Fake Indian “rape crisis” driven by Western elite media

Update: My blog post on the bogus nature of UN rape studies:

An Indian “rape crisis” has been evoked in the major media in the wake of the infamous Delhi gang-rape of 2012.

The “rape culture” narrative about India has come to signal the regressive, medieval nature of traditional Indian masculinity.

Palash Ghosh argues that Indian men, who, after 9/11, were conflated with the category “terrorist,” are now being conflated with the category, “rapist.”

Delhi gang-rape trial: A new and negative image for Indian men? Palash Ghosh, Ibntimes.com, Feb 5, 2013

I would suggest that this conflation is intentional and it is typical of the demonization campaigns carried out by the Western state media against countries targeted for intervention, whether that takes the form of bombing or of proxy wars or of NGO psyops.


I would suggest that there is no “rape crisis” in India in need of such international intervention.

There is, however, an over-hyped, UN-backed,  elite-manufactured issue that functions as a site for state intervention.

The ” rape crisis” is actually the creation of  the left-liberal ideology that fronts for the corporate interests of Western elites.

This can be readily deciphered from the media stories about the Delhi gang rape.

The major media (Western elite) coverage of the Delhi rape posited it as typical of the medieval village culture characterizing Delhi, in which no Westernized/modern woman can ever be safe.

In contrast, the truly cosmopolitan cities of the West protect women, ran the elite narrative.

Statistics, of course, do not bear this story out.

Poulami Roychowdhury has argued as much in her lengthy academic analysis of the story:

“The Delhi Gang Rape: The Making of International Causes.”


“CNN likened the assailants to men in other “traditional societies” who “see improvements in the status of women as a challenge to their own” and who use rape as a weapon of power against such advances.”

Roychowdhury shows how the international media created a false narrative of a Westernized, modern woman attacked by traditional, patriarchal, village men.

The truth is both the victim and her assailants were remarkably similar in moving from lower-class agricultural backgrounds into an urban setting.

The international media narrative also ignored the Indian man who attempted to save the victim.

He was also stripped and assaulted.

But the media erased him entirely from public consciousness.


It goes almost without saying that Pandey’s case illustrates the ongoing resilience and appeal of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “white men saving brown women from brown men.”
Spivak’s theory illuminates why Pandey’s male friend, Awindra Pandey, disappeared from the pages of international media while Pandey and her assailants took pride of place in the discussion. Commentators seemed to forget that Awindra was even on the busand was also physically assaulted, stripped naked, and dumped on the side of the road. He disappeared, Firstly, because his body stood outside the economy of international care: white men are not in the business of saving brown men from other brown men
. He also had to disappear because brown men are not typically viewed as allies of brown women.”

Chowdhury also demonstrates how the  emancipated female subject in the third-world  exists in a  narrative that ties her emancipation to her full participation in the neo-liberal economy.

She is described as going to malls and movies on her own, wearing Western clothes and accoutrements.

Meanwhile  the atavism of her male attackers is tied to their lack of integration into that economy.

Neither construction is accurate.

The “rape crisis” was a creation of  radical feminism embedded in the neo-liberal market-place, not an off-shoot of traditional Indian culture.

ITEM A The rape crisis is driven by financial incentives created by misguided, if not malicious, laws put in place by feminist ideologues.

See, “India to pay women big money to cry rape,” False Rape Society, January 8, 2010

It describes the law which has driven the “crisis of rape” now bearing fruition.

” It [India] has decreed that every woman who testifies that a male raped her will be handed the equivalent of 4,374.96 US dollars, a not-insignificant sum anywhere, but a huge payday in India.”

[Lila: in terms of Indian salaries, this would be the equivalent of $200,000 in the West, if we use the exchange rate prevalent at the time. Of course, this translation doesn’t account for the differing purchasing powers of the currencies, but $4, 374.96 is nonetheless a very large sum in India.]


The “rape  crisis” is driven by cultural Marxism

The goal of cultural Marxism is to create morally and biologically neutral “genders” that are fungible and detached from the traditional family structure.

Indeed, it is to construct “gender” so that it is inimical to family life.

In that regard, it’s notable that the man behind many of the protests following the Delhi gang-rape case was a left-wing radical.


He was a communist radical from the hot-bed of left-wing ideology, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The protests following the rapes were also organized mainly by left-wing radicals.

Many of the protests turned violent, injuring nearly 150 people.


“The protests, largely by students, saw hooligan elements mingled in the crowd uproot wooden poles erected for the Jan 26 Republic Day event and set them afire at five places. They upturned vehicles, smashed window panes of buses and other vehicles and also hurled stones and water bottles on policemen in response to tear gas and baton attacks to prevent protesters from marching towards Raisina Hills, where prohibitory orders were put in place.”

Pictures of the protests were circulated world-wide, bringing even the UN into the picture.

The UN made official pronouncements about a “rape culture” in India.


This led to the usual politically-motivated commentary from the liberal-left spectrum of the Western media.

However, a few conservative/men’s rights blogs didn’t buy the story and correctly diagnosed the “rape crisis” as a concoction of left-feminist ideological activism.

Similar accusations of an American “rape-culture” have been accurately deconstructed by Dr. Christina Hoff Summers

Researching the “rape-culture” of America,” Christina Hoff Summers, False-rape.net.

Only a year after the Delhi gang-rape case, the JNU communist who was behind the Indian “rape-crisis” agitation was himself accused of rape. He became the subject of the usual  trial-by-media-innuendo-and-womyn’s-assertion.

He killed himself, a victim of the left-anarchist monster he created.

The extremist ideology behind the “rape crisis” is evident in the new unequal laws in India.

In the case of rape:

See “Only men can be booked for rape, Nagendra Sharma, Hindustan Times, March 5, 2013

“Bowing to pressure from women activists, the government has decided to restore the term rape in criminal law that states only men can be booked for committing the offence against women. It has also decided to lower the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years.”

This is not gender-neutrality but gender-privileging.  It means that a female assault of a male, or a male assault of a male, or a male or female assault of a male child, are lesser crimes, to be treated under the separate section in the Indian legal code that pertains to unnatural sexual acts.

But that section does not make the rape of a male a crime against a person. Instead, it treats it as a crime against nature, like voluntary homosexuality.

That means female rapists/molesters of men or children can be guilty of unnatural acts, but not of rape, a most significant perversion of equal justice under the law.

In the case of domestic violence:

A woman can get a restraining order against her husband or boyfriend if he threatens suicide.

Under Indian law, threats of suicide by a man, however, are treated as domestic violence against the woman.

The reverse does not obtain.

If India were really a woman-hating patriarchy, as the feminists proclaim, would such laws pass?

At one men’s rights site, an activist writes:

[Note added: Paul Elam, the founder of the site, “A Voice for Men,” seems to have anger management problems that have led him to make incendiary statements I do not in any way endorse. I also do not support the harassment of feminist activists.]

“We’ve already seen men in that country [India] forced to the back of buses like African-Americans in 1950s America.  We’ve seen them beaten up by members of the public and female police officers alike for accidentally boarding the “female only” carriage of a train.  And now we’re seeing the government actively denying them equal protection under the law in sexual assaults.

