The Satire That Wasn’t – A Response to Joe Mathews

The Satire That Wasn’t – A Response to Joe Mathews

On January 13th the VC Star published an editorial by Joe Mathews, co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy and a writer of the Connecting California column of Zócalo Public Square that’s created something of a firestorm of response.[1]

Reading the first lines of the opening paragraph, I assumed it was satire worthy of the best of The Onion or Babylon Bee. By the second paragraph, I began to doubt my initial impression. The third made it clear I was reading the sincerely held beliefs of a person holding a worldview utterly alien to anyone I know, but likely shared by some I don’t.

Mr. Mathews envisions a society so de-humanizing it beggars description. Yet he thinks his proposal is eminently reasonable and laudable. It can only be because of a skewed idea of what it means to BE human.

Since his first name is “Joe” that’s how I will refer to him.

Joe begins with, “If California is ever going to achieve true equity, the state must require parents to give away their children. Today’s Californians often hold up equity — the goal of a just society completely free from bias — as our greatest value.”

Joe’s essay makes clear he’s an intelligent and erudite individual. He knows what he believes and appears to believe what he knows. He states his views succinctly. I won’t attempt to parse his motives but will parse his words. Pay careful attention to them.

Equity, as defined by the Progressive Left, of which Joe is an obvious advocate, is not Equality. The goal of Equality is to present equal opportunity to all, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, etc. It’s what the leaders of Equality in the ’60s like Martin Luther King Jr. worked for. Equality aimed to fulfill the promise of Lady Justice, who holds the scales of justice while wearing a blindfold. Equality’s view of justice is that it ought to be no respecter of persons. Equity is a different animal. While Equality aims at equal opportunity, Equity’s aim is at equal outcomes. In pursuit of those outcomes, the State must be put in charge of the distribution of goods and services. Instead of individuals working for themselves, they produce for the State which then disperses to all an equal share. Equity should sound familiar. It’s what we all learned about in high school as the utopia envisioned by Karl Marx, attempted by Lenin, ram-rodded by Stalin, then when after seventy years it proved a disaster, dismantled by Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

The pursuit of equity by California’s governor and legislators is precisely why so many are fleeing the State. There are now more equity-advocates in California only as a ratio to Equity-opponents because those opponents are moving to states where equity is eschewed.

Joe says for equity to be installed, the state “must require parents to give away their children.”  Note carefully the words. The State MUST require,” it. That’s called legislation, a law.

I’m a parent of three. A large number of the people I know are parents. This I can say with all confidence. Pass all the laws you want – We are NEVER going to give away our children to another, and most especially some State-run facility. Never-Ever!

I can only assume Joe doesn’t have any children, or if he does, lacks the normal human bond having children produces. Or, maybe Joe is so committed to a Progressivist ideology he has become an ideologue. History makes clear, ideologues ought not to be in charge or making policy. I submit Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Mao, Pol Pot as examples. These people are responsible for more death in one century than the rest of combined history.

Joe says his proposal is for a “just society.” Equity intentionally installs injustice since it detaches responsibility from individuals. Equity is not concerned with what a person does, only with what they receive.

Joe seeks support for his proposal of turning children over to the State by quoting Plato, that august Greek philosopher of yore who advocated that very thing. Plato also justified slavery with the contention that it was obvious there were different classes of men. We regarded slaves merely as “living tools.” Plato also based a large part of his philosophy that the material realm was inherently and unalterably evil, while the spiritual realm of ideas was in a like manner inherently good. The Platonic view of reality held sway for hundreds of years, stalling scientific progress.

Plato was horribly wrong about both slaves and the nature of reality. He can add his views on parenting to that list as well.

A well-worn cliché states that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Joe’s dream of an Equity Utopia has blinded him to the sad story of Sparta, a Greek city-state that already tried his proposal of state-control of child-rearing. Children were judged at birth as worthy of carrying forward the militaristic values of Sparta. If deemed helpful to the state, they were allowed to live, if not, they were killed off. Girls were evaluated on their potential to produce warriors. Boys were judged by their ability to wield a weapon. At the ripe age of seven, boys were removed from parental care to be raised by the state as soldiers in the Spartan war machine, which dominated the surrounding city-states in a brutal totalitarians regime that made their neighbors slaves so the men of Sparta could be free to make war and oppress even more.

