrote books in their name.

Karen King’s book on the Gospel of Mary is interesting but utterly worthless. It sheds no light on the real Jesus Christ or the real Mary Magdalene, and is no more biblically authentic than a Taiwanese Rolex.
To illustrate the pointlessness of treating the Gnostic “gospels” as authentic, consider this little dilemma. The Gospel of Peter purports to have been written by the Apostle Peter, except of course that he was actually executed by the Romans nearly 100 years earlier, and that his real gospel is the one written by Mark, who was Peter’s assistant in Rome. Mark’s Gospel was published and in circulation as early as only a decade after the crucifixion.

Regarding Mary Magdalene, you are entirely right that nowhere in the Bible does it say she was a “fallen woman”. Nor do I say it. This is a tradition of the Catholic Church, not founded in Scripture.

Regarding your second point on the divinity of Jesus: while Jesus was both human and divine, he was also sinless. Nowhere in either the Bible, or in contemporaneous extrabiblical accounts, is there a suggestion otherwise. You can be absolutely certain that if Jesus had a wife the real Gospels would have recorded it, because they would have regarded it as a relevant witness to the world. They certainly would not have covered it up, because that would indicate that the Gospel writers themselves were ashamed of Jesus, in which case why would they write the Gospels and why would they be willing to be executed in his name? Doesn’t make sense. Just another daft conspiracy theory from people like Dan Brown.

A wife would also have detracted from Jesus’ stated mission: he was not here to found an earthly kingdom or a divine royal lineage, he was here to sacrifice himself for humanity.

You also wrote: “The Council of Nicea decided what would be included in the Bible. This is fact. Research it.”

I’m sorry, but whomever you’re talking to knows nothing of early church history. And I have researched it. Again, the Council of Nicea was a mere rubber-stamp on what Christians since 50AD had already decided were the authentic Gospels and Epistles. It was no more within the power of the bishops at Nicea to suddenly reinvent Christianity in their own image than it is within my power to prevent a tide coming in. Copies of the New Testament pre-dating Nicea contain the same books and words as copies of the New Testament produced afterwards. As a further sign that the early church regarded only the real Gospels as authentic, you’ll find if you study the writings of the first Christians more than 200 years before the Council of Nicea, that between them they quoted almost the entire New Testament in their letters, and it matches what we have today.

In contrast, one of the early “fathers” of Gnosticism, Marcion, wrote a list of what he regarded as the authentic New Testament in 140AD, the so-called Marcionite Canon, which included the Gospel of Luke and ten of Paul’s Epistles. His list contained none of the Gnostic books, indicating they had not yet been crafted.

The Gnostic gospels were, and are, a crock. A religious flat-earth theory. They suffered their final defeat at Nicea along with their main promoter, a wayward bishop named Arius (much like Lloyd Geering or John Shelby Spong today). Their reappearance today says more about the state of denial some people are prepared to live in than anything about their actual worth.

The primary message of Jesus Christ, and attested to by the genuine Gospels, is that God took on human form, walked the earth in Galilee and gave his life that those who believed in that Act and its significance might repent of their sins and be saved to a resurrection life after death. First and foremost, the message of Christ was spiritual, not social. Good works follow faith, they do not precede it or supersede it.

Concerning Mary Magdalene, it may be my eyes, but I’m unable to find a reference to Jesus, Mary and Peter going to the Temple and Peter having to remain outside. However, the main thrust of your point is that Mary was only allowed in because she was a Priestess/Clairvoyant, because other women were not permitted.

With respect, you are mistaken. There are numerous references in the Gospels to ordinary women entering the Temple to pray and worship. There is no suggestion in the authentic Gospels that Magdalene was a clairvoyant, but assuming that she was for the sake of your argument, I can only presume that the 11 surviving male disciples and around 500 others who witnessed the resurrection appearances were all clairvoyants as well? Even Peter, whom you say had to remain outside?

On to your other questions:

How was Jesus directly descended from David when Joseph was only his adoptive father?

Through his mother, Mary. The genealogy in Luke 3 is via Mary’s father, Heli, back to Nathan, a son of King David and his wife Bathsheba. Jesus was doubly blessed however because under Jewish inheritance rules Joseph was “of the House of David” and so too was his adopted son Jesus.

If Mary was a virgin, how did Jesus have brothers and sisters?
The “brothers and sisters” of Jesus followed later as the full biological children of Mary and Joseph. The idea that Mary was an eternal virgin is, again, a tradition of the Catholic Church not supported by the Bible itself.

Divinity, virgin birth, miracles? No!

For a woman who is prepared to accept, with a lot less evidence, clairvoyancy and ghosts, you then grapple with supernatural themes in the Bible and find them too hard to believe? Sorry Jane, you contradict yourself here. Once you accept any possibility of a supernatural realm you are forced to accept all of its potential, just like you can’t be just a little bit pregnant.

If you wish to read a well-researched book on the authenticity and accuracy of the Gospels in order to get a balanced view, I can recommend Craig Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Gary Habermas’ The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence For The Life Of Christ, or Josh McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, which should all be available at your local library.

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2007

The Rise of the Neo-Coms

commies (2)0001.jpg

RISE OF THE NEO-COMS

The Socialists Are Back


New Zealand’s new communists wear designer jeans, frequent Ponsonby and Thorndon, are hypocrites-extraordinaire, and have far more influence than Karl Marx ever fantasised. IAN WISHART discovers the links between radical socialism and radical Islam in New Zealand

A major investigative article in this magazine exposing radical Islam’s growing stranglehold on New Zealand mosques has flushed out an unlikely bunch of bedfellows, and the return of some old favourites. As you will have seen in this month’s Letters pages, more than 150 people have now signed a hate-letter to Investigate for daring to delve into visits by Islamic terror-fundraisers to New Zealand...

But the letter is surprising for one big reason: the huge number of socialists and local “moderate” Muslims prepared to condone the most extreme form of Islamofascism: the Wahhabi Salafist strain followed by the al Qa’ida terror group.

Here’s what the signatories wrote in a preface to their letter published on the Scoop website:

“The March 2007 edition of Investigate magazine carried a lengthy article by Ian Wishart which claimed that the New Zealand Muslim community is being infected by ‘Islamic extremism’. Mr Wishart's 18-page rant is New Zealand's first full-on example of Islamophobic gutter journalism,’ said Grant Morgan, organiser of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement.

"The most basic fact is that nobody in the New Zealand Muslim community has ever been charged with any act of 'terrorism', let alone convicted. That puts the lie to his propaganda of fear, suspicion and hate."

Morgan deliberately overlooks the Saudi men discovered in Hamilton trying to photocopy flight manuals for Boeing 757 jetliners – the same aircraft that were used in the 9/11 attacks just a few months later. Morgan also ignores the discovery that a roommate of the 9/11 hijackers at the time was later found living in New Zealand. Morgan ignores the plans for Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor found in an Auckland house used by former members of the Afghan mujihadeen.

Most of all however, Morgan and the 160 or so “useful idiots” who signed his letter deliberately ignore that the local Muslim community have been inviting Islamic clerics with documented links to terrorism, to come to New Zealand and run youth camps and lectures.

Morgan’s letter talks of “our Muslim community” and “peaceful Muslims”, yet those same people invited guests here whose published literature, DVDs and comments include such gems as:

• “The clash of civilisations is a reality. Western culture ...is an enemy of Islam.” – Bilal Philips • “We know the Prophet Muhammed practiced it [marrying a 9 year old girl], it wasn’t abuse or exploitation” – Bilal Philips • “There is no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend” – Khalid Yasin • “This whole delusion of the equality of women is a bunch of foolishness...there’s no such thing” – Khalid Yasin • “If you prefer the clothing of the [infidels] over the clothing of the Muslims, most of those names that’s on most of those clothings [sic] is faggots, homosexuals and lesbians” – Khalid Yasin • “Tried, convicted...punishable by death” – Khalid Yasin on the penalty for being gay • “Are you ready to die?” – essay by Siraj Wahhaj on jihad martyrdom • “The blessing of death” – essay by Siraj Wahhaj on the need for jihad • “The easy way to Paradise – how to get there” – essay by Siraj Wahhaj on the benefits of becoming an Islamic jihadi • “Kill Jews and worshippers of the Cross...as well as Hindus” – book worked on by Yahya Ibrahim • “Islam is a religion of peace” – Siraj Wahhaj talking to Western reporters

On the strength of those claims, all documented in our March article (now available online) from firebrand Wahhabi fanatics who’ve been teaching New Zealand Muslims for at least seven years, Investigate can only conclude that the list of signatories to Grant Morgan’s letter not only endorse such Islamic hatespeech, they also welcome it in New Zealand and believe local “peaceful” Muslims should bring more of these preachers out here.

In their letter, the signatories accuse Investigate of suggesting “that all Muslims adhere to the same ideas, and from this absurd generalisation he attempts to link peaceful Muslims to violent extremists.”

Investigate did not have to “attempt” to link anything: local peaceful Muslims invited the scum of Islam to New Zealand for lecture tours every year, while encouraging followers to read their books and watch their DVDs.

Are the invited guests “violent extremists”? Some were conspirators in terror plots to blow up New York landmarks. Others frequently talk of a coming battle between Islam and the West:

“It is abundantly clear that the big battle is inevitably coming,” said invited guest Yahya Ibrahim, “and that the Word of Tawheed (Islam) will be victorious without a doubt.”

Siraj Wahhaj told journalists that America and the West “will be crushed” unless they “accept the Islamic agenda”.

But no, the fact that men with opinions like these are the star attraction in peaceful New Zealand mosques is merely – according to Morgan in a Three-Wise-Monkeys impersonation – an attempt at “negative transference”.

Morgan wants “all New Zealand communities, including our Muslim sisters and brothers, to unite for peace,” but it seems that could be difficult if local Muslims take the advice of the hate preachers listed above.

According to the signatories, they are ordinary New Zealanders extending the hand of friendship to local Muslims and fighting Islamophobia on their behalf. But as you’re about to discover, many of the signatories are far from ordinary, and the groups they affiliate with are linked to support of extremist Islam in Britain as well. They are, in fact, a 21st century manifestation of an old Western foe – Soviet-style communism.

In a stunning display of dishonest hypocrisy and chutzpah, the Neo-Coms last year shot their mouths off about the Exclusive Brethren failing to list their religion on an election pamphlet, yet as you’ll see from the letter to Investigate, few of the most interesting signatories to us told anywhere near the full truth about who they are and what they represent.

Of the 163 signatures listed randomly in the letter, only two – Vaughan Gunson and Warren Brewer, declared themselves openly to be socialists. But an Investigate inquiry, coupled with revelations posted on Act party member Trevor Loudon’s blog, has shown a full 40 – at minimum, are socialists or communists, with potentially a further 20 falling into those categories as well.

Why would organisations so vocal about the apparent failure of the Brethren to be open, themselves be involved in a much larger covert exercise to disguise the political organisations they represent behind a series of entities with misleading names?

Take Grant Morgan, for instance, who organised the hate-letter. Morgan lists himself merely as “the organiser of RAM, Residents Action Movement”, which gained nearly 10% of the vote at the last Auckland Regional Council election in 2004. RAM portrays itself as standing up for the rights of Auckland residents in fighting rates hikes and the like. It arguably should be forced to stand at this year’s local body elections under its real name: Socialist Worker. RAM, you see, is merely a front organisation for the New Zealand branch of the radical British communist organisation, Socialist Worker.

Robyn Hughes, listed as the second signatory to the hate-letter, is a RAM member elected to the ARC. She just happens to be Grant Morgan’s partner, although this point, like the socialist background of both of them, is deliberately not declared.

But if you think this article is going to be an earnest hunt for “Reds under the Beds”, forget it, this hunt is hilarious in what it discloses about Neo-Coms. Did you know, for instance, that they still talk like party apparatchiks from a bad Cold War spy movie?

“I joined Socialist Worker,” David Colyer told an international socialist paper three years ago, “in 1997, my first year of university. I’d been a Marxist, in theory, for several years before that. The comrades, none of whom were students of the university, encouraged me to help build a movement.”

Did he just use the word “Comrades” in 2004?

“We want to replace the Labour Party with a new mass workers’ party, one in which...Marxists participate fully,” Colyer continued, veering onto his plans for a “broad left” newspaper, “which will include contributions from Socialist Worker [and] may well become the most important vehicle for spreading socialist ideas...We are still going to need some kind of Socialist Worker publication, around which to organise a Marxist current within the workers’ movement.”

And you thought Communism’s wombles had given up the ghost with the collapse of the Berlin Wall? Apparently not. They fever away to this very moment plotting the “revolution”.

“Here in Aotearoa,” notes a recent post on Socialist Worker’s blogsite, unityaotearoa.blogspot.com, “there are a number of events to remobilise the Anti War Movement. This Saturday will be an Anti-Imperialist St Patricks Day.”

Internationally, some members of the socialist groups organising “peace” marches have taken to wearing tinfoil hats in the hope of avoiding CIA “mindscans”. The CIA, however, takes the much simpler route of reading their online posts, some of which will have you rolling on the floor in hoots of laughter.

“If more decisive measures on global warming aren’t taken,” panted communist ARC councilor Robyn Hughes breathlessly during an Auckland protest last November, “Queen St may be under water in a generation...and then we will be swimming, not obeying road rules.”

Oh really? Even in Al Gore’s rib-tickling Inconvenient Truth it isn’t suggested that sea levels will rise by 3 to 4 metres in 25 years. Or even a hundred years. Sixty centimetres, at most, 10 centimetres more likely.

Regardless of how you rate their chances, the tinfoil hat brigade are still intent on world domination, however, with Peter Boyle – the editor of socialist magazine Links - citing “a new climate of collaboration in the international left. This is a project involving the left from the Communist Party, the Trotskyist, Maoist, ex-Social Democratic, independent left and liberation theology (‘Christian’ Marxism) traditions.”

A guest speaker at these international communist gatherings is New Zealand’s own Matt McCarten, the telegenic former advisor to the Alliance and Maori parties who’s now behind Socialist Worker and its plans to introduce a new hard left political party before the next election.

