Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hypatia (Honoring our Pagan Ancestors, Part Two)

This is a post on Hypatia of Alexandria (c.370-415 AD), in commemoration of Samhain, a traditional Pagan holiday dedicated to the honoring of our ancestors. It is a follow-up to another post: Honoring Our Pagan Ancestors.

Even before her murder, which sent shockwaves throughout the Roman world (stretching from the Middle East to Britain), Hypatia was without a doubt the most celebrated Alexandrian intellectual of her day. And it must be remembered that Alexandria was the cultural center of gravity of the οἰκουμένη (oikoumene) or the "known world", as it had been for over seven centuries. And the man responsible for Hypatia's murder, Cyril, the appropriately titled "Patriarch" of Alexandria, was one of the most powerful, almost certainly the most ruthless, and perhaps the most influential Christian of the day.

Although she represents all that is best in Paganism, and he all that is worst in Christianity, it is my opinion that they are each truly representative of their respective religious traditions, and, more specifically, that her brutal murder is also representative of the wider conflict between those two traditions.

Three scholars who have studied this period as close as any are Edward Gibbon, J.B. Bury, and Ramsay MacMullen, and the fact is that it is an almost grotesque understatement to put it this way. What is not an understatement is to say that, at least in the English language, the literature on late Roman history can be neatly divided into two categories: (1) the writings of Gibbon, Bury and MacMullen, and (2) everything else.

The remainder of this post will consist of excerpts from the writings of these three historians. The images in this post are all from the movie Agora, starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia and Sami Samir as Cyril.

1. From Ramsay MacMullen's Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries:

It used to be thought that, at the end, the eradication of paganism really required no effort. The empire in its waning generations had suffered decline not only material but spiritual. Of itself, "paganism had by late antiquity become little more than a hollow husk." [MacMullen is here quoting a 1995 article by New York Times art critic Pepe Karmel: "Persistence of pagan myth in modern imagination"] To replace it, only a preferable alternative was needed which, when supplied and explained, over the course of time inevitably found acceptance. But historians seem now to have abandoned this interpretation (even if, outside their ranks, it persists for a time). The real vitality of paganism is instead recognized; and to explain its eventual fate what must also be recognized is an opposing force, an urgent one, determined on its extinction. Such a force is easily felt in Christian obedience to the divine commands of both Testaments, calling for the annihilation of all error. It was this that controlled the flow of religious history from the fourth century on.

Long before it could be expressed in actions, urgency was clear in the way Christian writers described paganism. From the start, it is not easy to find in the whole of their literature a matter-of-fact, uncolored reference to its beliefs or rituals or (of course, especially) the actual images of gods. Some touch of denigration is almost always added. We might suppose Christians therefore lived in a fog of dark disapproval which they were supposed to breath in and make a part of themselves, if they listened to their leaders or read their works, while of course living also in a mist of love -- for each other. Needless to say they could not all, in each moment, respond as they were bid. Instead they responded only in fits and bits, as one might expect, not always with outrage toward their unbelieving neighbors nor ever-charitably toward their own fellows. Periodic outbursts, however, of hate-filled mob or gang violence after the mid-fourth century are indeed recorded -- reference will be made to them in what follows -- and the role of the church leadership in exciting them is clear. The leaders' appeals could be heard over a general background of terms such as "mad," "laughable," "loathsome," "disgusting," "contaminating," "wicked," "ignorant," and so forth, characteristic of ancient invective and freely applied by Christians to everything religious that was not also Christian. More to the fore were specific demands for aggressive action by fulminating synods or individual zealots, of whom I may pick out Firmicus Maternus in 346, adjuring the emperors, "Little remains, before the Devil shall lie utterly prostrate, overthrown by Your laws, and the lethal infection of a vanquished idolatry shall be no more. . . . The favoring numen of Christ has reserved for Your hands the annihilation of idolatry and the destruction of profane temples." Adjuration rises to a shout: "Abolish! abolish in confidence, most holy emperors, the ornaments of temples. . . . Upon You, most holy emperors, necessity enjoins the avenging and punishing of this evil, . . . so that Your Severities persecute root and branch, omnifarum, the crime of idol worship. Harken and impress upon Your sacred minds what God commands regarding this crime" (and he goes on to work up Deut. 13.6-9, "If thy brother, son, daughter, or wife entice thee secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods, . . . . thou shall surely kill" them). A little more focused than Firmicus' exhortations will be the legislation of the time with its own version of inflammatory name-calling, for example, aimed at "pagans and their heathen enormities, since with their natural insanity and stubborn insolence they depart from the path of the true religion . . . [in] nefarious rites of their sacrifices and false doctrines of their deadly superstition." At the end, most sharply of all, specific injunctions on specific occasions by leaders to particular audiences. John Chrysostom by letter to the monks or Augustine to his congregation, demanded action.

Firmicus was writing toward the turn of that point where appeals for toleration also change, from the Christian to the non-Christian. Ecclesiastical leaders now began to exercise their superior powers proportionately against their various enemies; what had been words, earlier, became reality and event. Among those enemies, not to be forgotten, were Jews and Manichees against whom laws and arms were turned in about the same period and manner, while sectarian rivalries within the church continued unabated and with freer use of force, now that it was safe (so, in the century opened by the Peace of the Church, more Christians died for their faith at the hands of fellow Christians than had died before in all the persecutions). These areas of religious strife I recall only to make plain in other ways the great urgency lying behind those Old and New Testament commands cited above, which would allow no truce with error. Christians might point with envy to the concordia that prevailed among non-Christians, just as non-Christians pointed with amazement at the murderous intolerance within the now dominant religion; but there could be no compromise with the Devil.

Christian readiness for action carried to no matter what extremes has not always received the acknowledgment it deserves in modern accounts of the period. Among them, prior to the 1980's, readers will be hard put to find Firmicus' word "persecution" describing the conduct of the Christian empire toward tis non-Christian subjects. Instead, they will find a reference to that happy moment in 312 "when the era of persecutions ended [!] and Christianity became publicly established in the Later Roman Empire." Still in the 1990s, congratulation is made on the process of converting the ancient empire "without society tearing itself apart . . . . the fourth century said goodbye to religious strife." [The first part of the quote is from Stephen Wilson's Introduction to his Saints and their Cults (1983), while the second is from R.M. Price's "Pluralism and Religious Tolerance in the Empire in the Fourth Century", which is published in Papers presented at the 11th International Conference on Patristic Studies (1993).]

The lynching of Hypatia took place toward the beginning of the fifth century (A.D. 415). Her fate is illuminating. It may be recalled that, snatched from the street by a mob of zealots in Alexandria, she was hacked to death in the gloom of the so-called Caesar-church and her body burned. She was a non-Christian and a prominent voice for her views; she had become the focus of the patriarch Cyril's resentment; the lector had caught his master's wishes and led the crowd that killed her. All this seems certain. In the background, explaining Cyril's heat, were the indirectly connected Greek-Jewish tensions in the city and the patriarch's and the provincial governor's conflict over their respective followings and strength. In the contest between these two, the patriarch called on his parabalani, church workers with some muscle, as well as hundreds of monks from the Nitrian wilds with still more muscle. The monks shouted against the governor [Orestes] and stoned him, though he escaped alive. They constituted, with the civil and episcopal authorities and nameless zealots, the available agents of that reforming urgency which governed religious change in the centuries post-400, all conveniently seen in action in the drama that ends with the death of Hypatia.

In the first years of his pontificate his chief objects were to exalt his own authority above that of the civil governor of Egypt, the Augustal Prefect, and to make Alexandria an irreproachably Christian city by extirpating paganism which still flourished in its schools, and by persecuting the Jews who for centuries had formed a large minority of the population. He was an ecclesiastical tyrant of the most repulsive type, and the unfortunate Hypatia was the most illustrious of his victims.

Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, a distinguished mathematician, who was a professor at the Museum or university of Alexandria. Trained in mathematics by her father, she left that pure air for the deeper and more agitating study of metaphysics, and probably became acquainted with the older Neoplatonism of Plotinus, which, in the Alexandrian Museum, had been transmitted untainted by the later developments of Porphyrius and Iamblichus. When she had completed her education she was appointed to the chair of philosophy, and her extraordinary talents, combined with her beauty, made her a centre of interest in the cultivated circles at Alexandria, and drew to her lecture-room crowds of admirers. Her free and unembarrassed intercourse with educated men and the publicity of her life must have given rise to many scandals and backbitings, and her own sex doubtless looked upon her with suspicion, and called her masculine and immodest. She used to walk in the streets in her academical gown (τρίβων, the philosopher's cloak) and explain to all who wished to learn, difficulties in Plato or Aristotle. Of the influence of her personality on her pupils we have still a record in some letters of Synesius of Cyrene, who, although his studies under her auspices did not hinder him from adopting Christianity, always remained at heart a semi-pagan, and was devotedly attached to his instructress. That some of her pupils fell in love with her is not surprising, but Hypatia never married.

The cause of the tragic fate, which befell her in March A.D. 415, is veiled in obscurity. We know that she was an intimate friend of the pagan Orestes, the Prefect of Egypt; and she was an object of hatred to Cyril, both because she was an enthusiastic preacher of pagan doctrines and because she was the Prefect's friend.

The hatred of the Jews for the Patriarch brought the strained relations between Cyril and Orestes to a crisis. On one occasion, seeing a notorious creature of Cyril present in an assembly, they cried out that the spy should be arrested, and Orestes gratified them by inflicting public chastisement on him. The menaces which Cyril, enraged by this act, fulminated against the Jews led to a bloody vengeance on the Christian population. A report was spread at night that the great church was on fire, and when the Christians flocked to the spot the Jews surrounded and massacred them. Cyril replied to this horror by banishing all Hebrews from the city and allowing the Christians to plunder their property, a proceeding which was quite beyond the Patriarch's rights, and was a direct and insulting interference with the authority of Orestes, who immediately wrote a complaint to Constantinople. At this juncture 500 monks of Nitria, sniffing the savour of blood and bigotry from afar, hastened to the scene. These fanatics insulted Orestes publicly, one of them hitting him with a stone; in fact the governor ran a serious risk of his life. The culprit who hurled the missile was executed, and Cyril treated his body as the remains of a martyr.

It was then that Hypatia fell victim in the midst of these infuriated passions. One day as she was returning home she was seized by a band of parabalani [παράβολοι] or lay brethren, whose duty it was to tend the sick and who were under the supervision of the Patriarch. These fanatics, led by a certain Peter, dragged her to a church and, tearing off her garments, hewed her in pieces and burned the fragments of her body. The reason alleged in public for this atrocity was that she hindered a reconciliation between Orestes and Cyril; but the true motive, as Socrates tells us, was envy. This ecclesiastical historian does not conceal his opinion that Cyril was morally responsible.

There can be no doubt that public opinion was deeply shocked not only in Alexandria but also in Constantinople. Whatever Pulcheria and Atticus may have thought, the Praetorian Prefect Aurelian, who was the friend of her friend Synesius, must have been horrified by the fate of Hypatia. It would seem that the Empress found it impossible to act on the partial and opposite reports which were received from Orestes and Cyril, and a special commissioner, Aedesius, was sent to Alexandria to investigate the circumstances and assign the guilt. We have no direct information concerning his inquiry, but it would appear that it was long drawn out and it was publicly recognised that the parabalani were dangerous. The government consequently reduced the numbers of their corporation, forbade them to appear at games or public assemblies, and gave the Prefect authority over them. But within little more than a year the influence of Cyril at the pious court of Pulcheria elicited a new decree, which raised the number of the parabalani from 500 to 600 and restored them to the Patriarch's authority. If condign punishment had been inflicted on the guilty we should probably have heard of it. The obscure murderers may have escaped, but "the murder of Hypatia has imprinted an indelible stain on the character and religion of Cyril of Alexandria."

[J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, pp. 216-219]

3. From Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XLVII

The name of Cyril of Alexandria is famous in controversial story, and the title of saint is a mark that his opinions and his party have finally prevailed. In the house of his uncle, the archbishop Theophilus, he imbibed the orthodox lessons of zeal and dominion, and five years of his youth were profitably spent in the adjacent monasteries of Nitria. Under the tuition of of the abbot Serapion, he applied himself to ecclesiastical studies with such indefatigable ardour, that in the course of one sleepless night he has perused the four Gospels, the Catholic epistles, and the epistle to the Romans. Origen he detested; but the writings of Clemens and Dionysius, of Athanasius and Basil, were continually in his hands: by the theory and practice of dispute, his faith was confirmed and his wit was sharpened; he extended round his cell the cobwebs of scholastic theology, and meditated the works of allegory and metaphysics, whose remains, in seven verbose folios, now peaceably slumber by the side of their rivals. Cyril prayed and fasted in the desert, but his thoughts (it is the reproach of a friend) were still fixed on the world; and the call of Theophilus, who summoned him to the tumult of the cities and synods, was too readily obeyed by the aspiring hermit. With the approbation of his uncle, he assumed the office and acquired the fame, of a popular preacher. His comely person adorned the pulpit, the harmony of his voice resounded in the cathedral, his friends were stationed to lead or second the applause of the congregation, and the hasty notes of the scribes preserved his discourses, which, in their effect, though not in their composition, might be compared with those of the Athenian orators. The death of Theophilus expanded and realized the hopes of his nephew. The clergy of Alexandria was divided; the soldiers and their general supported the claims of the archdeacon; but a restless multitude, with voices and with hands, asserted the cause of their favorite; and, after a period of thirty-nine years, Cyril was seated on the throne of Athanasius.

The prize was not unworthy of his ambition. At a distance from the court, and at the head of an immense capital, the partriarch, as he was now styled, of Alexandria had gradually usurped the state and authority of a civil magistrate. The public and private charities of the city were managed by his discretion; his voice inflamed or appeased the passions of the multitude; his commands were blindly obeyed by his numerous and fanatic parabolani, familiarized in their daily office with scenes of death; and the praefects of Egypt were awed or provoked by the temporal power of these Christian pontiffs. Ardent in the prosecution of heresy, Curial auspiciously opened his reign by oppressing the Novatians, the most innocent and harmless of sectaries. The interdiction of their religious worship appeared in his eyes a just and meritorious act; and he confiscated their holy vessels, without apprehending the guilt of sacrilege. The toleration, and even the privileges of the Jews, who had multiplied to the number of forty thousand, were secured by the laws of the Caesars and the Ptolemies, and a long prescription of seven hundred years since the foundation of Alexandria.

