Saturday, March 30, 2024

Easter- So What?

What's wrong with this picture? Well, a number of things, but let us admit that it is not intended to be a photo-accurate depiction of Jesus exiting his tomb on the first Easter morning almost 2,000 years ago. It's obviously simply intended to illustrate the central claim of Christianity: that Jesus of Nazareth, having been crucified to death (here's why) on Friday and entombed late that afternoon, was raised from death by the power of God on Sunday morning.

Back to the picture. My friends know I am a stickler for accuracy. First, there is no passage in the Gospels that describe Jesus exiting the tomb. He was laid in the tomb on Friday. The stone was rolled across the entrance to seal the tomb. On Sunday the women, friends of his and his mother, went to the tomb and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. The stone was not rolled away for Jesus's exit, but for the women's convenience so they could enter easily.

What the women saw inside were Jesus's grave wrappings, lying exactly as if the corpse within had simply vanished inside them. John's Gospel records, "the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head [was] not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself."

Romans aimed for maximum deterrent effect in crucifixion. Inflicting humiliation was part of the package. They stripped the condemned entirely naked before they nailed them to the cross. Jesus was naked when his friends took him down from the cross. They tried to clean his terribly-savaged corpse (whipped nearly to death by the Romans before crucifixion) and apply funereal spices before the onset of the Sabbath at sundown. They didn't finish. So they covered Jesus's face with a cloth, about the size of a modern hand towel, wrapped his body with a large cloth and then looped a long strip of cloth around the outside (probably torn from the side of the large cloth), loosely so that removing it would be easy on Sunday morning, when the women would return to finish applying the spices.

So however Jesus exited the tomb, he came out naked, certainly not clothed in a Clorox-clean robe. We know this because John says the Christ, arisen,
... said to her [Mary Magdalene], "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?"

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."
So somewhere, perhaps, a gardener was going to get to work later and wonder had happened to his work clothes.

The story of the first Easter is as familiar to church people as any story we know. Perhaps it has lost its power because of that fact. Each Gospel telling of that first Easter day adds certain embellishments, too. Mark's account is rather sparse, but the other Gospels add more and more detail until by the time we're through we have a virtual parade of folks and supernatural beings practically huddled near the tomb - Roman soldiers, Temple representatives, the women, panting disciples, angels. I almost expect the Marine band to be along any minute. And somewhere in there, almost lost in the crowd, we catch a fleeting glimpse of Jesus, risen from the dead, and everyone uncomprehending of what it means, including the women who saw him and the two men who can't make much sense how Jesus's grave clothes can just be empty.

And it happened way over yonder, in Israel, way back when. What is Easter for in 2024?

United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon served many years at the dean of Duke University’s chapel. He once told of an interview he gave to a student reporter for the Duke University campus newspaper. Easter was approaching. So was Spring Break, which ended on Easter weekend that year.

“I'm doing a story on fun things to do during Spring Break,” said the student-reporter, “and thought it would be cool to mention the Chapel.”

“Okay,” said Reverend Willimon.

“Dr. Willimon,” the student said, “what is the goal of Easter?”

Willimon later wrote that he had no ready answer. A horrible thought went through his mind – an image of a headline, “Preacher says Easter is pointless.”

At right is an iconic photo of Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon long before he danced with the stars. A few years after this day in July 1969, some wag made a poster of this photo (I Googled in vain for an image) topped with the words, "So What?"

And this is, in fact, an excellent question to ask about the illustration of Jesus exiting the tomb, above, leaving aside its inaccuracy to the recorded event.

What is the point of Jesus's resurrection? What purpose does it serve?

There's an old story of a preacher who had invited the children up to the altar area one Easter morning for the children's sermon. He asked the question, "When Jesus came out of the tomb that day, what do you suppose was the first thing he said?"

A little girl jumped up, waving her hand and exclaiming, "I know! I know!" She thrust one foot forward and raised her hands triumphantly above her hand, then yelled, "TA DA!"

Is that it? God gets to wow us? Well, I am appropriately wowed. But if that's all there is, then my life is no different and I am no better off.

But, as you might imagine, the apostle Paul got it clearly. In a letter to the church in Corinth, Greece, he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:12-20):
12It is proclaimed that Christ has been raised from the dead, so how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ was not raised, either. 14And if Christ was not raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15Moreover, we are liars about God, for we have staked our reputations that God raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if all the dead are not raised. 16For if all the dead are not raised, then neither has Christ been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith does you no good because you’re still in your sins. 18That means that those who died believing in Christ are gone forever. 19If Christ matters only for this life, we are more pitiful than anyone else. 20But Christ really has been raised from the dead; he was the first to be raised of all the dead.
The primary point of Jesus's resurrection is not really Jesus. The point is you and me. The resurrection of Jesus is the surety of a promise. The fundamental promise of God is that he will bring human beings into reconciliation with himself and preserve the righteous to live with him forever. How do we know that we will be raised from the dead? We know because God has already raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus’s resurrection is how God has proved he will keep his promise to raise everyone the dead at the end of the age. In fact, Paul sees Jesus’ resurrection as the actual inaugural event of the general resurrection.

