Friday, September 21, 2018

Male Chauvinism, Human Abortion and Women's Pain at the Bushnell Theater


On Thursday night, September 20, I was asked to join a rally at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Connecticut, one that was organized to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The occasion was the Connecticut Forum, as they hosted a panel discussion on women's empowerment. The marquee speaker was Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Connecticut Forum always has a good turnout for its events in the 3700 seat auditorium.

So as thousands of people passed by, I had four of my pro-life signs in place. Whereas the purpose was political, my purpose in joining was primarily theological. We used signs like these at New England's largest abortion center (Preterm in Brookline) virtually every Saturday from June, 1989 to June, 1991. In that time, some 200-300 women walked away from their abortion appointments, and there were hundreds of activists with the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to counter-protest us. After nine months, the leadership of Boston NOW told their recruited volunteers (mostly college students) to stop coming down to Preterm, because we "we were persuading too many of them." Click here. And click here. And also click here.

I held the sign: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion? Why Not? Our slogan sign says: You Have the Power to Choose Life. Two other signs said: Why Does "Feminism" Abort Unborn Girls? and: Is the Abortion Industry Racist?

You can see the pictures here.

As you look at the first one, look at the young man and woman behind me, as they look at the sign. Notice the greatest difference in terms of posture, gaze and disinterest versus interest. The vast majority of abortions happen because the man who gets the woman pregnant refuses responsibility, indeed, often rooted in explicit male chauvinism.



Here are some observations:

1. The Connecticut Forum has many season subscribers, others come to various events to hear opposing ideas (as I have done across the years in various venues), and thus not all those attending were necessarily in favor of legalized abortion. But I believe most were.

2. As several thousand people walked past over a 45-minute period, within feet of these signs, many eyes avoided looking at them.

3. But many did look and pondered briefly or more engagingly.

4. Of the half dozen or dozen of negative reactions that occurred, they were mostly by women in deep pain. This was clear in their curses, body language and gestures. I interacted with some, and was able to say that my deepest concern is the male chauvinism that drives the abortion industry. I had some positive responses.

5. For several who cursed us, I said "God bless you" and they did not further curse. Jesus teaches us to bless those who curse us. To do so employs spiritual power to minister to their hurting souls, and it is their persons, as created in the image of God, that we bless, not their actions or curses.

6. One woman, standing behind me, said to some of her friends, "I wish I could take that sign, You Have the Power to Choose Life, and trample it on the ground." So I turned and said that I would never do that to any sign she might be holding in favor of abortion. But she responded, saying I was intolerant, and such a sign should be destroyed. I thought afterward, how much pain is in her person, so that she would destroy such a sign? Does she believe she does not have the power to choose life, whether for herself or the unborn? Indeed, this sign is the Gospel -- for only in Jesus do we have the good news and godly power to choose life for all people equally.

7. Some passersby quietly approached us and thanked us for being there.

8. I spoke with a young woman -- with her mother and grandmother with her -- for a good amount of time. She asked good questions, and responded well to many of my answers, as did her grandmother.

9. Toward the end, one women looked at my sign: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion? Why Not? Then she called me a fascist. Does she also believe the same about Jesus since that was the sign I as holding? I did not assume this was necessary so. But ...

10. Then a young woman passed by, and almost tripped when she looked up at the sign, being caught off guard by it. She was wearing a bright yellow dress that distinguished her from everyone else, and was suggestive in it, along with her gait and attitude. She looked at me, said something disparaging about the mention of Jesus, and then said "Rapist." I was taken aback, but then said, "Are you calling Jesus a rapist?" And she said, "Yes!" There has to be very much pain in her soul to say such a thing, and we pray for her that God will indeed bless her, minister to her pain and draw her to faith in him as Savior.




Sunday, September 2, 2018

Is Jeff Sessions in Control of the Department of Justice?


From my distant perch, I say yes. As Attorney General, he is serving constitutional law and the office of the President with equal integrity.

Why do I believe this? Due to the reality of the image of God given to us all. Here, the pursuit of trustworthiness, in self and others, overcomes so much evil.

If we look at the public language and actions of Jeff Sessions, this is at the very core of his identity. He is a man of his word, and he will not risk anything to sully that identity.