Without any legal sentence, without any royal mandate, the patriarch, at the dawn of day, led a seditious multitude to the attack of the synagogues. Unarmed and unprepared, the Jews were incapable of resistance; their houses of prayer were levelled with the ground, and the episcopal warrior, after rewarding his troops with the plunder of their goods, expelled from the city the remnants of the unbelieving nation. Perhaps he might plead the insolence of their prosperity and their deadly hatred of the Christians, whose blood they had recently shed in a malicious or accidental tumult. Such crimes would have deserved the animadversion of the magistrate; but in this promiscuous outrage, the innocent were confounded with the guilty, and Alexandria was impoverished by the loss of a wealthy and industrious colony. The zeal of Cyril exposed him to the penalties of the Julian law; but in a feeble government, and a superstitious age, he was secure of impunity, and even of praise. Orestes complained; but his just complaints were too quickly forgotten by the ministers of Theodosius, and too deeply remembered by a priest who affected to pardon, and continued to hate, the prefect of Egypt. As he [Orestes] passed through the streets, his chariot was assaulted by a band of five hundred of the Nitrian monks; his guards fled from the wild beasts of the desert; his protestations that he was a Christian and a Catholic were answered by a volley of stones, and the face of Orestes was covered with blood. The loyal citizens of Alexandria hastened to his rescue; he instantly satisfied his justice and revenge against the monk by whose hand he had been wounded, and Ammonius expired under the rod of the lictor. At the command of Cyril his body was raised from the ground, and transported, in solemn procession, to the cathedral; the name of Ammonius was changed to that of Thaumasius the wonderful; his tomb was decorated with the trophies of martyrdom, and the patriarch ascended the pulpit to celebrate the magnanimity of an assassin and a rebel. Such honours might incite the faithful to combat and die under the banners of the saint; and he soon prompted, or accepted, the sacrifice of a virgin, who professed the religion of the Greeks, and cultivated the friendship of Orestes. Hypatia, the daughter of Theon the mathematician, was initiated in her father's studies: her learned comments have elucidated the geometry of Aollonius and Diophantus, and she publicly taught, both at Athens and Alexandria, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. In the bloom of beauty, and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples; the persons most illustrious for their rank or merit were impatient to visit the female philosopher; and Cyril beheld, with a jealous eye, the gorgeous train of horses and slaves who crowded the door of her academy. A rumor was spread among the Christians that the daughter of Theon was the only obstacle to the reconciliation of the prefect and the archbishop; and that obstacle was speedily removed. On a fatal day, in the holy season, of Lent, Hypatia was torn from her chariot, stripped naked, dragged to the church, and inhumanly butchered by the hands of Peter the reader, and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics: her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames. The just progress of enquiry and punishment was stopped by seasonable gifts, bu the murder of Hypatia has imprinted an indelible stain on the character and religion of Cyril of Alexandria.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The IRA, Ralph Nader, the Red Army Faction, Tupac Shakur, Albert Barnes, Orson Welles, & the House of Medici

I've already done recent posts on the movies "Glass: A Portrait in 12 Parts", and "Ink". But we are on something of a roll, great-movie-wise, in our household. In this post I've gathered together seven more little gems that we have discovered, to share with the world.

The films are:
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
  • Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man (2006)
  • The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008)
  • Tupac: Resurrection (2003)
  • The Art of the Steal (2009)
  • F for Fake (1973)
  • The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (2003)
For each of these I have provided an excerpt from a review by someone who, at least in my opinion, really "gets" the film in question. For some strange reason, the first two of these reviews are both from Louis Proyect, a venerable internet institution who also goes by the epithet "The Unrepentant Marxist". However, one certainly need not be a Marxist, unrepentant or otherwise, to appreciate Comrade Proyect's way with words, or his eye for a good movie and what makes it good. Roger Ebert also pops in with a review, as does Christopher Hitchens (does he qualify as a repentant Marxist?), and other lesser known, although no less worthy, writers.

In addition to the review excerpts there are links to the imdb, wikipedia, and rotten tomatoes pages for each film, and, if available, the "official" website for the film, and one or more other interesting (I hope!) links.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Excerpt from a review by Louis Proyect ("The Unrepentant Marxist"):

You know that you have entered a kind of parallel universe when you read the first paragraph of the press notes for Ken Loach’s “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”:
The English ruling class first invaded Ireland in the twelfth century, when feudal barons staked out their territory. Over the centuries English landlords grew rich at the expense of the Irish people.
The irony, of course, is that Ken Loach’s world is real and the world that a typical Hollywood film depicts is unreal.

The specific slice of reality dealt with in Loach’s latest and perhaps greatest film is the Irish war for national independence, and the subsequent civil war between the Irish Free State regular army and IRA irregulars opposed to the sell-out treaty that ended the first war. As in the past, Loach has demonstrated a willingness to scrutinize revolutionary struggles sans romantic illusions. In his 1995 “Land and Freedom,” which dramatized the clash within the Spanish left about how to resist fascism, he staked out a uncompromising socialist position which argued in favor of organizing around class demands.

This is exactly the same outlook that shapes “The Wind that Shakes the Barley.” This is not only of historic interest. Anybody who has been following the recent drift of the Sinn Fein will understand the relevance. Unless the struggle for national independence confronts the domestic as well as the foreign ruling classes, it is doomed to fail.

Links related to "The Wind That Shakes The Barley":

Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man

From a review by Louis Proyect ("The Unrepentant Marxist"):

The liberal media’s portrait of Ralph Nader is that of a Jekyll-Hyde. There is a “good” Nader who took on GM, built the consumers’ rights movement, inspired progressive legislation, etc. Then there is the “bad” Nader who somehow out of the blue (bit by a vampire?) decided to help elect George W. Bush. This is explained as a function of his “megalomania” and his inability to see the obvious, namely that the Democrats are better than the Republicans.

In a brilliant stroke, directors Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan include interviews with Eric Alterman and Todd Gitlin, two of the more hysterical critics of the Nader campaigns. They serve as a kind of Greek chorus throughout the film reminding the audience of Ralph Nader’s perfidy. They only end up indicting themselves through their willful refusal to acknowledge why Gore lost in 2000. Nader’s campaign manager Theresa Amato presents that case most effectively. Her affable demeanor is in stark contrast to the glowering Alterman and Gore, who spit out their words. She points out that Gore could not even win in Arkansas and Tennessee, the home states of the 2-term incumbent Democrat president and vice-president. She also pointed out that the margin of victory in Florida for Bush was less than the vote totals for a slew of 3rd party candidates. Why blame Nader for “stealing” 527 votes from Gore in Florida when even the SWP candidate received more votes than that?


The film begins with Nader’s famous confrontation with Detroit over safety. We see some amusing old commercials that depict cars as the key to happiness and success with the opposite sex. What they never revealed was how dangerous they were, like unprotected sex with a stranger in some ways. Nader decided to look into auto safety after a classmate and good friend at Harvard was killed in an automobile accident. While Nader was no expert in the matter at that time, he soon became the country’s leading authority and the nemesis of the big three auto-makers.

William Greider and James Ridgeway, two journalists who were instrumental in publicizing his early career, give testimony to his tenacity and his brilliance. Furthermore, both of them–despite their connection to mainstream liberal publications–both understand why Nader decided to risk the enmity of wealthy liberals who were all too happy to back his consumer rights activism but not his electoral bids: he is driven by idealism, not Machiavellian calculation. Ridgeway, who does not mince words, says that people like Alterman and Gitlin are “the meanest bunch of motherfuckers” you’ll ever run into.

Links related to "An Unreasonable Man"

The Baader Meinhoff Complex

From a review by Christopher Hitchens: Once Upon a Time in Germany
(From Vanity Fair, August 17, 2009)

The number of Communist revolutionaries in the world has declined much faster than the number of gangsters and stickup artists, but at the movies it’s still a fairly safe bet that such stories will be portrayed in such a way as to inspire at least a twinge of penis envy. You will know what I mean, even if you didn’t actually bother to watch Benicio Del Toro playing Che, or Johnny Depp taking the part of John Dillinger. It’s a trope that goes back at least as far as Viva Zapata!: the quasi-sexual charisma of the outlaw.

So don’t miss the opportunity of seeing the year’s best-made and most counter-romantic action thriller, The Baader Meinhof Complex. Unlike earlier depictions of the same events by German directors such as Volker Schlöndorff and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Uli Edel’s film interrogates and ultimately indicts (and convicts) the West German terrorists rather than the state and society which they sought to overthrow.