That's why Paul elsewhere says that Jesus is a pioneer for the faith of Christian people. By his resurrection, Jesus blazed a trail. Jesus promised, explained this ahead of time.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
Now I am not much one for the way that, "Much of modern Christianity preaches a comforting Home Depot theology: You can do it. We can help." One thing's for sure: if we are to be raised from death ourselves, somewhen, not one of us can do it on our own. And yes, I do think that we American Christians are much too narcissistic in our religious life but Easter really is maybe the one Sunday we can ask, faithfully, "What's in it for me?"

Your own empty tomb, someday, that's what. Pretty good deal, I'd say.

Here is a Youtube of His Majesty's Clerkes singing, "The Lord is Ris'n Indeed," by early American composer William Billings.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Religion, science, God


Immigrants and criminality

The Left is insisting that crime rates of immigrants is just wonderful, such as, "The ‘Criminal Immigrant’ Canard" by by Mona Charen:
Every study on the subject has shown that since 1960, immigrants are much less likely than native-born Americans to be arrested or convicted of crimes (excluding crimes associated with entry into the country). The right highlights a few cases of murder committed by immigrants, but as Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute shows, undocumented immigrants are 27.7 times less likely to commit homicide than natives, and legal immigrants are 57.1 times less likely.
Okay, fine - but she overlooks at least two points. One is that the crime rate for illegal immigrants is more than twice as high as for legal immigrants. Second, she and other libs ignore the fact that regardless of the number of homicides committed by illegal immigrants versus American citizens, that number would be magnitudes lower if this administration had not simply thrown away controls on who gets into the country.

These immigrants are not committing crimes instead of Americans, but in addition to Americans. There are therefore many Americans victimized, even murdered, by illegal immigrants whose entry into the country was deliberately allowed as policy by the Biden administration. And that does not even include the 100,000-plus deaths from drug overdose, most from fentanyl brought easily over the southern border by Mexican cartels.

Then there is this guy, apprehended by the US Border Patrol on March 9 near El Paso, Texas: "Illegal migrant from Lebanon caught at border admitted he’s a Hezbollah terrorist hoping ‘to make a bomb’ — and was headed for NY."
[Basel Bassel] Ebbadi said in a sworn interview after his arrest that he had trained with Hezbollah for seven years and served as an active member guarding weapons locations for another four years, the documents show. Ebbadi’s training focused on “jihad” and killing people “that was not Muslim,” he said.

Another reason Charen's argument fails is that Charen never even mentions of per-capita rates of crime of native-born Americans compared to the per-capita crime rates of legal and illegal immigrants. That is, what is the percentage of native-born Americans convicted of felonies in relation to the total number of native-born Americans in the country? And the same for legal immigrants and illegal immigrants.

Charen does not touch that and neither does the Stanford University study she cites. Its main metric claims that immigrants have had similar or lower incarceration rates than U.S.-born white men for the last 140 years of American history. And that is true for its metric of such rates of both groups per 100,000 residents, but that 100K is not broken down by race or citizenship. It is just per 100K of people living in the country:

As someone else put it, of course immigrants commit fewer crimes than American citizens. And in Japan, immigrants commit fewer crimes than the Japanese. In Egypt, immigrants commit fewer crimes than Egyptians. By the way, in India immigrants commit fewer crimes than Indians. Get the point?

And why is Stanford using a baseline of only white, native-born American men to compare to the foreign-born rate? Here are Census Bureau facts:
    • In 2020 (the latest year of Stanford's study), the total population in the US was 325,268,000. Of these, 57.8 percent were White, or 188,004,904.
    • The total native-born population was 280,361,000 (the Bureau rounded the numbers).
    • That means, according to Stanford's methods, that in 2020, the 92,356,086 non-white, native-born Americans committed no crimes!
    • However, in 2020, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, "about 48% of inmates held in local jails were white, 35% were black, and 15% were Hispanic. American Indians or Alaska Natives; Asians, Native Hawaiians, or Other Pacific Islanders; and persons of two or more races accounted for 2% of the total jail population." In fact, "In 2020, the [overall] imprisonment rate was 358 per 100,000 U.S. residents, the lowest since 1992."
That last datum, also from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, flatly contradicts the Stanford study, which inexplicably charts incarceration of white men alone at about 1,700 per 100,000! I could not find foreign-born incarceration numbers for 2020 specifically, but in 2018 the Department of Justice announced "that more than one-in-five of all persons in Bureau of Prisons custody were known or suspected aliens, and 93 percent of confirmed aliens in DOJ custody were in the United States unlawfully." That stat certainly has not improved.