As Trevor Loudon notes:

“He began building a movement called the Workers Charter Movement, as the basis for a new mass-based political movement. The WCM was based around the Socialist Workers Organisation (and its front, the Residents Action Movement), elements of the Greens and Maori Party, the ‘Unite’ trade union, the late Bill Andersen’s Socialist Party of Aotearoa, and John Minto and Mike Treen’s Global Peace and Justice Aotearoa.”

The activities of the “comrades” wouldn’t normally be an issue, except for the fact that they have friends in high places.
Prime Minister Helen Clark, for example, has been a card-carrying member of Socialist International for most of her political career, and was a keynote speaker at Socialist International’s world conference in Wellington seven years ago. The organisation’s website lists the NZ Prime Minister as a member of its ruling “Presidium”, in the capacity as “co-chair, Asia Pacific Committee”.

Clark has appointed other key socialists to commanding positions in New Zealand’s bureaucratic infrastructure. They include Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan, and Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres.

Of de Bres, Trevor Loudon records:

“While studying German at Auckland University (1965-68) de Bres became active in the Student Christian Movement. Like many Marxist groups, the SCM hid it's real emphasis behind an innocuous name. Far from being a bunch of clean cut spiritual seekers, the SCM was and is a "Christian-Marxist" organisation.

“ ‘I studied Marx, Engels and Lenin, Marcuse, Rosa Luxemburg, Frantz Fanon, and modern German writers of the revolutionary left. Students saw their hope for revolutionary change in an alliance with the working classes, through radicalised trade unions. They had nearly pulled it off in Paris in 1968,’ [said de Bres].”

De Bres, among many incarnations, once ran the CORSO ‘charity’, which was a front organisation for the Maoist Chinese brand of communism, and later joined some of his old CORSO colleagues in setting up OXFAM New Zealand.

“OXFAM NZ tends to focus its aid into countries that have active revolutionary movements,” writes Loudon. “This is not surprising as its staff, trustees and patrons include a significant proportion of socialists and Marxist-Leninists.”

It is de Bres’ Human Rights Commission, with Helen Clark, that is ramming through the “National Religious Diversity Statement” in time for a declaration at Waitangi on May 29 that New Zealand is no longer a Christian country, and that New Zealand is adopting as Government policy the highly controversial “Alliance of Civilisations” programme commanded by the United Nations.

Unlike those who value Western civilisation and its traditions based on Judeo-Christian laws and institutions, the “Alliance of Civilisations” project rules that all cultures, from Stone-Age and recently cannibalistic Papua New Guinea through to the US, are equal.

“There is no hierarchy among cultures, as each has contributed to the evolution of humanity.”

The Alliance of Civilisations, incidentally, was the brainchild of Turkey’s Islamic Party Prime Minister – whose party is currently at the centre of riots in Turkey over suspicions of a plot to turn the country into an Islamic state – and also the socialist Prime Minister of Spain, whose Socialist Workers party swept to power after the al Qa’ida Madrid bombings. Under his stewardship, Spain pulled out of Iraq and legalised gay marriage.

Unlikely bedfellows, the socialist and the Islamic conservative? Perhaps, but it reflects a fascinating development worldwide.
As the hate-letter to Investigate magazine reveals, a huge number of Neo-Coms are swinging in behind Muslim groups and individuals in a PR jihad against Investigate. But it is not just New Zealand. Socialist Worker’s sister parties in Britain and Australia are doing exactly the same thing:

“The Australian media, working hand in hand with the Howard government and the opposition Labor Party, has seized upon a sermon delivered last month by a Sydney-based Islamic cleric to escalate its hysterical campaign against Muslims,” begins one report earlier this year in a socialist publication across the ditch.

“Last Thursday, the Australian published translated excerpts from a sermon delivered by Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali last month, in which the Muslim cleric appeared to blame rape victims for their plight. ‘She is the one wearing a short dress, lifting it up, lowering it down, then a look, then a smile, then a word, then a greeting, then a chat, then a date, then a meeting, then a crime, then Long Bay Jail, then comes a merciless judge who gives you 65 years,’ he said. This was an apparent reference to the extraordinarily harsh sentence imposed on 20-year-old Bilal Skaf for gang rape convictions in Sydney six years ago.”

Pause for just a moment: the Socialist movement in Australia is describing the prison sentences handed down to a group of Lebanese men who gang-raped an Australian girl just because she was an “infidel” as “extraordinarily harsh”?

Nice to know where the tinfoil socialists really stand on women’s rights.

“There is now an inescapable necessity for all those opposed to militarism and war, and committed to the defence of democratic rights, to develop an independent political opposition to the xenophobic campaign being directed against Muslims,” the report continued.

And from Socialist Worker’s New Zealand blog:

“Even amongst revolutionary socialists, there is...Socialist Worker proudly on the side of Muslim people fighting Islamophobia in countries like Aotearoa and Britain.”

In other words, if you think the hate-letter to Investigate is anything more than part of a worldwide political stunt, think again.
NZ Labour list candidate, Anjum Rahmun of the Islamic Women’s Council, told a rally in Auckland two years ago that Muslims need to wage jihad against “those in our society who will use race and religion to divide us.”

This is the same Anjum Rahmun who signed the hate-letter, but left off the bit about being a Labour list candidate. A bigger question though is why Rahmun is not urging her fellow local Muslims to wage jihad against their guests Yahya Ibrahim, Khalid Yasin, Bilal Philips and Siraj Wahhaj for commanding that Muslims cannot be friendly with non-Muslims. If that jihad notice went out from the local “peaceful” mosques, Investigate missed it.

It is hard to work out which group is playing the role of “Useful Idiots” – the puppet of the other. Is radical Wahhabi Islam using atheistic socialists to help get a toehold in New Zealand? Or are the socialists simply taking gullible Muslims for a ride as part of their own schemes? The evidence strongly suggests the latter.

The Alliance of Civilisations document, for example, is 90% socialist ideology, and continues the aim originally spelt out by Karl Marx of abolishing national borders as part of a unified world, and encouraging greater immigration from the third world to the first.

“The solution is not to build walls around nations,” says the report. “Migrants make important contributions...Indeed, Muslim immigrants to the US, on average, have higher levels of education and are more affluent than non-Muslim Americans.

“Political, civil society and religious leadership in the West can help set the tone within which debates regarding immigration take place by speaking forcefully and publicly in defense of the rights of immigrants.

“American and European universities and research centres...should promote publications coming from the Muslim world on a range of subjects related to Islam and the Muslim world.”

The Alliance of Civilisations report, whilst stopping short of recommending outright censorship of the news, nonetheless recommends that sympathetic media outlets be identified to promote the goals of greater immigration and integration, and be encouraged to produce good-news stories about Islam whilst downplaying the negative.

“The Alliance of Civilisations should take advantage of major media, cultural and sports events for the promotion of its objectives.”

The report, due to be adopted by the New Zealand Government later this month, is a public propaganda campaign almost without precedent outside Nazi Germany. David Benson-Pope’s Ministry of Social Development is working on it, and a briefing document released this month explains some of it:

“The Waitangi Dialogue will focus on the broad themes of peace, development, security and education, and aims to develop a plan of action with proposals for practical projects in these areas. The overall emphasis of the Waitangi meeting will be on developing relations – or building bridges – between faith communities.

“High Level Symposium on the Alliance of Civilisations Report: Auckland, New Zealand, 24 May 2007 The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, with co-sponsorship by the government of Norway, will host a high level symposium in Auckland on 24 May 2007 to discuss the report of the Alliance of Civilisations High Level Group.

“Prime Minister Clark wishes to ensure that the report receives full consideration including in the Asia-Pacific region. The symposium, which will be by invitation only, will bring together a small group of leaders, community representatives and experts to discuss the implications of the report for the region. Norway’s involvement will bring to the event the benefit of its considerable expertise as a leader in peace and reconciliation processes.”

As the letter-writer to Investigate put it:

“Basically the Alliance of Civilisations is a UN strategy whereby the secularism of the West can accommodate Islam peacefully - the focus appears to be on reconciliation of secularism with Islam with isolation of evangelicalism. Helen Clark has recently stated that NZ is no longer a Christian country. - meaning that Evangelical Christianity no longer has a place in NZ. It will be interesting to see who attends (‘by invitation only’) the coming meetings in NZ on the AoC, which Helen states she is going to personally facilitate, and who is not going to be invited - this may tell a story in itself.”

Which brings us back to the Socialists and Muslims’ Letter of Hate. Suddenly, with the revelation that die-hard tinfoil-hat wearing communists are using Muslims as “useful idiots”, the socialist-inspired Alliance of Civilisations document starts to make sense, especially with Helen Clark listed as the Asia-Pacific chair of Socialist International on their website, www.socialistinternational.org, in its report of the 2004 Socialist International World Council meeting held in Madrid that February.

“New Zealand is hosting the first symposium on the Alliance of Civilisations’ report in the Asia-Pacific region next month,” Clark said in an April 2007 speech in Valencia attended by the Spanish Prime Minister.

“It will be followed by a meeting in our country of the regional interfaith dialogue which brings together multi- faith delegations from South East Asian and South Pacific nations.

“The Asia Pacific region is at the intersection of many of the world’s great faiths. Peace and security in our region, as throughout the world, are dependent on us breaking down the artificial barriers we human beings have built between ourselves, so that we can celebrate our common humanity.

“We applaud Spain, together with Turkey, co-sponsoring the Alliance of Civilisations initiative at the United Nations. That has led to an important report on how to overcome the distressing polarisation we have seen between the Western and Islamic worlds...I believe that New Zealand’s close involvement in the affairs of the Asia Pacific make us of much greater interest to Spain at this time.”

Little wonder then, that New Zealand socialists are moving swiftly to try and prevent Investigate’s revelations from gaining wider traction or interfering with the implementation of the Alliance of Civilisations here.

Independent media, like Investigate, who dare to expose the arrival of extremist Wahhabism in New Zealand are targeted in the hope we’ll be intimidated into backing away from publishing further details.

But don’t expect other local media to report this. Socialist groups have also managed to buy the silence of most of the New Zealand news media, by offering inducements via the Media Peace Awards. The awards were set up in 1984, at the height of anti-nuclear protests worldwide, with the aim of encouraging reporting favourable to Peace Foundation causes. The Peace Foundation is another socialist front agency (see sidebar story). For the record, Investigate magazine has never entered them, but regular entries are received each year from:

Metro
North & South
The Listener
TV3
TVNZ
Radio NZ

North & South’s Jenny Chamberlain took the premier award in 2006. A year earlier it was her editor Robyn Langwell. The year before that it was North & South again, with both Metro and the Listener “highly commended”.

This is not to say that winners and finalists have not done good work, but as with any “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” arrangement it is journalistically ethically questionable whether any media should take part in a Media Peace Awards requiring them to give favourable coverage to a particular socio-political view. For example, would Investigate’s expose on Wahhabi Islam win a prize?

Journalism should only be judged on its news value, not its propaganda value. The obvious answer shows how the media can be bought and paid for with a few crumbs and a pat on the head.

The Media Peace Awards encourage slanted reporting. If you see a media outlet crowing about winning a Media Peace Award, you can judge their journalistic credibility for yourself.

Indeed, the close relationship between the Peace Foundation and NZ media may explain why neither TV3 nor TVNZ picked up the rights to the internationally acclaimed Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on radical Islam infiltrating British mosques this year. The documentary features many of the same people in the Investigate article, but it is arguably possible that neither TV channel wants to mess up its chances of winning a “peace” award by screening it.

The Peace Foundation, thanks to its close links with Labour, is also responsible for Ministry of Education policy on “peace studies”:

“From the outset,” records the Foundation’s website, “the Foundation concentrated on providing resources and stimulus for peace education in educational institutions, as well as servicing community groups. It also acted as a catalyst for the formation and/or maintenance of a number of groups including Students and Teachers Educating for Peace (STEP), Media Aware and the World Court Project. It also participated in a series of conferences arranged by Russell Marshall, during his term as Minister of Education from 1987-1990, and made a major contribution to the development of the Peace Studies Guidelines for schools.”

“In collaboration with the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), and in consultation with the Curriculum Development Unit of the former Department of Education, the Foundation published a resource book for teachers at the primary/intermediate level entitled Learning Peaceful Relationships. This has become almost a standard resource and some 12,000 copies have been sold both in New Zealand and overseas.

“In 1989 the Foundation produced a pamphlet to provide all Boards of Trustee members with specific information about the implementation of peace education, when the School Charters were being drawn up. In 2000 the Foundation published Thanks not Spanks, a book designed to give parents and caregivers ideas on how to raise children with out resorting to violence.”

Peace Foundation director Marion Hancock is one of those who signed the letter against Investigate.

But perhaps the final word as to the credibility of Grant Morgan’s list should go to some of the signatories themselves. When we first received the letter via email, we doubted that Morgan had either properly obtained all the signatures or properly set out Investigate’s case when seeking comment.

Morgan refused to provide a copy of the email he had sent to prospective signatories, so we decided to ring a few signatories at random. Rosemary Arnoux, a lecturer in French at Auckland University, admitted in a hilarious phone exchange (www.investigatemagazine.com/rosemary.mp3) that she had not even read the Investigate article she was “complaining” about, until after we’d queried Morgan’s bona fides.

INVESTIGATE: I’m just double checking that you have in fact seen it?
ARNOUX: What, your article? I scanned it rapidly on my computer this morning.
INVESTIGATE: You scanned it rapidly –
ARNOUX: [interrupting] I read it fast, very fast!
INVESTIGATE: You read it –
ARNOUX: [interrupting] Oh look! [click, hangs up]

Another was Mua Strickson-Pua, who told Investigate he actually quite liked the article, but needed to be staunch.

“I had a quick browse through. Ian, I felt it wasn’t too bad, I felt it was middle of the road, but I thought I would get in behind in terms of the people who had their concerns. I said I was happy to be a co-signatory, but at the same time I thought your article wasn’t too bad!”

A similar sentiment was echoed by Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey, who said he had to take a public stand regardless of what he privately thought.

“If I was you I’d probably do it the same, but I’m not doing that I’m being the mayor of a city and I actually care about some harmony before bloody car bombs start going off in Henderson.”