Of course, Joe doesn’t want California to produce soldiers. Just troops promoting the Progressive ideology of Equity. What Joe fails to remember is that power corrupts and his ideological army will most certainly end up wielding actual weapons that kill.

Joe admits it. He says his solution is to make “raising your own children illegal.” Until legislation can be passed providing state-run facilities, he proposes that families voluntarily swap their children now. Rich families could trade their progeny with poor families. Homeowners could trade with the homeless. I’m confident you see why I assumed I was reading satire.

Joe must not have any children. Imagine that conversation . . .

“Dad, why are you packing my suitcase?”

“I’m sending you to live in the river bottom with a homeless family and they are sending their child to live here with us.”

“Wait. You’re joking, right?”

“Nope. It will help bring equity to society.”

“But – I’m YOUR daughter. You’re MY dad. I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Aren’t you worried something will happen to me?”

“Oh, honey. I imagine something WILL happen to you. Living in the river bottom is dangerous. But this is an important step in achieving justice for all. I’m not exactly sure HOW it will achieve it, but I HOPE it will. You want that too, don’t you honey?”

“Dad, have you been taking your meds? Because this is insane!”

Joe wants to see a “policy of universal orphanhood” because it “aligns with powerful social trends.” Throughout history, genuinely just societies have regarded a proliferation of orphans, as a social blight, a plight to overcome, not promote. And just because something is a social trend doesn’t commend it as laudable. There was a “social trend” in Salem Massachusetts in the late 17th Century no one regards as praise-worthy.

Joe says his proposal “should be politically unifying, fitting hand-in-glove with the most cherished policies of progressives and Trumpians alike.” I seriously doubt his proposal is unifying for anyone other than hard-core ideologues. Neither the average Progressive nor Conservative is hip to the notion of nuking the essential human bond of parent and child.

Joe admits, “I don’t expect universal support for universal orphanhood.” He labels as “contrarian” those who object to his “rational proposal” of universal orphanhood, saying any objection must be purely “emotional.”  Such contrarians are simply wrong in their concept of what it means to be American and free. So, with a few clicks on his keyboard, Joe waves away thousands of years of human wisdom and experience. Because, you know, he’s beset by an intellectual malady common to Progressives known as Chronological Snobbery. Joe thinks he’s smarter than those who’ve gone before just because he lives now, in The People’s Republic of California, where equity is just a legislative act away.

So go ahead and pass your laws, Joe – then watch while California becomes the Soviet Union 2, your economy collapses further, your store shelves empty, your streets become a battlefield, and your cities become ghost towns.

[1] Column: California should abolish parenthood, in the name of equity (

Hone 2: Steps to Defining Your Vision

Hone 2: Steps to Defining Your Vision

The Steps to define your vision are . . .

  1. Pray: Ask the Lord to make your calling & vision clear.
  2. Spend time recording initial thoughts, dreams, life-long desires, & abiding urges.
  3. Answer this question: “What really excites me in terms of how I would choose to spend the rest of my life?”
  4. In 20 years, where would you like to be & what would you like to be doing?
  5. What do you believe is your specific calling & the gifts God has given you to accomplish it?
  6. What is your strongest spiritual gift?
  7. Get alone for a couple of days for fasting & prayer over all this.
  8. Record your thoughts about all of the previous steps.
  9. In the fewest but best words, summarize #8.
01-It Begins

01-It Begins

This 1st episode of CS is titled, “It Begins.”

The best place to start is at the beginning. But with Church History, where is that? Where do we begin?

Most MODERN Christians would probably start with Jesus. That seems pretty straight-forward.

But where would the FIRST Christians have begun?