Conclusion: What is going on in India is not a rape crisis but a crisis of misandry.

1. “Indian Communist feminist Khurshid Anwar commits suicide after rape allegations, Anil Kumar, A Voice for Men, Dec. 30, 2013.

2.” Woman should be booked for filing fake rape case, says HC,” Urvi Mahajani, DNA India, August 1, 2013

3. “Be vigilant about false rape cases: HC to trial judges,” Harish Nair, Hindustan Times, May 24, 2013

4. “18% rape cases false, study,” Times of India, Dec. 27, 2008

5.  Delhi gang-rape case: Police find discrepancies in victim’s statement,” FirstPost, Jan 28, 2014

6.  Activists: Indian media sensationalized Delhi gang-rape case, Venus Upadhyaya, Epoch Times, October 11, 2013

7. Attributing rapes to unique Indian culture reeks of bias, Gajanan Khergamker, Eurasia Review, March 28, 2013

8. Indian government – men don’t matter, David Cuspis, A Voice for Men, March 29, 2013

9. One in four men in Asia ‘admits to committing rape’? It doesn’t add up, Stuart Brown, The Guardian, Sept 18, 2013.

10. A sad day for male rape victims in India,  Toy Soldiers, March 6, 2013

The CIA, Carl Oglesby, and Business International Corp.


[I should clarify that the article on the site, which is devoted to LaRouche is not from the EIR itself, but from a critic, who has added some more interesting details to the story, in the comment section0.


Just to be clear, my link to the Lyndon LaRouche site (at the bottom) isn’t meant to support the man’s theories.  LaRouche is a Hamiltonian. I am not. He was also involved, allegedly, in cult-like behavior toward followers.

However, LaRouche, as even his strongest critics (like Chip Berlet here) admit, has good research. [ To clarify, the piece is not by LaRouche but by a critic who keeps tabs on his work and thus stores an archive of it.]

Linking to people like LaRouche, Stewart Rhodes of Oath-keepers (whom someone now informs me is considered a neo-Nazi)  is a no-no, apparently, in the PC world.

One is supposed to link only to certified organic, FDA-approved, brand-name thinkers.

On top of that, I just read today that the phrase “Talmudic Jew” is considered “Nazi” language.  Now, I don’t think I’ve ever used it, but I’ve surely written somewhere about Talmudic Judaism.

And to add to my sins, I’ve defended Ayn Rand (not that I am a Randian by any means). But when the media piles on someone,  some instinct in me compels me to rush to their defense.

Dear lord.  We say “Biblical Christian” all the time. And “Shia Muslim.” What about “Vedic Hindu?” Those are fine, aren’t they? Why the difference?

I know I can denounce the “bourgeoisie” as vermin all day long and still be OK. I can even talk about  femi-nazis without a  problem. ….just so long as I approve of Chip Berlet’s employers bombing the right sort of victims.

I give two figs for such puerile nonsense.

Because someone might read the  theories behind Hitler or Mao and try to understand them, it doesn’t follow that they are Nazis or Maoists themselves.

Vegetarianism doesn’t become Nazi become Hitler adopted it.

Hitler, Mao, PolPot…as monstrous as the crimes they enabled might be, they are not qualitatively different from the crimes of the average man.

No untouchables please, whether physically – through legal deprivations of their rights…or intellectually….through ghettoization and demonization.


Carl Oglesby: “Revolutions do not take place in velvet boxes. . . . Nuns will be raped and bureaucrats will be disemboweled.”

Read more at http://politicaloutcast.com/2013/04/violence-and-mayhem-have-long-been-a-tool-of-the-left/#GbpcTScjJoQ0Mycu.99

One of the most respected student leaders of the antiwar movement in the 1960s was Carl Oglesby, who worked with Murray Rothbard, says Charles Burris at Lew Rockwell.

Not being more than a cursory student of this period, I did a little digging.

Here’s what I came up with:

Oglesby was initially a technical writer/editor with a defense contractor called Bendix, before entering politics. He soon rose to the head of  Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the best-known antiwar group.

The SDS was a splinter group from the Student League for Industrial Democracy, which was affiliated with the  National Student Association, formed in 1947.

The NSA was outed in 1966 as a CIA front.

(also here).

This was in an expose in Ramparts Magazine, a Catholic left-wing magazine.

The writers were Robert Scheer and Stanley Scheinbaum, who is described here as a communist activist.

This Catholic writer says Ramparts was a communist front posing as Catholic outlet to better attack the church.

In 2006, I wrote a piece called “Portrait of the CIA as an artist,” about cultural outlets that were set up or operated by the CIA, as the Cold War developed. Among the CIA-funded outfits was the Congress for Cultural Freedom .

All this is well known.

Besides that, several leaders in the antiwar movement, including feminist leader Gloria Steinem, received funding from the CIA.

Again, this is well-known.

New to me was that there was a  meeting set up between the business establishment and the leadership of the SDS. The  outfit involved was something called Business International, which seems to be the same Business International Corporation for which Barack Obama worked.

It’s long been considered an intelligence front.

So, you have a high-security employee of a defense contractor that was working for NASA and was later affiliated with Raytheon, entering an anti-government student movement, quickly becoming its spokesman, and letting the CIA spy on the movement without a qualm,…..but, yo,  it’s all good…

The ex- Bendix employee  suspects the company is an intelligence front trying to co-opt the movement, but that’s a good thing, because there’s an even worse bunch of business interests called “cowboys” that needs to be bested.

So, no problem.

The student movement thereafter develops a violent faction that blows up – literally as well as figuratively –   while from 1968 onward, the whole antiwar “scene” turns into a drug-addled, bead-wearing, orgiastic escape into self-help.

Oglesby worked closely with Murray Rothbard, about whose interactions with suspected CIA-affiliated figures – James Dale Davidson (of Agora Inc.), Robert Kephart, and Noam Chomsky –   I’ve blogged at length.

The Business International connection adds to the list.

Of course, I make no hard and fast claims. I just raise the issue.