Sessions supported Donald Trump early in the campaign, because he saw in him – a very different person – a core identity to be a man of his word in public life. Trump made campaign promises he intended to keep, and this he has done. To be successful in business transactions, and to secure genuine reciprocity as a prerequisite to economic freedom, words must be kept. Trump learned this early and knows it well.

Thus, I take Sessions at his word – he recused himself in the “Russian collusion” matter out of a clear demarcation in his own understanding. He had actively supported the Trump campaign, and this “Russian” matter was putatively one concerning the campaign. Sessions wisely seeks to avoid any hint of impropriety, even at the cost of certain freedoms that might otherwise be justly claimed.

And I also take Sessions at his word when he says he has been in control of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from the outset of his tenure.

Given this integrity – free from political compromise in any direction – Attorney General Sessions is thus able to better serve the Constitution and President Trump. He is free from becoming a false lightning rod for the political opposition, and this allows him freedom to attend to matters that have real substance. He has 27 investigations underway into classified leaks within the DOJ, and who knows what else he is looking at. Draining the swamp and on forward.

President Donald Trump uses tweets, in part, to distract the top-down media with shiny objects. Then, at the same time, he successfully goes about his positive agenda that serves religious, political and economic liberty for all people equally under the rule of law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions allows the shiny object of the ephemeral debate over his recusal to free him for his substantial work.

Now, how deeply toxic, dangerous and occultic is the swamp at the DOJ? It may be so toxic, that the free-flowing liquid has long since been drained, and now it requires pickaxes and shovels, with gas-masks in place, to remove the hardened muck.

Thus, in the serendipity of Sessions’s recusal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sets to work on a matter where Sessions knows there is no “there” there, and in time, this will be publicly known to all. Rod becomes the lightning rod. To be “wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove” (pace the language of Jesus), Sessions allows evil to gradually implode on itself, while himself not getting caught in the muck.

He knows a frontal assault against such an entrenchment would be folly. Instead, he shrewdly peels away one layer after another, keeping his friends close and his political enemies closer. As well, he is committed to strengthening the DOJ for its true purposes, and will not risk its injury while doing the necessary surgery. A true precipice that requires due patience and wisdom.

So, what of the dance between Trump and Sessions on the recusal? Trump gets publicly upset about it, but keeps Sessions in office, and does not (yet) release classified documents that could easily sink the Robert Mueller probe.

Could it be a mutually understood mime, providing the top-down media with yet another shiny object? Could the Art of the Deal be aiming at a chosen political timing for which the miming well serves? Regardless, Sessions would keep a clear demarcation in not even raising the matter with Trump. So that in the end, the Constitution, and the offices of both the Attorney General and the President, are not polluted.

Time will tell.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 3


Why is politics necessary?

Genesis 1:1 establishes the political domain of the heavens as belonging to (Yahweh) Elohim, and the earth is the given domain for human political stewardship.

Then in verse 2, the text reads: Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was above the face of the abyss, and the Spirit of Elohim was above the face of the waters.

What is being presented is the eternal Creator speaking into existence a finite reality that had not theretofore existed. We cannot conceive of this in our limited capacities, but the language gives us the ability to grasp the greatness of the One who speaks our earth and human domain into being.

The language of the earth being "formless and void," is tohu w'bohu in the Hebrew. And "darkness" (hoshek) is above the face (panim, or in the presence of) of the abyss (t'hom). It describes the same reality. The abyss (abussos in the Greek New Testament) means "without boundary." In other words, good order is being made in the presence of disorder, and anything outside the presence of the Creator is by definition disordered. No boundaries, no light, no identity, no purpose, no existence.

In the face of such nonexistence, the Spirit (Hebrew ruach) hovers over "the waters" (mayim) that is, unorganized material with which to create -- the basic ingredient of life.

Thus, the political overview of Genesis 1:1 now begins to take form, and most simply, man and woman are to bring good order to the earth as given to us. As (Yahweh) Elohim is satisfied in ordering the creation and the earthly domain for us, we are to be satisfied in bringing good order to the earth as given, in building loving and creative human civilization.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 2


What are the three choices in human history for political order?

According to the late Jewish political theologian, Daniel J. Elezar, they are 1) hierarchy, 2) oligarchy and 3) covenant.