They were Jews, and considered what they believed as a purified form of Judaism; a faith Moses would have approved of. They believed Jesus was Messiah, the long hoped for & oft prophesied Savior Who came to restore the faith God revealed to Abraham 2000 years before.

So à Where would Peter, Andrew, John, James, or Thomas have begun telling the story?

The Apostle John begins his story of Jesus at creation with the words “In the beginning …” We’ll come up in time considerably and start with the man known as Jesus of Nazareth engaged in His public ministry; traveling through Northern Israel with a dozen disciples.

At that time, the 1st Century of what modern historians like to called the Common Era, Israel was an uneasy part of the Roman Empire. Unlike some provinces that counted being part of Rome a privilege, Israel loathed their Roman occupiers. Most Jews resisted more than just political domination by a foreign power; they also despise the Greek culture the Romans brought with them.

All this stirred the pot of popular expectation among Jews for the arrival of the Messiah who they anticipated would be primarily a political figure. Scripture foretold He’d replace corruption with paradise; the wicked would be punished, the righteous rewarded, and Israel exalted among the nations. Messiah would restore David’s throne and rule over the affairs of Earth.

Some prophets spoke of a war between good and evil that would resolve in the Messiah’s victory. This flavored the anticipation of many. They cast Rome as the chief adversary Messiah would crush.

By the 1st Century, different groups had developed around their belief in what was the right way to prepare for this political Messiah.

The Pharisees devoted themselves to the Law of Moses and religious tradition.

The Essenes took a segregationist approach, pursuing holiness by moving to isolated communes to await Messiah’s arrival.

Zealots advocated armed resistance against Rome as well as those Jews who collaborated with the hated enemy. Zealots drew their inspiration from the successful Maccabean Revolt against the Syrian Greeks a couple hundred years before.

A 4th group were the Sadducees who took a more pragmatic approach to the Roman presence & accommodated themselves to the Greco-Roman culture they were convinced would eventually become the status quo. Sadducees were a minority but held most of the positions of political and religious leadership in Jerusalem.

The last and by far largest group among the Jews of 1st Century is rarely mentioned; the Common People. They were neither Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene nor Zealot.  They were just à Jews; everyday people in covenant with God but preoccupied with fields, flocks, trades, markets, family, & well—Life; the daily grind. They held opinions regarding politics and religion but were too busy surviving to join one of the groups who claimed superiority to the others. It was these commoners who were most attracted to Jesus. They were drawn to Him because He did a masterful job of refusing to be co-opted by the elites.

Jesus came in the traditional mode of a Rabbi, but was anything but traditional. Like other rabbis, He had disciples who followed Him, but His teaching stood in contrast to theirs. His words carried authority that challenged the thick, hard shell of tradition that had become encrusted round their religion.  Listening to Jesus wasn’t like listening to a commentary on Torah, which so many other teachers DID sound like. Listening to Jesus was like listening to Moses himself, explaining what the law was meant to be and do. Then—Jesus did something that really made people pay attention; He validated His teaching by performing miracles. And not a few. He did many!

It was a tough assignment to carve a path through Jewish society that didn’t intersect with the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots or Sadducees, but Jesus negotiated it perfectly. Both His life and teaching powerfully demonstrated genuine Judaism and revealed the shabby counterfeit of the religious pretenders. At first they tried to co-opt Him and turn his rising popularity to their agenda. When He refused to make common cause with them, they turned on Him.

Jesus furthermore resisted the efforts of the common people to make him King. Their hope that He was Messiah swelled to the call that He claim Israel’s throne. They wanted a political leader. But that was not Jesus’ mission & He resisted their attempts to install Him as monarch.

Jesus’ consistent message was the true nature of the Kingdom of God. Contemporary Judaism saw that Kingdom as primarily political, military, & economic. A realm in which …

  • Israel would rule instead of Rome.
  • Messiah would reign in place of Caesar.
  • Judaism would replace paganism.
  • And the sandal finally would be on the other foot.