Quite. But if local Muslims keep mixing with al Qa’ida terror fundraisers and local communists spoiling to “bring on the revolution”, Harvey may not get his wish.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2007

Unholy Alliance: Islam & Socialists in NZ: May 07 issue

ESSAY
islam0004.jpg
caption: this 15 year old Indonesian girl was almost beheaded by Islamic extremists. Her crime: being a Christian

DANGEROUS LIAISONS

Muslims, Marxists and NZ Migration

There’s more controversy over Investigate’s 18 page special report on Islamic terrorist sympathisers in New Zealand. IAN WISHART analyses the impact of the story, and the latest developments

One of the extremist Islamic preachers of hate who featured in the March issue of Investigate has been banned from entering Australia, despite being allowed to tour New Zealand giving lectures and inspiration to hundreds of New Zealand Muslims.

Bilal Philips, who was named as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the plot to blow up a range of New York landmarks, including the World Trade Centre, in 1993, was able to slip into and out of New Zealand because the Minister in charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Helen Clark, has failed to activate a border protection watch list of individuals with known links to terrorism.

Although the legislation was passed in 2002, following requests from the United Nations, New Zealand has not named a single individual for Customs and Immigration officers to watch for. As Investigate reported in March (see online at www.thebriefingroom.com) , that oversight has meant dozens of radical extremists, some of them – like Philips – with known links to terrorist organisations, have been able to come and go at will without the New Zealand government evening realising.

Over the past few weeks, Investigate has received a series of, largely, form letters, a selection of which you can read in our Letters pages, accusing us essentially of whipping up ‘Islamophobia’ and endangering local Muslims.

The allegations are false. Additionally, we were surprised to discover the fingerprints of diehard left-wing Marxists on the whinge campaign, as this extract from a Socialist Worker blog this month reveals:

“Our members in the Residents Action Movement (RAM) are currently working with the Muslim community to respond against the despicable Islamophobia of Ian Wishart's Investigate magazine. We have marched together for Palestine , Lebanon and Iraq, and will be united on the streets if there are any attacks on Iran. We do not look on our Muslim comrades as victims, tokens, demons or others, but our brothers and sisters in the fight for peace and global justice.”

Keep taking the pills, boys. Maybe you’ll wake up from your own self-inflicted Matrix one day. Or perhaps you should read my new book, Eve’s Bite. Then you’ll really have something to whinge about.

If you read the Socialist Worker post in full, however (http://unityaotearoa.blogspot.com/2007/04/marxist-muslim-alliance-response-to.html), you’ll find they were responding in faux indignation at suggestions from a local Muslim that Marxists are using Muslims as stooges to foment unrest in New Zealand. I say the indignation is “faux”, because socialism is blatantly atheistic in nature and hostile to religion, so it is obvious to most rational people that socialists are indeed taking Muslims for a ride, and probably having a right old laugh at their expense.

However, allow me to explain in greater detail why the Investigate scoop in March is the biggest unreported story of the year so far (although it was picked up by the Christchurch Press and Newstalk ZB’s Larry Williams):

We are told local Muslims are “moderate”. Indeed, they self-identify as “moderate” and, as one Islamic acquaintance – Imran - told me this month, the moderateness reflects the fact that New Zealand is not “joining with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan”. The local community, he says, doesn’t feel any inclination to take to the streets because it knows most New Zealanders feel equally dubious about America’s adventures.

But here’s the rub – if that is the only reason for moderation, what happens if the wider New Zealand community at some point believe a war against radical Islam is justified?

Then there’s the definition of “moderate”. People make the mistake of trying to understand Islam the same way many understand Christianity. In the West, we are familiar with the debates about whether the Bible is fundamentally true (the conservative wing of Christianity) or fundamentally mythical (the liberal wing of Christianity). In Islam, there is no such polarity: you will not find a “moderate” Muslim willing to suggest that the Qu’ran is mythical. All practicing Muslims, whether extremist or “moderate”, believe the Qu’ran is true down to its last letter. They may disagree on how the Qu’ran and its edicts can be implemented in Dar al Harb (all the countries ruled by non-Islamic governments, literally translated from Arabic as “House of War”), but there is no dispute that the Qu’ran calls for the eventual unification of the entire planet under one Islamic ruler, the new Khalifah (Caliph).

As a Christian, I share many concerns that are similar to those of Muslims. Christians and Muslims are generally socially conservative. However, as I told Imran, New Zealand’s tolerance of moderate Islam hinges to a large extent on Islam doing a much better job at self-policing against radicals. Investigate magazine praised Christchurch moderates several years ago who blew the whistle on a move by Saudi terrorist fundraisers Al Haramain group to take over the Christchurch mosque. We saw that whistleblowing as self-policing in action.

But it was stunning to find out this year that extremist clerics, bearing large wads of money from extremist Saudi Arabia, have been intimately involved in guiding and helping the New Zealand Islamic community. Extremist preachers have DVDs and books on sale here, and local mosques are working for the introduction of shari’a principles in New Zealand.

Saudi Arabia is the home of Wahhabism, the most extreme form of radical Islam and the faction that Osama bin Laden belongs to. We should be very concerned about Saudi Arabia’s influence with NZ mosques, because here’s what the Saudis teach their children in school.

Year One (Five year olds):
“Every religion other than Islam is false”
“Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ________.”

Now, if it stopped there, I’d have little to object to. You can go into any number of Christian churches of a Sunday and hear a message about Christianity being the only true religion. I have no problems with Islam making its absolute truth claim, even if I disagree with their faith in it. However, it doesn’t stop there, and Islam’s indoctrination of children in Islamic schools gets much worse:

Year Four:
“True belief means...that you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly.”

Year Five:
“Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of Allah cannot maintain a loyal friendship with those who oppose Allah and his Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives.”

“It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in Allah and his Prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam.”

“A Muslim, even if he lives far away, is your brother in religion. Someone who opposes Allah, even if he is your brother by family tie, is your enemy in religion.”

Year Six (Ten year olds):
“Just as Muslims were successful in the past when they came together in a sincere endeavour to evict the Christian crusaders from Palestine, so will the Arabs and Muslims emerge victorious, Allah willing, against the Jews and their allies if they stand together and fight a true jihad for Allah, for this is within Allah’s power.”

Year Eight:
“The apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus.”

Year Nine (13 year olds):
“The clash between this [Muslim] community (umma) and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as Allah wills.”

“It is part of Allah’s wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour [of judgement].”

“Muslims will triumph because they are right. He who is right is always victorious, even if most people are against him.”

Year Ten:

[Note: at the age of 14, Muslim students are required to start learning shari’a principles in more detail. These particular textbook quotes deal with “blood money”, which is the fine payable to a victim or their surviving heirs for murder or injury]

“Blood money for a free infidel...is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, whether or not he is ‘of the book’ [Christian or Jewish] or not ‘of the book’ [pagan, atheist, etc]”

“Blood money for a woman: Half of the blood money for a man, in accordance with his religion. The blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel.”

Year Eleven (15 year olds):
“The greeting ‘Peace be upon you’ is specifically for believers. It cannot be said to others.”

“If one comes to a place where there is a mixture of Muslims and infidels, one should offer a greeting intended for the Muslims.”

“Do not yield to them [Christians and Jews] on a narrow road, out of honour and respect.”

Year Twelve:
“Jihad in the path of Allah – which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it – is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to Allah, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to Allah.”

Pretty grim reading, huh? Those quotes are all taken from current school textbooks in Saudi Arabia as part of the compulsory “Islamic studies” curriculum, books smuggled out by families with children in Saudi schools and provided to the Institute of Gulf Affairs, a Washington DC think-tank headed by Saudi dissident Ali al-Ahmed. He in turn gave the textbooks to the Washington Post newspaper, to illustrate how millions of Arab children are being indoctrinated to hate the West and prepare for jihad and Armageddon.
The textbooks represent Wahhabi doctrine, and the chilling aspect of some of the emails Investigate received from NZ “moderates” was phrases like this one where they criticised us for using the phrase “Wahhabism (supposedly an "extreme" form of Islam) 20 times.”
What do they mean, “supposedly”?

If New Zealand Islamic “moderates” are questioning our suggestion that Wahhabism is “extreme” – you should be very afraid for your country.

Thankfully, the offending phrase is in a chain letter presumably drafted with the help of the communist insurgents over at Socialist Worker, so it may not yet have widespread support within NZ Islam. But that doesn’t negate the reality that it was moderates who invited the Wahhabi hatemongers here in the first place.

So here’s my take on the Islamic issue for NZ.

I believe you should have freedom to worship. I believe you should have the freedom to dress conservatively, including the hijab if you so choose. I believe you should have the right to preach Islam. I believe you should have the same individual rights as other members of the NZ community. I believe you should be free from discrimination and not treated as second class citizens.

BUT...there are some particular limits in regard to your religion. Islam is not just a religion – properly understood, it is a complete system of government and a political system that does not tolerate democracy. In that sense, I suspect I speak for many non-Muslim New Zealanders when I say that this country shall never be part of Dar al Islam [an Islamic nation under shari’a law]. If you nurse such fantasies, pack your bags and return whence you came, because you are the problem.

You have emigrated to a country which – regardless of the prattle from the New Zealand government – is founded on the Judeo-Christian democratic tradition, not an Islamic theocratic one.

If you can live with this reality, then you are welcome here as fellow New Zealanders. And if you can start policing the extremists out of your mosques and lecture halls and bookshops, then the rest of us won’t have to do it and we’ll respect you all the more for your stand.


Posted by Ian Wishart at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2007

Wolves in Sheikh's Clothing: May 07 issue

WOLVES IN SHEIKH’S CLOTHING

Jonathan Last takes a troubling look inside moderate Islam

When I first met Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, he was a young counterterrorism expert just breaking into print. I had edited some of his work. He seemed like a normal fellow. But as we spoke, he told me a remarkable story.

Gartenstein-Ross grew up in Ashland, Oregon, one of the West Coast's hippie enclaves. His parents were liberal, ecumenical Jews who raised him to believe in the beauty of all faiths. There were pictures of Jesus in his living room and a statue of the Buddha in the backyard. Young Daveed was attracted to various liberal causes and concerned with social justice. He went to college in North Carolina, where he converted to Islam. Upon graduation, Gartenstein-Ross went to work for a religious charity, the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, which was run by a group of radicals.

After a year at Al-Haramain, he went to law school, where he eventually left Islam. In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, Gartenstein-Ross learned that the FBI was investigating Al-Haramain for ties to terrorism. He reached out to the bureau and helped build its case.

Gartenstein-Ross has now told his story in a book, "My Year Inside Radical Islam." It is an important resource for understanding Islam in America.

There are two deep insights in "My Year Inside Radical Islam." The first is an illumination of one of the pathways to radicalism. When Gartenstein-Ross first converted, he embraced Sufism, a spiritual, moderate sect. He wasn't looking to become an anti-Western fundamentalist. But the more he interacted with other Muslims, the more he was pushed, in a form of groupthink, to embrace an increasingly restrictive faith. He learned that in Islam, all sorts of things are haram (forbidden). Alcohol, of course. And listening to music. And wearing shorts that expose the thigh. And wearing necklaces. Or gold. Or silk. Or using credit cards. Or shaving. Or shaking hands with women.

As Gartenstein-Ross explains, Islam has commandments for every aspect of life, from how to dress to how to wipe yourself after going to the bathroom. And once he joined the Muslim community, he found that the group was self-policing. Members were eager to report and reprimand one another for infractions. It is not hard to imagine how a well-adjusted, intelligent person might get caught up in such a social dynamic.

The book also illustrates the troubling state of Islamic organizations in the United States. Nearly every discussion of Islamic radicalism and terrorism is prefaced by a disclaimer that of course the vast majority of Muslims are morally opposed to both. This may well be true.

But the problem in the current struggle against Islamic fascism is that the radicals often find succor from moderate Muslims - even "moderates" aren't always as liberal as one might hope. While Gartenstein-Ross never came into contact with actual terrorists, he was surrounded by people - normal Muslim citizens - whose worldviews were unsettling.

Before 9/11, Al-Haramain's headquarters in Ashland was seen as a bastion of moderate, friendly Islam. Pete Seda, who ran the office, was publicly chummy with the local rabbi. The group encouraged public schools to bring children to their offices on field trips. All of this was for public consumption. In private, things were somewhat different.

One of Gartenstein-Ross' co-workers, for instance, often complained about the Nation of Islam, whose members he believed were deviants. He said, "Let them choose true Islam or cut off their heads."

Al-Haramain hosted a number of visitors, one of whom was a Saudi cleric named Abdul-Qaadir. He preached that those who leave Islam should be put to death. In defending the execution of apostates, he mused that "religion and politics aren't separable in Islam the way they are in the West. ... Leaving Islam isn't just converting from one faith to another. It's more properly understood as treason."

In warning Gartenstein-Ross about his engagement to a Christian, Abdul-Qaadir said, "As long as your wife isn't a Muslim, as far as we're concerned, she is 100 percent evil."

One night at services, a visiting member of the Egyptian branch of Al-Haramain declared that the Torah was "The Jews' plan to ruin everything." He continued, "Why is it that Henry Kissinger was the president of the international soccer federation while he was president of the United States? How did he have time to do both? It is because part of the Jews' plan is to get people throughout the world to play soccer so that they'll wear shorts that show off the skin of their thighs." (Former Secretary of State Kissinger was never president of either the United States or FIFA.)

The reaction of Seda - the "moderate" who cultivated a public friendship with the local rabbi - was, "Wow, bro, this is amazing. You come to us with this incredible information."

Such discourse seems less than rare at American Islamic organizations. A recent New Yorker profile of another homegrown radical, Adam Gadahn (a.k.a. "Azzam the American" and one of the FBI's most-wanted terrorists), recounted Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman's visit to the Islamic Society in Orange County, Calif. In his lecture, Rahman, later indicted for helping to plot the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, ridiculed the notion that jihad could be nonviolent and exhorted Muslims to take up fighting against the enemies of Allah. Sitting next to him and translating for the congregation was the local "moderate" imam. The New Yorker reports that "videotapes of the lecture were later offered for sale at the society's bookstore."

This would likely not surprise Gartenstein-Ross, some of whose Muslim acquaintances even disapproved of his decision to go to law school. Their objection was that, as a lawyer, Gartenstein-Ross would have to swear an oath to defend the Constitution. As one Muslim told him, "There are some things in the Constitution I like, but a lot of things in the Constitution are completely against Islamic principles."

This sentiment - not from an al-Qaeda fighter or a fire-breathing radical, but from a normal, devout Muslim - is important. The challenge Islam poses to the West goes beyond mere terrorism.