Also crushing the Stanford study is this DOJ chart; compare to the chart above.

Here is the inaccuracy (I dare not call it deception) of the Stanford study:
  • To claim that foreign-born persons in the United States are less likely to commit crimes than native-born white men simply borders on gaslighting. It is not a relevant comparison.
  • In 2020, the year ending the Stanford chart, there were 280,361,000 native-born persons in the country. What is the incarceration rate of native-born persons per 100K for all native-born Americans? Stanford simply ignores this.
Actually, some number of the white total residents was foreign born, but the Census report breaks down only by totals of native v. foreign born; the 57.8 percent figure cited also does not distinguish between native and foreign born. In 2020, there were 44.9 million foreign-born people living in the US. Of them, 50.7 percent, or 22.75 million, were naturalized citizens.

Yes, legal immigrants do commit crimes, but it is in fact very difficult to immigrate to the this country legally, and there is ample screening of each person. But there is little (mainly no) screening at all for those entering illegally. An enormous number (the "gotaways") are not caught and are not even known of. According to MSN four months ago, using Customs and Border Patrol data, "Illegal border crossers total over 10 million since Biden inauguration."
Since January 2021, a minimum estimate of nearly 1.7 million gotaways have illegally entered the U.S.

Based on earlier projections and including Office of Field Operations data, former CBP chief Mark Morgan told The Center Square the gotaway data is likely to reach or exceed one million for fiscal 2023 alone.

In fiscal 2021, there were at least 308,655 known, reported gotaways; in fiscal 2022, 606,150 were reported. According to preliminary data obtained by The Center Square, Border Patrol agents reported at least 769,174 gotaways at the southwest border alone.
The rest, numbering now in the many millions, with very few exceptions are simply given a court date that is many years away, then are released into the country with zero requirements or supervision of any kind.
How many of them are committing crimes? No one knows. What percentage of them are committing crimes? No one knows. How many of them, like Basel Ebbadi, intentionally came here with evil intentions, as FBI Director Christopher Wray has strongly warned Congress about more than once? No one knows.

Director Wray has strongly warned of potential violence from border crossers. For example:
There are many other such reports.

The Left's argument boils down to this: "Yes, immigrants, including 'undocumented' ones, do commit crimes, but so what? So do American citizens!" But as I said above, illegal immigrants' crimes are in addition to what Americans commit. The perpetrators were deliberately admitted into the country. Why is the Left energetically supporting policies that result in crimes, including rape and murder, that did not have to happen?

Update: "Undocumented Immigrants, U.S. Citizens, and Convicted Criminals in Arizona," by the Crime Prevention Research Center:
Using newly released detailed data on all prisoners who entered the Arizona state prison from January 1985 through June 2017, we are able to separate non-U.S. citizens by whether they are illegal or legal residents. Unlike other studies, these data do not rely on self-reporting of criminal backgrounds. Undocumented immigrants are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans. They also tend to commit more serious crimes and serve 10.5% longer sentences, more likely to be classified as dangerous, and 45% more likely to be gang members than U.S. citizens. Yet, there are several reasons that these numbers are likely to underestimate the share of crime committed by undocumented immigrants. There are dramatic differences between in the criminal histories of convicts who are U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants.

Young convicts are especially likely to be undocumented immigrants. While undocumented immigrants from 15 to 35 years of age make up slightly over two percent of the Arizona population, they make up about eight percent of the prison population. Even after adjusting for the fact that young people commit crime at higher rates, young undocumented immigrants commit crime at twice the rate of young U.S. citizens. These undocumented immigrants also tend to commit more serious crimes.

If undocumented immigrants committed crime nationally as they do in Arizona, in 2016 they would have been responsible for over 1,000 more murders, 5,200 rapes, 8,900 robberies, 25,300 aggravated assaults, and 26,900 burglaries.

Laken Riley’s murder and the long shadow of Willie Horton. The writer is professor of political science emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he founded the Program on International Politics, Economics and Security.

Update: Law Enforcement Officials testify to Congress about the criminal acts done by illegal immigrants.

Rethinking Marriage

What the Christian religion has to do with marriage is a huge subject, so at best this is an overview. I call it Rethinking Marriage becaus...