Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Peril of Living in the Past in the 21st Century's Age of Global Pluralism, Inclusion, and Ethics

Today's series of articles could well be entitled:

"The Occident and the Orient:
Europe's Sociological Identity Meets the Fears of its Past"


"Identifying Our Perceptual Reality to the Historical Actuality
of What Constitutes Societal Freedom."


"Let Common Sense Apply"

Behind each idea lie the supposition of what a nation, a country, or a people will consider the kind of identity that determines who they are. And to this identity is eschewed any attempts to remove its caricatures of itself from its formed necessity of what we deem as us.

The terrorism that inhabits our world are the result of our formed societal identities clashing against an "opposing invading culture with its own ethos and needs." To the Muslim, the need for a rigorous society built upon presupposed religious values drives all other efforts towards nation building. But so too can this be said of the Christian civilizations attempting the same under its own set of rules and laws.

Each has its own ideas of God, of reality, of community. To the West the need for individualized human freedoms outweigh many other factors. To the East freedom is subservient to the greater need of the Oriental society to be in submission to perceived individual roles and values. One gives greater credence to individual freedoms. The other to individual submission to societal forms and factors.

As a consequence, the clash or divide has lasted as long as the Roman Empire had met the Persian Empires. Or, the Ottoman Empire the Christian Church. In its long eras of schism a sharp division has been created between what a Greek or Roman law of civilization might look like as compared with one that has become known as Shariah law. One is a pagan code of conduct that later was Christianized whereas the other is moral law that has become based upon the Muslim religion:

Wikipedia - Sharia Law is a significant source of legislation in various Muslim countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Brunei, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In those countries, harsh physical punishments such as flogging and stoning are said to be legally-acceptable according to Sharia. There are two primary sources of sharia law: the precepts set forth in theQuranic verses (ayahs), and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Where it has official status, sharia is interpreted by Islamic judges (qadis) with varying responsibilities for the religious leaders (imams). For questions not directly addressed in the primary sources, the application of sharia is extended through consensus of the religious scholars (ulama) thought to embody the consensus of the Muslim Community (ijma). Islamic jurisprudence will also sometimes incorporate analogies from the Quran and Sunnah through qiyas, though many scholars also prefer reasoning ('aql) to analogy.

Each perceives the rules of conduct between people and society from its own philosophical and religious base of morals and ethics wrapped around its own idea of regional identity. Each is as respectively harsh as the other - or was, with Western law lately ceding to less stringent public punishments and judgments (much belated in this author's opinion):

Wikipedia - The introduction of Sharia is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements globally, including in Western countries, but attempts to impose sharia have been accompanied by controversy, violence, and even warfare. Most countries do not recognize sharia; however, some countries in Asia, Africa and Europe recognize sharia and use it as the basis for divorce, inheritance and other personal affairs of their Islamic population. In Britain, the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal makes use of sharia family law to settle disputes, and this limited adoption of sharia is controversial.

The concept of crime, judicial process, justice and punishment embodied in sharia is different from that of secular law. The differences between sharia and secular laws have led to an ongoing controversy as to whether sharia is compatible with secular forms of government, the human right "freedom of thought," and in general "women's rights."

In secular jurisprudence, sharia is classified as religious law, which is one of the three major categories that individual legal systems generally fall under, alongside civil law andcommon law.

Consequently, today's articles reflect upon this cultural clash between the East and the West and how each wishes to conduct its own laws in the lands of the other. In many ways, it is not unlike what had formed the necessity of the English Magna Carta as it finally ceded warfare between European states and said, "When in Rome do as the Romans." Or, when in another country respect the laws of that country without attempt to reform or incursion. Perhaps its time that the Magna Carta is resurrected in the 500th year of its enactment and we take it to heart again.

R.E. Slater
January 13, 2015

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What Is Behind Europe's Rising Islamophobia?

by Alexander Görlach, Found and publisher of The European
January 5, 2015

BERLIN -- Recent arson attacks on mosques in Germany and Sweden, along with the emergence of a movement called the "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident," prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to deliver a "never again" New Year's message to her compatriots in anticipation of Monday's demonstrations in Dresden. Warning against supporting PEGIDA, she said "their hearts are cold, often full of prejudice and even hate."

What is behind this most recent aggressive burst of anti-Islamic sentiment? How should we view it?

The landmass of the Occident spans the territory of many countries; its meaning becomes apparent only in juxtaposition to its counterpart, the Orient. It has more frequently perished in countless texts, speeches and films than all actually existing empires throughout human history combined. In short: The Occident is a fiction -- and that quality has always made it a powerful canvas for the projection of human fears and desires.