Jesus’ message was a much different take on the Kingdom. It wasn’t about politics or economics. It was about the heart, the inner life. Jesus repeatedly emphasized that to be in covenant with God meant to be in an intimate relationship with Him, not as some distant, disinterested deity, but as a loving Father.

Jesus’ popularity with commoners created jealousy on the part of the leaders. His unblemished example of a warm & endearing godliness revealed the pathetic shabbiness of the merely religious. When He cleared the Temple of the fraudulent marketplace the leaders used as a source of income, they decided it was time to get rid of Him. They convinced themselves they were only protecting the nation from Rome’s wrath against the insurrection they claimed Jesus was sure to lead. They arrested Him, ran Him through a sham-trial, then turned him over to the Romans for execution, saying He encouraged rebellion; a charge Rome took quite-seriously. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, knew he was being played by the Jewish leaders but when they threatened to complain to Rome, already being on thin ice with the Emperor, he relented & turned Jesus over for scourging & crucifixion.

As they turned away from Jesus’ cross late Friday afternoon, they thought, “Good riddance! At least we won’t have to worry about Him anymore.”

Yeah, good luck with that.

Ch. 1 of Bruce Shelley’s excellent book Church History In Plain Language begins with this line, “Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humiliation of its God.”

Anyone who’s decided to investigate the History of the Christian Church has probably wondered at the astounding success of the Faith in light of its central event & the belief that flows from it.

An interview with the disciples the day after the crucifixion would in no way give anyone the idea Christianity would one day spread to the ends of the world & number in the billions.

The transformation that took place among Jesus’ followers after His resurrection is convincing proof of His rising from the tomb. The disappointment that marked Jesus’ followers  immediately after His execution is understandable. What isn’t, is their amazing resurgence to carry on His mission. The only rational explanation for their continuation & the growth of the Jesus movement was the resurrection.

By the 1st Century, Judaism had infiltrated much of the Roman Empire and had a small number of converts from among Gentiles in many cities. But these “God-fearers”, as they were called, were a tiny number considering how long Judaism had existed. The Jews had never embarked on a campaign to spread their faith. Gentile converts to Judaism were almost accidental and accommodated in the synagogue reluctantly. Yet within a century after the Resurrection, Christianity had spread across the Empire. The miraculous growth of the Church stands as eloquent testimony to its miraculous origin.

And now for a little background on the CS podcast.

What you’re hearing is a 3rd version of Season 1 of Communio Sanctorum. The number of subscribers has grown tremendously; with many saying they’ve listened to the episodes multiple times. Version 2 contained some material that was time-sensitive; news about podcast awards, a Reformation tour, and such. Things that are no longer applicable. I thought it best to redo the series omitting all that. The CS website is also being updated and a Spanish version is being produced. It seemed an apropos time to re-record Season 1 with a refresh of the content.

I got turned on to the genius of podcasts a few years ago. Being a history nut, I went looking for my favorite subject – Rome – and found Mike Duncan’s brilliant podcast series the History of Rome. Now hooked, I next devoured Lars Brownworth’s 12 Byzantine Emperors & Norman Centuries.

Then I went in search of a similar format podcast on Church history. I was looking for short episodes, easily listened to while working out, going for a run, or working in the yard. All I could find at that time were long lectures, most given in a college or seminary. And while the content was solid, they weren’t all that interesting. What I was looking for were episodes of between 15 & 20 minutes that would break Church history up into easily digested sessions.

Not finding it, I decided to do it.

So let me be clear. I’m not an historian, not even close. I love history & am a student of it. An historian is someone with access to, and does research on primary level materials. An historian is someone who gains familiarity with the past because she/he has interacted in some way with those who MADE history; if not them directly, then with the records and artifacts they left behind. All I can do is take the work of real historians, cull it, repackage it, then put it out there for whoever wants to engage it.

The study of history is by nature filled with dates and names à and that’s where many would-be students find their eyes rolling toward the back of their head in utter boredom.

