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At a time when the Republican White House stands in full breech of Jefferson's guarantee of religious freedom (implemented by the now defunct separation of church and state), Mel Gibson's portrayal of "The Passion of Christ" is a reminder of millennial issues in the world of western Christendom. By and large, these issues were successfully dealt with two centuries ago by America's "founding fathers."

We must keep in mind that American Democracy actually has two remarkably different sets of "founding fathers." There were the Revolutionary liberals who rallied around Paine's "Common Sense" and Jefferson's Declaration of human rights (as America's ideological base). Opposed were the religious conservatives (made up largely of pro-British Tories) who had very little interest in any of this new ideology, being more interested in efforts to circumvent a revolution.

Following the Revolutionary War, these people quickly developed a deep and abiding interest in the Constitution (as America's operational policy). As a result, the liberal values of the Declaration were seriously compromised, in Jefferson's absence, by the conservative religious values of former Tories in the name of British capitalism. Denying the vote to women, blacks and non-landowners, the Constitution was seen by Jefferson as an "oligarchic device to deny democracy to the people," and Franklin was driven to the prophetic stance of warning the people that, by abiding a Constitution too far removed from the spirit of the Declaration, they could easily slide back into religious depotism. Welcome to America in the 3rd millennium.

From the viewpoint of Jefferson's natural philosophy, the debate over who killed Jesus is quite lot of nonsense which does nothing but denigrate the Christian message and muddy the waters of human understanding and agreement. Our Deist fathers, in a tradition going back to Spinoza's "higher Bible criticism" and the Christian mystics of the 11th century, made a complete distinction between the values of religion and the values of nascent Christianity, a line of thought which placed God, not "out there," but on the human inside, in the "head and heart" of every person, as Jefferson put it.

In point of fact, the vengeance-based "morality" of the Old Testament and the compassion-based ethical morality of the New Testament have been contradictory, mutually-exclusive moralities from the start, not belonging together in the same book. It was the Roman emperor, Constantine, in the early 4th century, whose will led to the reunification of nascent Christianity with Judaism and Romanism in forming up a new theological platform consistent with advancing Roman imperialism. It was now possible for Rome to do the impossible, implement unprovoked conquest in the name of Christian compassion. JudeoRoman "Christianity" was seen by Jefferson as an oxymoron, to take self-righteousness and choseness to the extreme of adopting bad behavior in the name of good behavior.

Nowhere is the distinction between religious values and Christian values more complete than in "Jefferson's Bible" (a copy of which is provided to every new U.S. Senator upon taking office). The TJV (Thomas Jefferson Version) of western scriptures is entirely devoid of Old Testament content, which Jefferson saw as having perverted Christian values. In the name of those values, the self-righteous attitudes of the JudeoRoman church had driven both imperialism and colonialsm, even as the western church had become more and more factionated and politically-weakened by reforms. Jefferson sought to silence that church politically, in the name of nascent (as taught by the first) Christian values.

In Jefferson's world of natural philosophy,

"the purest system of morals ever before preached to man has been adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power ... and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, so as to constitute the real Anti-Christ."

As a result, Jefferson's Bible (David McKay & Co., NY, 1976) is entirely devoid of superstition and supernaturalism. Jesus the man, as a dialectician and spiritual philosopher, was not against the Jewish or Roman people at all. He was for "the people" and against despotism, absolutism, legalism and penalism, marketplace values and vengeance-based political violence. Furthermore, He had the courage to take this stance in a world in which despotism had been institutionalized as religions (to make the religious and political worlds one).

The moneyhandlers, lenders and lawyers whom the first Christian threw out of the Temple for making it into "a house of mechandise" have, since Constantine, traditionally been in western dominion. Given religion's inability to comprehend nascent Christian values as did America's founding fathers, it ought come as no surprise these same professions still reside at the top of the American political heap and in control of virtually everything "Christian" in America.

It actually matters not at all who killed the Christ. Current evidence would have it that the western world has yet to figure out the actual nature of Christianity, as seen through Jefferson's eyes, anyway. In fact, the Jewish world produced several politically-active advocates of compassion in this dark Biblical era. By taking His message to the people and threatening the seats of government, Jesus spearheaded the political movement for meaningful change. In doing so, His message ultimately established the positive values and would-be objectives of western culture for the next two millennia.

Jesus was not killed by the Jewish people or by the Roman people. The "people" in these worlds have seldom killed anyone, never having been empowered to do so. Most killing is done in the name of things ostensibly larger than "the people." In other words, Jesus was physically killed by cultural despotism in the name of despotic self-preservation as dictated by Roman and Jewish leadership. Even worse, for the next two millennia, Jesus was killed by the very same despotism he taught against, thriving in Constantine's JudeoRoman church. That same religious despotism continues to thrive today, tangibly in Bush administration "policies" and ideologically in the Old Testament core of western culture, wherein nascent Christian values remain a threat.

Mel Gibson's movie is perceived as possibly opening the way for anti-Semitism, insofar as people choose to deal with Christian issues on vengeful, anti-Christian ground. The movie's Director is openly aware that anti-Semitism makes a mockery of Christian values.

At the same time, the movie also opens the way to a renewed American discussion of just what is meant by Christian values and their relationships to the values of both traditional religion and democracy.

As for the relationships between nascent Christianity and JudeoRoman religion, there simply are none, the former being a rejection of both Judaism and Romanism. As for the relationships between nascent Christianity and American Democracy, the Declaration stands as one of the most Christian documents yet written, based as it is on nascent Christian human rights. Jefferson and Franklin saw to that.

Provided deceitful information by "their" government and inadequate analysis by "their" press, the American people remain locked into the " here and now," unable to see the historical and evolutionary significance of their situation. As a result, the American people literally have no idea of the magnitude of the change that is soon upon them, because what is wrong with the western world resides at its very core and goes all the way back to its despotic beginnings, now near their prophetic endings.

The Bush administration abides a neoconservative ideology in which Jerusalem (religion) and Athens (reason) are seen as the central icons of western culture. In Jefferson's eyes, Bethlehem (compassion) and Athens (reason) are seen thusly. In Jefferson's eyes, the way to Christ is to live by His values, not by the values of the church, and certainly not by the values of the church-state.

Dr. Gerry Lower lives in the shadow of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His book, Jefferson's Eyes, can be explored at and he can be reached by clicking his byline above.

We must point out that Jefferson's redaction of the New Testament produced an image of Jesus that is impossible to defend in light of current historical understanding. See, for example, Who Do You Say that I Was?