15 March 2003
Editor's Note: In honor of the Ides of March, Progressive Theology has scheduled a round-table discussion with Julius Caesar and several other notables with the initials J.C. The discussion is hosted by none other than P.T.'s own J.C., Jan Celeritous.
Jan Celeritous (Progressive Theology): Let's begin our discussion with a question about an Ides of March in 44 B.C. What was going through your mind that day, Julius?
Julius Caesar (Stabbed in Back): I came, I saw, I conquered.
JC(PT): Yes, but what else?
JC(SIB): Never turn your back on a politician.
JC(PT): Sage advice, certainly.
JC(SIB): I mean, I'm no politico, I'm just a simple country general. I led the Roman troops to victory in battle after battle, and that's a lot more than certain namby-pamby politicians of this day and time can claim. In light of all my accomplishments, why wouldn't the people be willing to give up a few civil liberties and appoint me emperor? What did I do to deserve getting stabbed in the back like this?
Johnny Cochrane (Lawyer for O.J.): (Excitedly) Excuse me! Excuse me! You were allegedly stabbed in the back, and my clients Brutus and Cassius had nothing to do with it. They were across town waiting on a delivery of potting soil. Cato can vouch for them.
JC(SIB): And just why should anyone believe Cato? Everyone knows that he led the opposition to my growing popularity among the people. I even published a famous speech concerning him, Anticato. Of course he's going to lie and give those vicious murderers an alibi--he hated me!
JC(LOJ): But Cato is an honorable man. . . .
JC(SIB): (Sarcastically) Yeah, that's what they said about Brutus, too. And besides all that, Cato died a couple of years before I did! A dead man doesn't make much of a witness.
JC(PT): But you're dead, too, Caesar.
JC(SIB): Et tu, Jan?
JC(LOJ): (In a frenzy) IF IT DOESN'T FIT, YOU MUST ACQUIT!
JC(PT): Now, now, there's no need to get into a huff. Let's change the subject. Caesar, you'll be interested to know that students to this day still read your works The Civil War and The Gallic War in Latin class, and even in military school. You're considered something of a literary as well as a military genius.
JC(SIB): (Blushing)) Aw, shucks.
Julius Cruncher (Tale of Two Cities): Literary genius my arse! He's nothin' compared to Charles Dickens, the man what created my character. Even though I only had a minor role in A Tale of Two Cities, it was important. I was a Resurrection Man!
JC(SIB): (Puzzled) What exactly is a Resurrection Man?
JC(TTC): 'At's a little title we gravediggers like to give ourselves.
JC(SIB): Gravediggers? What's that got to do with the price of beans in China?
JC(TTC): (Annoyed) Nothin'! My point is that I knew Charles Dickens; I was a friend of Charles Dickens. And you, sir, are no Charles Dickens!
JC(SIB): (Incredulous, turning to Jan) Who is this twit?
JC(TTC): (Undaunted) I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
JC(LOJ): (Under his breath) Or to dig him up. (Louder) Gravedigger, eh? Do you have legal representation?
JC(SIB): Funny, you don't look Canadian. . . .
Jean Chretien (Canadian Prime Minister): What's that supposed to mean? Is that a slap at Canadians?
JC(PT): I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it. Canadians are the U.S.'s primary trading partner, and a valuable ally. I don't want anything that's said to give the impression anyone here today thinks that Canadians are anything but partners, albeit junior partners, on this great North American continent.
JC(CPM): Junior partners?! We may not have as many people as the U.S., but we're in no way inferior to you. Our ideas matter, and they're much more in sync with world opinion. Only a moron would think otherwise!
JC(PT): There's no need for name-calling. I was just pointing out the obvious economic and military superiority of the U.S., plus the fact that Canada provided a haven for draft dodgers during the Vietnam War. Do you plan to do the same when we go to war with Iraq?
JC(CPM): If people come to our borders seeking refuge from tyranny, we'll certainly let them in, whether they're from the Middle East or the U.S.
John Candy (Comedian in Canadian Bacon): You see, I told you we couldn't trust the Canadians! Let's attack them before they attack us!
JC(SIB): What's your military strategy? I have a few suggestions based on my years fighting the Germanic hordes in northern Gaul.
JC(PT): Before this gets out of hand, let's set a few things straight. The Canadians are our allies, even if they're at heart a bunch of liberal panty-waists. But what can you expect--after all, they're led by a Frenchie.
