Fist Of History

August, 2012Archive for

Religious Oddness – the Holy Prepuce (Foreskin of Christ)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Religion is filled with odd twists and turns, no matter what the particular faith or ruling, but Medieval Christianity has a handful of particularly odd stories due, in part, to extended centuries of intellectual focus on issues of theology and faith throughout Europe.  One really odd example was the veneration of the Holy Prepuce, a.k.a. the Foreskin of Christ.  See when Jesus was born he was born to a Jewish family and, according to Jewish law, would have been circumcised on the eighth day of his life.  What might have been seen as an aspect of Christ’s infancy though presented an opportunity to Middle Ages Europeans.  Because, per the New Testament, Christ died, rose in three days whole, and then ascended to Heaven he didn’t leave much physical presence upon the Earth that could be used as relics.  (Hence the obsessive European focus for bits of the Truce Cross, the Crown of Thorns, the Spear of Destiny, all items that had Christ’s blood upon them.)

But this realization lead to the idea that Christ might have left his foreskin on Earth and that would then potentially be one of the most powerful relics in Christendom.  The first reported donation of Christ’s foreskin was made by Charlemagne in 800 AD to the Catholic Church, and received by Pope Leo III.  (Specifically on 25 December 800 when Leo III crowned Charlemagne the first Holy Roman Emperor, a major political event in and of itself.  The foreskin was among a parcel of gifts Charlemagne gave the Pope that day.)  That foreskin was held in Rome till 1527, when it was taken when Rome was looted, and then turned up again in the Italian village of Calcata where it was housed till 1983.  Yes, 1983.  The Catholic Church considered it a valuable relic to be seen by the faithful and granted a ten year indulgence to pilgrims who saw the holy foreskin.

Until 1900, when the Catholic Church, tired of ribbing it got over the issue, decreed that no Catholic was to write or speak of the Holy Foreskin again on penalty of excommunication.  In 1954 the Church upped the punishment to excommunication combined with shunning.  By the village of Calcata did not give up its traditions and still paraded the foreskin on the 1 of January each year, the traditional date of the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.  (An official holiday in the Catholic calendar for centuries.)  However in 1983 thieves stole the jeweled reliquary and its holy foreskin within.  Police have never found the missing item and the Catholic church has not pushed for its recovery.

Also, an additional picture of Jesus getting circumcised that was painted in the Renaissance for your viewing pleasure below, I will say this – I love how in this picture Christ has a very calm facial expression about the whole thing.  Very, if you’ll pardon me, Zen.

Sources: An Underground Education by Richard Zacks, the Wikipedia entry on the Holy Prepuce.

1930s Super Pac – the American Liberty League

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Formed in 1934 the American Liberty League is one of the great historic examples of an early political action committee (PAC) in modern US politics, specifically a PAC that was incredibly issue driven and yet attempted to pretend that it was bi-partisan and disinterested in specific issues.  The American Liberty League was created as a reaction by conservatives in the United States, both Democrats and Republicans, to the rapid economic policies created under President Roosevelt from 1933 to 1934.  The particular issue that concerned many of the founding members of this organization was the President’s hard (and successful) push to get the United States off the gold standard.  This organization claimed it was focused upon trying to present an alternative path to economic recovery than the path suggested by the President, one based more on “traditional economic solutions” such as government spending reductions, tax reductions, and “solid” money backed by gold.

Most of their efforts were focused on pamphlet distribution to interested citizens and pushing opinion pieces into newspapers.  They also had a “common man’s” edition that was mailed out with the same arguments using a more “voice of the people” approach.  This organization lasted through 1936, when they poured a vast amount of resources into the Republican efforts to unseat President Roosevelt.  When Roosevelt won that election, handily, with an even greater majority in both houses of Congress, the American Liberty League folded up most of their efforts, although they kept up regular pamphlet mailings until 1940 when the organization when completely out of business.

What makes the American Liberty League fascinating is its membership, although it attracted prominent conservative Democrats and politicians from the entire popular spectrum, as well as a peak membership of over one hundred thousand members, the American Liberty League was financed almost entirely by funds donated by wealthy members.  In fact its total operating budget for its most active period was over $1.2 million (about $18 million in today’s dollars), over half of which came from only a dozen or so members of the League.  In fact most of the funding came from the DuPont family, 30% of the League’s initial seed money and then 25% of its total funds each year through 1936.  After the failed election of 1936 the DuPont family kept it afloat for a while but pulled out in 1940 to focus on the effort to beat Roosevelt in 1940.

