Unless you’ve been under a rock the last few years, or haven’t followed any form of media whatsoever, then you probably have at least heard the name of Micheal Vick—an NFL star player who was convicted for dog fighting. Ring a bell now?
This little tirade is not about all that stuff . . . however, keep that little nugget in the back of your mind because it indirectly relates to the followig soapbox bluster.
There is an organization named the Southeastern Virginia Arts Association (SEVAA). These folks have publicly stated they are holding a fundraiser to (and here’s where the fun begins!) “honor” Michael Vick. Is that great or what! But wait, it gets better!
They are honoring him because they feel he epitomizes the word “hero.”
A Quick Digression
In a post I wrote just over two years ago (If We Could Be Super) I stated the following:
We love our heroes because they showcase all that’s good about ourselves. I believe the majority of us are innately good and we want to believe in the ultimate good of humanity.
A few months later I posted Of Admiration & Noble Qualities, in which I elaborated upon ‘heroism’ as a construct:
When you read or hear the word hero the immediate thing that likely comes to mind is probably the hero of comic book or movie variety: Superman, Batman, Capt. Jack Sparrow, Robin Hood, Luke Skywalker, etc. . . . But true heroes are not those who punch, shoot, pummel, vaporize or otherwise vanquish their enemies in the name of fulfilling a storyline. They are genuinely men and women of profound moral convictions.
The main gist of the post was to draw the defining line between ‘hero’ and ‘idol’. I made the assertion that heroes are people to admire, people of noble qualities.
Please take a moment and absorb that. Or better yet, take a few minutes and revisit those two posts. I’ll wait . . .
Back To Our Evolving Rant
If you read my blog then I take a measure of comfort in the idea that I don’t need to completely flesh out the subtext for you. I can sum it up in a tidy little statement and move along—the SEVAA is going to honor a convicted dog killer.
Okay, I purposely embellished that a little bit . . . sorta.
Michael Vick did do his time. He completed his sentence as the law dictated. By most accounts he is genuinely remorseful for what he did and is truly working to put it behind him. I give him credit for that. He played very well for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, and the NFL awarded him Comeback of the Year. He actually had to earn his spot on the team when he returned from prison, it wasn’t handed to him. I’m not defending him, just setting the facts out there in the interest of fairness.
As I said, the Vick conviction/past is not the underlying story here. A mere three words bridge the preceding story and the one to come: honor and convicted felon.
This is a good point to introduce you to SEVAA president Michael Muhammad. What Mr. Muhammad lacks in knowledge he more than makes up for in chutzpah, good ol’ big-time American balls. You see, the SEVAA are intensely proud of their fundraiser and its namesake. In a press release, the group says it chose Vick because of his “resilience in overcoming obstacles” and becoming “a true example of life success for all to emulate.”
[imagine your favorite cricket chirp here — make it two, to heighten (or dull) the drama]
Clearly they left out the part that tells the story of how Vick’s circumstances were not something life dealt to him; they were a choice he made and paid the price for. The “obstacle” was of his own doing. But I guess that’s the fast track to heroism these days.
And This One Time, At Band Camp . . .
Surely, if you have any sense of my tendency for wordiness you realize I haven’t arrived at the true sticking point yet. A car won’t overheat until it gets good and warmed up, right? It doesn’t blow right away; Yellowstone’s Old Faithful even takes a while to build up pressure before unloading.
Mr. Muhammad must have been poked a few times with the media stick because he felt compelled to justify his organization’s honoree selection as follows:
People talk about Michael Vick as a convicted felon, well so was Jesus Christ, yet he was able to do things above and beyond the naysayers to the point that we all recognize him today as Lord and Savior.
Forget that the structure of that sentence is mangled to the point of roadkill. That’s the least of my annoyances. Allow me to go to the opposite extreme and say that I’m not all uppity about a reference to Jesus. For Christ’s sake, John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and they made out alright.
The Honorable President Michael Muhammad gets this so very wrong from a factual, and empirical, perspective. That really punches my card. But the real kick to the groin is yet to come. Let’s cover a little history here, shall we?
Through The Hostile Sands Of Time
Around 5-6 A.D. a delegation was sent to Caesar Augustus in Rome fervently requesting that Rome annex Judea to the empire. Judea had long been under Rome’s domination, but it wasn’t officially part of the empire. Judea was a critical piece of Middle Eastern real estate as it sat smack dab between Syria and Egypt. A burgeoning Roman empire meant lots of soldiers and citizens to feed, and with three grain crops a year coming out of Egypt the mighty Augustus couldn’t afford to let Persia (modern day Iran) muck things up by conquering Judea. So he annexed it.
What followed, as part of the annexation process, was a census. This is where Joseph and Mary come into the picture. You all know this part of the story.
Around 35-36 A.D. a man name Pontius Pilate was made provincial governor of the region. As is customary during the week of Passover he traveled into Jerusalem with a small contigent of Roman soldiers to make sure the various ethnic factions didn’t get out of control. He was just about done for the week when the Sanhedrin showed up demanding that Pilate take mortal action against Jesus.
Yoo hoo, Mr. Muhammad . . . I understand what you are trying to achieve here, but you’re completely wrong in referring to Jesus as a convicted felon. Get your damn facts right, lest you earn the ever-popular Have-A-Cup badge of Honor—’cause I know you’re really into the whole ‘honor’ thing.