It does this in the most carefully objective way, by taking the young militants, at least in the first instance, at their own face value. It is Berlin on June 2, 1967, and the rather shabby and compromised authorities of the postwar Federal Republic are laying down a red carpet for the visiting Shah of Iran. A young journalist named Ulrike Meinhof has written a mordant essay, in the form of an open letter to the Shah’s wife, about the misery and repression of the Iranian system. When students protest as the Shah’s party arrives at the Berlin Opera, they are first attacked by hired Iranian goon squads and then savaged by paramilitary formations of brutish German cops. It’s the best 1960s street-fighting footage ever staged, and the “police riot” element is done with electrifying skill. On the fringes of the unequal battle, a creepy-looking plainclothes pig named Karl-Heinz Kurras unholsters his revolver and shoots an unarmed student, named Benno Ohnesorg, in the head.

That is only the curtain-raiser, and the birth of “the Movement of 2 June.” Not much later, the student leader Rudi Dutschke is also shot in the head, but in this instance by an unhinged neo-Nazi. Now the rioting begins in earnest as West German youth begin to see a pattern to events. The shaky postwar state built by their guilty parents is only a façade for the same old grim and evil faces; Germany has leased bases on its soil for another aggression, this time against the indomitable people of Vietnam; any genuine domestic dissent is met with ruthless violence. I can remember these events and these arguments and images in real time, and I can also remember some of those who slipped away from the edge of the demonstrations and went, as they liked to think of it, “underground.” The title of the film announces it as an exploration of exactly that syndrome: the cult of the urban guerrilla.

There was a prevalent mystique in those days about the Cuban and Vietnamese and Mozambican revolutions, as well as about various vague but supposedly glamorous groups such as the Tupamaros in Uruguay. In the United States, the brief resort to violence by the Black Panthers and then by the Weather Underground was always imagined as an extension of “Third World” struggles onto the territory of imperialist North America. Other spasmodic attempts to raise armed insurrection—the so-called Front for the Liberation of Quebec, the I.R.A., and the Basque eta—were confined to national or ethnic minorities. But there were three officially democratic countries where for several years an actual weaponized and organized group was able to issue a challenge, however garbled and inarticulate, to the very legitimacy of the state. The first such group was the Japanese Red Army, the second (named partly in honor of the first) was West Germany’s Red Army Faction, led by Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, and the third was the Red Brigades in Italy.

You may notice that the three countries I have just mentioned were the very ones that made up the Axis during the Second World War. I am personally convinced that this is the main reason the phenomenon took the form it did: the propaganda of the terrorists, on the few occasions when they could be bothered to cobble together a manifesto, showed an almost neurotic need to “resist authority” in a way that their parents’ generation had so terribly failed to do. And this was also a brilliant way of placing the authorities on the defensive and luring them into a moral trap. West Germany in the late 1960s and 1970s is not actually holding any political prisoners. Very well then, we will commit violent crimes for political reasons and go to prison for them, and then there will be a special wing of the prison for us, and then the campaign to free the political prisoners by violence can get under way. This will strip the mask from the pseudo-democratic state and reveal the Nazi skull beneath its skin. (In a rather witty move that implicitly phrases all this in reverse, the makers of The Baader Meinhof Complex have cast Bruno Ganz as the mild but efficient head of West German “homeland security,” a man who tries to “understand” his opponents even as he weaves the net ever closer around them. It requires a conscious effort to remember Ganz’s eerie rendition of the part of the Führer in Downfall five years back.)

Links related to The Baader Meinhof Complex:
From a review by Roger Ebert: "This is the one"
(From, dated Nov. 14, 2003)

"Tupac: Resurrection," directed by Lauren Lazin, is essentially the autobiography of a young man who suddenly has to learn how to handle fame, money and power, and whose impulses to do the right thing are clouded by the usual problems of too much, too soon. "I was immature," he observes at one point, and later "I tried to get humble again." He attacked Spike Lee and Eddie Murphy for no good reason. He fought with the Hughes Brothers, who were trying to direct him in a movie. He was accused of rape. He did time behind bars. He was involved in gunplay. He was making millions of dollars and did not fully realize what a target that made him, in a new branch of the music industry where murder was a marketing strategy.

The most important person in his life was clearly his mother, Afeni Shakur, a Black Panther who was in jail when she was pregnant with Tupac, and who later fought and won a battle with drugs; her politics and feminism helped form him, and he talks about how comfortable he is with women, how he understands them, how he was the only male in the family. In the last months of his life, his relationship with his mother is the most positive input he has -- and he knows it.


"Tupac: Resurrection" is about rap music, the forces that created it, and the world it then created. Shakur talks about the experiences and politics that went into his own music, in a way that casts more light on rap than anything else I've come across in a movie. Although rap is not music in the sense that you come out humming the melody, it's as genuine an American idiom as jazz or the blues, and it is primarily a medium of words, of ideology; a marriage of turntables, poetry slams, autobiography and righteous anger.

I remember seeing Vondie Curtis Hall's "Gridlock'd" at Sundance 1996, soon after Tupac was murdered in Vegas. I'd admired Shakur's acting in "Poetic Justice" and "Juice," and now here, opposite the great Tim Roth, he was distinctive and memorable in what was essentially a two-character study. Consider the scene where his character, desperate to get into detox, tries to persuade Roth's character to stab him in the side, and the two get into a hopeless discussion about which side the liver is on.

In the long run Shakur might have become more important as an actor than as a singer (as Ice Cube has). As you listen to his uncanny narration of "Tupac: Resurrection," which is stitched together from interviews, you realize you're not listening to the usual self-important vacancies from celebrity Q&As, but to spoken prose of a high order, in which analysis, memory and poetry come together seamlessly in sentences and paragraphs that sound as if they were written. Let's assume you are a person who never intends to see a doc about rap music, but might have it in you to see one. This is the one.

Links related to Tupac: Resurrection
Tupac Amaru, The Life, Times, and Execution of the Last Inca by James Q. Jacobs

The Art of the Steal

From Robert Zaller's review:
The Pew, the Barnes, and the Art of the Steal:
(from Broad Street Reviews, originally dated 02.02.2010)

The Pew Charitable Trusts, headquartered in Philadelphia, is the eighth-largest charitable organization in the country. It is best known for its opinion surveys, which answer the questions the political and media establishment wish to pose. It distributes its largesse to the arts, which gives it enormous and publicly unaccountable leverage over art institutions and artists alike, including the power to silence criticism of its own activities.

The most controversial of those activities is, of course, the Pew’s takeover of the Barnes Foundation, whose $30 billion art collection is probably unmatched in the world. When the Barnes board of trustees willfully spent down its endowment in the 1990s under Richard Glanton and Bernard Watson (still, by some miracle, its chairman), several institutions stepped in with financial assistance. Only one, however, insisted upon seizing control of the Barnes itself.

This takeover, blessed by a cynical judge (to give him the benefit of all other doubts) and abetted by Governor Rendell, is advertised daily on the hoardings around the Pew’s big hole in the ground on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Comes now, though, the movie. Don Argott’s
The Art of the Steal, having played to overflow audiences in Toronto, New York, Aspen and Los Angeles film festivals (but not at the Philadelphia festival last October) opens at the Ritz in Philadelphia on February 26, and at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute on March 12.

Argott is an independent filmmaker who saw an important story in the Barnes and wanted to tell it. He approached the Pew repeatedly for its side of the story, as well as Bernard Watson and Derek Gillman, the Barnes Foundation’s current director. No one agreed to participate, although Rendell and former Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher did.