Some links:

“Clinton, Quigley, and Conspiracy,” Daniel Brandt (NameBase.org):

“Almost everything that happened to the student movement (Lila: the antiwar protests against US involvement in Vietnam) is best explained without conspiracy theories. There are, however, some bits of curious evidence that should be briefly mentioned. Each of these alone doesn’t amount to much, but taken together they suggest that something more was happening — the possibility that by 1969 a significant sector of the ruling class had decided to buy into the counterculture for purposes of manipulation and control:

  • Student leaders James Kunen[19] and Carl Oglesby[20] both report that in the summer of 1968, the organization Business International, which had links to the CIA, sent high-level representatives to meet with SDS. These people wanted to help organize demonstrations for the upcoming conventions in Chicago and Miami. SDS refused the offer, but the experience convinced Oglesby that the ruling class was at war with itself, and he began developing his Yankee-Cowboy theory.
  • Tom Hayden, who by 1986 was defending his state assembly seat against those trying to oust him because of his anti-war record, was quoted as saying that while he was protesting against the Vietnam War, he was also cooperating with U.S. intelligence agents.[21]
  • The CIA was of course involved with LSD testing, but there is also evidence that it was later involved in the distribution of LSD within the counterculture.[22]
  • Feminist leader Gloria Steinem[23] and congressman Allard Lowenstein both had major CIA connections. Lowenstein was president of the National Student Association, which was funded by the CIA until exposed by Ramparts magazine in 1967. He and another NSA officer, Sam Brown, were key organizers behind the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium.[24] (In 1977 Brown became the director of ACTION under Jimmy Carter; his activism, which was more intense and more sincere than Clinton’s, didn’t hurt his career either.)
  • Symbionese Liberation Army leader Donald DeFreeze appears to have been conditioned in a behavior modification program sponsored by elements of U.S. intelligence.[25]
  • The CIA has a long history of infiltrating international organizations, from labor to students to religion. I submit that if an anti-war activist was involved in this type of international jet-setting, the burden is on them to show that they were not compromised. Clinton comes close to assuming this burden.

For more on Carl Oglesby’s meeting with Business International (the CIA front):

“Omnisicient Gentlemen of the Atlantic,” Maureen Tcacik at The Baffler, 2012 (Tcacik is an exceptionally talented writer and astute analyst of politics):

“In one of the many surreal chapters of Journey in Faith, Gene [ Lila: Gene Bradley] later attempted to influence—thought-lead?—what he saw as the perilously bereft civic “education” of the student left. The year was 1968, and the official story is that he was researching a Harvard Business Review feature—which he produced, although the research seems to have been rather more intensive than required. Gene describes consulting with the FBI, a connection made via “mutual good friends,” and a deputy of J. Edgar Hoover’s gladly inviting him to take a look at the Bureau’s secret files on the student left; then traveling through Switzerland, Germany, and France “observing” demonstrations (though none are shared in the book or the story); and, finally, most bizarrely, leading a delegation of fellow businessmen in a “debate” with Students for a Democratic Society leader Carl Oglesby—hosted (“with the best of intentions but with a full measure of naiveté,” he writes) by a concern called the Business International Corporation.

It seems likely that the 1968 summit at which Bradley “debated” one-time SDS president Carl Oglesby was the same SDS-BI meeting referenced in James Simon Kunen’s SDS memoir The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary. In the SDS version, the purpose of the meeting is straightforward. Certain unnamed businessmen who portray themselves as “the left wing of the ruling class” are seeking to “buy off some radicals”—purportedly because they’re rooting for Gene McCarthy to win the presidency. The businessmen “see fascism as the threat, see it coming from [segregationist George] Wallace,” Kunen reports. The idea is that heavy protests, which the businessmen offer to finance, will “make Gene [McCarthy] look more reasonable.”

This stated fear and motive seems dubious. Gene, after all, reported in the first chapter of his memoir how effectively he repressed his own fear of fascists. And the only people spooked by Wallace were those powerless enough to intimidate. Whatever the executives wanted from a bunch of college hippies, though, they were willing to both lie about and pay for. It’s all too easy to see in retrospect that lopsided “debates” of this sort had accumulated into a political reality that, for the lifetime of a college kid in 1968 anyway, was inextricable from the concoctions of Cold War propagandists.

Just the year before, the National Student Association, the dominant campus activism network that had spawned SDS, had been outed (along with the CCF enterprises) as a CIA front. It would not be until the late seventies that the bland-sounding sponsor of the Oglesby Bradley forum, Business International, would concede its own dual role as a CIA operation.”

“Ravens or Pigeons: SDS Meets Business International” (From Lyndon Larouche’s archives):

In his monumental history of SDS, Kirkpatrick Sale arguably makes a monumental goof. In his detailed discussion of 1968, he fails to mention one critical incident: the attempt by former SDS president Carl Oglesby to broker an alliance between SDS and the “Eastern Establishment” via Business International (BI), a firm that published sophisticated economic reports and advised top corporations. Sale’s mistake seems especially odd since the debate over Business International inside SDS was hardly a well-kept secret; there was even a long article about BI in New Left Notes.

The SDS-BI talks inspired the discovery of a supposed war between the “Yankee” and “Cowboy” factions of U.S. capitalism. In April 1968, Oglesby wrote a long article in the National Guardian promoting the idea of a deep split in the ruling class between two capitalist factions that he labeled “Yankees and Cowboys.”12 He argued that SDS should align with the Eastern Establishment Yankees, who, he argued, were anti-war, pro-Bobby Kennedy and opposed to newer and meaner factions of U.S. capital centered in the South and Southwest.13 In an August 1974 Ramparts article, Steve Weissman reports that in 1968 there was even a “vague proposal” by the Business International network to do “whatever was possible” to help SDS stage “a massive demonstration against Humphrey” in Chicago and one against Nixon in Miami.14 Weissman then recalled that SDS “refused the offer.”

In his memoir Ravens in the Storm, Oglesby discusses his negotiations with BI president Eldridge Haynes.15 Oglesby recalls that he first met Haynes at the Gotham Hotel in New York in the spring of 1968. As for Haynes:

He was a Harvard man. He had spent much of his career in the Foreign Service but had left government during the Kennedy years to become a consultant to businesses operating in the “frequently turbulent” countries of the Third World. This work had grown into Business International, Inc. CIA, right?16

The next day Oglesby took part in a roundtable presentation about SDS to a select group that included executives from GM, GE, AT&T, IBM, Ford, the AP, and even “a man from the State Department.” Two weeks later, Oglesby helped organize another dialog between BI clients and half a dozen SDSers from Columbia and CCNY. . . . SDS groups without me continued these meetings, sitting down with BI people four times that spring. . . . Haynes and I kept meeting. A little later that same spring, Haynes popped the big question. “Suppose Robert Kennedy were to become a presidential candidate. Do you imagine, Carl, that SDS might be inclined to support him?”17

Oglesby then explains:

I must confess, too, that I’d been scared of heavy-metal politics from the beginning . . . My fears of SDS’s leftward inclinations were strengthened by my sense, as of the BI meetings, that an alternative to a politics of rage was within our reach, and that it was essential that we choose it. . . . There was no way for us to achieve our objectives, I thought, without at some point establishing a sotto voce relationship with mainstream grown-ups.18

Clearly Haynes had done his homework and chose his first big SDS contact well.

Oglesby relates a conversation he had with Bernardine Dohrn who, like the vast majority of SDS members, opposed any alliance with BI, “sotto voce” or not. Oglesby says that he told Dohrn that even if “Haynes or the CIA has a secret agenda, I believe it’s not to screw us up but to use us in some way to help make RFK president.”

[Lila: as I believe the CIA – and Ron Paul’s campaign – used the Ron Paul libertarians to make Barack Obama president again.]