Which I guess means the DuPont family has a really long history of hating progressive politics and the wealthy have a long history of funding pet political groups.

Oh and also this group might have had a tiny hand in a potential plot to overthrow the US government in 1933 with a quasi-Fascist puppet government, a plot known as the Business Plot generally.  But that is unproven and therefore has no grounds for any serious consideration.

Sources: American Liberty League Wikipedia entry, American Liberty League Conservapedia entry, Business Plot entry on Wikipedia.

Boycotting Chik-Fil-A is not a gateway to totalitarianism

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

This is not a post about the current controversy over the CEO of Chick-Fil-A and his comments about homosexual marriage, this is a post about the comments made by one Erik Rush about how the current boycott undertaken by some individuals in protest of the CEO’s statements, and funding from Chick-Fil-A to certain religious organizations, is on par with the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933.  Erik Rush basically argues in his post that this boycott is part of an effort by the hardcore liberal left to wage war on Christian values within the United States and part of a broader cultural effort to undermine Christian values in the United States as part of an effort to pave the way for a more totalitarian state.  (As well apparently as an effort by the liberal news media to distract the American people from President Obama’s “power grabs” and “failed economic policies.”)

I cannot be more annoyed by this individuals comparison, I know he is going for shock value but it is aggravating to think that some people will swallow this idea and repeat it with no further thought or even understanding of what happened in 1933.

This is an image from the 1933 Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses, organized on 1 April 1933 it was a one day attempt by local Nazi party chiefs to organize a systematic boycott of all Jewish businesses in Germany.  Key differences between this and the efforts of local boycotts against Chik-Fil-A:

1.  The Nazi party had just come into power in January 1933, meaning that behind this boycott was the organized power of the German government and the state.  See those uniformed individuals in the picture above?  Those are Nazi SA (Storm Troopers), the street thug army used by the Nazi party to beat up rival parties forces, break up rallies, and after 1933 as a physical means of expressing the political will of the party.  After the Nazi party came to power in 1933 the SA got….frisky, basically acting as an extra-legal power that no one in Germany was willing to control until the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.

To put that in perspective – imagine if a bunch of uniformed figures standing outside a Chik-Fil-A might beat you if you attempted to enter and you wouldn’t report it, because although illegal the police would do nothing.  Alternatively if you were the owner of the local Chik-Fil-A they might just hold you in a special impromptu prison they rigged up.  (Which happened in 1933 multiple times to Jewish business owners.)

2.  The Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses was “racial” in nature, meaning that the group targeted (Jews) were done so solely based on a “blood contagion” of being Jewish, i.e. because they were born to at least one Jewish parent they were an inferior/tainted group that had to be cut from the body of the German people.  Each individual Jews ideology, outlook, or personal history was irrelevant, they were all a danger because they were Jewish.

The boycott against Chik-Fil-A is one based upon a challenge to a companies policies of donation and statements made by its owner, a boycott is a traditional means of expressing such discontent by consumers.  No one, to my knowledge, has stated that Chik-Fil-A restaurants should be boycotted solely because they owner is a Christian.  (Which also raises the point that I’d content that in the US “Christian” is not a strong enough sole identity you could build a persecution focus against.  It’s too generic, too broad, and too widely held.  Unless by “Christian” you only mean “Evangelical Christian” which is an entirely different matter.)

3.  Efforts by local mayors to block Chik-Fil-A franchises from opening within their city are questionable but also challengeable through legal avenues, the matter could be taken to the courts on the grounds it is discriminatory against a specific business for reasons having nothing to do with the license.  A city’s governing legislative body could overturn these rulings by mayors, action on a higher level of government could overturn their actions.  In other words in this situation there is a balance of powers that check each other on a local, state, and eventually national level.

Nazi Germany was subject to “coordination” by the Nazi party which was, from 1933 onwards, the systematic elimination of all non-centralized sources of power, specifically economic, cultural, and political power.  If the Nazi state passed an edict after its consolidation was completed there was no local or state government structure left that would oppose it, at each level the government was either dis-empowered or neutered to the point they could do nothing.

Call me foolish but I’ve yet to see any serious effort in the US to achieve anything like that goal.  Erik Rush’s post is a classic example of bad history, twisting the past to make an observation about modern events seem profound and “deep” when in fact it is just damn foolish.

Sources: Original Article, Wikipedia entry on the Nazi Boycott of Jewish Businesses, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum article on the subject.