Now if it had been a Christian, I could understand it. Some seem very unwilling to learn about anything which happened before their Saviour came to Earth and to them the Old Testament is a bit harsh and cruel. Oddly this is a Rabbi showing little real understanding of historical events. On MSNBC there is an article by Rabbi Marc Gellman (hat tip – Pharyngula) titled “In God’s Image” with a tagline of “The death of Captain America and the movie â€˜300â€™ raise questions about the duty of the truly religious to protect freedomâ€”even with their lives.“
Blimey. Talk about reaching out for straws…
After an intro about the enlightenment and the problems with fascism, communism and jihadism, the Rabbi writes:
This same conflict lies behind the comic-book death of Captain America and the cinematic death of Leonides in the movie â€œ300.â€ The Spartan Greeks, led by Leonides, could have chosen to live under the rule of Xerxes and the Persian Empire. They could have traded their imperiled freedom for a secure life of slavery. The choice of Leonides and the 300 Spartans to die in a doomed but heroic battle is the clear choice of those who believe that nothingâ€”no faith, no material wealth, nothingâ€”justifies the surrender of freedom to tyranny.
Strangely, I agree with his last sentence. Nothing, especially no faith, justifies the surrender of freedom to tyranny. I suspect the Rabbi and I have a different idea of how that is interpreted in the real world though but that is a whole different matter…
Often ignored is that, in addition to the 300 Spartans (Leonidas’ royal guards) there were 700 Thespians (from Thespiae) at the final battle. I am sure, as they were largely a “subject” city at the time, their freedom didn’t matter much though… Further on, the article continues:
Neither Leonides nor Captain America were religious, but both of them stood for that part of the religious world that believes in a God who fights for freedom.
Wow. While I can not comment on Captain America (he is a comic book character and not a real person!), I think it is reasonable to assume Leonidas was a very religious person. Maybe the fact it wasn’t Judeo-Christianity so it doesn’t count? Spartans always sought guidance from their Gods before pretty much anything (sports, war, trade etc) and part of the problem at Thermopylae was “ill omens” from the High Priests. However the nonsense, continues:
They both stood for the proposition that freedom is the foundation of all meaningful life. Religiously speaking, this is the belief that God gave freedom to all people made in His image, and that those who oppose freedom must be prepared to fight God.
Wow (again). The Spartans (remember Captain America is not real) were certainly NOT supporters of freedom – even by their contemporary standards. They were a military dictatorship in almost every sense. All citizens were geared for war and this was built on a bedrock of slave labour. Even the other Greek states (with their own slaves) thought the Spartans were oppressive. One of the reasons the Persian kept attacking Greece was the poor Greeks spent most of their time trying to stop the Spartans enslaving them.
The piece closes with:
Embracing the need to spiritually justify the fight for world freedom carries its own perils. Chief among these dangers is what we now see in the world of Islamic fascism: the use of religion to extol death and tyranny. The biblical name for this is idolatry, and the seductions of idolatry are hard for some to resist. In the end, though, the spiritual truth of freedom’s cause is eventually clear to all.
Leonides and Captain America were heroes not because they entered the field of battle with a shield of Vibranium or were in possession of abs of steel, but because they entered battle with a spiritually authentic idea: that God is free and we are made in God’s image to be free as well. We were not placed on planet earth to avoid death. We were placed here so that we could avoid surrendering our God-given freedom to tyrants.
Well again we hit an little dichotomy. Generally when people say things like “it is clear to all” or “every one can see” and my favourite “it is obvious”, the point being made is nonsense. Here, I think this is still valid. While I strongly agree the we should never surrender our Freedom to Tyrants (nothing to do with who gave us our freedom – that in itself implies tyranny but this is a whole new post..), I think the rest of it is nonsense. Leonidas was not a hero, and Captain America is not a real person so cant really be heroic.
The tyranny of religion is not limited to Islamic fascism – although that is the most overt form. Read the blogosphere about how gay people should be punished for an example of how otherwise moderate people are happy to subject others to religious tyranny. But I suppose that is ok though, cos it is a “good” religion…
(p.s. It is interesting how many sites / blogs (rightwingers) seem to see Thermopylae as a parallel to the west vs Iran/Iraq type thing. Dangerous comparison to be making… Why do the religious RIGHT get so confused when it comes to the media – remember March of the Penguins? Can’t they just accept a film is a film. It is there for entertainment. Study the reality if you want to draw cultural parallels…)