1. Hierarchy is the natural result of conquest in war. In antiquity, the hierarchical model is seen in Egypt. Here, the Pharaoh claims to be a son of the gods, and thus, he asserts authority over all Egyptians according to his singular will. It is the model of the top-down pyramid, and its economic survival depends on massive slavery.

2. Oligarchy, and its first cousin, plutocracy, arise organically out of communities where a given family or set of families gain control. In antiquity, ancient Greece is the model. It is a model from within, but near the top of the pyramid, and its economic survival also depends on massive slavery.

Ancient Rome is an admixture of the hierarchal and oligarchal models, and its economic survival also depends on massive slavery..

3. Covenant is a matter of divine revelation where Yahweh is King, and where there are checks and balances on human power. Authority is for the well-being of all people, and not the private domain of a self-aggrandizing elite. In antiquity, this is the nation of Israel, where the bottom of the pyramid is in control, and its economic model is based on freedom for all equally.

Only biblical literacy can serve human freedom.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 1


How central is politics to the Bible?

We can start by looking at the first verses in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Genesis 1:1 reads: Bereshith bara elohim eth ha'shamayim w' eth ha'eretz: "In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth."

All the way through the Hebrew Bible, this combination of "the heavens and the earth" percolates often. As Genesis 1-2 introduces this reality, the Creator is the One who governs the heavens (the invisible realms), and man and woman govern the earth (the visible domains) as his stewards.

Thus, healthy human politics can only be rooted in knowing the politics of the one true Creator.

Matthew 1:1 reads: Biblos geneseos Iesou Chistou huiou Dawid huiou Abraam: "The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham." The Son of David is the son of and heir to the founding king of Jerusalem.

This declaration about Jesus is thus a threat to Herod and Caesar, in their usurping human kingships. In the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, his actual words start this way: Pater hemon ho en tois ouranois: "Our Father, the One in the heavens" (Matthew 6:9).

This traces back to the declared political domain of the Creator in Genesis 1:1. And also, in the debate between Jesus and his enemies during Passover Week (Matthew 21-22), the whole argument centers on the question of who is the Son of David. This political battle leads to the cross, resurrection, ascension, the Second Coming, and how we as Christians are called live as salt and light in a corrupt world.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

46 Years Since Meeting Satan Face-to-Face, and Finally, at the Verge of Death on March 20, 2018, a Victory


On November 1, 1967 I sought the living God -- coming out of a Unitarian background -- and on November 2 I was answered by an overwhelming divine epiphany which I write about elsewhere. This happened at St. Michael's Chapel at South Kent School, South Kent, Connecticut.

About May 1, 1972, at St. Michael's Chapel, a friend and I experienced the total opposite. The chapel happens to be named after the warring angel who defeats Satan in Revelation 12:7-9.

I was up late one evening in the dining room of the Old Building doing some work when my friend burst in, horrified, on me and several other seniors. He described to us in halting breaths how he had been waiting in the chapel for another friend to finish some work in the adjacent library. As he was, the communion bells rang out three times from the balcony. Thinking he was being spoofed by someone, he called out for the prankster to reveal himself. Silence. So, he climbed the wooden stairs to the balcony, searched it, and nobody was there. There was no place to hide apart from where he searched, no other stairs, and all footsteps in the chapel were most audible. A sense of abiding and evil darkness overtook him, and he fled in horror down the hill to the Old Building.

I was the only one of the several seniors there who took him seriously (or was willing to admit it).

[But too, many years later, I learned that the friend he was waiting for had a similar experience some weeks earlier. He was in the chapel late one evening, keeping track of some lower form students in an adjacent building. Then the chapel bell rang three times, no one on the campus heard it, and a dark and foreboding sense of evil came in.]

In my young faith, I believed there was nothing to fear, so I suggested we return to the chapel and investigate, pray. It was just past midnight, and as we came within 20-30 feet of the chapel, we both looked into the windows. What we saw was a darkness that was blacker than black against the diffused light of nearby buildings, pulsating, alive, extraordinarily evil and very angry at our presence. Another step and we stopped, having come against a terribly tangible but invisible wall of air that was thicker than thick, impenetrable and driving us back. All my critical faculties were alert, and the experience was as real as anything I have known with the five senses. My friend and I turned and fled. I prayed until 4:00 a.m., trying to understand it. Face-to-face with Satan's presence.