Jonathan V. Last is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.




Posted by Ian Wishart at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

The Doomsday Prophet: May 07 issue

UPI Intelligence Analysis
THE DOOMSDAY PROPHET

From Muslim hordes to atom bomb...Joshua Brilliant tracks the disturbing endgame of radical Islam

For the third time in its history, Islam is trying to bring the true faith to the rest of the world. However, this time is particularly dangerous, according to one of the world's leading authorities on Muslim history.

In a series of lectures at Israeli academic institutions, Princeton University Professor Bernard Lewis talked of the widespread Muslim-Shiite belief that time has come for a final global struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

“The fact that some of the societies are acquiring, or will soon acquire ... weapons of destructive power beyond Hitler's wildest dreams ... is something that we should be very concerned about,” he said.

Muslim believers consider themselves “the fortunate recipients of God's final message to humanity and it is their duty not to keep is selfishly to themselves ... (but) to bring it to the rest of mankind,” Lewis noted.

“In their first attempt to do so, they emerged from the Arabian Peninsula and conquered vast territories from Iran across North Africa to Spain, Portugal and parts of Italy. Converts conquered Russian lands and established an Islamic regime in Eastern Europe. There are even reports of an Arab raid into Switzerland. But that attempt to conquer Europe failed, and the Crusaders recovered the Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

“In the second round, the Ottoman Turks crossed southeastern Europe and reached Vienna. Twice they tried to capture it and failed. Western imperialism halted and reversed the Ottoman push.

“The current, third invasion, is not done by armed conquest or with migrating hordes, but by a combination of migration, demography, self denigration and self abasement, totally apologetic,” Lewis said.
Nevertheless, it arouses a fair and very alarming possibility that it could lead to a long, dreary race war between different communities in Europe.

“Signs of it are already visible in the form of neo-Fascist racist movements. If that is going to be the only response of Europe, apart from self-abasement, the outlook is grim,” he predicted.
Meanwhile, among Muslims there is a competition over who should lead their cause. This is one of the keys to understand the present situation, Lewis continued.

“On the one hand stand Osama bin Laden and his movement. He is a Saudi-Wahabi; in other words an ultra-conservative puritan Sunni-Muslim. The Saudi establishment considers him a rebel but they all belong to the same branch of Islam.
And then there are Muslim Shiites. They assumed a modern form and new vigor since the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1978.
Past friction, for example between the Ottoman Empire and Iran, was due to a rivalry over influence, not over religion.

“The current rivalry has acquired, a new acuteness ... It became more violent than in any time in the recorded history of Islam,” Lewis said.

“The Iranian revolution is resonating far and wide. It represents a major threat to the West but also to the Sunni establishment. It has led some Sunni leaders to re-evaluate the situation in the Middle East and their attitude towards Israel.

“Those leaders may dislike Israel and disapprove of it. However, they consider an uninterrupted line from Shiite Iran, across Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, and the large and growing Shiite populations around the coast of Arabia, to be a truly major threat.

“There are signs of ... a willingness on the part of many in the Sunni world to put aside their hostilities to Israelis ... in order to deal with the greater, more immediate and more intimate danger,” he said.

“We may see shifts in the policies of some Arab governments at least comparable with the great shift in Egyptian policy, when President Anwar Sadat opted for peace with Israel.

“The leaders contemplating such a change are very cautious. One reason is that their populations have been indoctrinated with hatred of Israel for so long that it is difficult to change tunes.”
There is another reason: Some uncertainty over how far they can trust the Israelis, Lewis said.

“During the summer's war against the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon, many Sunni Muslim governments discreetly cheered the Israelis, hoping they would finish the job. Some of them could hardly conceal their disappointment that Israel failed to do so,” he said.
Western-style anti-Semitism of the crudest type, meanwhile, is spreading and occupying a central role in many Muslim countries. One finds it in textbooks, schoolbooks, and in university doctoral dissertations, he noted.

Lewis said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “really believes ... (in) the apocalyptic message that he is bringing. (Israeli experts noted that Ahmadinejad prepared a wide boulevard in Tehran for the return of the Mahdi who disappeared some 1,000 years ago.)

“Islam has a scenario for the end of time, a final global struggle between the forces of good, God, and his anointed, and the forces of evil,” Lewis argued.

With such beliefs, the strategy that prevented a nuclear war between the West and the Communist blocs, during the Cold War era, may not apply.

“Mutually assured destruction, which kept the peace during the Cold War, though both sides had nuclear weapons ... doesn't work. It is not a deterrent. It is an inducement,” Lewis said.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2007

Voices From The Past: August 04 issue

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A long time ago on a marae far, far away...or it may as well have been. For the past three decades, all most New Zealanders have heard is a series of reinterpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi, which, depending on who is paying the scholar concerned, take widely diverging views of what the Treaty actually means. Today, thanks to a Court of Appeal ruling in the late 1980s, the Treaty is regarded by the Government, Civil Service and many within Maoridom’s upper echelons as a “partnership”, whereupon the Government must consult with its treaty partner before making major decisions, and where Maori interests obtain preferential slices of business activity in recognition of their special status.

No fewer than 22 laws are now on our statute books that require Government agencies to have regard to “the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”. It was a political slip-up by former Justice Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer that opened the lid to Waitangi’s Box, when he incorporated the phrase in the 1986 State Owned Enterprises Bill as a sop to Maori pressure on Labour at the time. Palmer now concedes he didn’t expect it to take on a life of its own thanks to a new breed of Treatycrats infiltrating the public service.

So what are the “Treaty principles” as understood today?

According to treaty law specialist Tim Castle in the Herald recently, they are “partnership; protection of Maori rangatiratanga (understood in modern times to mean Maori Sovereignty); tribal right of self-regulation; Crown’s duty to redress past breaches; Crown’s duty to consult; mutual benefit; options; active protection; and significance of the Treaty.”

Which brings us to a major question, is the modern interpretation of the Waitangi Treaty correct? To answer that, we now take readers back to July 1860 - exactly 144 years ago - and the biggest gathering of chiefs in New Zealand history. Government soldiers had just begun the war against Maori in the Taranaki, and had invited chiefs from around New Zealand to a major hui in Auckland. In broad terms, the government spelt out to Maori that a dispute over land in Taranaki had escalated into violence associated with a perceived rebellion based on Maori sovereignty. The question for debate: whether Maori wished to stand by the Crown or join the Maori sovereignty movement.

What follows is a direct transcript of speeches from that hui. As you read it, ask yourself whether Maori in 1860 believed in Maori sovereignty, or that the Treaty was a partnership in the modern sense of the word:

TE KARERE [The Maori Messenger newspaper], July 1860:

Our readers will be glad of some information respecting the conference of native chiefs now being held at Kohimarama.
We shall therefore set aside all other matter in order to make room for a full report the proceedings at the date of our present issue. We shall commence our account with a list of the chiefs, with the names of their respective tribes, and their several places of abode. From this list it will appear that the principal subdivisions of the Maori race the New Zealand New Zealand ignore, on the whole, well represented in this conference. 112 chiefs took their seat on the first day, and several more have arrived at intervals since. Others had been invited and would probably have been here but for the prevalence of a severe epidemic, and the sudden decease of an influential and much respected chief of the Waikato, Potatau Te Whero-Whero.

The absence, however, of these does not materially affect the question of representation. Taranaki alone is without a voice in the conference. Those who were invited to attend were unwilling to leave their homes in the present unsettled state of that province.
It is a circumstance worthy of remark, as evincing the interest felt by the native chiefs and the importance they attach to the present measure, that when they arrived at Auckland almost the whole of them were suffering severely from influenza.

It is gratifying, however, to add, that under the unremitting care of their medical attendant many of them have quite recovered, and the others are rapidly improving. It is more than probable that some of the older men, had they remained at home, beyond reach of medical aid, would, before this, have been gathered to their fathers.

The question now suggests itself, why have these chiefs assembled? The Governor had a higher motive in inviting the Maori chiefs of New Zealand to meet him at Kohimarama. It was, to use his own words, to afford them “an opportunity of discussing various matters connected with the welfare and advancement of the two races dwelling in New Zealand.”

In the colonisation of these islands by the British, the treatment of the aboriginal race has been regulated by humane and Christian principles. A wise government has watched over their interests with paternal care. Large sums of money have been annually expended in the erection and maintenance of schools for the education of their youth; hospitals have been built for the accommodation of their sick; books and newspapers have been printed for their amusement and instruction; magistrates have been appointed in native districts for the suppression of crime, and the laws have been translated into Maori and gratuitously circulated; indeed, nothing has been left undone that was likely to promote the happiness and well-being of the Maori people.

And now that their intelligence is beginning to develop itself, they are invited to take a first step towards participating in the legislation of the country. That the chiefs themselves duly appreciate the importance of this step, as conducive to their advancement as a people, is very evident. They are shrewd enough to recognise in this conference a more adequate means of securing a national position than in any of the extravagant ideas of Maori Kingism.

We sincerely trust that a similar conference to the present will continue to be held annually in this or some other part of New Zealand. Its beneficial influence is already apparent. Nothing has so much tended to reassure the minds of both people as the free and frank expression of opinion on the floor of the conference hall during the past week. A mutual feeling of distrust and misapprehension was becoming very general. The Maori and the Pakeha were becoming estranged from each other. The Colonists charged the Maori with an insurrectionary spirit, and they, on the other hand, began to dread aggression from the Colonists. But this mutual feeling of insecurity has subsided, and we believe that this is mainly owing to the very satisfactory spirit elicited during the first week of the conference. The chiefs have not disguised their opinions, when antagonistic to the policy of the Governor, nor have they suppressed their grievances; but there has been a freedom and candour, fully characteristic of the Maori, in all these speeches which has committed itself to all who have heard them; and the expressions of loyalty to the Queen and goodwill to the Pakeha have carried with them every evidence of sincerity.

GOVERNOR’S ADDRESS: His Excellency Governor Browne opened proceedings by reading the following address, translation of which was afterwards read by Donald McLean the native secretary and president of the conference:

“My friends, Chiefs of New Zealand,
1. I have invited you to meet me on the present occasion that we may have an opportunity of discussing various matters connected with the welfare and advancement of the two races dwelling in New Zealand.

2. I take advantage of it also to repeat to you, and through you to the whole Maori people, the assurances of goodwill on the part of our Gracious Sovereign which have been given by each succeeding Governor from Governor Hobson to myself.

3. On assuming the sovereignty of New Zealand her Majesty extended to her Maori subjects her Royal protection, engaging to defend New Zealand and the Maori people from all aggressions by any foreign power, and imparting to them all rights and privileges of British subjects; and she confirmed and guaranteed to the chiefs and tribes of New Zealand, and to the respective families and individuals thereof, the full, exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries, and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess, so long as it is their wish to retain the same in their possession.

4. In return for these advantages the chiefs who signed the Treaty of Waitangi ceded for themselves and their people to her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of sovereignty which they collectively or individually possessed or might be supposed to exercise or possess.

5. Her Majesty has instructed the governors who preceded me, and she will instruct those who come after me, to maintain the stipulations of this Treaty inviolate, and to watch over the interests and promote the advancement of her subjects without distinction of race.

6. Having renewed these assurances in the name of our Gracious Sovereign I now ask you to confer with me frankly and without reserve. If you have grievances, make them known to me, and if they are real, I will try to redress them. Her Majesty’s wish is that all her subjects should be happy, prosperous and contented. If, therefore, you can make any suggestions for the better protection of property, the punishment of offenders, the settlement of disputes for the preservation of peace, I shall gladly hear them and will give them the most favorable consideration.

7. The minds of both races have lately been agitated by false reports or exaggerated statements; and, in order to restore confidence, it is necessary that each should know and thoroughly understand what the other wishes and intends.

8. There is also a subject which I desire to invite your special attention, and in reference to which I wish to receive the expression of your views. For some time past certain persons belonging to the tribes dwelling to the south of Auckland have been endeavouring to mature a project which, if carried into effect, could only bring evil upon the heads of all concerned in it. The framers of it are said to desire that the Maori tribes in New Zealand should combine together and throw off their allegiance to the Sovereign whose protection they have enjoyed for more than 20 years, and that they should set up a Maori King and declare themselves to be an independent nation. Such ideas could only be entertained by men completely ignorant of the evils they would bring upon the whole native race if carried into effect.

9. While the promoters of the scheme confined themselves to mere talking, I did not think it necessary to notice their proceedings, believing that, if allowed time to consider, they would abandon so futile and dangerous and undertaking. This expectation has not been fulfilled. At a recent meeting at Waikato some of their leading men proposed that Wiremu Kingi, who was in arms against the Queen’s authority, should be supported by reinforcements from the tribes who acknowledged the Maori King, and armed parties from Waikato and Kawhia actually went to Taranaki for this purpose. These men also desire to assume an authority over other New Zealand tribes and their relations with the Government, and contemplate the forcible subjection of those tribes who refuse to recognise their authority.

10. Under these circumstances I wish to know your views and opinions distinctly, in order that I may give correct information to our Sovereign.

11. It is unnecessary to me to remind you that her Majesty’s engagements to her native subjects in New Zealand have been faithfully observed. No foreign enemy has visited your shores. Your lands have remained in your possession, or have been bought by the government at your own desire. Your people have availed themselves of their privileges as British subjects, seeking and obtaining in the courts of law that protection and redress which they afford to all her Majesty’s subjects. But it is right you should know and understand that in return for these advantages you must prove yourselves to be loyal and faithful subjects, and that the establishment of a Maori King would be an act of disobedience and defiance to her Majesty which cannot be tolerated. It is necessary for the preservation of peace in every country that the inhabitants should acknowledge one Head.