Dohrn replied:

Well, it could be both, couldn’t it? . . . You say this BI’s thing is to gather intelligence on Third World countries and sell it to the guys you once denounced as corporate imperialists. I don’t understand you, Carl. It seems like you talk one way and act another.“19

Oglesby remarked that Dohrn “was probably right in assuming that BI and Haynes were tied to Kennedy and very possibly to the CIA. . . . But who cared? As far as I was concerned, the more the CIA knew about SDS, the better. We had nothing to hide!”

Gene Bradley was one of the participants in a BI-sponsored meeting with Oglesby. A Christian Science devotee, Bradley headed up the International Management Association. In a 2012 article for The Baffler, Maureen Tkacik notes that Bradley’s life reads like the history of a “big-time spook.”20 In September 1968 Bradley, a vice-president of the National Strategic Information Center as well as a businessman, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled “What Businessmen Need to Know about the Student Left.” In his memoir The Story of One Man’s Journey in Faith, Bradley reports that as part of his research, “mutual friends” invited him to meet Hoover’s top FBI aide William Sullivan, who let Bradley read FBI files on the New Left. Bradley also recalls debating SDS’s “Carl Ogilsvie.”


And, finally, here is Russell Kirk on the progression of Carl Oglesby from high-security employee of  defense contractor Bendix, which made telecom equipment for NASA, to president of  SDS, whose parent organization was a CIA front.

Oglesby was a friend of both Bernadine Dorn and of Hillary Clinton…until he finally left politics to write history and make music.

“Humane Letters and the Clutch of Ideology”

(Russell Kirk, The Imaginative Conservative, March 2012, originally published in The Political Science Reviewer, Fall, 1973)

“Indeed, the eagerness of certain contributors to withdraw from political activism into literary scholarship is almost embarrassing. Take Mr. Carl Oglesby, who once led the riots at the University of Wisconsin.

Mr. Oglesby here gives us an essay entitled “Melville, or Water Consciousness 8c Its madness.” Herman Melville, he says, found a madness he could live with. Ahab was evil, exploiting his crew, and Moby Dick was the victim of Ahab’s imperialism.”


So with a subdued Melville, I ask: Given some broad estimate of the scale, tempo and rhythm at which protoimperial systems condense out and acquire historical outline and social architecture, then swell and grow fevered, finally either to hang suspended a moment before a sometimes luminously sweeping descent, or else to burst all at once and splash blood everywhere, leaving little behind besides shards, cripples and memories that everyone who survives them pants to forget: given ‘these choices, what is the political utility of the concept anti-imperialism?”

Russell Kirk:

“Is this rich, beautiful prose, transcending the sorry time? Mr. Oglesby clearly hopes so. But Mr. Oglesby’s prose will make no revolution; it may not even make sense. He sedulously avoids any direct reference to Viet Nam, as if he were writing in the Circum- locution Office – as if he would be prosecuted for so heroic a dissent. One thinks of a remark by Georges Sorel, meant to be approbatory: “Our experience of the Marxian theory of value convinces me of the importance which obscurity of style may lend to a doctrine.

They talk of liberty, but hunger for power; they idolize the People, but serve the ego. If one is bound for Zion, it is not well to plod round a prickly pear planted long ago by Mr. Marx of the British Museum; nor is that a good exercise for rousing the literary imagination. Nevertheless, the cactus land of ideology is perfectly safe for an American writer nowadays.

Blessed are the academic revolutionaries, for they shall know tenure.”

Vox Day: Free trade often linked to war

The provocative (some would use much harsher terms) Christian libertarian writer Vox Day pokes a hole in the venerable libertarian mantra –  free-trade uber alles:

“China and Japan have only been trading since diplomatic ties were normalized in 1972; China became Japan’s largest trading partner in 2004. A war between two of the world’s largest economies would permanently shatter the oft-heard argument that trade eliminates the possibility of war. It’s an argument that should always have been dubious, however, as England’s many wars against the various principalities in India and the USA’s Middle East wars have all followed the inception of large-scale trade with the region.

Once more, we see that free trade delivers precisely the opposite of what it promises. And, as Generational Dynamics adroitly points out, trade actually expands the range of warfare as well as providing an economic weapon that can be wielded against the trading partner. Even when trade is not a cause of the war, it provides a means of fighting it.

Lest anyone think I am setting up a strawman here, consider this article by a free trade advocate at the Mises Institute: “The Classical Liberals of the nineteenth century were certain that the end of the old Mercantilist system–with its government control of trade and commerce, its bounties (subsidies) and prohibitions on exports and imports–would open wide vistas for improving the material conditions of man through the internationalization of the system of division of labor. They also believed that the elimination of barriers to trade and the free intercourse among men would help to significantly reduce if not end the causes of war among nations.”

Martha Nussbaum defends burqa against French neocons (Updated)

Update (Sept 10)

Another thought occurs to me.  What level of brainwashing does it take to lecture the Islamic world for its “medieval” and “degrading” attitude toward women,  when the most popular book in the west today  is”Fifty Shades of Grey”). No individualists have said a word negative about this book, which describes how wonderful it is to be tied up and have steel balls pushed up your vagina by a controlling man who feeds you, dresses you, and employs you, while whipping you on your genitals and beating you until you cry.

Or, to take another case, what level of self-delusion does it take  to lecture extremely poor people in Asia, recovering from multiple centuries of enslavement and starvation, under a succession of empires, about physical dirt, while refusing to acknowledge a different kind of filth, which is perhaps more deadly. I am talking about the saturation of popular culture with perversions as disordered as cannibalism, sadism, coprophagia and necrophilia?

(Search the “Go Ask Alice” website at Columbia University, where these things are treated almost neutrally).


Martha Nussbaum brilliantly demolishes a series of justifications for banning the burqa, a costume not too different from the garb of nuns during the period of history that gave France some of its great cultural treasures.

I confess that I used to support a ban on burqas, from the point of view of security and civility, with the idea that it would enable natives to see Muslim immigrants as more human and akin to them.

But Nussbaum’s comprehensive essay has made me rethink that position.

Having grown up in a town in India where 30% of the population is Muslim and where most of the Muslims on the street wear Burqa all the time, in temperatures over 45 degrees celsius, I can tell you that the women I saw wearing them seemed quite happy with their choice.

Covering up the limbs and face preserves the skin from coarsening and burning, so it actually makes sense in very hot countries, especially for women.

No Florida “alligator” skin and rooster necks.  No discoloration spots and skin cancer.

It also makes sense to cover up in very crowded countries, where women are forced to rub up against strange men because of the crowds.

Covering up protects women against molestation. It carves out a sphere of dignity for a woman and protects her from violations of her personal space and modesty.

It prevents a women becoming a piece of meat on the market, which is often what happens in the West.

I felt noticeably more comfortable in the Muslim countries in which I’ve traveled alone, than anywhere in the West or in India.

The West can be terrifying for a single foreign women.  That has been my experience.  There is verbal intimidation, sexual assault, and vulgarity directed toward vulnerable women, especially divorced women, who are seen as fair targets for workplace slander and harassment.

In India, since the liberalization of the economy, the situation has also become difficult for women on the street. I know many foreign women, very good travelers, understanding of Indian culture,  who tell me they have been repeatedly pestered and molested since the l990s. American women have told me they’ve been assaulted in such porn-friendly cities as Buenos Aires.