No doubt the Pew saw Argott as a gnat best ignored. The weakness of great power is to consider itself invulnerable. But there’s always a chink in the armor where the truth can enter. And
The Art of the Steal is about to drive a tank through it.

Links related to The Art of the Steal:

From Jonathan Rosenbaum's review: Orson Welles's purloined letter: F for Fake:
(From the Criterion Collection website, dated 25 April, 2005)

There were plenty of advantages to living in Paris in the early 1970s, especially if one was a movie buff with time on one’s hands. The Parisian film world is relatively small, and simply being on the fringes of it afforded some exciting opportunities, even for a writer like myself who’d barely published. Leaving the Cinémathèque at the Palais de Chaillot one night, I was invited to be an extra in a Robert Bresson film that was being shot a few blocks away. And in early July 1972, while writing for Film Comment about Orson Welles’s first Hollywood project, Heart of Darkness, I learned Welles was in town and sent a letter to him at Antégor, the editing studio where he was working, asking a few simple questions—only to find myself getting a call from one of his assistants two days later: “Mr. Welles was wondering if you could have lunch with him today.”

I met him at La Méditerranée—the same seafood restaurant that would figure prominently in the film he was editing—and when I began by expressing my amazement that he’d invited me, he cordially explained that this was because he didn’t have time to answer my letter. The film he was working on was then called Hoax, and he said it had something to do with the art forger Elmyr de Hory and the recent scandal involving Clifford Irving and Howard Hughes. “A documentary?” “No, not a documentary—a new kind of film,” he replied, though he didn’t elaborate.

This sounds like a pompous boast, though, like most of what he told me that afternoon about other matters, it turned out to be accurate. He could have said “essay” or “essay film,” which is what many are inclined to call F for Fake nowadays. But on reflection, this label is almost as imprecise and as misleading as “documentary,” despite the elements of both essay and documentary (as well as fiction) employed in the mix. Welles’s subsequent Filming “Othello” (1978) clearly qualifies as an essay, and this is plainly why Phillip Lopate, in his extensive examination of that form (in Totally, Tenderly, Tragically: Essays and Criticism from a Lifelong Love Affair with the Movies), prefers it—citing in particular its sincerity, which the earlier film can’t claim to the same degree. But in qualifying as Welles’s most public film and his most private—hiding in plain sight most of its inexhaustible riches—this isn’t a movie that can be judged by the kinds of yardsticks we apply to most others.

When I wound up getting invited to an early private screening more than a year later, on October 15, 1973, the film was then called Fake. I was summoned to Club 13—a chic establishment run by Claude Lelouch, often used for industry screenings—by film historian and longtime Cinémathèque employee Lotte Eisner, whose response to the film was much less favorable than mine. When I ventured, “This doesn’t look much like an Orson Welles film,” she replied, “It isn’t even a film.” But neither of us had a scrap of contextual information beyond what Welles had said to me, and it wasn’t until almost a decade later that he noted to Bill Krohn, in an interview for Cahiers du cinéma, that he deliberately avoided any shots that might be regarded as “typically Wellesian.” The following year, the International Herald Tribune reported him as saying, “In F for Fake I said I was a charlatan and didn’t mean it...because I didn’t want to sound superior to Elmyr, so I emphasized that I was a magician and called it a charlatan, which isn’t the same thing. And so I was faking even then. Everything was a lie. There wasn’t anything that wasn’t.”

Links related to "F for Fake":
"Elmyr de Hory cheated the world's most famous auction houses."

Peter Bogdonovich retrospective on "F for Fake":

The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance

From The Making of The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance at (for some reason I could not find a useable review for this one!):

The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance was a huge undertaking. Trying to cram some 400 years of the political, religious and Medici family history into four hours was always going to be a monumental task.

Producer/Director Justin Hardy says, "the Medici are worthy of 40 hours, 400 hours" and that as film makers there needed to be some tough decisions made about what was included and what was left out.

"The Renaissance is huge and you have to make painful decisions about what is left out, ultimately the film is a great big colorful version of events."

During the summer of 2002 a 50-strong production crew headed to Italy to shoot the film. They took with them two gigantic trucks crammed with props and equipment to help them reconstruct Medieval Italy and some of the most astonishing art in history.

"We made this film documentarily in and around Florence because those are the accurate places where this story occurred," says Justin Hardy.


The film includes many large scenes throughout the four hours but one of the key scenes stands out for the director as the most daunting. "The murder in the Cathedral sequence which is the highlight of the second hour and in many ways one of the most famous scenarios in Italian history was frankly a terrifying one to undertake.

Justin says he was concerned about recreating a scene which involved 10,000 people without computer animation; therefore, the sequences had to be carefully storyboarded and filmed to give that impression. He was also concerned about being able to shoot the entire sequence in one day.

"Now anyone who has ever made films knows that an action sequence is incredibly complex thing to film because in order to be active it needs to have a lot of shots from a lot of different angles, so you need to have new lighting setups, you need to have people remade up and the whole thing becomes very complicated," he says.

They planned the scene to have more than 50 shots, which was an enormous undertaking when largely using a non-professional cast and a number of complicated stunts.

"On any normal given day in film making you can look to shoot 25 shots. If you're shooting anything more complex which involves action, blood and stunts your down to about 15 shots but we had to shoot 50 in this one day.

"How we filmed those 50 shots in one day with members of the community who, being Italian turned up when they wanted to turn up and drifted off to the bakery whenever they wanted to drift off to the bakery, is frankly a miracle. It's a sequence of which I am very proud," he says.

Brunelleschi's Dome has its own website
Ross King is the author of the book Brunelleschi's Dome

Monday, October 25, 2010

Augustine In Defense of Torturing Heretics (more on the traditional Christian view of "heresy")

"For it is wonderful how he who entered the service of the gospel
in the first instance under the compulsion of bodily punishment,
afterwards labored more in the gospel than all they who were
called by word only; and he who was compelled by the greater
influence of fear to love, displayed that perfect love
which casts out fear."

"The Christian theory of persecution" is the title of the second chapter of the book How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West by world-renowned historian Perez Zagorin (Washington Post obit, Telegraph obit). In that chapter Zagorin tells the story of how "Saint" Augustine came to embrace the idea that coercion, including violence, is a valid method for dealing with heresy. The most fascinating thing about Augustine in this regard is that he was at first openly hostile to the use of violence in resolving disputes over religious doctrine.

Zagorin refers to a letter written by Augustine to Eusebius, sometime before the year 400 AD (letter #35), concerning Christians who had been led astray into heretical sects, and how best to bring them back to the true Church and its teachings. At this time Augustine was still of the opinion that such heretics should not be subjected to violence to compel them to change their minds, rather, they should return to the fold only when they were "willing and desired by free choice what is better."

Reasonably enough, Augustine believed that when people are forced to renounce supposedly "heretical" beliefs, the result is not a sincere change of heart - but only a feigned conversion to escape punishment. Another letter from Augustine addressed to the Donatist heretic Maximinus (letter #23, dated 392 AD), expresses the same rejection of utilizing violence, or the fear of violence, "to compel men to embrace the communion of any party."

But then, as Zagorin describes it, "Augustine eventually reversed his position and decided to endorse coercion." [p.27] In doing so, though, Augustine was simply acquiescing to the established practices of his fellow Christians, who were already using fines, beatings, imprisonment, torture, and execution against various heretical groups. Augustine, in turns, out, had been impressed by the results that had been obtained from these methods - although he personally continued to oppose execution of heretics.

