I just finished reading an excellent biography of Cato, not Inspector Clouseau’s Cato but Rome’s Marcus Porcius Cato a/k/a Cato the Younger (95 B.C. – 46 B.C.). Cato was known for his integrity in a time of intense political corruption and polarization in Rome that ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Republic when Caesar declared himself dictator for life in 44 B.C..
Cato stood against both political parties, the populares (Democrats) and the optimates (Republicans), in favor of the Republic and doing what was right. As a result, Cato was highly respected, and sometimes also despised, by both sides. That is the price of speaking the truth. Even the 1st century Christians held Cato up as an example of integrity in the midst of corruption.
The current U.S. political climate bears similarities to the Rome of Cato’s time. Political opponents today are demonized. There is no rational discussion by which consensus is reached. There is no middle ground. The reason for the polarization is that people are being brainwashed by the media. But before my friends on the right say, “Amen,” read on, because for polarization to occur there must be two poles, not one.
As we brace for the battle that is sure to come as vaccination becomes available to the general population, I thought some Kingdom history might provide perspective on the issue.
Small pox epidemics had occurred approximately every 12 years in New England in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Smallpox was a merciless killer and disfigurer, particularly of children. In the early 1700s the disease missed a cycle but then appeared again in Boston in 1721. This time, however, there was a man, a learned man, a learned, Kingdom man named Cotton Mather.
Mather was a polymath. He was the youngest student ever accepted at Harvard (11 1/2 years old). He published over 350 titles during his lifetime on subjects as diverse as the Bible, history, medicine, politics, and the demonic. He could write in seven languages. Mather was also the first American to be inducted as a Fellow of the the Royal Society in London, the most famous scientific society in the world. Mather set up schools for Indians and African Americans. He was also a Puritan and minister of the largest church in New England.
I was in a relatively small group of people in September 2016 before the election when a prominent Evangelical leader and author told us God had told him He had raised up Donald Trump to be a Cyrus. I thought his remarks inappropriate before a group who had assembled to hear about the kingdom of God, and I expressed my concerns to the host of the meeting, whom I deeply respect. We both said something to the effect of “Well, we will see.”
I have been an admirer of Cyrus the Great as a leader, not only because of the Biblical account but also because of Xenophon’s biography and Herodotus’s history, all of which describe a good, generous, and magnanimous ruler. I even named my Persian cat after Cyrus.
Here’s where we ended up with Trump in the final year of his presidency: (i) an out-of-control pandemic that while not his fault has to date killed 450,000 Americans (25% of those who have died worldwide) and was made worse because of Trump’s politicization of the issue; (ii) a racial uprising and riots like we have not seen since the late 1960s, not only because of a video of police killing black Americans but because of Trump’s pandering to white nationalists; and (iii) an insurrection which I doubt was intended by Trump but am convinced was caused by him.
Even if one accepts the Trump spin on all three of these crises, any one of them is sufficient to stain any president’s four year term; Trump had them all in one year. He is now the only American President to be impeached twice. Members of his own party have voted for his impeachment, and judges appointed by him have voted against his lawsuits alleging a fraudulent election. Was Donald Trump a Cyrus, or is there another Biblical character who Trump more closely resembles?
Yes….an insurrection. A Republican insurrection. Republicans Gone Wild. Republicans breaking and entering, forcibly taking over a government building, and injuring 50 police officers.
When it was Black Lives Matters marching and violence erupted, the Right wanted to label BLM a domestic terrorist group. Now the Left wants to label these Trumper Republicans domestic terrorists.
Much has been written about terrorism in the last twenty years, but I think there is a general consensus among those who study the subject that what usually gives rise to terrorism, whether of the foreign or domestic sort, is the feeling of powerlessness, that there is nothing else that can be done to be heard or bring about change. It is the last resort of the disenfranchised. I offer that by way of explanation not excuse. I have written here before about why resort to violence is neither wise nor justified.
The BLM movement arose because of 400 years of systematic and cultural disenfranchisement of black Americans, culminating this year in some very public killings of black Americans by law enforcement officers. Black Americans were justifiably angry over a history of racism and systemic discrimination and some decided during marches that marching was not enough.
On Wednesday, Trump Republicans gathered in Washington D.C. feeling they had been disenfranchised by an election they believe was fraudulent. Incited by President Trump to march on the Capital, once there many decided that peacefully protesting was not enough and broke in, occupied, and trashed the Capital.
I’ve just finished two biographies on Cotton Mather and purchased a third.
Cotton Mather is likely one of the greatest men you’ve never heard of, or if you have heard of him he is probably one of the worst men you never heard of.
If you have heard of Cotton Mather (1663-1728) you have probably heard him portrayed as the instigator behind the Salem witch trials, which means you have really never heard of him. But such false and defamatory portrayals draw clicks on the internet around Halloween, so the characterization remains.
Mather was a Puritan. He was a pastor, a prolific writer, as well as a scientist who first promoted inoculation in America to prevent smallpox. Mather’s writings and influence helped lay the groundwork for the Great Awakening, America’s first great revival.
But to the point of this post, Mather was also a husband and father, and his first two wives died young. The first, Abigail, died following giving birth, and the second, Elizabeth, died of the measles, along with two of their new born twins. Another son was born without an anus, and all Cotton and his wife could do was watch him die. Mather had fifteen children, but only two would outlive him. In other words, Cotton Mather would bury thirteen of his fifteen children.