One clue to what was happening is that the “witching hour” is known to happen from midnight to 3:00 a.m., when covens of witches (sometimes including warlocks), those into the deepest witchcraft, regularly meet to do their rituals and to curse their enemies, especially Christians. They prefer certain days and seasons on their pagan calendars, related ultimately to astrological factors. This evil presence was gathering just before midnight when my friend was initially spoofed, and it may have been proximate to May Day, one such pagan holiday – but at the time I did not know to consider this element. As well, the Housatonic Highlands of western Connecticut and the adjoining Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts are well-known for concentrations of such activity.

I was blown away by the experience at the time. The chapel where the very presence of Yahweh descended on me in 1967 was the very chapel where this demonic presence bearing the mark of Satan himself assaulted my friend and I in 1972. The contest of the darkness seeking to displace the Light.

Across the years, I thought I had merely stumbled on such an evil presence. But only recently — and given a more complete biblical understanding of the devil — do I realize that this may have made me a marked man. Namely, I was genuinely naive about the nature of the devil at that time, and yet recklessly, foolishly bold as a believer in Jesus, coming to confront the devil. Satan is angry with any challenge. All that has followed is certainly consistent with this understanding.

In thinking this encounter was a mere passing event, my focus in college was on growing in biblical knowledge along with my academics, and courting a certain young lady. Then, in 1974, my wife-to-be, Nancy, and I got sucked into a cultish church. I review this chapter in my life in the January 10, 2018 blog, and the key element is that I had falsely believed that, since I loved the Lord, I could not be deceived. Then I was deceived in accepting certain predicates in joining this church. Nancy and I married in the summer of 1977, and we left the church on January 10, 1978, with twelve others (out of about 200 people). The fourteen of us were publicly reviled in an emergency church meeting for daring to leave (!). It was great freedom to leave, then off to seminary the following fall, when our first son was also born.

Now the church, then called South Hills Christian Center outside Pittsburgh, PA, was run by a prima donna, Norman James. But in truth, his wife Becky "wore the pants" as one former member, who knew them up close, later said. As we also learned later, she often called down curses on those who had left the church. That, by itself, is the devil's handiwork. And some who left the church also called them Ahab and Jezebel. But I was nonchalant about this cursing reality, just as I was with the Satanic encounter six years prior. I trusted God in a naive way, not knowing the wisdom of Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16 against demonic territory.

Sometime in 1978 or 1979, my wife had a disturbing vision of me hoeing a field, doing work that needed to be done, but bent over low under an invisible and great burden. And with it was a vision of demons gleefully seeking to stick syringes in my back. In June of 1979, a virus struck my pancreas and destroyed all the beta cells, making me a Type 1 diabetic. There is no such history in our family. Over the years I just thought of this as happenstance, and due to an obviously insufficient immune system -- though in every other capacity over the years, my immune system has been very strong. It is, and has always been a daily burden, and especially as I get older. But as I consider my naivete and folly in confronting Satan in 1972, and my sin of pride that allowed me to be deceived into this church cult, it is clear -- not only biblically but experientially -- that Satan can only take advantage of our weaknesses, whether passive or active sin.

In 1988 I led the largest public policy petition drive in Massachusetts history for a ballot question that would have reshaped the national abortion debate in a profound and good way. But too, in organizing the whole state, I worked far too hard, and it added much stress at home. And apart from some modest prayer, I was naive as to what I was getting into, not considering the possibility of demonic opposition. But immediately after the petitions were submitted, we were hit with extraordinary demonic attacks that Nancy and I, and our two eldest sons, knew all too well (our third son was too young to know, and our daughter not yet born). I write about this in some depth in my book, Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (available at johnrankinbooks.com). The reality of how I became a marked man, and targeted by New England witchcraft ever since, has been with me to this day. In Section Three of my book, Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions (available also at johnrankinbooks.com), I share the reality of how this continued in Connecticut after I moved back.

The key to all this, is that even in seeking to do the good, if we are bold or effective enough to merit the devil's ire, he will exploit our unattended weaknesses and sins and seek to destroy us. In my case, it was the folly of unexamined naivete, pride, and trusting in human energy over and against serious prayer.

And then further, here I land on the greatest sin in life. It is worse than naive folly, pride, or in trusting in human energy without sufficient proactive prayer. The sin is that of impatience.

