Resurrection Day 2005: The Ultimate Sacrifice
"The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations." --George Washington
Christ's Resurrection, appropriately celebrated each year as the dormant season of winter yields to new life in spring, reinforces our belief that life can arise miraculously from the hard darkness of apparent death. This Easter 2005, our nation is still at war, and our warriors are still arrayed against those who would do us harm. Yet we see hopeful signs. Those we have liberated are rising courageously and are determinedly learning the complementary arts of self-government and self-defense.
We acknowledge the sacrifices of our service members who put themselves at risk to protect us in various ways. When in defense of our liberties they lay down their lives in battle, we say they have given the ultimate sacrifice -- and we often honor them with a cross to shelter their graves.
One such memorial stands on a hill overlooking San Diego in Southern California, where a 43-foot cross adorns a 170-acre parcel of land that was dedicated to public use in 1916 as "Mt. Soledad Natural Park." The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association was formed in 1952 with the following mission: "To enhance and preserve the Mt. Soledad Veterans' Memorial honoring those veterans who have served our country during times of conflict and to educate the general public about service to our country and the sacrifices that veterans make to preserve the freedoms we enjoy as Americans."
The redwood cross which first stood at this site was replaced by a wood and stucco cross in 1934, but windstorms took it down in 1952. The War Memorial Cross currently standing atop Mt. Soledad (the third such emplacement there) dates back to 18 April 1954, when the monument was rededicated to World War I, World War II, and Korean War veterans during an Easter Sunday ceremony. Another storm of sort is now threatening to take down that cross, but this one is led by atheist Philip Paulson and his litigators.
Paulson's lawsuits have traversed the courts for a decade and a half. Rebuffed in turn by the courts and by the citizens of San Diego -- who have voted overwhelmingly to maintain the Mt. Soledad War Memorial intact -- Paulson fought on. He finally hit pay dirt when the notorious 9th U.S. Circuit Court reversed en banc an earlier three-judge panel that had upheld as constitutional the sale of the memorial to the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association. On 20 November 2004, Congress passed HR 4818 (P.L. 108-447), which was then signed into law by President Bush. The law includes a provision by San Diego Congressional Reps. Duncan Hunter and Randy Cunningham, which authorizes the federal government to acquire the entire war memorial should the city of San Diego deed over the property.
Two weeks ago, the San Diego City Council voted along party lines to refuse the transfer of the intact memorial to become a national parkland property, thus concluding that they would rather cut down the Cross than preserve the entire war-memorial's integrity.
The citizens of San Diego, in response to this egregious act of the City Council, are circulating a referendary petition for voter signatures, requesting that the March 8th decision be repealed or put to a public vote. More than 30,000 signatures are required within the month.
In challenging activist-atheists who wish to raze all religious symbols from public life (erroneously citing the First Amendment and Thomas Jefferson's "Wall of Separation"), we have often asked, "If you truly believe in atheism, why does any religious symbol, which you take as meaningless, matter at all?" As for the courts that take these cases seriously, we ask the following: On what constitutional basis do atheists have standing to sue? Are atheists granted standing under the view that atheism is a religious faith constitutionally guaranteed free-exercise rights? If so, then what "free exercise" of atheism is hampered by permitting those holding other faiths to practice their beliefs freely in public observances? What acts are required of atheists to remain atheists in good standing, which are restrained by the presence of others engaging in acts consonant with their own religions? Are atheists so weak-minded that the mere propinquity of those of other beliefs causes them to lose their faith?
However, if atheists have standing because atheism is properly understood as a religion, then why is their demand that it be the only officially permissible public practice not itself a constitutionally banned establishment of atheism as the government's official religion? Either godlessness is or isn't a religious faith. To our way of thinking, either atheists cannot legitimately sue on religious liberty grounds, or atheism itself must be as constrained as other faiths. Alas, endless recourse to the courts surely seems to be characteristic of godlessness!
Indeed, that was one lesson from the earliest Christian commemoration of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Jesus was brought before three tribunals, none of which had legitimate cause and jurisdiction to try him, much less convict him of any sentence -- and most especially not a sentence of death. He was first seized in the Garden of Gethsemane and hauled before members of the Sanhedrin at night, without proper procedures under Jewish law.
Jesus was transferred into judicial custody of the Roman rulers under the governor of Judea. He was then sent to King Herod, as Jesus was from Galilee. None of these courts found him guilty under their proper laws. And when Jesus was returned to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, "he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this just Person'." And yet Jesus was crucified.
Historically, recognition of Christ's Resurrection, as with Christ's birth, has coincided with various pagan rites. Scholars variously attribute the name "Easter" to derivation from Eostra (a Scandinavian goddess of dawn or spring) or Ostern (a Teutonic fertility goddess), both pagan figures honored at festivals celebrating the vernal equinox. Eostra is one of many similar names of Euro-Mediterranean pagan goddesses, with the form Ishtar most often associated with the region around the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia. Traditions associated with these festivals include the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and Easter eggs, painted with the bright colors of spring, signifying growth and new life.
The Christian holiday builds on the traditions of the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach (the derivation of Pascha, another name for Easter), celebrating the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.
Victor I (c. 189 - 98) standardized Easter to a Sunday holiday, and in 325 the Council of Nicaea set Easter's date in relation to the paschal moon. The Gregorian calendar correction of 1582 placed Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox, falling between 22 March and 25 April.
Unfortunately, as with Christmas, modern American secularists have endeavored to replace the substance of Resurrection Sunday with hollow commercialism associated with ancient pagan rites, to the ultimate detriment of our liberty. Indeed, our Founding Fathers understood that American liberty is only secure in the context of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Among others, John Adams observed, "Statesmen...may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. ... Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Nevertheless, our country's elite culture and courts grow increasingly hostile to religion and morality, as the protracted fight over the Mt. Soledad War Memorial Cross attests.
The scriptural admonition is always to consider the essential nature of each thing. Jesus queried, "...if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." (Matthew 5:13). And earlier, Israel's King David asked, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3). We may similarly question today, "If the courts have become unjust, how shall justice ever be restored?"
The Mt. Soledad War Memorial has stood as a tribute to the ultimate sacrifice and the Ultimate Sacrifice -- always both. The Cross shelters memorial plaques honoring veterans of many faiths. Its dedication at Easter 1954 demonstrates that Christians revere it as a beloved symbol celebrating belief in eternal life. But if we as a nation are denying ever-greater liberties, how can we claim God's blessings on our land and His continued favor in battle with those who wish to overcome us?
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35-6) ++ "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) ++ "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:10-13) ++ "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?'" (John 11:25-26) ++ "Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?'" (Luke 24:1-5) ++ I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Jesus in Matthew 28:20) ++ "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Jesus in Revelation 22:13)
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, (as is our tradition at Thanksgiving and Christmas) we take leave from the rigors of analyzing contemporaneous news, policy and opinion in order to focus on an eternal message, indeed a Christian message. To our Patriot readers of faiths other than Christianity, we welcome you to read on, and we hope that this edition serves to deepen your understanding of our faith -- the faith of our Founders. To all of our Patriot readers, we wish God's blessing and peace upon you and your families. Please reprint or forward at will.
Lex et Libertas -- Semper Vigilo, Paratus, et Fidelis! Mark Alexander, Publisher, for the editors and staff. (Please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harm's way around the world in defense of our liberty, and for the families awaiting their safe return.)