[I should clarify: This may have less to do with porn as it has to do with the fact that they’re foreigners and blondes, at that. Blondes, I’ve observed, tend to have a harder time in Latin countries.  The woman who told me this said she’d been quite safe traveling alone in Thailand.]

Muslim countries I’ve visited were easily the most “women-friendly” for a single woman,

Nussbaum’s arguments about these matters, and many others, make a convincing case why the burqa ban is fundamentally anti-liberal and discriminatory.

First is the argument from security: it holds that security requires people to show their face when appearing in public places. A second, closely related, argument, which I shall treat together with it, says that the kind of transparency and reciprocity proper to relations between citizens is impeded by covering part of the face.

What is wrong with both of these arguments is that they are applied inconsistently. It gets very cold where I live in Chicago. Along the streets we walk, hats pulled down over ears and brows, scarves wound tightly around noses and mouths. No problem of either transparency or security is thought to exist, nor are we forbidden to enter public buildings so insulated.

Moreover, many beloved and trusted professionals cover their faces all year round: surgeons, dentists, skiers and skaters. The latter typically wear a full – face covering with slits only for the eyes, similar to a niqab. Some are even more covered than the typical burqa wearer. In general, then, what inspires fear and mistrust in Europe, and, to some extent, in the United States, is not covering per se, but Muslim covering.

So, what to do about the threat that all bulky and non-revealing clothing creates? Airline security does a lot, with metal detectors, body imaging, pat-downs, and so on (one very nice system is at work in India, where all passengers get a full manual pat-down, but in a curtained booth by a member of the same sex who is clearly trained to be courteous and respectful). Sport stadiums search all bags (though more to check for beer than for explosives, thus protecting the interests of in-stadium vendors). Retailers or other organizations who feel that bulky clothing is a threat (whether of shoplifting or terrorism or both) could institute a non-discriminatory rule banning; They could even have a body scanner at the door, but they don’t, presumably preferring customer friendliness to the extra margin of safety…….

…A third argument, very prominent today, is that the burqa is a symbol of male domination that symbolizes the objectification of women: it encourages people to think of and treat a woman as a mere object. A Catalonian legislator recently called the burqa a “degrading prison.” President Sarkozy said the same thing.

[Lila: Please note that certain libertarian outfits that would never speak out against the objectification of women in the dangerous practices of the global porn trade nonetheless come out with the same memes that neoconservatives used to justify the invasion of Iraq – the liberation of women – a meme thoroughly discredited and debunked by third-world and post-colonial critics and even by some more thoughtful liberal feminists like Nussbaum.

It hardly needs to be said that the people who make this argument typically don’t know much about Islam and would have a hard time saying what symbolizes what in that religion. But the more glaring flaw in the argument is that society is suffused with symbols of male supremacy that treat women as objects.

Sex magazines, pornography, nude photos, tight jeans, transparent or revealing clothing – all of these products, arguably, treat women as objects, as do so many aspects of our media culture. Women are encouraged to market themselves for male objectification in this way, and it has long been observed that this is a way of robbing women of both agency and individuality, reducing them to objects or commodities.

And what about the “degrading prison” of plastic surgery? Every time I undress in the locker room of my gym, I see women bearing the scars of liposuction, tummy tucks, breast implants. Isn’t much of this done in order to conform to a male norm of female beauty that casts women as sex objects?

……Respect is for the person, and is fully compatible with intensely disliking many things that many people do. So in a society dedicated to equal liberty people remain perfectly free to think and to say that the burqa is an objectionable garment because of the way in which it symbolizes the objectification of women…….

Myself, I think that a burqa is not a symbol of hatred, and thus not something that it would be reasonable to find deeply hateful. It is more like the boys and their tzizit, something I may feel out of tune with, but which it is probably nosy to denounce unless a friend has asked my opinion. Still, if someone else wants to say that it is deeply objectionable, and that she does not respect it, that does not in any way disagree with the principles I am defending here.

What respect for persons requires is that people have equal space to exercise their conscientious commitments, not that others like or even respect what they do in that space. Furthermore, equal respect for persons is compatible with limiting religious freedom in the case of a “compelling state interest………Which brings me to my next point.

Argument 4: Coercion

A fourth argument holds that women wear the burqa only because they are coerced. This is a rather implausible argument to make across the board, and it is typically made by people who have no idea what the circumstances of this or that individual woman are.

We should reply that of course all forms of violence and physical coercion in the home are illegal already, and laws against domestic violence and abuse should be enforced much more zealously than they are. Do the arguers really believe that domestic violence is a peculiarly Muslim problem? If they do, they are dead wrong.

According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crime experienced by women in 2001. The National Violence Against Women Survey reports that 52% of surveyed women said they were physically assaulted as a child by an adult caretaker and/or as an adult by any type of perpetrator.

There is no evidence that Muslim families have a disproportionate amount of such violence. Indeed, given the strong association between domestic violence and the abuse of alcohol, it seems at least plausible that observant Muslim families will turn out to have less of it…….

College fraternities are very strongly associated with violence against women, and some universities have made all or some fraternities move off campus as a result. But private institutions are entitled to make such regulations about what can occur on their premises; public universities are entitled to limit the types of activities that will get public money, particularly when they involve illegality (underage drinking). But a total governmental ban on the male drinking club (or on other places where men get drunk, such as soccer matches) would certainly be a bizarre restriction of associational liberty.

One thing that we have long known to be strongly associated with coercion and violence against women is alcohol. The Amendment to the United States Constitution banning alcohol was motivated by exactly this concern. It was on dubious footing in terms of liberty: why should law-abiding people suffer for the crimes of abusers? But what was more obvious was that Prohibition was a total disaster politically and practically. It increased crime and it did not stop violence against women……..

So, where should government and law step in? Certainly it should step in where physical and/or sexual abuse is going on, which is very often. Where religious mandates are concerned, intervention would be justified, similarly, where the behaviour either constitutes a gross risk to bodily health and safety (as with Jehovah’s Witness children being forbidden to have a life-saving blood transfusion), or impairs some major functioning.

Thus, I think that female genital mutilation practiced on minors should be illegal if it is a form that impairs sexual pleasure or other bodily functions. Male circumcision seems to me all right, however, because there is no evidence that it interferes with adult sexual functioning; indeed it is now known to reduce susceptibility to HIV/AIDS.

[Lila: Here, I think Nussbaum is mistaken. There is plenty of evidence that removal of the foreskin does affect male pleasure.  And there may be many other side-effects that haven’t been fully studied yet.]

….The burqa (for minors) is not in the same class as genital mutilation, since it is not irreversible and does not engender health or impair other bodily functions – not nearly so much as high-heeled shoes. If it is imposed by physical or sexual violence, that violence ought to be legally punished.