The Occident lies towards the Western sunset. Its lands are those of nightfall: heavy, full of melancholy, straining for the final rays of daylight, and hesitantly expecting the pale light of the rising moon. During the Middle Ages, stone-carved creatures of the imagination flanked the walls of Europe's cathedrals and conjured up images of nightly evils: When night falls, darkness envelops the souls of men and threatens them with extinction. The hour of sunset signals the advent of corporeal and spiritual danger. It takes tremendous power to hold demons at bay and to weather the temptations of the night. Two paradigms thus help to map the terrain of the Occident: the fear of darkness, and the belief in the divine light.

Christian churches are built with East-facing chancel windows; on Easter Sunday, the first daylight enters through the colored glass and bathes the barren nave in celebratory light. The organ intones, and the church bells ring out: He Has Risen. Indeed, the liturgy of Easter Sunday presents us with the most condensed enactment of the Occidental yearning for light, for another day, and for triumph over the demons of darkness. Ex oriente lux -- the sun rises in the East. That's why Europeans have always looked longingly beyond their horizon: Towards the East, towards Jerusalem.

The Occident became conscious of itself as a unified entity when Jerusalem fell to Islamic conquest. The longing for Jerusalem was thus also a longing for order and unity at home: One emperor, one pope, one center and one horizon that provided order to the world. At that time, the Occident was still being formed from the rubble of the Roman Empire, and forged during the tumultuous centuries of the migration of the peoples. "Alemannic" -- which is the etymological ancestor of the term "German" in romance languages -- simply means "all men." The longing for Jerusalem unified the Occident's diverse cultures for the first time.

Once again, we can look towards medieval cathedrals for architectural indicators of shared cultural sentiments: The domes of Europe's great cathedrals were shaped to resemble the imagined cityscape of worldly Jerusalem; their spires pointed towards heavenly Jerusalem. Christianity became the unifying identity of the Occident.


But unity remained fragile. New dangers lurked nearby, especially at the borders. From the South, Muslim armies threatened the continent. From the North, Normans invaded. Later came the Huns, then the Turks (whose conquest was only stopped at the gates of Vienna). Southern Spain remained in Muslim hands for centuries. Rome, the caput mundi [= the capital of the world], continued to be an attractive target for invaders from the Orient. The Occidental fears became manifest -- sometimes obsessively so -- in fears of Islam. For centuries, the religious competitor to the East robbed European emperors and popes of their sleep. Over time, Islamophobia became part of the collective consciousness of the Occident.

What is feared today is not the loss of any particular country to foreign conquest, but the loss of an imagined entity that binds us together. The Occident is a central piece of our mental maps and our cultural inventory. That's one reason why seemingly everyone from "the Old World" has at least an instinctual opinion about it. People harbor within themselves a sense of shared meaning -- the semantic sediments of the Occident.

When those opinions are voiced, they often fall short by the standards of reason and academic science. They are instead informed, in a very visceral sense, by fears of decline and by memories of cultural blossoming. Those fears culminate in the belief that our cathedrals will eventually turn into mosques, that their bells will fall silent and will be replaced by the cries of the muezzin. But fears lead to hyperbole. Let us remember that foreign conquests have failed for many centuries (and not for lack of trying!), and thus proclaim with conviction that danger can be averted again.

Fear of decline, and the celebration of an imagined unity: Those are the parameters that govern contemporary discourses about the Occident -- not as arguments but as discursive foundations. Indeed, the Occident is as much a fiction as the Orient. Both terms reflect the wishes, dreams and aspirations of our forefathers. They were shaped in earlier epochs over the course of generations and centuries.

The history of the Occident is not unlike the history of a cathedral: Every generation has tinkered with the structure and amended it. The foundations were set down during the time of Charlemagne, the aisles were added during Romanticism, a new spire was built during the Gothic period, ornate chapels appeared during the Baroque era. When fire struck, it was rebuilt. It had to be: How could a city exist without its central reference point?

The time of dusk: Fever, madness, gloriole [ = a halo, nimbus, or aureole ], hyperbole. Death appears imminent until the rise of dawn. In old hymns, sleep is recast as the antechamber of death. No wonder, then, that religious pathologies and political and religious ideologies have repeatedly swept across the continent. Their danger remains acute. But to the arsonists I say: The Occident has never been able to sustain itself. It always required the light of the Orient as inspiration and external reference point.

"The Occident has never been able to sustain itself.
It always required the light of the Orient as
inspiration and external reference point."