12. I may frankly tell you that New Zealand is the only colony where the aborigines have been treated with unvarying kindness. It is the only colony where they have been invited to unite with the colonists and to become one people under one law. In other colonies the people of the land have remained separate and distinct, from which many evil consequences have ensued. Quarrels have arisen; blood has been shed; and finally the aboriginal people of the country have been driven away or destroyed. Wise and good men in England considered that such treatment of aborigines was unjust and contrary to the principles of Christianity. They brought the subject before the British Parliament, and the Queen’s ministers advised a change of policy towards the aborigines of all English colonies. New Zealand is the first country colonised on this new and humane system. It will be the wisdom of the Maori people to avail themselves of this generous policy, and thus save their race from evils which have befallen others less favoured. It is your adoption by her Majesty as her subjects which makes it impossible that the Maori people should be unjustly dispossessed of their lands or property. Every Maori is a member of the British nation; he is protected by the same law as his English fellow subject; and it is because you are regarded by the Queen as a part of her own especial people that you have heard from the lips of each successive Governor the same words of peace and goodwill. It is therefore the height of folly to the New Zealand tribes to allow themselves to be seduced into the commission of any act which, by violating their allegiance to the Queen, would render them liable to forfeit the rights and privileges which their position as British subjects confers upon them, and which must necessarily entail upon them evils ending only in their ruin as a race.

13. It is a matter of solicitude to Her Majesty, as well as to many of your friends in England and in this country, that you should be preserved as a people. No unfriendly feeling should be allowed to grow up between the two races. Your children will live in the country when you are gone, and when the Europeans are numerous. For their sakes I call upon you as fathers and as Chiefs of your tribes, to take care that nothing be done which may engender animosities - the consequences of which may injure your posterity. I feel that the difference of language forms a great barrier between the Europeans and the Maoris. Through not understanding each other there are frequent misapprehensions of what is said or intended: this is also one of the chief obstacles in the way of your participating in our English Councils, and in the consideration of laws for your guidance. To remedy this, the various missionary bodies, assisted by the government, have used every exertion to teach your children English, in order that they may speak the same language as the European inhabitants of the colony.

14. I believe it is only needful that these matters should be well understood to ensure a continuance of peace and friendly feeling between the two races of her Majesty’s subjects; and it is for this reason, and in a firm hope that mutual explanations will remove all doubt and distrust on both sides, that I have invited you to meet me now.

15. I shall not seek to prove, what you will all be ready to admit, that the treatment you have received from the Government, since its establishment in these Islands down to the present hour, has been invariably marked by kindness. I will not count the hospitals founded for the benefit of your sick; the schools provided for the education of your children; the encouragement and assistance given you to possess yourselves of vessels, to cultivate wheat, to build mills, and to adopt the civilised habits of your white brethren. I will not enumerate the proofs which have been given you that your interests and well-being have been cared for, lest you think I am ungenerously recalling past favours. All will admit that not only have your ears listened to the words of kindness, but that your eyes have seen and your hands have handled its substantial manifestations.

16. I will not now detain you by alluding to other matters of great importance, but will communicate with you from time to time and call your attention to them before you separate. Let me however remind you that though the Queen is able - without any assistance from you - to protect the Maori from all foreign enemies, she cannot without their help protect the Maori from themselves. It is therefore the duty of all who would regret to see their race relapse into barbarism, and who desire to live in peace and prosperity, to take heed that the counsels of the foolish do not prevail, and that the whole country be not thrown into anarchy and confusion by the folly of a few misguided men. Finally, I must congratulate you on the vast progress in civilisation which your people have made under the protection of the Queen. Cannibalism has been exchanged for Christianity; Slavery has been abolished; War has become more rare; prisoners taken in war are not slain; European habits are gradually replacing those of your ancestors of which all Christians are necessarily ashamed. The old have reason to be thankful that their sunset is brighter than their dawn, and the young may be grateful that their life did not begin until the darkness of the heathen night had been dispelled by that light which is the glory of all civilised nations.

Earnestly praying that God may grant his blessing on your deliberations and guide you on the right path, I leave you to the free discussion of the subjects I have indicated, and of any others you may think likely to promote the welfare of your race. Signed Thomas Gore Browne, Governor.


Response of the Chiefs:
NGATIWHATUA, Auckland; Chief Paora Tuhaere: listen both Pakeha and Maoris. This property (the marae) belongs to me; therefore I say, let me have the first speech in this meeting. Hearken, all ye people! two things commend themselves to my mind - the Governor and the Queen. For thereby do we, both Pakeha and Maori, reap good. This is my speech. The best riches for us are the laws of England. In my opinion, the greatest of all evils is war.

But we are all in the wrong. The Maori kills a Pakeha, the Pakeha says, let us fight; and when a Pakeha kills a Maori, then the Maori says, let us fight. For example - if I should be killed by a Pakeha, my tribe would say ‘Let us fight with the Pakeha’; and on the other hand were I to kill a Pakeha, even though he be a slave, the Pakeha would demand me as payment. These are my words. I entertained the Pakeha a long time ago, and I found him good. Hence, I say, I shall always remember the Pakeha, and I shall always remember too, with affection, the Governor who was sent here to protect us. The benefits which we received from him are - Christianity and the laws.

Now, listen! My affections at the present time lie between these two blessings. Listen again! My heart is satisfied. All that the law keeps from us is - the guns, powder, and brandy. Another subject comes under my attention. It is the misunderstanding between the Pakeha and the Maori about land. The Pakeha has his mode of selling land, and the Maori has his mode. Oh people, hearken! The Pakeha came to New Zealand to protect the Maori. As to the talk about Waitangi, that is Ngapuhi’s affair

NGAPUHI, Bay of Islands; Thomas Walker Nene: I shall speak about the Governor, and the Pakeha. I am not accepting the Pakeha for myself alone, but for the whole of us. My desire when Governor Hobson arrived here was to take him as our Governor, in order that we might have his protection. Who knows the mind of the Americans, or that of the French? Therefore, I say let us have the English to protect us. Therefore, let this Governor be our Governor, and this Queen our Queen. Let us accept this Governor, as a Governor for the whole of us. Let me tell you, ye assembled tribes, I have but one Governor. Let this Governor be a king to us. When the Governor came here, he brought with him the word of God by which we live; and it is through the teaching of that word that we are able to meet together this day, under one roof. Therefore, I say, I know no sovereign but the Queen, and I shall never know any other. I am walking by the side of the Pakeha.

NGATIWHAKAUE, Rotorua; Tuki-haumene: my choice lies with the Governor and the Queen. This is all I desire at this time. People of the Runanga do you consent to the Queen? (Assent from his tribe)

NGATIMAHANGA, Waingaroa; Hemi Matini Te Nera: my words date from the time of Governor Hobson. The Governor asked, “will you be my friend?” I replied,” I will be your friend.” These were my words to the first Governor, to the second Governor, to the third Governor, and to the fourth Governor. I made this pledge in the presence of the Governor. They brought good things to this island. I shall not join that evil (the Maori king movement). All I desire is to live on terms of friendship with the Governor and Queen. Under the old law we perished; under the present law we live.

MANUKAU, Manukau; Rihari: let me say a word about the Maori. In former times he was poor; since the arrival of the Pakeha, he has become rich. The gospel too has reached this island. My God in the olden time was Ouenuku. I have a very different God now. I am grateful to the Pakeha for the following benefits, namely - Christianity, the laws, and goodwill. I must speak of these good things; for since the arrival of the Governor, good has remained in the land. This is all I have to say.

NGAITERANGI, Tauranga; Hamiora Tu: I desire to consider the Queen and the Governor my parents. The Governor must suppress evil in whatever tribe it maybe.

WAITAHA; Rangi: Waitaha is the place, and Waitaha the people. All I wish to see is justice, peace, and quietness. This will be our glory. Jesus Christ has said - “ let evil be overcome of good”. Let all things be conducted according to law, and under the Queen’s rule. I shall sit under that rule.

NGATIKAHUNGUNU, Hawkes Bay; Ngatuere: I shall speak truly. In the beginning missionaries came, also teachers. Thus Christianity came amongst us. It found its way to Wairarapa. The precepts of Christianity require that I abandon all my sins. Let your measures with Wi Kingi be severe. Suppress that evil. Welcome, I cry, good laws!

NGATIKAHUNGUNU, Hawkes Bay; Kariatiana: the Governor’s words are good. My heart says, the Pakeha and I are one, for I have not been concerned in the evil work. Let the Pakeha behave ill to me, then it will be time to retaliate.

NGAPUHI, Bay of Islands; Hori Kingi Tahua: listen the native side, listen also the English. Many years since, the Europeans landed at the Bay of Islands. I invited them onshore. Since then the name of the Queen arrived in New Zealand, and I befriended it. After that came the Pakeha. Some of the Pakeha were killed - I avenged their death - I heard of the murder of Europeans at the South; I came from the North and avenged their death. After that came the missionaries and the gospel. It spread from North to the South. After that again the Governor arrived. I invited him onshore; from the North he came to Auckland, the flag was erected at Maiki - the Pakeha fell (at Kororareka); this was my first evil - I ill-treated the people whom I had invited and entertained. This was my sin. After that myself and grandfather, Kawiti, visited Kororareka to see Governor Grey. The Governor said,” Kawiti, do not look at what is past.” Kawiti consented to the word of Governor Grey, and promised to cease from all disturbances. I consented to this, and said, it is good. Then this Governor visited the Bay of Islands. We held meetings for the purpose of erecting the flag staff at Maiki at our own expense - we consented to this, erected the flag staff, and called it the union of two nations. I say, let these two people, the Pakeha and the Maori, be united.

PARAWHAU, Whangarei; Wi Pohe: I am from Ngapuhi. It was the Pakeha who planted love amongst us (referring to former exterminating wars carried on by the Ngapuhi). The time of identifying ourselves with the interests of the Pakeha was when the flag staff was erected at Maiki: this was our consenting for ever and ever.

PARAWHAU, Whangarei; Te Taurau: I am from Ngapuhi. There is but one name in heaven - Jehovah - so there is but one name upon earth - the Queen. Let us then rest under the Queen’s government.

NGAPUHI, Bay of Islands; Mangonui: I salute you, oh Europeans! What I desire is the union of the European and Maori races.

NGATITOA, Porirua; Matene Te Whiwhi: first you brought baptism, and we were baptised in the name of Christ. There has now become only one Christ, and one Governor: we have become one in our allegiance to the Queen. This is my opinion: that these races should become united under the Queen. Let there be but one sovereign for us - the Queen. It is well, therefore, that there should be but one system. Leave it not for the hidden voice, or unknown tongue, to disapprove, or cause to misunderstand. Yours is a hidden, or unknown tongue; as ours is also. Even though it be so, let the Queen unite us.

NGATITOA, Porirua; Te Ahukaramu: first, God; second, the Queen; third, the Governor. Let there be one Queen for us. Make known to us all the laws, that we may all dwell under one law.

NGATIRAUKAWA, Otaki & Manawatu; Horomona Toremi: I have been in the mire for the last 20 years. Listen ye Pakeha gentlemen! It is by your means that I am permitted to stand forth now. You Pakeha are the only Chiefs. The Pakeha took me out of the mire: the Pakeha washed me. Let there be one Law for all this island.

NGATITOA, Porirua; Nopera Te Ngiha: in my opinion it is for the Governor to consider, and to decide, between the good and the bad. Let love and goodness emanate from the Governor. Let the Governor alone have the control.

NGATIRAUKAWA, Manawatu; Kuruhou: the government shall be my kingdom for ever and ever. I have no other word, but the Governor and the Queen for us.

TARANAKI, Wellington branch; Wiremu Tamihana: my business is to make known the grievance. Let me state my grievance. It is this. Our lands are not secured to us by Crown Grant. Every man is not allowed to get a Crown Grant to his land. Another grievance is the manner of negotiating land purchases. Notwithstanding there be only two or three consenting to the sale, their words are listened to, and the voice of the majority is not regarded. However the laws are good, and the hospitals for the sick are good.

NGATIRAUKAWA, Otaki; Parakaia Te Pohepa: is it possible that the thoughts of men should now turn backwards? Back to what! I do not approve of the plausible sayings of a certain tribe. Listen, Mr McLean. Listen, also, people of the Runanga. Let the Queen bind us together as an a bundle, and let God keep us together. This is all.

NGATITOA, Porirua; Hapimana: I have come to seek an outlet for the Maori. There is no difference of opinion. My people of Ngatitoa, you must side with the Queen.
Epiha Karoro: we are now united. As to the affairs of Wi Kingi, the fault is with the Maori - with those who sold the land. Where the Governor was wrong, was in being in too great a haste to fight. Formerly I saw some things that were wrong, but now all the wrong is on the Maori side. In my opinion had the Maori not taken part with Wi Kingi, then you would have been able to suppress it.

NGATIRAUKAWA, Manawatu; Ihakara Tokonui: in former times the evil that prevailed in this island was War: now the gospel has been received. Under the old system, peace was established one night, and on the morrow another war was commenced. When Christianity came, then for the first time were made manifest the good things of the Pakeha and the evil things of the Maori. The people of this island are committing two thefts. One is the “Maori king”, for they are robbing the Pakeha of his name. You alone, the Pakeha, posess what is good: we, the Maori, have nothing good. Here is my other point: you know what the bee is. Some bees work, some bees are lazy. You are like the working bee. You fill your hive, whether it be a box or an empty tree. But the Maori is like the other bee - the lazy one. And the Maori takes advantage of your work. I have another parable. When I looked upon the native rat, I thought it would not soon become extinct. But I look now, and it has been altogether exterminated by the present, or Hawaiki rat. Enough of that. I have now a word of disapproval. Why did you not write to us when the evil commenced? Had we been convened at an earlier time to consider this evil, then perhaps it would have been right.

NGATIWHATUA, Auckland; Te Keene: it appears to me that there are two codes of law - the one of God, the other of men. The Governor has said that there is the same law for both the European and Maori. Now, when I asked five shillings per acre for my land, the government reduced the price to sixpence. Therefore I have no law. On this account am I grieved. Only the shadow of the law belongs to me. On another instance I took a gun to a Pakeha to have it repaired. The government said no. Therefore I have no law. These laws are given to me to look at, not to participate in. Hereafter perhaps, we shall have a law whereby the white skin and the red skin shall be equal.

NGATIWHAKAUE, Rotorua; Eruera Kahawai: there is no one here to find fault with the Governor’s words. His words are altogether good. It was the introduction of the gospel that put an end to all our evil ways. Yes my friends, it was Christianity alone that did it. It put an end to thieving and many other sins. We have abandoned our old ways. The rule now is kindness to the orphan (Charity), peace, and agricultural pursuits. I shall not turn to the Maori side. I have now come under the wings of the Queen.