It is important to emphasize that Augustine at first seemed to have taken exactly the position that one would expect any decent human being to hold. It's not as if people just "looked at things differently" back then and saw nothing wrong with torturing people over credal differences. Religious persecution had been rare and exceptional in the Roman Empire prior to Constantine. And in the specific case of the supposed "persecution" of Christians, the targets were often deranged fanatics who committed criminal acts of violence (up to murder) precisely in order to become "voluntary martyrs", as some historians now refer to them (see, for example, the fourth chapter in Christian persecution, martyrdom and orthodoxy, by G.E.M. de Ste. Croix).

The fact is that when Augustine and other Christians embraced the wholesale persecution of every religion other than their own, and even went so far as to persecute all sects that claimed to be Christian, except the one officially approved by the State - they were doing something completely new - and something that at least Augustine felt some moral qualms about, at least at first. It is a grim testament to the power of Christianity's hold on the modern human psyche that today so many people just assume that this kind of violence against people on the basis of religious belief is the norm, rather than a pathological aberration.

After his "conversion to coercion", Augustine became a leading proponent and even a theoretician of persecution. According to Zagorin "Augustine insisted that the emperors and political authorities had the God-given right to crush the sacriledge and schism of the Donatists, since they were as obligated to repress fals and evil religion as to prevent the crime of pagan idolatry." [p.28]

Augustine made use of the so-called "parable of the tares" from the Gospel of Matthew to provide scriptural justification for the use of force against heretics. The most obvious interpretation of this parable, however, is that it actually encourages tolerance - leaving it up to God at the Last Judgment to separate the "wheat" from the "tares". But Augustine said that the parable instead meant the exact opposite - that the "tares" (heretics) needed to be uprooted - so long as this can be done without damaging the "wheat".

Again according to Zagorin "Augustine elaborated his position in favor of coercion in religion in a number of letters. In a lengthy epistle to the Donatist Vincent, he argued for the utility of coercion in inducing fear that can bring those who are subject to it to the right way of thinking." [p.29]

The quintessential expression of the Augustinian "Christian theory of persecution" is to be found in a letter to Boniface, a Roman governor in Africa, dated 417 AD: "There is the unjust persecution which the wicked inflict on the Church of Christ, and the just persecution which the Church of Christ inflicts on the wicked."

Below are lengthy excerpts from two of the letters referred to above. First the one to Maximinus in 392, expressing opposition to coercion, followed by the one to Boniface in 417, expressing enthusiastic support for coercion.

From Augustine's letter to Maximinus (letter # 23, dated 392 AD) (link)

6. Let us put away from between us those vain objections which are wont to be thrown at each other by the ignorant on either side. Do not on your part cast up to me the persecutions of Macarius. I, on mine, will not reproach you with the excesses of the Circumcelliones. If you are not to blame for the latter, neither am I for the former; they pertain not to us. The Lord's floor is not yet purged—it cannot be without chaff; be it ours to pray, and to do what in us lies that we may be good grain. I could not pass over in silence the rebaptizing of our deacon; for I know how much harm my silence might do to myself. For I do not propose to spend my time in the empty enjoyment of ecclesiastical dignity; but I propose to act as mindful of this, that to the one Chief Shepherd I must give account of the sheep committed unto me. If you would rather that I should not thus write to you, you must, my brother, excuse me on the ground of my fears; for I do fear greatly, lest, if I were silent and concealed my sentiments, others might be rebaptized by you. I have resolved, therefore, with such strength and opportunity as the Lord may grant, so to manage this discussion, that by our peaceful conferences, all who belong to our communion may know how far apart from heresy and schism is the position of the Catholic Church, and with what care they should guard against the destruction which awaits the tares and the branches cut off from the Lord's vine. If you willingly accede to such conference with me, by consenting to the public reading of the letters of both, I shall unspeakably rejoice. If this proposal is displeasing to you, what can I do, my brother, but read our letters, even without your consent, to the Catholic congregation, with a view to its instruction? But if you do not condescend to write me a reply, I am resolved at least to read my own letter, that, when your misgivings as to your procedure are known, others may be ashamed to be rebaptized.

7. I shall not, however, do this in the presence of the soldiery, lest any of you should think that I wish to act in a violent way, rather than as the interests of peace demand; but only after their departure, that all who hear me may understand, that I do not propose to compel men to embrace the communion of any party, but desire the truth to be made known to persons who, in their search for it, are free from disquieting apprehensions. On our side there shall be no appeal to men's fear of the civil power; on your side, let there be no intimidation by a mob of Circumcelliones. Let us attend to the real matter in debate, and let our arguments appeal to reason and to the authoritative teaching of the Divine Scriptures, dispassionately and calmly, so far as we are able; let us ask, seek, and knock, that we may receive and find, and that to us the door may be opened, and thereby may be achieved, by God's blessing on our united efforts and prayers, the first towards the entire removal from our district of that impiety which is such a disgrace to Africa. If you do not believe that I am willing to postpone the discussion until after the soldiery have left, you may delay your answer until they have gone; and if, while they are still here, I should wish to read my own letter to the people, the production of the letter will of itself convict me of breaking my word. May the Lord in His mercy prevent me from acting in a way so contrary to morality, and to the good resolutions with which, by laying His yoke on me, He has been pleased to inspire me!

From Augustine's letter to Boniface (Epistle #185), c. 417: De Correctione Donatistarum, A Treatise Concerning the Correction of the Donatists, using the translation of Rev. J.R. KIng, M.A.

(please refer to the very nicely annotated version at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, hosted by Calvin College)

Chapter 2.—6. I would add, moreover, that they themselves, by making it the subject of an accusation, referred the case of Cæcilianus to the decision of the Emperor Constantine; and that, even after the bishops had pronounced their judgment, finding that they could not crush Cæcilianus, they brought him in person before the above-named emperor for trial, in the most determined spirit of persecution. And so they were themselves the first to do what they censure in us, in order that they may deceive the unlearned, saying that Christians ought not to demand any assistance from Christian emperors against the enemies of Christ. And this, too, they did not dare to deny in the conference which we held at the same time in Carthage: nay, they even venture to make it a matter of boasting that their fathers had laid a criminal indictment against Cæcilianus before the emperor; adding furthermore a lie, to the effect that they had there worsted him, and procured his condemnation. How then can they be otherwise than persecutors, seeing that when they persecuted Cæcilianus by their accusations, and were overcome by him, they sought to claim false glory for themselves by a most shameless life; not only considering it no reproach, but glorying in it as conducive to their praise, if they could prove that Cæcilianus had been condemned on the accusation of their fathers? But in regard to the manner in which they were overcome at every turn in the conference itself, seeing that the records are exceedingly voluminous, and it would be a serious matter to have them read to you while you are occupied in other matters that are essential to the peace of Rome, perhaps it may be possible to have a digest of them read to you, which I believe to be in the possession of my brother and fellow-bishop Optatus; or if he has not a copy, he might easily procure one from the church at Sitifa; for I can well believe that even that volume will prove wearisome enough to you from its lengthiness, amid the burden of your many cares.

7. For the Donatists met with the same fate as the accusers of the holy Daniel. For as the lions were turned against them, so the laws by which they had proposed to crush an innocent victim were turned against the Donatists; save that, through the mercy of Christ, the laws which seemed to be opposed to them are in reality their truest friends; for through their operation many of them have been, and are daily being reformed, and return God thanks that they are reformed, and delivered from their ruinous madness. And those who used to hate are now filled with love; and now that they have recovered their right minds, they congratulate themselves that these most wholesome laws were brought to bear against them, with as much fervency as in their madness they detested them; and are filled with the same spirit of ardent love towards those who yet remain as ourselves, desiring that we should strive in like manner that those with whom they had been like to perish might be saved. For both the physician is irksome to the raging madman, and a father to his undisciplined son,—the former because of the restraint, the latter because of the chastisement which he inflicts; yet both are acting in love. But if they were to neglect their charge, and allow them to perish, this mistaken kindness would more truly be accounted cruelty. For if the horse and mule, which have no understanding, resist with all the force of bites and kicks the efforts of the men who treat their wounds in order to cure them; and yet the men, though they are often exposed to danger from their teeth and heels, and sometimes meet with actual hurt, nevertheless do not desert them till they restore them to health through the pain and annoyance which the healing process gives,—how much more should man refuse to desert his fellow-man, or brother to desert his brother, lest he should perish everlastingly, being himself now able to comprehend the vastness of the boon accorded to himself in his reformation, at the very time that he complained of suffering persecution?