During the Middle Ages, a veritable cult developed around the "three wise men" who came from the Orient and whose earthly remains are said to be contained in relics at the cathedral in Cologne. Ex oriente lux [ = light from the east ]-- or, as the gospel of Matthew puts it: "We have His star when it rose, and have come to worship Him." In old paintings, the three wise men resemble representatives from late antiquity's three known continents: One European, one African, one Asian.

Thinkers like Erasmus of Rotterdam turned Christian traditions into undogmatic humanism, bent on eradicating the denominational borders within Christianity. Their effort proved to be a quick flicker: The fanaticism of the Reformation and fights over the correct interpretation of Christian dogma put an end to it. The Occident descended into centuries of spiritual and intellectual darkness. At the end of the 20th century, and after two World Wars, it is in the process of reinventing itself.

As Christianity teaches us, the dead have a way of rising again. Today's discussions remind us that the Occident is not finished yet. But we must not fool ourselves: The legacy of the term is a double-edged sword that can mean nothing and everything at the same time. It was born of emotion and shaped by the highs and lows of history. It is useless as an analytical reference point and cannot supply answers to concrete political questions.

Both the community of Christendom and the unity of the Occident were political ideas. The cost of their realization was paid in blood. But what is the Occident today? It is the community of peoples who have sustained the term in their collective consciousness and have continually amended its meaning.

The Occident extends beyond Christendom and beyond Europe. The term only works if it avoids self-enclosure and remains perpetually open towards the outside -- towards the Orient, Africa and Asia -- as indeed it used to be. Its contemporary potential lies in continuing the work of Erasmus of Rotterdam: The formulation of global, humanistic and inclusive ethics.

Charlie Hebdo | Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Image

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Police hunt three Frenchmen after
12 killed in Paris attack

January 7, 2015

(Reuters) - Police are hunting three French nationals, including two brothers from the Paris region, after suspected Islamist gunmen killed 12 people at a satirical magazine on Wednesday, a police official and government source said.

The hooded attackers stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly known for lampooning Islam and other religions, in the most deadly militant attack on French soil in decades.

French police staged a huge manhunt for the attackers who escaped by car after shooting dead some of France's top cartoonists as well as two police officers. About 800 soldiers were brought in to shore up security across the capital.

Police issued a document to forces across the region saying the three men were being sought for murder in relation to the Charlie Hebdo attack. The document, reviewed by a Reuters correspondent, named them as Said Kouachi, born in 1980, Cherif Kouachi, born in 1982, and Hamyd Mourad, born in 1996.

The police source said one of them had been identified by his identity card which had been left in the getaway car.

The Kouachi brothers were from the Paris region while Mourad was from the area of the northeastern city of Reims, the government source told Reuters.

Anti-terrorism police were preparing an operation in Reims, the police source said, declining to give more details.

The police source said one of the brothers had previously been tried on terrorism charges.

Cherif Kouachi was charged with criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise in 2005 after he had been arrested before leaving for Iraq to join Islamist militants. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008, according to French media.

During the attack, one of the assailants was captured on video outside the building shouting "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Greatest) as shots rang out. Another walked over to a police officer lying wounded on the street and shot him point-blank with an assault rifle, before the two calmly climbed into a black car and drove off.

A police union official said there were fears of further attacks, and described the scene in the offices as carnage, with a further four wounded fighting for their lives.

Tens of thousands joined impromptu rallies across France in memory of the victims and support for freedom of expression. The government declared the highest state of alert, tightening security at transport hubs, religious sites, media offices and department stores as the search for the assailants got under way.

Some Parisians expressed fears about the effect of the attack on community relations in France, which has Europe's biggest Muslim population.

"This is bad for everyone - particularly for Muslims despite the fact that Islam is a fine religion. It risks making a bad situation worse," Cecile Electon, an arts worker who described herself as an atheist, told Reuters at a vigil on Paris's Place de la Republique attended by 35,000 people.

Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is well known for courting controversy with satirical attacks on political and religious leaders of all faiths and has published numerous cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad. Jihadists online repeatedly warned that the magazine would pay for its ridicule.

The last tweet on its account mocked Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant Islamic State, which has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria and called for "lone wolf" attacks on French soil.

There was no claim of responsibility. However, a witness quoted by 20 Minutes daily newspaper said one of the assailants cried out before getting into his car: "Tell the media that it is al Qaeda in Yemen!"