TUHOURANGI, Tarawera Lake; Kihirini: now we have become united in the name of the Queen. I am like the bird called Pipiwarauroa. The foster parent of that bird is the Piripiri. The Pipiwarauroa lays her eggs in the nest of that bird, leaving it to her (the Piripiri) the hatching and rearing of it. And when the young comes forth it cries “Witiora-witiora”. The Piripiri is not it’s real parent. So also with me. It is through the Queen that I have been permitted to stand here, and to enjoy life. The protection of the Queen is right. This shall be as a house to me. The rain may beat on the outside of the house, but I am inside, that is, I am with the Queen.

NGATIWHAKAUE, Rotorua; Winiata Pekamu Tohiteururangi: I shall have but only one Lord - only one. I shall have but one rule - not two.

WANGANUI, Wanganui; Te Mawae: I will be kind to the Pakeha at my place, Wanganui. I do not agree with the Waikato proceedings. As to my Pakeha, they are in my charge. If Waikato kill any of them, then I shall be the payment. Listen, people of Waikato, (looking around towards them), if you threaten to join the Ngatiruanuis to attack my Europeans of Wanganui, you must first cut off my head. The Europeans of Wanganui and I are one; and (using some gesticulations with spear in hand) who dares attack the Pakeha of my river Wanganui? They are under my charge. If I injure them, it is my affair; but let no one else attempt to do so.

NGATIAPA, Rangitikei; Tamati Aramoa: I am for ever joined to the Queen. I have sent to the Queen my token of allegiance - a greenstone mere. Listen, all of you. Ngatiapa and Whanganui will not engage in war. The Wanganui people will devote all their attention to peaceful pursuits and the cultivation of the soil.

WANGANUI, Wanganui; Hoani Wiremu Hipango: Pakeha came and they called this land New Zealand, thus altering its name. So, all the sayings of the present time are different from the past. Let the laws be made known in every place that all men may honour them. I want to see the Maori and the Pakeha united, that their goodness may be mutual.

NGATIKAHUNGUNU, Wairarapa; Raniera Te Iho: I first came to understand the time of Governor Grey - under him and Mr McLean. They came and planted the tikanga at Wairarapa. Justice rules in New Zealand. I offer my land, in the proper manner, to the Governor. True, the land passes across to the Governor, but then I get my price for it. Should I afterwards stretch forth my hand after my land? That would be wrong. I prove my allegiance to the Queen by parting with my lands. I give up my land to Queen Victoria, and to the kings and queens, her successors. As to that talk at Waikato, I know nothing about it.

TE TAWERA, ; Tamati Hapimana: I have but one law, the law of God. It was through the missionaries that I came to know what was right. It was like God’s command to John,” Go and prepare the path,” for the missionaries came first and cleared the way, and afterwards the Lord came. But you give us the dark side of your laws. You make the law void where it concerns us.

PUKAKI, Manukau; Ihaka, chief of Pukaki: it rests with you to suppress the evil - that peace and happiness may cover the land, because the former wars and jealousies disappeared, when the light of Christianity shone forth. My friends, the native chiefs, my desire is this: that religion, goodwill and peace should prevail throughout the land. If you approve, accept these things.
Be strong to suppress the evil, that confusion may not grow. If confusion should spring up in any particular part, let the chiefs hasten there, to put it down, and let the European chiefs do the same, who are of the same mind. Let them both go together for the purpose of putting down evil and confusion. My own desire as this, that peace may prevail throughout the land for ever, and that our warfare should be directed towards the increase of schools, and the promotion of religion.

NGATIWHAKAUE, Rotorua; Te Amohau: let there be only one road. In former times it was evil; now Christianity has come among us, and we live in peace. In former times we were lost in the dark, but the gospel has come, and now we live.

NGATIAWA, Bay of Plenty; Te Makarini: listen all of you to these words. Had the Queen’s tikanga become generally acknowledged by us, these evils would have been averted, and the tikanga would have prospered. I mean by this to blame you, but I leave it with the people of this Runanga to find fault.

NGAITERANGI, Tauranga; Wiremu Patene: Where were you at the time of the sprouting (alluding to the king movement)? It appears to me that this thing has grown (taken root) in New Zealand. Had you convened this meeting sooner, it would have been well, but you have allowed to become a great tree. This is what I see, this is where you have been wrong. You acted foolishly. Had you written to us at the commencement, then it would have been right, whereas now it has become a tree. But remember Governor, that the Maori king is child’s play. The Queen’s Mana is with us.

NGAITERANGI, Tauranga; Te Mutu: Friends, I have but one word. Do not believe in the king for that is an evil work. Do not magnify that, lest it increase. If you ignore him, then that king will vanish.

NGATIWHAKAUE, Rotorua; Te Ngahuruhuru: the deceits do not belong to the Pakeha, but to the Maori alone. The Maori is wronging the Pakeha. I am an advocate for peace. Show kindness to the Pakeha. Show good feelings to the Governor. I belong to the Mana of the Queen, to the Mana of the Governor. As to the setting up of the king - not that. I join the Queen. I have nothing else to say. Do not split up, and form one party for the Queen, and another for the Maori king: that would be wrong.

NGATIWHAKAUE, Rotorua; Pererika: I have found out the evils of my mother - I mean, of the Maori. I have two mothers; I am grieved with one of them. She fed me with fern root, which was hard to digest. She gave me to wear a native cloak with a very thick collar, which hurt my neck. From my other mother I have received good clothes. And when I went to bathe, and my face turned pale, my first mother painted it with kokowai (red ochre). This shows the inferiority of my first mother. But, Mr McLean, do you take charge of my goods? Listen now, hold them fast. If you give in to my first mother, then I shall go and take them back. Here are my goods - here are my lands: take charge of them. Here are our headlands. Don’t you concern yourself about dividing my goods: I shall please myself about that. Let me hand them over to you, then it will be all right. But don’t take them forcibly.

TE TAWERA, Bay of Plenty; Te Rongotoa: my Maori mother has ceased to exist. You Pakeha shall be my parent for ever and ever.

UNKNOWN IWI; Pirihi Te Kotuku: listen all of you. The fault was mine. I interfered to dispose of the land of another. It is from causes of this kind that evil springs up in New Zealand. From the time of my birth I have not ceased to evil. Although I may be wrong, let me offer my sentiments. Understanding now begins to develop itself in me. I am unable to reply to the Governor. The fault was mine: my heart is hardened. If a man takes my land, then I am sad and angry. If a man takes my wife and violates her, then too am I angry and grieved. If my child is murdered, then I am angry and sad. And if my house is plundered and my goods stolen, then am I angry and sad. As to Te Rangitake’s affair, that is another matter. I do not approve of that. The affair also of the King I do not approve of. I join the Queen.

NGATIWHAKAUE, Rotorua; Taiapo: after what manner shall I address the Governor? The evils in my opinion are theft, interference, and land taking. Perhaps there is evil in the heart of the Maori. I shall not go there (Taranaki). Listen, people, to my opinions about this evil of the Maori. I do not know whether it is the fault of the Pakeha or the fault of the Maori. But it appears to me that the Governor was wrong, because he did not first call together the Maori teachers, that they might arrange it (the dispute between William King and the Governor about Teira’s land). Had he done so, it might have been settled. As it is, the matter is in your hands, Mr McLean.

GOVERNMENT INTERJECTION; Mr McLean: Taiapo, this affair has not been overlooked. It was inquired into even in the time of Governor Hobson; and up to the present time, many years having elapsed, every attention has been given to it. You say that had the teachers been permitted to arrange it the matter would have been settled. Is not Tamati Waaka a teacher? He tried to arrange it, but they would not listen. Also Wiremu Te Awaitaia, and Wiremu Tamihana, and old Potatau (who has just passed away): are they not teachers? They went, but they would not listen to their words.

NGATIPIKIAO, Rotoiti and Maketu; Rirituku Te Puehu: hitherto I have not belonged to the Governor. I now join the Governor for the first time. The words of the Governor are good. I am now a Maori, tomorrow I shall be a Pakeha. Hitherto I have been a Maori - now I join the Queen. Because we, the two races, have now become united. I shall not attach myself to the king or to Rangitake; I shall not follow those things. This King affair is a source of trouble - it is the introduction of an evil among the Maori. I therefore say, let both races acknowledge the Queen.

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE; Mr McLean: (reading the third clause) this treats of her Majesty’s protection, whereby New Zealand and the Maori people are defended from all aggressions by any foreign power. Has not this pledge been carried out? Has any foreign power disturbed this country? People of other nations have certainly come here, but their mission has always been a friendly one. They have come to settle or to trade. They have never assumed any authority in this Colony.

Some of you have said that the laws for the Maori are not the same as the laws for the Pakeha. This is in some measure true. Children cannot have what belongs to a person of mature age; and the child does not grow to be a man in one day. This clause also states that the Queen “confirmed and guaranteed to the chiefs and tribes of New Zealand, and to the respective families and individuals thereof, the full, exclusive, and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries, and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess, so long as it is their wish to retain the same in their possession.” And this pledge has been strictly observed.

In no single instance has your land been taken from you. It is only when you are disposed to sell, and not before, that the Government gets possession of your lands. Where is the man who has been deprived of any of his land?

The fourth clause speaks of the Treaty of Waitangi. Some have said that this Treaty was confined to the Ngapuhi. I maintain that was not a Treaty with the Ngapuhi only, but a general one. It certainly commenced with the Ngapuhi. The Treaty is binding on the whole.

And, further, I believe that has been a great boon to you; and one, therefore, which you should not lose sight of nor disregard.

The fifth clause states that the Governor has been instructed to maintain all the stipulations of the Treaty inviolate. Now, if in the opinion of this Conference the Governor has violated any of the terms of this Treaty, you have an opportunity of telling him so. If anyone here has any grievance, let him make it known at this Conference, and not carry it back to his home with him.

The sixth clause says if you should decide upon writing replies to the address, this clause will be a guide to you. You observe that the Governor requests you confer with him frankly and without reserve.

Seventh clause: this has direct reference to the Maori King movement. You should freely express your opinions on the subject. The movement did not possibly originate in any evil desire. With some the motive may have been a good one, but it involved the idea of establishing a national independence. The old chief, Potatau, who has just died, professed no feeling but that of kindness and goodwill to the Pakeha. Therefore it would not, perhaps, be just to treat the matter with great severity. But this I may say to you, that while this movement lasts it will prove a great hindrance to the establishment of peace and the success of beneficial measures for the two races. The protection of England has been solicited and accepted by this country, and it is therefore wrong to talk about any other sovereignty. The Governor invites you to state your views and opinions on this matter very plainly.

Clause 12: it is not intended to hide from you what you may hear from other sources, namely the fact that the English in former times often invaded other countries. Their ancestors, when they took possession of a place, frequently destroyed its inhabitants. But when Christianity obtained a greater influence amongst them, Wise men began to reflect on the sin of destroying human beings created by God to live on the earth. The Queen directed the Parliament to consider the subject, when it was proved that wrongs had been committed. The evidence adduced confirmed the fact that aboriginal subjects had been ill treated. This occasioned much shame to many good people in England, and it was determined in Parliament that such proceedings should not be permitted in future.

About this period attention was directed to New Zealand as a field for European settlement, and it was decided by the Queen and her ministers, that in occupying the country, the New Zealanders should be treated with kindness, and a humane policy pursued towards them, with a view to their becoming a prosperous people, and united with the English. There is no desire to conceal from you the wrongs being committed elsewhere, but Christian principles have ruled the conduct of the British government in these Islands. The policy pursued has been one of uniform kindness, and in accordance with the precepts of Christianity.

Clause 13: this clause refers to the difference of language as the chief obstacle to your participation in English councils. This is a disadvantage to both races. The Maori does not understand the Pakeha, and accuses him of saying what he did not mean; and the Pakeha, on the other hand, imagines something very different to what the Maori has said. From this cause they differ with each other and misunderstandings arise. Now, if the language in common use was the same, these difficulties would disappear. Hence the desirability of educating your children in the English tongue.

Clause 16: the Governor tells you that the Queen will afford you protection against dangers from without, but she cannot without your cooperation save you from internal feuds. It is therefore the duty of every man to help, that peace and good order may prevail.

The last clause: this ends the Governor’s address to you. He concludes with a prayer to God for his blessing on your deliberations.

NGATIWHATUA, Auckland; Paora Tuhaere: my words now are in disapproval of those expressions of the Governor’s. The government has got possession of Taurarua (Judges’ Bay, Parnell), and I have not yet seen the payment. This land is occupied by bishops and judges, great people, but I am not paid for it. I applied to the first Governor for redress, and to the second, the third and fourth, without obtaining it. The next case occurred in the time of Governor Grey. I mean Matapipi, which was taken through some mistake as to the boundaries. I did not receive any payment for it. I am continually urging the payment for those pieces of land.

I have two cases on which to rest my charge. Had these lands belonged to some people, they would have made it a greater cause for war than that which originated the present one (Taranaki). I content myself with constantly asking for satisfaction. I refer to clause 13. This is an excellent thing. Let us be admitted into your councils. This would be the very best system. The Pakeha have their councils, and the Maori have separate councils, but this is wrong. Evil results from these councils not being one.

I am desirous that the minds of the Europeans and the Maori should be brought into unison with each other. Then if a Maori killed another Maori his crime would be tried and adjudicated on by the understandings of both Pakeha and Maori. And if one man should interfere with the land of another, then let the same council try him. When a woman has been violated, let the same course obtain. Murders and makutu (revenge killings) would come before the same Tribunal, because there would then be but one law for both Pakeha and Maori, and the understandings of both people would be exercised in the council.

NGATIWHAKAUE, Rotorua; Eruera Kahawai: the Governor perhaps thinks that we shall conceal our views. No, the Maori will fully express their opinions to him. The Governor probably expects that we who have now assembled to meet him should keep a part to ourselves. Let it not be said that the opinions have changed afterwards. No, let there be no changing of opinion.

Let me state here that should a Pakeha take the liberty of injuring or killing a Maori I shall not retaliate in the same way. I shall give him up to the hand of the law. My hand shall not touch him; but I will leave it to the law to punish him. Though the wrong may be committed as far off as Rotorua, I shall bring the offender here to Auckland to be tried. And in like manner, if a Maori should injure a Pakeha, I would hand him over to the law. These are the sentiments of all the tribe. I mean the people of Rotorua. This speech is as much theirs as mine. Even though it should be Tukihaumene, or Taiapo, or Ngahuruhuru, who committed himself by injuring a Pakeha, I would give him up to be tried for it. There is an old man in my tribe named Tawangawanga who holds the relation of father to me. If even he committed himself, I would give him up. And if Paora should do so I would give him up and the law should try him.