8. As then the apostle says, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, not being weary in well-doing," so let all be called to salvation, let all be recalled from the path of destruction,—those who may, by the sermons of Catholic preachers; those who may, by the edicts of Catholic princes; some through those who obey the warnings of God, some through those who obey the emperor’s commands. For, moreover, when emperors enact bad laws on the side of falsehood, as against the truth, those who hold a right faith are approved, and, if they persevere, are crowned; but when the emperors enact good laws on behalf of the truth against falsehood, then those who rage against them are put in fear, and those who understand are reformed. Whosoever, therefore, refuses to obey the laws of the emperors which are enacted against the truth of God, wins for himself a great reward; but whosoever refuses to obey the laws of the emperors which are enacted in behalf of truth, wins for himself great condemnation. For in the times, too, of the prophets, the kings who, in dealing with the people of God, did not prohibit nor annul the ordinances which were issued contrary to God’s commands, are all of them censured; and those who did prohibit and annul them are praised as deserving more than other men. And king Nebuchadnezzar, when he was a servant of idols, enacted an impious law that a certain idol should be worshipped; but those who refused to obey his impious command acted piously and faithfully. And the very same king, when converted by a miracle from God, enacted a pious and praiseworthy law on behalf of the truth, that every one who should speak anything amiss against the true God, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, should perish utterly, with all his house. If any persons disobeyed this law, and justly suffered the penalty imposed, they might have said what these men say, that they were righteous because they suffered persecution through the law enacted by the king: and this they certainly would have said, had they been as mad as these who make divisions between the members of Christ, and spurn the sacraments of Christ, and take credit for being persecuted, because they are prevented from doing such things by the laws which the emperors have passed to preserve the unity of Christ and boast falsely of their innocence, and seek from men the glory of martyrdom, which they cannot receive from our Lord.

9. But true martyrs are such as those of whom the Lord says, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake." It is not, therefore, those who suffer persecution for their unrighteousness, and for the divisions which they impiously introduce into Christian unity, but those who suffer for righteousness’ sake, that are truly martyrs. For Hagar also suffered persecution at the hands of Sarah; and in that case she who persecuted was righteous, and she unrighteous who suffered persecution. Are we to compare with this persecution which Hagar suffered the case of holy David, who was persecuted by unrighteous Saul? Surely there is in essential difference, not in respect of his suffering, but because he suffered for righteousness’ sake. And the Lord Himself was crucified with two thieves; but those who were joined in their suffering were separated by the difference of its cause. Accordingly, in the psalm, we must interpret of the true martyrs, who wish to be distinguished from false martyrs, the verse in which it is said, "Judge me, O Lord, and distinguish my cause from an ungodly nation." He does not say, Distinguish my punishment, but "Distinguish my cause." For the punishment of the impious may be the same; but the cause of the martyrs is always different. To whose mouth also the words are suitable, "They persecute me wrongfully; help Thou me;" in which the Psalmist claimed to have a right to be helped in righteousness, because his adversaries persecuted him wrongfully; for if they had been right in persecuting him, he would have deserved not help, but correction.

10. But if they think that no one can be justified in using violence,—as they said in the course of the conference that the true Church must necessarily be the one which suffers persecution, not the one inflicting it,—in that case I no longer urge what I observed above; because, if the matter stand as they maintain that it does, then Cæcilianus must have belonged to the true Church, seeing that their fathers persecuted him, by pressing his accusation even to the tribunal of the emperor himself. For we maintain that he belonged to the true Church, not merely because he suffered persecution, but because he suffered it for righteousness’ sake; but that they were alienated from the Church, not merely because they persecuted, but because they did so in unrighteousness. This, then, is our position. But if they make no inquiry into the causes for which each person inflicts persecution, or for which he suffers it, but think that it is a sufficient sign of a true Christian that he does not inflict persecution, but suffers it, then beyond all question they include Cæcilianus in that definition, who did not inflict, but suffered persecution; and they equally exclude their own fathers from the definition, for they inflicted, but did not suffer it.

11. But this, I say, I forbear to urge. Yet one point I must press: If the true Church is the one which actually suffers persecution, not the one which inflicts it, let them ask the apostle of what Church Sarah was a type, when she inflicted persecution on her hand-maid. For he declares that the free mother of us all, the heavenly Jerusalem, that is to say, the true Church of God, was prefigured in that woman who cruelly entreated her hand-maid. But if we investigate the story further, we shall find that the handmaid rather persecuted Sarah by her haughtiness, than Sarah the handmaid by her severity: for the handmaid was doing wrong to her mistress; the mistress only imposed on her a proper discipline in her haughtiness. Again I ask, if good and holy men never inflict persecution upon any one, but only suffer it, whose words they think that those are in the psalm where we read, "I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them; neither did I turn again till they were consumed?" If, therefore, we wish either to declare or to recognize the truth, there is a persecution of unrighteousness, which the impious inflict upon the Church of Christ; and there is a righteous persecution, which the Church of Christ inflicts upon the impious. She therefore is blessed in suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake; but they are miserable, suffering persecution for unrighteousness. Moreover, she persecutes in the spirit of love, they in the spirit of wrath; she that she may correct, they that they may overthrow: she that she may recall from error, they that they may drive headlong into error. Finally, she persecutes her enemies and arrests them, until they become weary in their vain opinions, so that they should make advance in the truth; but they, returning evil for good, because we take measures for their good, to secure their eternal salvation, endeavor even to strip us of our temporal safety, being so in love with murder, that they commit it on their own persons, when they cannot find victims in any others. For in proportion as the Christian charity of the Church endeavors to deliver them from that destruction, so that none of them should die, so their madness endeavors either to slay us, that they may feed the lust of their own cruelty, or even to kill themselves, that they may not seem to have lost the power of putting men to death.


Chapter 5.—19. But as to the argument of those men who are unwilling that their impious deeds should be checked by the enactment of righteous laws, when they say that the apostles never sought such measures from the kings of the earth, they do not consider the different character of that age, and that everything comes in its own season. For what emperor had as yet believed in Christ, so as to serve Him in the cause of piety by enacting laws against impiety, when as yet the declaration of the prophet was only in the course of its fulfillment, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and their rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed;" and there was as yet no sign of that which is spoken a little later in the same psalm: "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling." How then are kings to serve the Lord with fear, except by preventing and chastising with religious severity all those acts which are done in opposition to the commandments of the Lord? For a man serves God in one way in that he is man, in another way in that he is also king. In that he is man, he serves Him by living faithfully; but in that he is also king, he serves Him by enforcing with suitable rigor such laws as ordain what is righteous, and punish what is the reverse. Even as Hezekiah served Him, by destroying the groves and the temples of the idols, and the high places which had been built in violation of the commandments of God; or even as Josiah served Him, by doing the same things in his turn;or as the king of the Ninevites served Him, by compelling all the men of his city to make satisfaction to the Lord; or as Darius served Him, by giving the idol into the power of Daniel to be broken, and by casting his enemies into the den of lions; or as Nebuchadnezzar served Him, of whom I have spoken before, by issuing a terrible law to prevent any of his subjects from blaspheming God. In this way, therefore, kings can serve the Lord, even in so far as they are kings, when they do in His service what they could not do were they not kings.

