Early Christian, Medieval Travel Journal-Day 12

Sunset at Villa San Michele

The day started sadly for Ann, who suffered a tragic loss, when her beloved No. 6 ranked, Texas A&M Aggies suffered a humiliating loss to the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the second game of the U.S. college football season. I told Ann it was an upset not unlike the Visigoths sack of Rome in 410 A.D. I don’t think I helped.

The drive back to Florence was uneventful, thanks be to God, and we successfully returned the car to the rental car garage in the city. I’ve driven in England, Scotland and France, and have even successfully navigated the most dangerous roundabout in the world encircling the Arch de Triumph in Paris, and I have to say that Florence is one of the worst driving experiences of my life.

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Announcement: Upcoming GSB Tour

I am formally announcing our upcoming GSB tour which will take place later this summer. This tour has been scheduled before, but the pandemic caused us to cancel the last two years. So, anticipation has reached a fevered pitch.

The destination: Italy. Specifically three cities: Rome, Florence, and Ravenna. As always, we will focus on the the Christian history in each city and the contribution of those events to the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth.

In Rome we will have a day devoted to the Apostle Paul and another to Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, both personal heroes of mine. We will descend into the Christian catacombs and explore the remains of the capital of the empire where the Gates of Hades did not prevail against the Church.

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Movie Review: Red Notice

The Wife and I watched the movie, Red Notice, tonight. It’s not going to win any Academy Awards, but within the genre of brain candy, it was entertaining enough. What inspired this post was not the movie per se but a scene that is representative of a trend becoming more apparent in movies today. It’s a trend too silly to take seriously but not too insignificant to ignore.

The movie stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot as . . . (spoiler alert) . . . three art thieves in search of a 2,000 year-old decorative egg that Marc Antony (the Roman not the singer) gave Cleopatra and was later was lost to history. I long ago grew bored with thinly veiled plots designed to support two-hour chase scenes. But this movie’s action scenes, twists, and turns, succeeded in holding my interest, even if it didn’t engage my intellect.

What I found most interesting though was one scene in which Gadot physically defeats the 6′ 5″ 260 lb Johnson and 6′ 2″ 190 lb Reynolds in a knock-down drag-out. Now, of course, Hollywood tried to made it all look realistic enough so viewers don’t call “B—S—“. But I am more interested in the message than the creative sleight-of-hand.

I get that most of the chase scenes and stunts portrayed in movies aren’t really possible. They stretch the possible while trying not to break it, knowing that excitement camps out on the border between reality and our imagination. Got it. But there was an obvious message in this scene, and it’s the effort to eradicate gender inequality by suggesting this woman could physically overpower these two men.

As I said, it’s silly. And when it’s exposed for what it is, even the most progressive, gender sensitive, post-modern will admit it’s silly. It is significant though because it shows where the gender-confusion of our generation is headed. In short, if we fail to recognize gender differences, we will be led into the land of make-believe, and we will all become fools.

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Colonial Slaveholders, Nazi Lutherans, and Modern Evangelicals

The church has made some terrible choices throughout history for which it has paid dearly. American Christians choosing economics (slavery) over human rights, and the German Lutheran church choosing to elevate nationalism (Hitler) over the Word of God are two examples.

To us, in retrospect, it borders on the ridiculous. How could anyone who calls themselves a Christian support enslaving human beings on the basis of their race? How could anyone who claimed to be a follower of Jesus agree to adopt the Aryan Paragraph, prohibiting anyone of Jewish descent from serving as a pastor of a church?

These choices were not without cost historically, even apart from the obvious and immediate suffering of the victims of such policies. In Germany the church is still paying the price for its poor choice with its loss of credibility, and in America, we are still grappling with the curse of racism 150 years after the end of slavery. A curse does not alight without a cause (Proverbs 26:2), and when the group that is supposed to be the moral light for a nation and in communion with God endorses the systematic dehumanization and enslavement of an entire race of people, there is no shortage of cause for curse.

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Rating the Evangelical Church’s Pandemic Performance

Over the last 18 months, I have become a student of plagues, partly out of curiosity and partly out of necessity because of my job as an employment lawyer.

I had previously read John Kelly’s The Great Mortality, about the Bubonic plague of 1347-1351, which ravaged Europe, killing as many as 30% of the population. It was a book I could not put down. Then, when the pandemic really began in full force in March 2020, I read John Barry’s, The Great Influenza, a book about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic in the United States, probably the pandemic most similar to the one we are currently experiencing.

In addition, since the pandemic began, I have studied the Plague of Cyprian and the Plague of Justinian. My interest in studying plagues was not just to put the current pandemic in perspective but to determine how the Church has responded in the past for guidance on how it should respond in the present. I hold up the Church’s response to the Plague of Cyprian as the standard.

The Plague of Cyprian lasted nearly twenty years but was most deadly 249 A.D. – 262 A.D. It is so named because of a famous letter written by Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, describing the plague and the Church’s response to it. Cyprian noted that the plague was so contagious many believed it was passed by “corrupted air.” The symptoms of those infected were grizzly, and I wont repeat them here.

Cyprian noted that Christians’ mortality was no different than the pagans, but what was different was that while many pagans fled the cities, Christians stayed and cared for the sick at risk to their own lives. As a result of their selflessness, the church experienced great growth when the pandemic ended because the pagans wanted to know about the God who could inspire people to such selflessness.

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