This is what I have to say about the King in this island. When they first set up that King I opposed it. I was not willing that there should be two powers in New Zealand. I spoke thus at the time. I compaired New Zealand to a poporo (fruit bearing tree). The Governor, I said, has settled on the poporo and is eating the fruit: the Maori King comes afterwards to drive him off. I will not therefore consent to that King. When the law came, the evils of the Maori customs became evident. I approve of the Governor’s words. If they were wrong I should tell you so. Had he said that my lands should be taken away, I should disapprove of that; or that my sick friend should be put to death without cause, or that my provisions should be used without my having any payment, I should disapprove. But now when the Governor says that the Pakeha and Maori races should be united as of one flesh, who is able to disapprove? Who is the man?

ARAWA, Bay of Plenty; Tohi Te Ururangi: we have European law now. I am resting on the government. I will reveal the good. If I should turn backwards, let that be considered a sin, and let me be punished for it with the lash of the law. I have no grievance about my lands. Let the Governor keep the law of the land inviolate. When war breaks out in any place, let the law enquire into it. Should evil spring up in my midst among my people let the law enquire into it. When I saw my corpse (alluding to his relative who was murdered by Marsden) I left it to law, and it was right. It was then that I became attached to the law. That was my first consenting to the Queen through which I came to know good. Had I then followed Maori customs, many lives would have perished. I left it to the Queen’s law and I saw good. With my understanding I discovered the evil of my heart, and abandoned it. I now give my adherence to the Queen. I now give my adherence to the one law. If evil should appear in any place, let the law dispose of it.

NGAPUHI, Bay of Islands; Tamati Waaka Nene: men of Whanganui, be kind to the Europeans. Men of Wairarapa, be kind to the Europeans. Men of Wellington, be kind to the Europeans, that you may see good things. If you do what is evil, let me remind you that my wife does not know how to weave garments. Wherefore I say, let the Europeans weave garments for me; and I in consequence will be kind to the Europeans. These things, and these houses are not of our manufacture, no, they are of European origin. Chiefs of Whangarei, be kind to the Europeans, that we may eat pleasant food. Shall we again feed upon the roots of the wild convolvulus, fern root, and the pollen of the bulrushes?

TUHOURANGI, Tarawera Lake; Te Kihirini: the good things which have come to us are for the welfare of our bodies. The goodness consists in the justice of the law. Now murder was a cause of contention and fighting in olden times. When the Pa was captured, 100 persons died for the sin of one man. At the present time the life of the murderer is the atonement for his guilt. I approve of the system; I approve of the laws of the Queen. My reason for liking the Europeans is that they bring us garments and mills. These are the things which I value and approve.

FOOTNOTE FROM IAN WISHART
Naturally, none of this proves that things remained happy ever after.
They didn’t. The divisiveness of the land wars and subsequent Crown seizures made enemies of some former friends, and injustices were done. However, what the transcripts do clearly show is the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi as Maori and Pakeha understood it in July 1860.
Any suggestion of dual sovereignty was ridiculed by Maori chiefs, who clearly understood the term in the Pakeha sense of the word and who wanted the Pakeha legal system to embrace them and their affairs.
“Tino rangatiratanga” as we understand it today was a concept laughed at by the rangatira in their time. To them, tino rangitiratanga meant a return to the old ways, to murder, mayhem and theft. Who wants to go back to living in grass huts and eating “bulrushes”? asked Tamati Waaka Nene.

So why does modern treaty scholarship seem so divorced from the historical reality?

Perhaps because it fails to take into account the paradigm shift occurring during the latter half of the 19th century. When the Treaty was initially signed in 1840, the bulk of ordinary Maori still lived in their home villages in their home territories still under the active control of their Iwi chief. But, by assimiliating into the wider immigrant culture - as the Maori themselves were seeking - the lines of responsibility between Crown and Iwi became blurred.
Where, previously, a theft inside a Maori village was a matter for the chief and kaumatua to handle, and the British had no intention of intervening, where did responsibility fall when a dispute arose between Maori of different tribes far from their homes? It was, as the speeches reflect, left to Pakeha law to sort out.

While modern radical academics allege the Colonial Government “imposed” its laws on Maori against their will, the speeches show chiefs repeatedly inviting the imposition. Demanding it, even.

Such widespread assimilation and transfer of authority meant that the powers resting with chiefs at the time of Waitangi had largely been devolved to local Pakeha magistrates by the time Queen Victoria died in 1901. While technically chiefs still had complete justicial authority over their lands and tribe under the Treaty, how many actually wanted to use it? And how many ordinary Maori, faced with punishment via a magistrate versus execution via tribal “utu”, would voluntarily choose the old laws over the new?

The cold hard reality is that relations between Maori and Pakeha had long since evolved beyond the Treaty’s limits in a natural organic process. Today’s treaty revisionism is little more than Maori dissatisfaction with their place in society by the end of the 20th century, manifesting itself in a highly-romanticised rearview survey of their culture - a rose coloured spectacles look at history, so to speak. Pakeha are guilty of similar fantasising - we look back to our own cultural legends like Camelot when things get tough.

We are, all of us it seems, each seeking our own Return to Eden. Wherever that may be and, in the case of some activists, whatever the cost.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2007

Camille Paglia, defender of the West: June 07 issue

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Rod Dreher discovers feminist icon Camille Paglia channeling ‘Eve’s Bite’

“That's what's going to make us vulnerable to people coming from any side, including the Muslim side, where there's fervor. Fervor will conquer apathy. I don't see how the generation trained by the Ivy League is going to have the knowledge or the resolution to defend the West...We could well be reliving the last days of the Roman Empire" – Camille Paglia


If you ask me, it's a pity the cigar-smoking Bohemian Tory and the self-described "feminist bisexual maniac" never met. I think the late Russell Kirk and Camille Paglia would have hit it off at least as well as Pope Benedict XVI and the irrepressible Italian atheist Oriana Fallaci did in the months before she died. Here's why:

Dr. Kirk, the traditionalist man of letters widely considered the godfather of modern American conservatism, believed that the great task of contemporary conservatives was not any of the goals likely to appear on Republican campaign literature. He knew that culture was more important than politics and considered poets to be, in Shelley's phrase, "the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Because of this, Dr. Kirk taught that reviving the "moral imagination" - meaning re-engagement with the art and literature of the West's cultural patrimony - in the face of the disaster of modernity, was vital to saving our civilization.

Dr. Paglia, a professor at Philadelphia's University of the Arts who made her name in 1990 with the publication of "Sexual Personae," is no conservative - in fact, she's an atheist libertarian Democrat who extols the virtues of pagan sexuality. But she's downright Kirkian in her contempt for the egalitarian instinct and in her roaring disgust at modernity's disinterest in, or even contempt for, Western tradition.

And she holds her own tribe - American humanities professors - chiefly responsible.

"I remain concerned about the compulsive denigration of the West and the reductiveness so many leading academics in the humanities have toward their own tradition," she tells me. "They reduce it all to the lowest common denominator of racism, imperialism, sexism and homophobia. That's an extremely small-minded way of looking at culture and a betrayal of the career mission of these educators, whose job is to educate students in our culture."

Dr. Paglia, one of three judges for this year's Hiett Prize, has been saying that for a while now, which is one reason that conservatives love her. If modernity is, as one traditionalist conservative writer put it, a "perversion of the responsibility of stewardship," then Dr. Paglia, by championing Western culture against the sophisticated barbarians inside the academy, counts as a convicted anti-modernist.

But that wouldn't be quite right; she's a passionate partisan of modernist giants like Picasso, as well as low-culture rock `n' roll Dionysiacs. What galls Dr. Paglia is that the politics of leveling - affirming or denying greatness according to therapeutic political standards - is compromising scholarship.

This is not just an academic dispute. If students don't learn the Western canon, they will remain rootless, ignorant and alienated. They will fail to grasp what makes the West unique - and why it should be cherished, conserved and defended. "Sexual Personae" was a tour de force of cultural criticism, arguing that the genius of the West came from the irreconcilable conflict between classical paganism and Judeo-Christian religion.

The decline of religion in Europe frightens this stalwart atheist. "The Europeans have become very passive, all of them," she says. "There's a fatigued worldliness typical of Europe right now, and that's why nothing very interesting artistically is coming out of there."

Can you have a vibrant culture without cult? Traditionalist conservatives say no. Dr. Paglia is inclined to agree - and says that our lazy secularism and superficial religiosity puts America at risk of succumbing to acedia, the Greek term for spiritual slothfulness. She is shocked to discover how few of her college students grasp basic biblical concepts, characters and motifs that were commonly understood one or two generations ago. This stunning loss of cultural memory renders most Western art, poetry and literature opaque.

"The only people I'm getting at my school who recognize the Bible are African-Americans," she says. "And the lower the social class of the white person, the more likely they recognize the Bible. Most of these white kids, if they go to church at all, they get feel-good social activism."

What are they left with? "Video games, the Web, cellphones, iPods - that's what's left," Dr. Paglia laments. "And that's what's going to make us vulnerable to people coming from any side, including the Muslim side, where there's fervor. Fervor will conquer apathy. I don't see how the generation trained by the Ivy League is going to have the knowledge or the resolution to defend the West."

Our cultural crisis is precisely that serious, says Dr. Paglia, who believes - as does Pope Benedict, one of the most cultured men on the planet - that we could well be reliving the last days of the Roman Empire.

"If the elite class sees nothing in the West to defend, we're reproducing this situation of the late Roman Empire, which was very cosmopolitan and very tolerant, but which was undone by forces from within," she says.

What are those who want to conserve the traditional Western humanities as a refuge from cultural barbarism supposed to do? Says Dr. Paglia, emphatically: "It's up to people to educate themselves."

In this light, it's not a stretch to think of the Dallas Institute for the Humanities as a sort of secular monastery. Like the European monks of old, the scholars and teachers at the Dallas Institute are keeping the light of Western humanist tradition burning in a new Dark Age. We need more institutions like this in days to come. Friends of what the poet T.S. Eliot (and later, his friend Dr. Kirk) called "the Permanent Things" are going to need intellectual sanctuary.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2007

DISRESPECT - GEORGE GALLOWAY IN NZ: Aug 07

Disgraced British MP George Galloway is pushing a pro-Islamic agenda on a visit to New Zealand.

(Story currently in print edition)

Other Resources:

Download file May 05 Senate Report

Senate Inquiry final report Oct 05

UN Independent Inquiry final report (scroll to page 72)


Posted by Ian Wishart at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2007

Radical 'moderates' squash real moderates: Jun 07

Documentarians battle America’s PBS TV to get Islam film on the air, reports Karoun Demirjian

The film features grainy footage and dramatic music, presenting itself as a stark look at the way fundamentalist Muslims in America and Europe crush dissent by their more moderate co-religionists.But the very production of “Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center” has highlighted sharply different views about the state of Islam in the United States and showcased how intensely sensitive that subject remains.

PBS, which commissioned the project, is delaying airing the film after protests that it is anti-Muslim. Now its creators are launching a public campaign against PBS to get it shown.

The hourlong documentary is one of 22 episodes funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for PBS’ “America at a Crossroads” series, which examines post-Sept. 11 subjects such as terrorism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience of American troops overseas and global perspectives on U.S. foreign policy.

“Islam vs. Islamists” follows the efforts of socially liberal Muslims in America and Europe to reclaim their religion from political extremism by speaking out against ultra-conservative imams in a sort of modern-day Muslim reformation.

But the film never made it into the initial lineup of 11 shows that aired recently. A film about widespread discrimination against Muslims, “The Muslim Americans,” did air as part of the series.

The producers and subjects of the “Islam vs. Islamists” film, who began to show it in private screenings last month, say that PBS began to demand what the producers saw as unrealistic editorial changes after the series’ advisers, acting on criticism from such Muslim groups as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Nation of Islam, claimed the documentary unfairly portrayed Muslim religious leaders. They say their experience with PBS proves the point of their film: that moderate Muslims have no platform from which to criticize extremists in their own religion.

“I can’t see what they object to, except that they don’t want to see the true plight against modern-day Muslims,” says Hedieh Mirahmadi, a representative of a moderate imam who spoke at a screening in Washington that was organized by the film’s producers. “Not being able to see the political reality means that it may come to root in a very dangerous way.”

Mirahmadi argues, for example, that the Saudi-based Wahhabist movement, a fundamentalist form of Islam, has spread across the U.S.

Mary Stewart, a spokeswoman for WETA, the PBS station in Washington, and executive producer for the Crossroads series, said in a phone interview that even though the film hadn’t made the cut for the first 11 parts that were broadcast, it would be aired as soon as PBS feels that it has been satisfactorily edited.

“It is a film with a lot of promise,” she said. “But every film that comes through PBS goes through editorial standards. They have received notes on what editorial changes would need to be made to bring it up to standards for PBS.”Producers and hosts of the Crossroads series have publicly accused the production team for “Islam vs. Islamists” of showing an editorial slant by being overly alarmist and demonizing imams.But defenders of the documentary say it merely portrays, in realistic terms, the divisions within the Islamic community in the West.

The Muslims portrayed in the movie - including Naser Khader, the Danish parliamentarian who spoke out against Imam Ahmed Abu Laban and others leading the riots over last year’s cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad - say that PBS does not want to consider Western Muslims as a variegated group.

“In my opinion, we don’t have a crisis of civilizations, we have just one clash,” Khader says. “It is in Muslim society, between Islamists and those who say `yes’ to democracy and modernity.”

Speaking for the film’s production team, Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, a Washington national security think tank, insists that the film is finished and says PBS’ refusal to budge on editorial demands meant that the film’s relationship with the network was finished too. “They’re insisting on structural changes that would essentially eviscerate the message of the film,” he says.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provided $675,000 for the production of “Islam vs. Islamists,” nearly all federal funds. Some members of Congress saw the film at a showing late April. A Corporation for Public Broadcasting spokesman said it is committed to finding a way to publicly show the film.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2007

An Easter Story

They’re calling it the most explosive movie on the life of Christ ever made, but as millions flock to see The Passion, sceptics and evangelists are again at loggerheads over the truth of the Gospel story. IAN WISHART analyses the arguments.

“Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, but fail to see; and ears, but fail to hear? And don’t you remember…?” The words of history’s most controversial figure echo down through twenty centuries and onto cinema multiplexes worldwide this month, yet the question Jesus Christ posed to the world back in AD 33 is as pungent now as it was then.

Could Christ really have been the Son of God, the Messiah, the Anointed One? Or was he just an itinerant preacher who happened to come up with what even critics regard as an impeccable moral code?
Mel Gibson’s move makes no apologies for painting Christ as the Messiah.

Newsweek magazine, Time and the NZ Herald, to name just a few media outlets, make no apologies for attacking the Christian gospels as fairy stories and The Passion as an anti-Semitic hate film.

So which is it to be – fabrication or fundamental truth? Newsweek’s basic premise is that Gibson’s movie relies on an “unreliable” source: The Bible.

“The Bible can be a problematic source,” writes Newsweek’s Jon Meacham in the Feb 16 cover story. “Though countless believers take it as the immutable word of God, Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events; the Bible is the product of human authors who were writing in particular times and places with particular points to make and visions to advance.”

Meacham’s criticism is similar to those expressed by liberal theologians and sceptics everywhere, and naturally in the Newsweek article it goes unchallenged. But is it really true?

“Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events,” he wrote in the anchorpoint to both his paragraph and the entire premise of his article. However, Meacham is just plain wrong.

“Archaeology,” writes William Dever, a professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology and regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in his field, has been unable to “disprove the Bible’s assertions of the meanings of events.” Further, he writes in a scathing critique of liberals who recently tried to claim the Old Testament was a complete myth and there really was no “ancient Israel”, the liberals overlook the fact that the Bible writers “got right virtually every detail [of history] that we can now confirm”. And William Dever is an atheist.

In other words, the Bible has not only survived the heaviest onslaught critics could throw at it during the 20th century, it has passed absolutely unscathed in regard to its accuracy.

Nor is Dever the secular humanist alone in making such claims defending the historical accuracy of Scripture. So too does Norman Geisler, widely regarded as one of Christianity’s leading philosophers and historians.

“Not one error that extends to the original text of the Bible has ever been demonstrated,” says Geisler, who takes the accuracy of the world’s most popular book seriously. So what would Geisler say to the second part of Meacham’s premise, where he wrote:

“The Bible is the product of human authors” – automatically implying not just the capacity for error but also deliberate deception in the comments that followed, even though no errors have actually been discovered.

Geisler sets out the logic behind the claim like this:

“Some biblical scholars argue that the Bible cannot be inerrant, through some faulty reasoning:

1. The Bible is a human book
2. Humans err
3. Therefore, the Bible errs.

“The error of this reasoning,” says Geisler, “can be seen from equally erroneous reasoning:

1. Jesus was a human being
2. Human beings sin
3. Therefore, Jesus sinned.”

But of course, there is no indication either inside the Bible or outside it that Jesus Christ ever sinned, and Geisler uses this as an example of where the liberal logic goes astray.

“The mistake is to assume that Jesus is simply human. Mere human beings sin. But Jesus was not a mere human being. He was also God. Likewise, the Bible is not merely a human book; it is also the Word of God. There can no more be an error in God’s written Word than there was a sin in God’s living Word.”

Where Geisler does acknowledge that difficulties can arise is in human interpretation of the Bible.

But Meacham’s chief line of attack against The Passion is that Gibson took the New Testament “too literally” and his film is therefore “anti Semitic”. Meacham lays the blame for that not just with Gibson but also the Gospel writers themselves.

“So why was the Gospel story - the story Gibson has drawn on - told in a way that makes "the Jews" look worse than the Romans? The Bible did not descend from heaven fully formed and edged in gilt. The writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shaped their narratives several decades after Jesus' death to attract converts and make their young religion - understood by many Christians to be a faction of Judaism - attractive to as broad an audience as possible.”

Again, Meacham’s key assumption, that “the Bible did not descend from heaven fully formed and edged in gilt”, colours his whole approach, as does his subsequent comment that the Gospels were written “decades” after the events in question. In fact, even liberal scholar John A. T. Robinson has gone on record as being convinced that the whole of the New Testament must have been written and completed before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 – less than 40 years after the death of Christ and well within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses who could have contradicted any errors in the Gospel accounts.

However, Meacham goes on to develop the theme further when he accuses the Gospel writer Matthew of being “partisan” for including the line at Matt 27:25, “Let his blood be upon us and on our children” in reference to taunts from the Jewish crowd when Pilate was deciding whether to crucify Christ.

From the end of a phone line 10,000 kilometres away, leading New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg is saddened by those trying to make capital out of alleged anti-Semitism in the movie.

“They’ve interpreted that as somehow a condemnation of the entire Jewish race,” comments Blomberg – author of the books The Historical Reliability of The Gospels and Jesus and the Gospels – currently based as a Professor of the New Testament at Denver Seminary, Colorado.

“As a historian, the important thing to stress is that Jesus was a Jew, all his first followers were Jewish, this was an internecine Jewish debate. The crowd was simply using the standard Hebrew idiom for saying ‘we accept responsibility for this person’s death’. In no way is it an indictment of the whole race or even the entire Jewish leadership.”

Like many others, Blomberg is well aware of the anti-Passion spin the media have been creating at every opportunity. He’s also aware that attacking the movie has become somewhat of a cause celebre for liberals wanting to redefine and limit Jesus Christ.

In the Newsweek article, for example, there are many pointers to the writer’s hidden agenda.

“The Gospels were composed to present Jesus in the best possible light,” writes Meacham, “and to put the Temple leadership in the worst possible light.” He adds that Matthew must have been writing after the fall of Jerusalem because he presumes the “blood be on us” comment to refer to the Jewish rebellion that culminated in the events of AD 70.

And it is here in the Newsweek story that Meacham begins to proffer his own version of who Christ was – not a spiritual leader but a political one who posed a direct threat to Rome, not the Jews and who, presumably, got his comeuppance.

To back up this line of reasoning, Meacham first argues that the two men crucified beside Jesus were not criminals but freedom fighters.
“In the age of Roman domination, only Rome crucified. The crime was sedition, not blasphemy—a civil crime, not a religious one. The two men who were killed along with Jesus are identified in some translations as "thieves," but the word can also mean "insurgents," supporting the idea that crucifixion was a political weapon used to send a message to those still living: beware of revolution or riot, or Rome will do this to you, too.”

Meacham does not reveal the source of his “insurgents” interpretation, but the most authentic ancient texts use the Greek words “kakourgos” – or “worker of evil” – and “lestes” – or “robber, brigand, one who plunders openly and by violence”. The clear context in both cases is of a criminal, “for profit” motive.

In fact, the New Testament provides an ideal contrast in the language it uses to describe Barabbas, a man who was an insurgent and who stood beside Christ as a fellow Roman prisoner when Pontius Pilate asked the Jewish crowd which prisoner they’d prefer to see released on Passover. Luke’s Gospel records Barabbas had been arrested by the Romans for murder and trying to lead a revolution.

“If Jesus had not been a political threat,” writes Meacham, “why bother with the trouble of crucifixion? There is also evidence that Jesus' arrest was part of a broader pattern of violence or feared violence this Passover. Barabbas, the man who was released instead of Jesus, was, according to Mark, "among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection"—suggesting that Pilate was concerned with "rebels" and had already confronted an "insurrection" some time before he interrogated Jesus.

“Clear evidence of the political nature of the execution—that Pilate and the high priest were ridding themselves of a "messiah" who might disrupt society, not offer salvation—is the sign Pilate ordered affixed to Jesus' cross. The message is not from the knowing Romans to the evil Jews. It is, rather, a scornful signal to the crowds that this death awaits any man the pilgrims proclaim "the king of the Jews."

The problem for Meacham and liberal critics of The Passion, is that – based on their argument - Pilate would presumably have sent an even stronger message to “the pilgrims” if he’d nailed the more popular Barabbas to the cross, not Christ. There is no suggestion in the Gospels, or outside the Bible, that Christ led “insurgents” in any political campaign against Rome. In fact, every reference to Christ outside the Bible talks more of Jesus’ alleged “sorcery”, and people worshipping him “as to a god”, rather than a political campaign.

“On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged,” records a Jewish Sanhedrin document from around 90 AD. “He has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy [rejection of orthodox Judaism].”

The Roman governor Pliny, writing to the Emperor Trajan around the same time, records: “[the Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up…”

Now, if that’s a political rebellion in the making then the Moon is made of green cheese.

Another Roman historian, Suetonius, writing of the period after Nero’s great fire of Rome about thirty years after the crucifixion, says “After the great fire at Rome…punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.”

Meacham is right in only one respect, that Rome ultimately had much to fear from the spread of Christianity. But to argue as Newsweek does that Pontius Pilate was fearful back in 33 AD of the impact of a non-violent itinerant Jewish preacher named Jesus who might lead an “insurgency” is widely regarded as laughable by many historians.

Meacham writes: “It was as the church's theology took shape, culminating in the Council of Nicaea in 325, that Jesus became the doctrinal Christ, the Son of God "who for us men and our salvation," the council's original creed declared, "descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead."

But if Meacham is correct here, how does he reconcile his claim that Christ only became “the Son of God” in 325 AD, when the passages above show Christ being worshipped as God virtually from the moment of his crucifixion almost three hundred years earlier?

Even more troublesome for Meacham is perhaps the oldest passage in the entire New Testament, Paul’s dissertation on the divinity of Christ at 1 Corinthians 15:3, where he says:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance – that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.”

Denver Seminary’s Craig Blomberg explains the significance.

“You have somebody like Paul describing Christian traditions and beliefs that were passed on to him from Day 1 of his conversion, which was within two years of the death of Christ! So you have full belief in the divinity and resurrection of Jesus two years, not 325 years, after the death of Jesus.

“Now, can you still dispute the truth of those claims even in that short period of time? Sure, but to say that no one believed in the divinity of Jesus or the exalted view until 325 AD is simply a flat out factual mistake. It simply is a flat-out lie and untrue to history to say that nobody made this claim until 325, when they’d made it long before 50 AD.”

So the liberal claim that Christ only “became God” hundreds of years later because of the Church is a myth with no factual backing, yet it repeatedly goes unchallenged.

Meacham and Newsweek’s disdain for Christ’s claim to be God is clear from his article.

“The climax comes when [Jewish High Priest] Caiaphas asks Jesus: "Are you the Messiah?" and Jesus says, "I am..." and alludes to himself as "the Son of Man." There is a gasp; the high priest rends his garments and declares Jesus a blasphemer… There is much here to give the thinking believer pause. "Son of God" and "Son of Man" were fairly common appellations for religious figures in the first century. And it was not "blasphemy" to think of yourself as the "Messiah," which more than a few Jewish figures had claimed to be without meeting Jesus' fate, except possibly at the hands of the Romans. The definition of blasphemy was a source of fierce Jewish argument, but it turned on taking God's name in vain—and nothing in the Gospel trial scenes supports the idea that Jesus crossed that line.”

If it was quite common for people to call themselves the Son of God, why then did Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin react the way they did?
Meacham may attempt to shrug off the context, but Luke’s Gospel tells a different story:

“At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. ‘If you are the Christ,’ they said, ‘tell us.’

“Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God’.

“They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’

“He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am’.”

And in the Gospel of Matthew, it is recorded this way:

“The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’

“ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’.

“Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy!’ ”

It wasn’t a case, as Newsweek and the Herald imply, of a casual Messianic claim. The exchange between Jesus and the Sanhedrin is electric, loaded and definitive.

Sure, others may have claimed to be Messiahs, but none of them raised people from the dead, exorcised demons or healed the blind at a touch.

In another attack on the credibility of The Passion, the Associated Press wire service posted a feature claiming to debunk the movie’s depiction of the crucifixion. Among its many dubious claims was this pearler from Israeli anthropologist Joe Zias:

“Zias said the question of whether Jesus was nailed to the cross or simply tied to it remains a mystery. "There is no evidence whatsoever he was nailed," he said. "The Gospels say he was crucified and leave it at that."

“Zias criticized "The Passion of Christ" for accepting the standard version of three nails being used.”

The AP feature was sent to thousands of newspapers worldwide, but apparently no-one at AP bothered to actually check Zias’ claim that nails were not mentioned in the Bible.

At John 20:25, the disciple Thomas greets the news that Jesus has risen from the grave with scepticism: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were…I will not believe it.”

So much for Biblical silence on the question of nails.

The other “expert” quoted in the story was John Dominic Crossan, one of the leading lights behind the now discredited “Jesus Seminar” of the 1990s. Again, no mention by AP of this.

Craig Blomberg admits that many of the “Death of God” theologians and leading lights in the Jesus-wasn’t-divine movement are elderly men and women whose own theological training came decades ago when less was known about the New Testament than today. Like tall trees in a forest, their out of date biblical knowledge is overshadowing the real work on biblical scholarship.

“That tide is slowly turning. Certain views are accepted as standard and the time by which a generation of pastors trained under other folks retires and is replaced by new people who are familiar with the new scholarship, that takes time.”

As to Bishop John Spong, whose recent New Zealand tour received extensive media coverage:

“Bishop Spong is neither trained as a New Testament scholar, nor do his writings ever read as if he’s giving a representative take, even on more liberal criticism. He’s just trying to debunk the whole thing, relegating virtually everything to ‘myth’.”

But, says Blomberg, the ‘myth’ idea is itself outdated.

“In many ways they are the ones appealing to an outmoded worldview, going back to [theologian] Rudolf Bultmann nearly 100 years ago when in some of his earliest writings he talked about how modern man in an Age of Science could no longer believe in the supernatural. That’s certainly not what philosophers of science are saying in the 21st century. They’re leaving the question of God very much open.”

In 29 years’ time, it will be exactly two thousand years since the man who claimed to be God incarnate was nailed to a Cross by Roman soldiers, at the instigation of some members of the Jewish high priesthood who wanted rid of “this turbulent priest”. And after 1971 years, Jesus is still managing to do what he predicted all those years ago:

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled…Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”

And as debate rages about The Passion, that division has never been more apparent.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 08:50 PM | Comments (1)