[Lila: Brilliant. There are far more crippling and unhygienic forms of clothing popular in the West, from thongs (which are gross and unhygienic!) to nylon stockings (itchy, and they constrict the blood vessels), crotchless panties (unhygienic and infectious), flimsy bras (lead to sagging breasts), baggy pants (can trip you up); tight skirts (prevent normal movements), low-cut blouses (ruin delicate breast and neck skin), deodorant (stops perspiration and lets toxicity build up in the body), shampoo (makes your hair thin and go grey prematurely).]

…. If people think that women only wear the burqa because of coercive pressure, let them create ample opportunities for them, and then see what they actually do.………

Argument 5: Health Risk

Finally, one frequently hears the argument that the burqa is per se unhealthy, because it is hot and uncomfortable. I have heard this argument often in Europe, particularly in Spain. This is perhaps the silliest of the arguments.

Clothing that covers the body can be comfortable or uncomfortable, depending on the fabric. In India I typically wear a full salwaar kameez of cotton, because it is superbly comfortable, and full covering keeps dust off one’s limbs and at least diminishes the risk of skin cancer. It is surely far from clear that the amount of skin displayed in typical Spanish female dress would meet with a dermatologist’s approval.

But more pointedly, would the arguer really seek to ban all uncomfortable and possibly unhealthy female clothing? Wouldn’t we have to begin with high heels, delicious as they are? But no, high heels are associated with majority norms (and are a major Spanish export), so they draw no ire.t harmful chemicals, and that other gross health risks are avoided. But on the whole women in particular area allowed and even encouraged to wear clothing that could plausibly be argued to create health risks, whether through tendon shortening or through exposure to the sun….

….The burqa is not even in the category of the corset. As many readers pointed out, it is sensible dress in a hot climate where skin easily becomes worn by sun and dust. What does seem to pose a risk to health is wearing synthetic fabrics in a hot climate, but nobody is talking about that.

The Burqa and the Limits of Laicite

All five arguments are discriminatory. We don’t even need to reach the delicate issue of religiously grounded accommodation to see that they are utterly unacceptable in a society committed to equal liberty. Equal respect for conscience requires us to reject them.

Let us now consider more closely the special case of France. Unlike other European nations, France is consistent – up to a point. Given its history of anticlericalism and the strong commitment to laicite, religion is not to set its mark upon the public realm, and the public realm is permitted to disfavour religion by contrast to non-religion. This commitment leads to restrictions on a wide range of religious manifestations, all in the name of a total separation of church and state. But if one looks closely, the restrictions are unequal and discriminatory. The school dress code forbids the Muslim headscarf and the Jewish yarmulke, along with “large” Christian crosses.

But this is a totally unequal burden, because the first two items of clothing are religiously obligatory for observant members of those religions, and the third is not: Christians are under no religious obligation to wear any cross, much less a “large” one. So there is discrimination inherent in the French system…….

Let’s now consider the language of the law banning the burqa. It prohibits “wearing attire designed to hide the face” (porter une tenue detinee a dissimuler son visage) – and then there is a long list of exceptions:

“The prohibition described in Article 1 does not apply if the attire is prescribed or authorized by legislative or regulatory dispensation, if it is justified for reasons of health or professional motives, or if it is adopted in the context of athletic practices, festivals, or artistic or traditional performances.”…….

Does the application of the ban to all religions mean that the ban, unlike the school dress code, is truly neutral? Well of course, although the word burqa does not occur in the legislation, we understand perfectly well that this is what it is all about. And the fact that they are so generous with other cultural and professional exemptions shows that they are not terribly worried about the practice as such – only when it is a religious manifestation. But still, isn’t that a consistent and, up to a point, neutral application of the polity of laicite?

The difficulty we have here is that no other religion has a custom of precisely that sort. So what the law has done is to single out something that is of central importance to one religion and to apply a very heavy burden to it, without similarly burdening the central and cherished practices of other religions. Indeed, it seems clear that one would not be fined for making the sign of the cross over oneself in a public place, for singing a religious hymn as one walked down the street, or for wearing any type of religious apparel other than the burqa: cassocks, nuns’ habits, Hasidic dress, the saffron garb of the Hindu priest – all of these remain unburdened. So it is neutral in one sense, but not at all neutral in another.

At this point, defenders of the ban will typically allude to one of the other arguments, saying that the burqa, unlike these other forms of clothing, is a security risk, an impediment to normal relations among citizens, and so on. But the fact that the government does not credit these rationales is clear from the fact that they permit so many exceptions to the ban. Even a public masquerade, at which hundreds of people cover their faces, received explicit defence in the statute.

So it’s clear that the government does not think that security provides a compelling interest in favour of the restriction: it’s trumped routinely by very weak and even frivolous interests.

So I conclude that the French ban is not truly neutral, any more than the school dress code. Besides the obvious objection that French secularism does not allow sufficiently ample freedom for religious observance, we may add the objection of bias.


Philosophical principles shape constitutional traditions and the shape of political cultures. I have tried to articulate some important principles behind traditions of religious liberty and equality in both the United States and Europe.

Today, a climate of fear and suspicion, directed primarily against Muslims, threatens to derail these admirable commitments. But if we articulate them clearly and see the reasons for them, this may help us oppose these ominous developments.

Excerpted from The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age by Martha C. Nussbaum, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright 2012 by Martha C. Nussbaum. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in the Philosophy Department, Law School and Divinity School at the University of Chicago. You can listen to her in conversation with Andrew West on Radio National’s Religion and Ethics Report.”

Rousas Rushdoony: What Jesus taught about taxes

Rousas Rushdoony gives the traditional Christian understanding of the great subversive parable of Jesus, regarding the payment of tribute to Caesar, notwithstanding the attempt by some to use Jesus to support libertarian beliefs.

Rushdoony’s understanding is supported by the readings of others (per Wikipedia):

Mennonite Dale Glass-Hess wrote:

It is inconceivable to me that Jesus would teach that some spheres of human activity lie outside the authority of God. Are we to heed Caesar when he says to go to war or support war-making when Jesus says in other places that we shall not kill? No! My perception of this incident is that Jesus does not answer the question about the morality of paying taxes to Caesar, but that he throws it back on the people to decide. When the Jews produce a denarius at Jesus’ request, they demonstrate that they are already doing business with Caesar on Caesar’s terms. I read Jesus’ statement, “Give to Caesar…” as meaning “Have you incurred a debt in regard to Caesar! Then you better pay it off.” The Jews had already compromised themselves. Likewise for us: we may refuse to serve Caesar as soldiers and even try to resist paying for Caesar’s army. But the fact is that by our lifestyles we’ve run up a debt with Caesar, who has felt constrained to defend the interests that support our lifestyles. Now he wants paid back, and it’s a little late to say that we don’t owe anything. We’ve already compromised ourselves. If we’re going to play Caesar’s games, then we should expect to have to pay for the pleasure of their enjoyment. But if we are determined to avoid those games, then we should be able to avoid paying for them.[13]

Mohandas K. Gandhi shared this perspective. He wrote:

Jesus evaded the direct question put to him because it was a trap. He was in no way bound to answer it. He therefore asked to see the coin for taxes. And then said with withering scorn, “How can you who traffic in Caesar’s coins and thus receive what to you are benefits of Caesar’s rule refuse to pay taxes?”