I’ll help you out here, since apparently nobody in your group grasps the biblical enormity of your stupidity: Pilate himself tells the crowd that Jesus had commited no crime whatsoever under Roman law, and since the locals are the ones who asked to be placed under Roman law then Jesus was clearly innocent. Pilate requests to be shown proof that the man had broken the law. I won’t keep you in suspense: no proof was given.
Fact 1: Under Roman law, Jesus Christ had broken no law, given not the least offense. Ergo, he was definitively not a felon.
The Sanhedrin tried pulling the blasephemy card—they had met amongst themselves and declared him guilty of such charges. Again, Pilate reminded them that blasephemy was not a crime under Roman law. The council insisted that they could not put him to death themselves, only Rome could. For the Jewish people to do so would be to commit murder, which would violate Roman law.
Fact 2: Even Jesus hates the Yankees!. Woops . . . how did that get in there. What I meant to say was even though Jesus wasn’t a Roman citizen he had certain individual protections under its laws.
Someone in the crowd yells “He goes around calling himself King of the Jews!” The Sanhedrin nod and pat one another on the back, telling Pilate this is treason, which is an act punishable by death under Roman law. They threaten to notify Caesar Tiberius of Pilate’s refusal to mete out proper punishment on treason charges if he didn’t comply with their demands.
Understand that Tiberius has been likened to Joseph Stalin based on his level of paranoia of those around him. Tiberius would swiftly execute any governor who was weak on treason. So Pilate was sensibly concerned. But he remained absolutely convinced of Jesus’ innocence. He sent one of his staff off to find a loophole, something he could use to get himself and Jesus off the hook.
Fact 3: Jesus was a teacher. In case you can’t wrap your feeble mind around the concept allow me to clear it up for you: he was a tee-chur. For the record (and future reference) so were Socrate, Budhha, and Confuscious. All teachers, all figures who have had almost incalcuable impacts on the history of mankind. Not a one of them wrote a book, believe it or not. Nor did they play football. Imagine that. Now look at those four names again—those might be better suited to be honored as “heroes.” I’m sure Virginia has a large number of military vets who have served our country who would equally qualify for such honors. But they’re not famous. I get it.
The only thing Jesus did was show up the Pharisees. In their absence he would preach at masses. The difference was that people began to listen to Jesus and even follow him; he had a certain Gallilean je ne sais quois. The more people followed him the more the Sadducees and Pharisees took notice. They viewed him as a political and ecumenical threat to their very existence. Try as they might they couldn’t pin anything truly criminal on him. Best they could do was shoot the moon with the treason charge.
Eventually Pilate’s officer returned with just the loophole he needed; an obscure tradition wherein the governor could pardon one prisoner per year during the feast of Passover. But by this time the crowd had been whipped into a cold-blooded frenzy and clamored for the true convicted felon, Barrabas. Vick wasn’t near the crinimal Barrabas was, I’ll grant you that, Mr. Muhammad.
Fact 4: The Jewish rabble collected before Pontius Pilate unanimously chose Barrabas—the real convicted felon—to be released by Pilate. Pilate never convicted Jesus of any crime. To be sure I am clear I shall repeat myself again: Jesus was not convicted of a crime by Roman authority; he was sacrificed by his own people. That does not satisfy the definition for “convicted felon” Mr. Muhammad.
Pilate had Jesus flogged to try and quell the crowd’s blood lust. It was accepted at the time that forty lashes with a whip would likely be fatal, so Pilate sentenced him to 39 lashes. When Pilate asked Jesus to respond to the charge of treason the bible tells us he asked “Are you the king of the Jews?” Different books give different answers, but Jesus in essence replies “If you say I am.” Pilate desperately wanted to help Jesus, but after the crowd chose to have Barrabas pardoned his hands were tied. The general practice of crucifixion was the only option Pilate had.
The View From 33,000 Dollars
(you thought I was going to say “feet” didn’t you)
What the hell does thirty-three large have to do with any of this? Funny you should ask.
Turns out the good (if not entirely brilliant) folks of the SEVAA held a little soiree, the Afr’am Festival, about a year ago, and hired out police officers and Sheriff’s deputies to provide security. They still owe these gentlemen, you guessed it, $33,000. They’re banking on the $100-a-plate fundraiser to be a huge success so they can pay the officers back. I’m not against holding a fundraiser to pay down your debts. Not at all. But I am completely against the offensive manner in which they approached this one.
The SEVAA invoked (via mouthpiece Muhammad) Jesus in analogy to Vick. As if that weren’t distasteful enough, Rhodes Scholar Muhammad slanders a beloved figure like Jesus Christ, and for what . . . $33,000?
I have publicly stated before my stance on organized religion—it’s not my thing but I understand it works wonders for some people. I’m amazingly comfortable with that. I prefer to carry my faith and belief with me instead of strapping on the dogma and almost draconian constraints of a ruling theological body. Having said that, even I wouldn’t be so stupid as to slight an iconic figure like Christ. You can make fun of most any other iconography you like, from Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny, Charlie Chaplin to Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods to Tony the Tiger, but you don’t mess with figures which have done more to spread a positive message and assist mankind in not eradicating itself over differences of opinion.
Jesus, people . . . think before you say something stupid!
Read Full Post »