Monday, July 13, 2020

The Confederate Centurion

From the Gospel of Luke comes this passage.
When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There, a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
We Catholics repeat the Centurion's words at every Mass, after the consecration of the Eucharist. If you're a traditionalist, you strike your breast and say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

From a previous episode of The Scratching Post.
Moving onto the Europeans, I decided to read Julius Caesar's Commentaries. I was hoping to discover his attitudes towards the Germanic tribes. I did not. Instead, I found an expertly written military analysis of his campaigns in what are now France, Germany and England. While he doesn't bother with sophisticated descriptions of the locals, his analysis is telling.

Unburdened by Judeo-Christian notions that all men are created equal in the image of God, Caesar is the ultimate, secular Utilitarian. He has a job to do and he gets it done with minimal fuss. If you submit to Roman rule, even after battle, he takes hostages from your royal families and demands a tribute to pay for garrison legions. Your nation is allowed to survive, albeit as a vassal state to the Romans. If you betray that agreement or oppose him through any kind treachery, he defeats you in battle, burns your villages to the ground, slaughters your leaders and sells the population into slavery.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

There isn't a hint of remorse, regret or second thoughts and why should there be? There is no God, there is no objective morality, there are only the needs of the Roman people. It's a simple worldview and it works. It works really well.
A centurion was a Roman NCO. He was the best of the enlisted men. He got that position only after campaigning with the army, doing what the Roman army did - conquer, subdue, loot, enslave. If the euphemisms of the Bible are anything like the euphemisms of the Antebellum South, "servant" might really mean "slave."

At Mass, we repeat the words of a Confederate Roman soldier in front of the consecrated Body of Christ. From the Bible, we learn that Jesus healed the slave servant of a Confederate Roman soldier, knowing exactly who he was helping. He was telling us that compassion is more important than moral judgment, a lesson I personally struggle to embrace.

“Here’s the thing,” said Don Lemon of CNN, “Jesus Christ — if that’s who you believe in, Jesus Christ — admittedly was not perfect when He was here on this earth.”

Or maybe He was and it's Don Lemon who's got things muddled.


Foxfier said...

Given the things that were within the norm for treatment off immediate blood family? The average was far, far worse, from an objective measurement. (Reading about the Romans is especially odd because you'll be going along, ok, yeah, this kind of a mindset is familiar-- wait what the ever loving crud was THAT?!? for perfectly normal things, like the temple that took babies and little kids to use as sex slaves, which is just a tiny part of the background to that bit in the new testament about women teaching. Talk about your radical cultural differences.)

I keep telling folks, the Nazis were only freaky because they were modern, and we have this idea that modern folks should know better.

K T Cat said...

200 years from now, we won't be modern any more. :-)

Foxfier said...

*looks around, sadly*
I'm not sure if "modern" is quite the thing to wish to be. Seems to be an awful lot of attempts to live out bad or dystopian scifi premises, rather than trying to figure out what works, and why.