The flip side of our strengths is our weaknesses. I am sanguine, I love the Lord and I love people, I am an optimist, and the glass is always 99 percent full. My father, an optimist, called me a "tunnel-view optimist" from my early childhood forward. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. It has also been natural to be a risk-taker for the Gospel, but I was also blind to so many things, whether concerning evil and deceitful people, or simple practicalities in pursuing good goals. I have relentlessly bitten off more than I can chew in my enthusiasm for the reality of the Gospel. Yet, very much good and dynamic ministry has been achieved, Satan is displeased, and has only ratcheted up stress on me to catalyze further folly in impatience.

Over the years, a pattern developed and deepened. When the good I pursued did not happen on my assumed or explicitly impatient timetable, I would get frustrated. This happened hugely in the 1988 Massachusetts pro-life referendum drive. Had I been a patient and wisely prayerful man, we would have prevailed over the deceit of the Massachusetts Attorney General. He blocked it on a technicality that would have otherwise been understood ahead of time, and overcome. And when frustration sets in, anger follows, and folly multiplies. And my anger began to erupt at various places, especially under financial stress.

Now, my father was not into financial planning -- he had a view, which I have had, believing that if you do the good, finances will follow. Not so. He was chief of hematology at the Hartford Hospital, with a general practice alongside. He simply loved caring for people. Hematology, from the late 1940's to 1990 was not high paying among doctors. And he did not bill about 40 percent of his patients, because they were too poor (many Black, Hispanic and White inner-city people). He never used a credit card and paid for everything in cash, only borrowing for the mortgage. He carried no debt, but also had no savings, health and life insurance, or retirement provisions. Only after my mother died young (age 54 in 1976, when my father was 58), did he change his planning. So, in my tunnel-view optimism, I had a similar assumption, but without a sufficient income most the time.

So, I would get angry under the duress of finances, or with respect to mundane items (I have cursed Microsoft more times than you can imagine), or when simply pressed for time. It took me years to realize and confess that my anger was against the Lord's timetable, against God himself. Even though I have always and naturally embraced his goodness and sovereignty, perhaps this also blinded me to the object of my anger.

As frustration for achieving good goals grew across the years, the anger became worse, and so bad that in the last two years I began to grasp it, and to pray and repent. But still, when I can't pay my bills, meet the utilities or mortgage, even facing basic food shortages, I was only partially successful. And since 2008, when adrenal exhaustion began to set it (before diagnosed), and my work pace and income dropped, I was trapped. And when the adrenal exhaustion hit Stage 4 two years ago, as formally diagnosed, I was in deep trouble. And it led to my crypto-genetic (unknown origin) stroke in 2014, which no doubt came from deepening stress, and my diabetes, for the first time, going out of control.

All this is due to my own sin of impatience, and thus a wide opportunity for the enemy.

In dealing with my adrenal exhaustion these past two years, I have had great success in regaining strength. But there were also two reversals emotionally, when my youngest son was in the hospital four times in nine weeks, and almost died (he is far better now); and when this January and February my whole computer system broke down, and I could do very little ministry, academic and financial work.

Nonetheless, I was okay, I thought, and in March, I was lecturing in Krakow, Poland, then flying to London, and up to Oxford for some academics. I got very sick just before leaving Krakow, and there was something demonic about it, but not readily identifiable. My strength started spiraling down. Limping into Oxford, I got my minimal obligations done, but on Thursday through Sunday, up to March 20, I was very sick, and could hardly leave my room for the bathroom. My diabetes raged out of control, but not due to my ratio of food intake and the insulin regimen. On Friday, face down on my bed all day, I was suddenly aware that I was being "sifted" by the devil. I cried out in prayer, I felt I weighed 400 pounds (not 180) and was dying. I called my wife at home through this entire process, seeking prayer. But no relief from the sifting illness.

I had to leave for the airport Sunday morning. I arranged for the taxi Saturday night (to the bus station), and the details were clear: 6:45 a.m. at Wycliffe Hall, 54 Banbury Road. "Yes, we know where it is." It took me hours, through the night, to pack my bags. I told them I was sick, and would wait inside the building until they pulled up. They did not show. I called, and the driver could not find it. They asked me to wait outside. But I was deathly sick, and it was -3 celsius and snowing. I started to get angry. I went to wait outside, and it took another 18 minutes and two phone calls, and I had to go onto the street, and try to flag the cabby down, who was 100 yards down the road. In the process, I cried out, "What have I done wrong Lord? Did I not set this up ahead of time to prevent me waiting in the cold? Why should I die because of their negligence?"