Supporters of Islamic State and other jihadist groups hailed the attack on Internet sites. Governments throughout Europe have expressed fear that fighters returning from Iraq or Syria could launch attacks in their home countries and may now review their own security.

"Today the French Republic as a whole was the target," President Francois Hollande said in a prime-time evening TV address, declaring a national day of mourning on Thursday.

An amateur video broadcast by French television stations shows two hooded men all in black outside the building. One of them spots a wounded policeman lying on the ground, hurries over to him and shoots him dead at point-blank range with a rifle.

In another clip on Television station iTELE, the men are heard shouting in French: "We have killed Charlie Hebdo. We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad."


Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the assailants killed a man at the entrance of the building to force entry. They then headed to the second floor and opened fire on an editorial meeting attended by eight journalists, a policeman tasked with protecting the magazine's editorial director and a guest.

"What we saw was a massacre. Many of the victims had been executed, most of them with wounds to the head and chest," Patrick Hertgen, an emergencies services medic called out to treat the injured, told Reuters.

A Reuters reporter saw groups of armed policeman patrolling around department stores in the shopping district and there was an armed gendarme presence outside the Arc de Triomphe.

"There is a possibility of other attacks and other sites are being secured," police union official Rocco Contento said.

U.S. President Barack Obama described the attack as cowardly and evil, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among European leaders condemning the shooting.

The dead included co-founder Jean "Cabu" Cabut and editor-in-chief Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier. A firebomb attack had already gutted the old headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in November 2011 after it put an image of the Prophet Mohammad on its cover in what it described as a Shariah edition.

France last year reinforced its anti-terrorism laws and was on alert after calls from Islamist militants to attack its citizens and interests in reprisal for French military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa.

Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Council of the Muslim faith (CFCM), condemned an "immensely barbaric act also against democracy and freedom of the press" and said its perpetrators could not claim to be true Muslims.

Rico, a friend of Cabut, who joined the Paris vigil, said his friend had paid for people misunderstanding his humour.

"These attacks are only going to get worse. It's like a tsunami, it won't stop and what's happening today will probably feed the National Front," he told Reuters.

The far-right National Front has won support on discontent over immigration to France. Some fear Wednesday's attack could be used to feed anti-Islamic agitation.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen said it was too early to draw political conclusions but added: "The increased terror threat linked to Islamic fundamentalism is a simple fact."

Germany's new anti-immigration movement said the attack highlighted the threat of Islamist violence. Merkel has condemned the PEGIDA movement, which drew a record crowd of 18,000 to its latest rally on Monday in Dresden.

The last major attack in Paris was in the mid-1990s when the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) carried out a spate of attacks, including the bombing of a commuter train in 1995 which killed eight people and injured 150. A series of bombings of Parisian shops by Lebanese extremists in 1986 claimed 12 lives.

France's deadliest attack was in 1961 after a French dissident paramilitary organization opposed to France's withdrawal from Algeria blew up a train killing 28 people.

(Additional reporting By Brian Love, Sophie Louet, Ingrid Melander, Gerard Bon, Dominique Rodriguez and Ali Abdelaty in Cairo; Writing by John Irish and Mark John; Editing by Ralph Boulton and David Stamp)


* * * * * * * * * * * *

French citizens gather in Paris to denounce the terrorist attack against magazine
Charlie Hebdo and to rally in defense of free speech. (AP)

Muslim Cleric Defends Paris Terrorist Attack

January 8, 2015

In the wake of the terrorist attack on the offices of French satirist paper Charlie Hebdo, one Muslim cleric justified the murders under Islamic law.

USA today published a column by avowed “radical Muslim cleric” Anjem Choudary. The piece titled “People know the consequences” asks why France would allow the paper to mock Islam, and further excused the systematic murders as justified under Islamic law:

“Muslims consider the honor of the Prophet Muhammad to be dearer to them
than that of their parents or even themselves. To defend it is considered to be
an obligation upon them. The strict punishment if found guilty of this crime
under sharia (Islamic law) is capital punishment implementable by an Islamic
State. This is because the Messenger Muhammad said, "Whoever insults a
Prophet kill him.

However, because the honor of the Prophet is something which all Muslims
want to defend, many will take the law into their own hands, as we often see.”

The contention that mass murder is in any way an appropriate response to being personally offended is a dangerous slope on which to tread. There is no doubt that some of these cartoons can be seen as offensive to certain people, but that same sentiment can be asserted on nearly any form of speech, especially in politics. Hence, the reasoning behind and the sanctity of the Constitution’s first amendment.

Choudary then reversed the blame for the attack away from the three terrorists themselves and onto the French government:

“So why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo
to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk?”