At the same time, Gandhi, certainly saw that Jesus would have supported non-cooperation and civil resistance through non payment of taxes:

“Jesus’ whole preaching and practice point unmistakably to noncooperation, which necessarily includes nonpayment of taxes.[14]

In Rushdooney’s reading,  Jesus’ teaching is more submissive than it is in Gandhi’s. But it is submissive in a subversive way, similar to the reading of Jacques Ellul:

“Render unto Caesar…” in no way divides the exercise of authority into two realms….They were said in response to another matter: the payment of taxes, and the coin. The mark on the coin is that of Caesar; it is the mark of his property. Therefore give Caesar this money; it is his. It is not a question of legitimizing taxes! It means that Caesar, having created money, is its master. That’s all. Let us not forget that money, for Jesus, is the domain of Mammon, a satanic domain!
My sense is that Jesus’ parables should not be taken out of context to support a dogmatic and anachronistic reading. They should be read in the general spirit of his other teachings.
Elsewhere, Jesus taught that worldly power and wealth were obstacles to the soul. This is hardly the same as libertarian anti-state ideology, but it is subversive and unworldly.
Rousas Rushdoony:

“6. The Tribute Money

One of the best-known stories of the New Testament is the one con­cerning the tribute money question: “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not?” Christ’s answer, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are Gods” (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26), is one of the most familiar sentences of Scripture. The general implications have long been recognized; in the specific application, there has been much variation.

The purpose of the Pharisees is again to “entangle him in his talk” (Matt. 22:15); Luke is more specific, “And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor” (Luke 20:20-26). The Roman governor was meant. Apparently the expectation was that Jesus, in faithfulness to the law, would declare that only a theocracy was valid in Israel, not Roman rule and law. Behind this strategy were the Phari­sees and the Herodians (Matt. 22:16; Mark 12:13), a minor, political, non-religious party of the day. The Herodians favored the Roman tax and the Herodian dynasty, which they regarded as preferable to direct Roman rule. The Pharisees were normally hostile to the Herodians, but they joined forces in hostility to Jesus. If Jesus opposed the tax, He could be denounced and delivered to the Roman authorities for arrest and trial.

The question was prefaced with fulsome flattery; the questioners asked as if motivated by a tender conscience rather than a desire to entrap. They attempted to push Jesus into an answer heedless of con­sequences by asserting that “thou art true, and carest for no man; for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth” (Mark 12:14). Such an integrity, they hoped, would compel Him to deny the legitimacy of the Roman tax. “Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?” (Luke 20:22).

The Greek text makes clear that the tax was a “capitation tax,” not an indirect tax.[1] “Luke uses phoros, the wider word for ‘tribute’ as it is paid by one nation to another; Matthew and Mark use the more specific kenos or poll tax that is levied upon every individual for his own person and is thus especially galling as a mark of servitude to the Roman power.”[2]

Israel already had a poll tax, that required by God’s law in Exodus 30:11-16. Its purpose was to provide for civil atonement, i.e., the covering or protection of civil government. Every male twenty years old or older was required to pay this tax to be protected by God the King in His theocratic government of Israel. This tax was thus a civil and religious duty (but not an ecclesiastical one).

There was thus a particular aggravation in the fact that Rome also required a poll or head tax. The Roman Empire and emperor were progressively assuming divine roles, requiring religious assent, and claiming priority over religion. The poll tax was thus a particularly offensive tax, in that it seemed to require a polytheistic faith, the worship of a god other than the true God. Moreover, the Herodian tax was so heavy that twice the imperial government compelled Herod to reduce his tax demands in order to avoid serious trouble. Judas Galilaeus had earlier presented himself as the messiah and had summoned Israel, in the name of God and Scripture, to refuse to pay the tax. The Romans were merciless in putting down the rebellion (Acts 5:37).

The matter had been aggravated as early as A.D. 29 by Pilate, who for a time issued coinage “bearing the lituus, the priest’s staff, or the patera, the sacrificial bowl-two symbols of the imperial philosophy which were bound to be obnoxious to the people.”[3]These coins were later withdrawn, but they did serve to underscore the fact that their bondage to Rome had religious overtones.

The right to issue coins had religious overtones for Israel as I Maccabees 15:6 implies, and it was thus important to them. “‘Coin’ and ‘power’ were regarded as synonyms, so that the coin was the symbol of the ruler’s dominance.”[4] In the second century A.D., Bar Kochba, the false messiah, replaced Roman coinage with his own coins as a means of asserting his power. To give tribute to Caesar thus meant to acknowledge Caesar’s power; to approve of giving tribute to Caesar was to acknowledge the legitimacy of Caesar’s power. The question implicit, in the Herodian’s statement was whether any government other than God’s has any legitimacy. Christ’s assertion of His messiahship was seen by his accusers as a denial of Caesar’s right to tax (Luke 23:2), since the Messiah as King had to have exclusive sovereignty, in their perspective. For Jesus to have denied Caesar’s right to tax Israel was a mark of insurrection and would make Him liable to arrest. For Jesus to have affirmed Caesar’s right to tax would have been, in the eyes of the people, a denial of His messiahship.

The answer of Jesus was to ask for a denarius; He asked it of His questioners. As Stauffer, whose chapter on “The Story of the Tribute Money” is very important, has written:

Jesus asked for a penny, a denarius. Why? There were a great many coins in the wide Roman empire which passed as legal cur­rency, old and new, large and small, imperial and local, gold, silver, copper, bronze and brass. In no country did so many different kinds of money circulate as in Palestine. But the prescribed coin for taxation purposes throughout the empire was the denarius, a little silver coin of about the worth of a shilling. (It can only be the sil­ver denarius which is intended in Mark 12:16, Luke 20:24 and Matt. 22:19, not a gold coin as Titian supposed, in his representa­tion of the tribute scene, nor a Herodian coin, as is often asserted; for the Herodian coins were not called denarii and were not tribute coins, but were local copper coins.) Jesus knew this, and so He asked for the silver imperial tax coin, using the Latin word, the Roman technical expression, which had become current in Palestine along with the coin itself. Bring me a denarius, He said. He did not produce one from His own pocket. Why not? The point now is not whether Jesus had such a coin in His pocket but whether His opponents had. With Socratic irony, he added: “That I may see it?” Why? He had the maieutic purpose with his questioners, He wanted to deliver them, in the Socratic manner, not a priori, but a posteriori. Not their logical or moral sense, but their historical situation and attitude would bring the truth to light. Something is to be seen, and deduced, from the denarius itself.[5]

When the coin was handed to Jesus, He did not yet answer their question, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” Instead, He asked another question: “Whose is this image and superscription?” (Matt. 22:20; Mark 12:16; Luke 20:24). The answer was, of course, “Cae­sar’s.” According to Geldenhuys,

After their acknowledgment that it is Caesar’s, the following two facts are vividly brought to light through Jesus’ masterly handling of the situation:

