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FACING DOWN THE RULERS OF WALL STREET A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. THEY ARE BACK.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

SAINTS PRESERVE US

I believe that claiming a “personal relationship with God” is often just an excuse to practice “Christianity of the naval”. Most of these folks don’t love God, they love their own navels. It is not faith they are celebrating, its conceit. They just can’t tell the difference between the little voice in their heads telling them to hate homosexuals and Muslims and Democrats and Mexicans and the voice telling them to love their enemies. And if you can dare to listen to these babblers it’s always about how much God loves them, and guides them and rewards them. What they are describing would not be a very healthy relationship. What about God? Doesn’t he have wants? Doesn’t he have needs? In Hollywood this kind of behavior could get you arrested as an obsessed fan. And it has always been thus between people and their God.
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What is usually called, retrospectively, “Religious Freedom” is actually the bigoted ranting of one religious fanatic after another, each one so convinced of his or her own righteousness they would gladly burn at the stake those who are burning them at the stake. As an example, consider the fanaticism of William Tyndale, a particularly joyless pound of flesh who is responsible for most of the beautiful language in what is commonly called the King James New Testament. He died this day, October 6, 1536, and he did not die for religious freedom. He died believing Catholics should be forced to renounce Catholicism on fear of death. As for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and various Amer-Indians who had never even heard of Christianity, they were all going to hell anyway, so ditto for them, too.
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At the time the bible was available only in Latin and according to the 1408 English Constitution, it was illegal to translate even sections of it into English. The nobility and the priests didn’t want a bunch of poor uneducated louts and wenches reading things about rich men having to pass a camel through the eye of a needle because that might lead to questions about why rich people were always rich and why bad things happen to good people and what the hell was a camel, anyway? William believed that the ruling classes wanted to, “satisfy their filthy lusts, their proud ambition, and insatiable covetousness, and…exalt their own honor…above God himself.” The only pure guy in the world, according to William, was William. This guy was Lutheran even before Luther.
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But William’s bible recorded and codified the language of Shakespeare before Shakespeare was born. The New Testament laid the ground work for greatness and nobility of the language, which was not what William was trying to do. He wasn’t trying to save words, he was trying to save souls. The words were just supposed to be a means to an end.
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There is also a bit of irony in that Tyndale was actually born about 1494 (two years after Columbus’s first voyage) under the name of William Hychyns (pronounced “Hitchins”), a “Christian” name he would one day share with one of the most conceited atheists on this planet. And like his future namesake, our William Hychyns was a writer. And he was also an ordained priest and a deacon, a multilingual student of theology and an actual student of Erasmus at Cambridge College. And again, like his future namesake, Hychyns was a big mouth. He could not resist proclaiming at one point, “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, I will cause the boy that drives the plow in England to know more of the Scriptures than the Pope himself!" With a mouth and an ego like that it wasn’t long until William had to flee England.
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Like the Beatles, and now hiding behind the name of Tyndale, William went first to Germany. In 1526 his first edition of a translation of the New Testament into what was then modern English was published in Worms. It was an instant best seller, smuggled into England and Scotland, and in October of that year it received official best seller status when it was condemned by the Church and copies were burned in public (This being the origin of the literary marketing phrase, “hot property”). William immediately started rewriting and refining the work.
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Things got even better in the sales department when Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas Moore condemned Tyndale as a heretic and demanded his arrest. But then Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife and Hychyns (Tyndale) felt the need to write a book, “The Practyse of Prelates”, lecturing Henry on his moral failings. Now The King of England also issued a warrant for William’s arrest. It seemed inevitable that eventually, somebody, on one side or the other, was going to burn William somewhere. Meanwhile he continued work on his third and final translation of the New Testament.
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It took them ten years, but in 1535 the Catholics finally got him. William was kidnapped in the free city of Antwerp, and “renditioned” to the castle of Vilvoorde, just outside of Brussels. There he was subjected to what the Bushies would later call “extreme methods of persuasion” including the rack, sleep deprivation, “boarding” and beating on the bottoms of the feet. In addition, copies of William’s New Testament were urinated on in front of his eyes. Gee, I guess the past is just a prequeal. After a year of this “torture”, William was dragged before a church court, presented with evidence and testimony he could not challenge and in 1536 found guilty of heresy.
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On Friday, October 6, 1536, William was loaded into a cart. And in the square just outside the castle gate William was given one last chance to recant. He responded, “I call God to record that I have never altered, against the voice of my conscience, one syllable of his word. Nor would (I) do (so) this day, if all the pleasures, honors, and riches of the earth might be given me.” What a conceited guy; its all about his words, his writings, his translation, his execution.
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The Executioner strapped William to the post with an iron chain about his feet and then slipped a noose over his head and pulled it taunt against his throat. As he did, William cried out, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” Then the executioner jerked the garrote tight and pulled it hard against William’s throat. William struggled and quickly chocked to death, his tongue and eyes protruding. Once the judges were certain William was dead the kindling stacked around the body was set alight. The crowd cheered as the chard corpse smoldered against the chain. Finally, the body began to separate, the chain was broken and the corpse tumbled into the flames. Satisfied the crowd began to wander home. It had been a good another good day for the faithful.

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