JC(CPM): I'm French-Canadian, not French, but I'd be proud to be French, the one nation that's standing against the worldwide hegemony of the United States.
JC(SIB): (Mockingly) "Worldwide hegemony"--those are big words for such a little twerp.
Jacques Cousteau (Captain of the Calypso): Naturally you'd side with the bullies of the world today, since you were one yourself in real life. The French are America's oldest and most reliable allies. Without our help, you never would have defeated the British in your Revolutionary War. We sold you so much land in 1803 that you doubled the size of your country. We gave you the Statue of Liberty. When our country was invaded by the best-equipped army in the world in 1939, we held them off for as long as we could, then we successfully fought a guerilla war for years. The U.S. wouldn't even have gotten in the war if they hadn't been attacked by the Japanese. Don't forget, too, that the Soviet army fought the main force of the German army for years, so if any one country defeated the Nazis, it was Russia, not the U.S. Besides all that, the French would rather be leaders in peace than leaders in war.
JC(PT): Before this "discussion" degenerates any further, I'd like to turn to one of our panelists who hasn't said anything yet, that great philosopher and changer of lives, Jesus Christ.
JC(TTC): The original Resurrection Man!
Jesus Christ (Prince of Peace): I'm no philosopher, and as for changing lives, well, as I said before, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven." My followers know the way of peace, and they seek to wage peace, not war.
JC(SIB): (Rolling his eyes) Wage peace, not war! Yeah, that'll work!
JC(PT): Actually, it has worked. Christianity started off as a minority religion in the corner of the Roman empire, and within less than three centuries, it had captured the Roman empire itself.
JC(SIB): Is that so? If peace works so well, why did my successor Constantine, the one who legalized Christianity, spend so much time fighting his enemies? He even fought in the name and under the sign of the cross! It doesn't sound like Christianity is a very peaceful religion. So what's wrong with a nation today claiming to fight its battles in the name of Christ?
JC(PT): Um, well, it's a bit hard to explain. . . .
Julian the Apostate, Caesar: I have to agree with Julius Caesar. I told everyone that Christianity was a bad idea. I even tried to turn back the clock and restore good ol' Roman paganism as the official religion of the empire, but would anyone listen to me? No-o-o-o-o!
JC(PT): (Looking for the security guards) Hey! Who let this guy in? He's not on the guest list--he's a JA, not a JC!
J(A)C: Listen, stupid, "Apostate" isn't really part of my name. It's a label that was added after my death by those who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire again. Christians are all a bunch of phonies! It was my own cousin, the "Christian" emperor, who murdered my father and my brother so they wouldn't be a threat to his throne. He was the son of Constantine, that paragon of Christian virtue! Christianity for Constantine and his descendants was nothing more than a sham, a way of ingratiating themselves to their followers. If you look at the actions of Constantine, or Constantius, or any of the rest, you'll see that they wore their Christianity like a badge, but it didn't change their lives. I tried to turn the empire away from the brink, back to its Greek philosophical roots, and if I hadn't been killed in battle, I would have done so!
JC(PT): I guess the fact that you died young proves you weren't doing God's will, huh?
J(A)C: What are you talking about? What about Josiah? What about Alexander? What about Jesus himself, for God's sake??
JC(PT): An interesting choice of words. (Motioning to the guards) Take him away!
J(A)C: Wait! What are you doing? I have as much right to be here, certainly, as a fictional character (glaring at Julius Cruncher). Hey! Let go of me! I have a right to speak, I have a right . . . (his voice diminishes as he's dragged away by security guards)
JC(PT): (Somewhat rattled) Sorry about that, everybody. I don't know how he got in here.
JC(SIB): (Wistfully) I don't know--I kind of liked the guy.
JC(CC): You would!
JC(PT): I'd like to bring this discussion to a close by asking Jesus to share with us his view on whether Christianity, or any world religion, could have gotten anywhere with a purely pacifist message. It's all well and good to preach peace when you don't have any power to wield, but once you have power, don't you have the right, even the obligation, to exercise that power? Isn't it a case of use it or lose it?
JC(POP): Well, Jan, . . . .
John Chrysostom (Golden Mouth): Forgive me for interrupting, but as bishop of Constantinople a generation after the disastrous rule of that infidel Julian, and as one of the greatest theologians in the history of the church (and certainly the greatest preacher), I believe I have a unique perspective on the question you're raising.