This kind of blame shifting is also intellectually perilous. Placing the onus of speech on the any secular government is asking for abuse. But, if Choudary had his way, the government of the Islamic State would tightly control speech and punish transgressions with death.

Choudary’s entire argument excusing the Paris attack reveals the fundamental disconnect between views of civilizations. Radical Islamists have no intention of assimilating into their respective cultures or contributing to any kind of meaningful dialogue about religion and free speech. They are intent on terrorizing western citizens out of exerting their rights. Their plan of terrorism and intimidation, with the ultimate goal of imposing their religion on others is fundamentally anti-American, [anti-Constitution, and anti-basic human freedoms and liberties]. It is not meant for the 21st century.

Paying Unwanted Temple Taxes: What's a Good Fisherman To Do?

A Fishy Story

by Rebecca Trotter
June 3, 2012

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

“Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?”

“From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him.“But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Jesus and His disciples, paying their due at Capernaum

I wonder if Peter actually went out fishing after this conversation? Most commenters on the text assume that he did and found his coin and paid the tax. Another of Jesus’ miracles. But the bible doesn’t say anything about it. You would think that it would at least add, “Peter did as he was instructed and found it just as Jesus had said” or something.... I kind of think that he didn’t do it.

The two drachma tax was a yearly tax collected to support the upkeep of the temple. It would have been paid to the temple one attended. It wasn’t exactly something that a good Jew paid when visiting a town as Jesus was visiting Capernaum. Some have speculated that visiting rabbis would pay the tax in order to teach at the local temple. But we know that at various times and places, priests exempted themselves from paying the tax altogether. Perhaps the collectors weren't actually demanding payment. Perhaps they were inquiring as to whether Jesus paid the tax as a lay-person or if he exempted himself as a priest. Or maybe they were just doing the sort of thing that gave tax collectors such a bad rep and trying to shake down righteous Jews who were afraid of causing offense or falling out of line.

Modern Day Capernaum
Whatever the reason, Peter gives an immediate wrong answer. The question is one of those “when did you stop beating your wife, senator?” sort of questions that impugns the person it is directed towards. And Peter gives what seems like the right answer to the implied slur against his teacher. 

“[Why] yes, of course he pays it! Why would you think he doesn’t?” It is entirely possible that he doesn’t actually know if Jesus paid the temple tax. Perhaps the question and the reality that Jesus didn’t have a home temple made him wonder if Jesus had paid the tax at all. Where would he pay it? In Nazareth? Jerusalem? He didn’t have a home temple. Peter was a zealous Jew. The idea that maybe his master had skirted the rules made him uneasy. Should they have been paying the tax at each temple in each town they visited? They traveled an awful lot – that could get to be an onerous burden. (I tend to think that the tax collectors were not actively trying to collect the tax as many commenters assume. There is no mention of any further conversation between Peter and the tax collectors in the text.)

When [Peter] arrives back at the place where Jesus is staying, perhaps a bit unsettled by the exchange he just [had] had, Jesus immediately pipes up. He makes it clear that the whole thing is a bit silly. He’s the son of the king. Even if they were supposed to be paying the tax everywhere, he’s exempt. Stop being such a worry-wart. You’re straining at gnats and swallowing camels, he tells him.

Then he offers Peter the zealous rule follower and out: go fishing and you’ll find the coin. Take it and pay the tax. That way you will know that the tax has been paid. You won’t risk being embarrassed at my bad behavior. If someone ever asks again, you can answer with certainty that the tax has been paid.

I kind of think that there was some good natured ribbing going on here. Jesus offends people all the time, especially the religious establishment. What does he care if the tax collectors are “offended”? They were probably trying to shake Peter and Jesus down anyways. The solution is a bit silly: go get a coin from the mouth of a fish. Not that he couldn’t do it or that it wouldn’t happen as he said. But why not just tell him to go talk to Judas to get the money?

And finally, his suggestion that Peter take the money for both him and himself is a final, sharp jab, I think. If Peter did that, he would essentially be admitting that neither he nor his master had already settled this debt. He would be admitting that his answer was premature at best. And frankly, if they are the sons of the king and exempt from paying the tax, isn’t paying it an admission that their station is not all that Jesus has been claiming it to be?

So what does Peter do? Does he go and find the fish and it’s coin? Salve his zealous, rule following conscience? Or does he feel a bit foolish for taking the tax collector’s bait and doubting himself and his master and just sit down? We really don’t know.

On the Gospel Trail looking down onto Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee

Topography of Israel