While dates & names can’t be avoided, this podcast aims at providing a narrative of church history to help contemporary Christians connect to their roots. To use a well-worn cliché, we really do stand on the shoulders of giants. What we’ll see is that those giants themselves stand on previous generations who loom large because of the lives they lived and what they accomplished. Hopefully, by discerning our place within that massive edifice we call the Church, we can faithfully provide firm shoulders for the next generation to stand on. à That isn’t an unfit analogy when you consider both Paul’s & Peter’s allusion to the church being a building made of living stones.

I just said CS is aimed primarily at contemporary Christians. A bit surprising to me is the number of non-Christians who’ve enjoyed the podcast. Many interested in history and wanting to fill out a gap in their knowledge on church history have expressed their appreciation.

As we end this 1st episode, let me give a quick review on HOW I’ll be presenting this History of Christianity & the Church.

There are many ways to study history and many theories for interpreting the past.

One way to recount History is to divide it into Pre-Modern, Modern & Post-Modern.

While defining these categories could devolve into a podcast in itself, let me summarize.

In Pre-modern times, history was propaganda. It was recorded to promote some agenda, usually of the ruler who commissioned it. You may have heard the saying that it’s the winners who write history. That’s pretty much the way the recording of Pre-modern history was. Records that painted an alternative view of the officially sanctioned story were rounded up & destroyed. Divergent monuments were torn down and scrolls burned to erase the evidence of a substitute view of the way things went down.

In the Modern telling of history, a more scientific approach is applied to recording and interpreting events. The winners still dominate the main tale, but the voices of the defeated and despised are also considered. While the Modern scientific approach to history is more accurate than the pre-modern version, it’s not entirely free from bias in that the Modern Historian still has to speak of events from his or her cultural perspective. And the selection of what facts to report or neglect is a form of editorial bias.

The Post-modern approach to history is a largely cynical method based on the idea that truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, the mouth of the teller & pen of the writer. The problem in describing Post-modernism is that it’s a philosophy still under construction and resists definition. Some Post-modernists would say Post-modernism is an amorphous paradigm. The moment you define it, you’ve said more what it’s not than what it is. The Post-modern view of history is that nearly all accepted history from both the pre-Modern and Modern eras is suspect precisely because it’s accepted. There’s a visceral and knee-jerk rejection of authority in Post-modernism and nothing is deemed so authoritarian as tradition. As a consequence, post-modern views of history tend to be avant-garde and fringe theories one reads alongside a more traditional view.

Our approach here will be from a Modern perspective. And while it’s impossible to be entirely free of bias, I will try to provide an unfiltered review of the history of Christianity & the Church.

A Bibliography of the books & sources I use in researching is available on the website.

Oh – & here’s something I found fascinating. People left comments on the iTunes portal page labeling me with all kinds of different religious affiliations. Some were convinced I was a Roman Catholic, others that I was Eastern Orthodox, some that I was a 5 pt Calvinist, a few that I was a raving Arminianist. While the majority of comments gave the podcast high marks, there was some confusion over where I line up theologically. No matter how much I try to “Dragnet” it & report just the facts, Ma’am – It’s inevitable that my doctrinal bias is going to color the material. When I do move from reportage to opinion or analysis, I’ll do my best to mark it off as my opinion.

If you’re curious who I am & what my theological position is – you can find that on the website. Go to the “Lance’s Bio” page.

Many thanks to Lemuel Dees, a long time subscriber and voice over artist for providing the CS intro and outro and to Dade Ronan at Win at Web for massive help in setting up the new website.

Thanks as well to Roberto Aguayo for translating the episodes into Spanish and to John Parra for the intro and outro of the Spanish edition of CS.

There’s a final announcement I need to share as we close. To date, CS has been a labor of love I was able to accommodate fairly easily financially. As the podcast has grown, requiring a LOT more bandwidth, the costs for hosting the audio files has risen dramatically and outstripped my ability to sustain. So though I was loath to do so, I’ve had to add a donation feature to the CS page. CS is free, but over the years several have asked if they could make a donation. I didn’t have a way to do that, till now. So, hey, if you wanna’ – now you have way to do so. ‘Nuff said.

Into His Image