(1) Coins with Caesar’s image and superscription are in use among the Jews.
(2) The coins are evidently the property of Caesar, otherwise they would not have borne his image and superscription.
From these two facts it thus follows that the Jews had accepted the imperial rule as a practical reality, for it was the generally current view that a ruler’s power extended as far as his coins were in use.[6]

The practical reality was thus made clear. These men used the coins of Tiberius which carried a “bust of Tiberius in Olympian nakedness, adorned with the laurel wreath, the sign of divinity.” The inscription read, “Emperor Tiberius August Son of the August God,” on the one side, and “Pontifex Maximus” or “High Priest” on the other. The symbols also included the emperor’s mother, Julia Augusta (Livia) sitting on the throne of the gods, holding the Olympian sceptre in her right hand, and, in her left, the olive branch to signify that “she was the earthly incarnation of the heavenly Pax.”[7] The Coins thus had a re­ligious significance. Israel was in a certain sense serving other gods by being subject to Rome and to Roman currency. The point made by implication by His enemies, that tribute to Caesar had religious over­tones, was almost confirmed by Jesus, even as He proved their own submission to Caesar.

Then came His great answer: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars [sic], and to God the things that are God’s (Mark 12:17). Ac­cording to Stauffer, render here means “give back.” “That is the first great surprise in this verse, and its meaning is: the payment of tribute to Caesar is not only your unquestioned obligation; it is also your moral duty.”[8] St. Paul used the same term in Romans 13:7, “Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom. . . .”

Judea was living within the Roman Empire, gaining military and economic benefits from that empire whether it wanted them or not. Even if the benefits of the empire were outweighed by its liabilities, the people were still to render Caesar his due.

The fact still remained that two poll taxes stood in opposition, one paid to the emperor, the other to God. The imperial tax provided “for the daily sacrifice for the welfare of the Roman emperor”; it maintained the empire as a religious entity.[9] The other tax, called then the temple tax, was God’s tax for maintaining His holy order. How could both taxes be paid? According to Stauffer, “He affirmed the symbolism of power, but He rejected the symbolism of worship. But this reservation was not made as a negative statement, but rather as a positive command. ‘Render to God what is God’s’ “[10] Stauffer is right in asserting that, ac­cording to Numbers 8:13 ff., this means that “Everything belongs to God.”[11] At the time that Jesus spoke, the Biblical poll tax was being collected in the spring, in the month of Adar. More specifically, Jesus asked that Caesar’s tax be rendered to Caesar, and God’s tax be rendered to God. The early church was apparently aware of this fact. Jerome, commenting on Matthew 22:21, declared, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, namely, coins, tribute, money; and to God the things that are God’s, namely, tithes, first-fruits, vows, sacrifices.”[12] Israel’s departure from God’s rule and law had placed them under Roman rule and law; they owed to Rome the tribute due to Rome. Rome did not serve God, but neither did Israel. Obedience is due to all authorities under who we find ourselves (Rom. 13:1-7). Rome was now their master, and Rome had to be obeyed. Obedience to God requires obedience to all those whom we find ourselves in subjection to. In the temptation in the wilderness, Satan had tempted Jesus to follow a way of empire: give the people bread and miracles; enable them to walk by sight. Now, through other tempters, the temptation was offered of rejecting all empires, all earthly powers.

Christ conquered this temptation afresh with His words about the double duty of obedience to the way and to the goal of history, to the kingdom of the world and to the kingdom of God. Mark 12:17 is spoken by Christ in conspectu mortis, in the sight of the messianic death. Holy Week is the existential exegesis of His words: submission to the dominion of Caesar, submission to the dominion of God — united in the acceptance of that monstrous judicial murder by which Caesar’s most wretched creature fulfils sub contrario the work of God (Matt. 26:52 ff.; John 19:11)[13]

Let us return to St. Jerome’s words. Two kinds of taxation exist, and Christ requires our obedience to both. The world of Caesar seeks to create a new world without God, and without regeneration; it exacts a heavy tax and accomplishes little or nothing. We are, as sinners, geared by our fallen nature to seeking Caesar’s answer. We pay tribute to Caesar thus, in our faith and with our money. The answer to Caesar’s world is not civil disobedience, the final implication of which is revolution. This is Caesar’s way, the belief that man’s effort by works of law can remake man and the world.

The answer rather is to obey all due authorities and to pay tribute, custom, and honor to whom these things are due. This is the minor aspect of our duty. More important, we must render, give back to God what is His due, our tithes, first-fruits, vows, and sacrifices. The re­generate man begins by acknowledging God, the author and Redeemer of his life, as his lord and savior, his King. At every point in his life, he renders to God His due service, thanksgiving, praise, and tithe. His salvation is God’s gift; the bounty he enjoys is God’s gift and providence; the regenerate man therefore renders, gives back to God, God’s appointed share of all things.

The way of resistance to Rome chosen by Judea led to the world’s worst war and to the death of the nation. Neither the Roman imperial answer nor the Judean revolutionary answer offered anything but death and disaster. Self-consciously, the Christians followed their Lord. Justin Martyr wrote:

And everywhere we, more readily than all men, endeavour to pay to those appointed by you the taxes both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught by Him; for at that time some came to Him and asked Him, if one ought to pay tribute to Caesar; and He answered, “Tell me, whose image does this coin bear?” And they said, “Caesar’s”; And again He answered them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Whence to God alone we render worship, but in other things we gladly serve you, acknowledging you as kings and rulers of men, and praying that with your kingly power you be found to possess also sound judgment. But if you pay no regard to our prayers and frank explanations, we shall suffer no loss, since we believe (or rather, indeed, are persuaded) that every man will suffer punishment in eternal fire according to the merit of his deed, and will render account according to the power he has received from God, as Christ intimated when He said, “To whom God has given more, of him shall more be required.”[14]

Christ’s answer did not prevent His enemies from charging Him with “perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar” (Luke 23:2). His answer in reality had demolished all grounds for any accusation against Him.

Their duty, Jesus had declared, was “to render back” “to pay what is owing”[15] to Caesar and to God. What is due to Caesar is due to Caesar only by the providence, purpose, and counsel of God. What is due to God, what all men owe Him, is everything. Jesus set forth “God’s absolute and peculiar right in respect of every man individually and of all men collectively-an exclusive and paramount right possessed by God alone.”[16]

Those who reduce this great sentence of Christ’s to a declaration about church and state have missed the point of the incident.

[1] Plummer, Luke, p.465.[2] Lenski, Luke, p.988.

[3] Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), p. 119.

[4] Ibid., p. 125.

[5] Ibid., p.122 f

[6] Geldenhuys, Luke, p.504.

[7] Stauffer, op. cit., p. 124f.

[8] Ibid., p. 129.

[9] Ibid., p.131.

[10] Ibid., p.132.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., p. 135.

[14] Justin Martyr, First Apology, chap. XVII.

[15] Geldenhuys, op. cit., p.507.

[16] Ibid., p.508.

Jesus and the Tax Revolt – The Chalcedon Foundation – Faith for All of LifeRender Unto Caesar