20. Seeing, then, that the kings of the earth were not yet serving the Lord in the time of the apostles, but were still imagining vain things against the Lord and against His Anointed, that all might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, it must be granted that at that time acts of impiety could not possibly be prevented by the laws, but were rather performed under their sanction. For the order of events was then so rolling on, that even the Jews were killing those who preached Christ, thinking that they did God service in so doing, just as Christ had foretold, and the heathen were raging against the Christians, and the patience of the martyrs was overcoming them all. But so soon as the fulfillment began of what is written in a later psalm, "All kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him," what sober-minded man could say to the kings, "Let not any thought trouble you within your kingdom as to who restrains or attacks the Church of your Lord; deem it not a matter in which you should be concerned, which of your subjects may choose to be religious or sacrilegious," seeing that you cannot say to them, "Deem it no concern of yours which of your subjects may choose to be chaste, or which unchaste?" For why, when free-will is given by God to man, should adulteries be punished by the laws, and sacrilege allowed? Is it a lighter matter that a soul should not keep faith with God, than that a woman should be faithless to her husband? Or if those faults which are committed not in contempt but in ignorance of religious truth are to be visited with lighter punishment, are they therefore to be neglected altogether?

Chapter 6.—21. It is indeed better (as no one ever could deny) that men should be led to worship God by teaching, than that they should be driven to it by fear of punishment or pain; but it does not follow that because the former course produces the better men, therefore those who do not yield to it should be neglected. For many have found advantage (as we have proved, and are daily proving by actual experiment), in being first compelled by fear or pain, so that they might afterwards be influenced by teaching, or might follow out in act what they had already learned in word. Some, indeed, set before us the sentiments of a certain secular author, who said,

"’Tis well, I ween, by shame the young to train,
And dread of meanness, rather than by pain."

This is unquestionably true. But while those are better who are guided aright by love, those are certainly more numerous who are corrected by fear. For, to answer these persons out of their own author, we find him saying in another place,

"Unless by pain and suffering thou art taught,
Thou canst not guide thyself aright in aught."

But, moreover, holy Scripture has both said concerning the former better class, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear;" and also concerning the latter lower class, which furnishes the majority, "A servant will not be corrected by words; for though he understand, he will not answer." In saying, "He will not be corrected by words," he did not order him to be left to himself, but implied an admonition as to the means whereby he ought to be corrected; otherwise he would not have said, "He will not be corrected by words," but without any qualification, "He will not be corrected." For in another place he says that not only the servant, but also the undisdained son, must be corrected with stripes, and that with great fruits as the result; for he says, "Thou shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell;" and elsewhere he says, "He that spareth the rod hateth his son." For, give us a man who with right faith and true understanding can say with all the energy of his heart, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" and for such an one there is no need of the terror of hell, to say nothing of temporal punishments or imperial laws, seeing that with him it is so indispensable a blessing to cleave unto the Lord, that he not only dreads being parted from that happiness as a heavy punishment, but can scarcely even bear delay in its attainment. But yet, before the good sons can say they have "a desire to depart, and to be with Christ," many must first be recalled to their Lord by the stripes of temporal scourging, like evil slaves, and in some degree like good-for-nothing fugitives.

22. For who can possibly love us more than Christ, who laid down His life for His sheep? And yet, after calling Peter and the other apostles by His words alone, when He came to summon Paul, who was before called Saul, subsequently the powerful builder of His Church, but originally its cruel persecutor, He not only constrained him with His voice, but even dashed him to the earth with His power; and that He might forcibly bring one who was raging amid the darkness of infidelity to desire the light of the heart, He first struck him with physical blindness of the eyes. If that punishment had not been inflicted, he would not afterwards have been healed by it; and since he had been wont to see nothing with his eyes open, if they had remained unharmed, the Scripture would not tell us that at the imposition of Ananias’ hands, in order that their sight might be restored, there fell from them as it had been scales, by which the sight had been obscured. Where is what the Donatists were wont to cry: Man is at liberty to believe or not believe? Towards whom did Christ use violence? Whom did He compel? Here they have the Apostle Paul. Let them recognize in his case Christ first compelling, and afterwards teaching; first striking, and afterwards consoling. For it is wonderful how he who entered the service of the gospel in the first instance under the compulsion of bodily punishment, afterwards labored more in the gospel than all they who were called by word only; and he who was compelled by the greater influence of fear to love, displayed that perfect love which casts out fear.

23. Why, therefore, should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction? Although even men who have not been compelled, but only led astray, are received by their loving mother with more affection if they are recalled to her bosom through the enforcement of terrible but salutary laws, and are the objects of far more deep congratulation than those whom she had never lost. Is it not a part of the care of the shepherd, when any sheep have left the flock, even though not violently forced away, but led astray by tender words and coaxing blandishments, to bring them back to the fold of his master when he has found them, by the fear or even the pain of the whip, if they show symptoms of resistance; especially since, if they multiply with growing abundance among the fugitive slaves and robbers, he has the more right in that the mark of the master is recognized on them, which is not outraged in those whom we receive but do not rebaptize? For the wandering of the sheep is to be corrected in such wise that the mark of the Redeemer should not be destroyed on it. For even if any one is marked with the royal stamp by a deserter who is marked with it himself, and the two receive forgiveness, and the one returns to his service, and the other begins to be in the service in which he had no part before, that mark is not effaced in either of the two, but rather it is recognized in both of them, and approved with the honor which is due to it because it is the king’s. Since then they cannot show that the destination is bad to which they are compelled, they maintain that they ought to be compelled by force even to what is good. But we have shown that Paul was compelled by Christ; therefore the Church, in trying to compel the Donatists, is following the example of her Lord, though in the first instance she waited in the hopes of needing to compel no one, that the prediction of the prophet might be fulfilled concerning the faith of kings and peoples.

24. For in this sense also we may interpret without absurdity the declaration of the blessed Apostle Paul, when he says, "Having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled."25182518 2 Cor. x. 6. Whence also the Lord Himself bids the guests in the first instance to be invited to His great supper, and afterwards compelled; for on His servants making answer to Him, "Lord, it is done as Thou hast commanded, and yet there is room," He said to them, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in." In those, therefore, who were first brought in with gentleness, the former obedience is fulfilled; but in those who were compelled, the disobedience is avenged. For what else is the meaning of "Compel them to come in," after it had previously said, "Bring in," and the answer had been made, "Lord, it is done as Thou commanded, and yet there is room"? If He had wished it to be understood that they were to be compelled by the terrifying force of miracles, many divine miracles were rather wrought in the sight of those who were first called, especially in the sight of the Jews, of whom it was said, "The Jews require a sign;" and, moreover, among the Gentiles themselves the gospel was so commended by miracles in the time of the apostles, that had these been the means by which they were ordered to be compelled, we might rather have had good grounds for supposing, as I said before, that it was the earlier guests who were compelled. Wherefore, if the power which the Church has received by divine appointment in its due season, through the religious character and the faith of kings, be the instrument by which those who are found in the highways and hedges—that is, in heresies and schisms—are compelled to come in, then let them not find fault with being compelled, but consider whether they be so compelled. The supper of the Lord is the unity of the body of Christ, not only in the sacrament of the altar, but also in the bond of peace. Of the Donatists themselves, indeed, we can say that they compel no man to any good thing; for whomsoever they compel, they compel to nothing else but evil.

Also see the previous post in this series: The meaning of "heresy" and its significance in Pagan history, Part One.