JC(PT): (Glancing sideways at Jesus, who has closed his mouth and appears to be listening intently) Well, . . . OK, go ahead.
JC(GM): Now, I'm not a man of few words, but the reason I say so much is that I have so much to say. You see, it's like this. God puts some people in power so that they can change the destiny of the world. I'm just such a person. I'm known for speaking my mind and not caring who gets hurt. I've compared the Empress with both Jezebel and Herodias, and I've lived to tell about it! I have a tremendous love in my heart for people, and that's why I spend so much time condemning those who don't see things the way I do. Whether it's those God-killing Jews, or those no-good Quartodecimans who celebrate Easter on the wrong day, or even my fellow bishops who are all out to get me, I was given power to use it to defend the truth! That's right, the truth! I know truth when I see it, and especially when I say it! If I were alive today, I'd be a televangelist. And I'd sell bumper stickers with my theological thoughts printed on them. And anyone who didn't honk to prove that they loved Jesus, well, I'd consign them to the outer darkness!
JC(PT): Isn't that a little harsh? I mean, do you really think that God put you in a position of power just to crush your enemies and those you disagree with?
JC(GM): Of course! No one would have power unless God gave it to him (notice I don't say her--women are so unworthy!), and he expects us to use it to promote his kingdom. We must root out evil wherever it exists. There is no room for compromise with apostasy!
JC(PMC): (Under his breath) Sounds like someone else I know!
JC(PT): So what you're saying is that it's the epitome of Christianity to wield power mercilessly?
JC(GM): Yes, but only for a just cause.
JC(PT): And who decides what cause is just?
JC(GM): The person with power, of course. Boy, you just don't get it!
JC(PT): I guess I don't. I've always thought of Christianity as a religion that promoted love and peace, not war and fighting.
JC(GM): Sometimes war and fighting are necessary to bring about love and peace. When there are problems in the world, my motto is, "Let the righteous rule." As I've said before, if you've got the power, use it. And before I forget, I'd like to flog my good friend Jim Carrey's new movie, Bruce Almighty, where Jim plays a character who gets to be God for a day. Does he use the power? You'd better believe it. Oh, if only I'd had that chance. . . .
Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty): Smokin'!
JC(PT): Wrong movie.
JC(SIB): I hate to agree with Blabber Mouth here . . . .
JC(GM): That's Golden Mouth.
JC(SIB): Whatever. Like I was saying, I hate to agree with "Golden Mouth" here, but he's got a point. Power is meant to be used. Otherwise, what's the point?
JC(POP): I agree: power is meant to be used.
JC(PT): You mean you agree with Blabber . . . I mean Golden Mouth??
JC(POP): Not entirely, but I do think power should be used by those who have it. But it shouldn't be used to punish one's enemies, or to promote one's friends, much less oneself. Power should be used to help those who need it the most. You know, "Unto the least of my brethren." And power doesn't just come from the barrel of a gun. Love and peace are powerful tools. My followers spread it throughout the world before Constantine ever came on the scene. They did it by living exemplary lives. Even their enemies had to admit how much they loved each other. And look at the power of peace exemplified in the lives of people like Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, and Mother Theresa. One stared down the British Empire, one centuries of prejudice and hatred, and one poverty and apathy. These people are household names today, and they were men and women of peace. I'm proud to be known as the Prince of Peace. I just wish my followers remembered that I challenged them, too, to be peacemakers.
JC(GM): Who is this imposter? I was the official interpreter of Christianity in all of the Eastern Empire, and I never taught that kind of rubbish. I spoke hard words, and the people loved me for it.
JC(PT): Actually, running your mouth was what got you deposed after only six years in office.
JC(GM): Lies! All lies! (The guards return to drag the Golden Mouth, kicking and screaming, from the stage)
JC(PT): Well, Caesar, our time is up, so we'll give you the last word.
JC(SIB): Beware the Ides of March!
JC(PT): Well said. Thanks everyone!
PT would like to thank the participants in today's discussion, Julius Caesar, Johnny Cochrane, Julius Cruncher, Jean Chretien, John Candy, Jacques Cousteau, Jesus Christ, Julian the Apostate, and John Chrysostom, and our moderator, Jan Celeritous. All views expressed are those of the panelists and do not reflect the views of Progressive Theology, its editors, or its staff.
© Copyright 2003, Progressive Theology