Then my anger seized the worse control of my life ever. I cursed the Cab company and the driver in foul invectives. And as I did, my whole body started shaking, and started shooting fire from every cell, and my eyes were full of lightening shooting off in every direction. It was like a transformer exploding. Then I said loudly: I REPENT. I experienced what James says in 3:6 of his letter, describing a tongue out of control that curses men made in the image of God: "... and sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." The hellfire stopped as I repented, and had you pushed me slightly, I would have collapsed.

The cab driver arrived, a Muslim man with the style of beard said to imitate Muhammad -- long and untrimmed, but with a shaved upper lip. He was in Pakistani dress. I struggled to get my bags into the cab, and at the train station, as I was so weak, I fumbled with my billfold to pay the fare of 6.2 pounds. As I pulled out a 5-pound note, he looked at me with great mercy and changed the fare to 5-pounds. Once in the bus, I was just praying to get home alive, as I had to fly first back to Warsaw (hub for Polish airways), then to Newark, then the 150-mile drive home.

Then amazingly, when the bus crossed past the Oxford City limits, a huge demonic oppression tangibly lifted. I was immediately and surprisingly struck by this reality. And only then could I say in prayer, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," and as I prayed that all the way home, step by step as God gave me the strength. As a pastor friend in Oxford says: "Oxford is a city full of demons." There is a history in place. And yet with many strong believing churches. No question that the demonic assault was territorial in nature, and here is my observation: Satan brought his greatest strength against my deepest weakness and almost killed me, seeking even to overcome a strong heart. And how do I know that apart from this experience? It turns out that I had a burgeoning heart attack, stopped the moment I said: I REPENT. The electricity of my heart went wild. I have always had a strong heart, and after my stroke in 2014, my EKG was excellent as was my blood pressure (that is why it was labeled crypto-genetic). But this May, at my physical, my EKG showed an infarcation sometime since the last EKG, which is where there is a severe oxygen cut-off to my heart, a prelude to a full heart attack. I knew it exactly, and told him so. And it was completely stopped the moment I repented of my hellish anger.

Since March 20, I have rested, and am steadily, if not always evenly, recovering my strength. The anger that almost killed me -- under Satan's strategic pressure -- is 99 percent gone. I am praying for the final 1 percent to eviscerate as well. I REPENT. As James also says: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you"(4:7). And since April 28, the leading of the Holy Spirit has multiplied in proportion to my freedom from impatience. 46 years of a battle with Satan has hit a victory threshold, and going forward, I know the devil will try new strategems. But in the Name of Jesus, I am much better equipped to shut them down.

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Jesus, in the Face of the Political Dishonesty of Annas


In John 18:19-24, when Jesus is hauled before the de facto high priest, Annas, he is met with deep political vitriol. Annas has long since forfeited his Jewish soul in order to try and claim his position of power under Roman political and military dominance. His son-in-law Caiaphas, the titular high priest, already sees political expediency in seeking to have Jesus killed.

Jesus is a threat to the status quo where the Jewish faith is quarantined behind the temple walls, with no freedom to address matters of religious, political and economic justice. This status quo only serves self-appointed religious elitists who yield to politically raw power, in order to keep their own positions, circumscribed power, and wealth.

So Annas questions Jesus about his teaching. Jesus answers in noting that he has taught openly, not in secret, and indeed, in the synagogues and temple courts.

Which means, he teaches not only in the presence of his disciples and others who welcome him, but also in the very presence of those who are seeking to have him killed.

Jesus knows this "trial" before Annas is a set-up, and he knows that Annas already knows the answers to any question he would pose. So Jesus levels the playing field, and calls Annas to account. "Question those who have heard me. Certainly, they know what I have said."

This challenges the theological and political dishonesty of Annas, face-to-face. And Annas responds with violence, breaking the Law of of Moses by ordering Jesus to be struck in the face. In other words, Annas shows his soul to be one that has forsaken the very Law to which he claims allegiance.

How often, across history, have professing Christian leaders yielded to raw political power, based on one form of rationalization or another? How many of them, like Annas, have forfeited their souls in such a pursuit? How much is that the case today?

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