Today is St. Patrick‘s day and I thought it might be appropriate to write about St. Patrick. So, who is St. Patrick and why does he get a day? Not very much is known for certain about his life. It is possible that his story has been confused with one Palladius, a missionary who became the first bishop of Ireland. Still, Patrick wrote a short autobiography called “The Declaration” or “The Confession” as part of a letter which seems to be genuine.
Patrick, or Patricius was a Roman who lived in Britain. He may have been born around 387 and lived until 460 or possibly 493, so he lived during the twilight of the Roman Empire in the West. At the age of 16 he was captured by raiders and enslaved. He worked as a shepherd in Ireland for about six years. He managed to escape and return to his home, but then he became a priest and returned to the land where he was a slave and worked to convert the pagans to Christianity. He seems to have been very successful during his lifetime, though there were many other missionaries in Ireland. He helped to organize the Church in Ireland and is supposed to have traveled to Rome to seek the Pope’s assistance in this endeavor.
According to legend, Patrick died on March 17, so that date has become his feast day. He has never been officially canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. He became known as a saint long before the modern procedure for canonization was developed. He is, obviously, the patron saint of Ireland, and also Nigeria, Montserrat, engineers, paralegals, and the dioceses of New York, Boston, and Melbourne.
There are many legends about St. Patrick. The most widely known is that he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, thus ruining the local ecology. Another is that he used the example of the three-leaved shamrock to illustrate the trinity.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish, and Irish at heart, out there!
For all of the nerds out there, including me, today is international Pi Day, the day when we celebrate our favorite mathematical constant. Pi Day is best celebrated by pi memorization contests, walking in circles, and, of course, eating pies, or is it pis? I think I will celebrate by writing a little about pi.
Pi or π is, as everyone should know, the ratio between a circle’s diameter and its circumference. Pi is an irrational number. By this, they do not mean that pi makes no sense but rather that pi is a constant that cannot be expressed as a ratio of two integers. Numbers like 2 or .445 or 1/2 can be expressed as a ratio of two integers and so are rational. Numbers like pi or the square root of any number that is not a perfect square, the square root of 2 for instance, are irrational. An irrational number expressed in decimal form never ends or repeats but continues to infinity. Thus, there can never be a last digit of pi.
The symbol π was first used by the mathematician William Jones in 1706 and was popularized by another mathematician, Leonhard Euler. They chose π, the Greek equivalent of the Latin letter p because it is the first letter of the word periphery. Π, by the way, is not pronounced “pie” in Greek but “pee”, just like our p. I don’t think that international “pee” day would be nearly so appealing.
Although the symbol for pi is relatively recent, the concept is very old. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians knew about it. Pi is even mentioned in the Bible.
23 He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits[o] to measure around it. 24 Below the rim, gourds encircled it—ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea. (1 Kings 7:23-24)
Properly speaking, the line around the “Sea” should have been 31.5 cubits but the ancient Hebrews were not very knowledgeable about geometry and measuring techniques were crude.
There is no particular reason to calculate pi to so many digits. No conceivable application of pi would possibly take more than 40 digits. Still, the challenge of calculating pi to the farthest digit possible has been an irresistible one for mathematicians over the years.
Around 250 BC, Archimedes was the first mathematician to seriously try to calculate pi. He used a geometric method of drawing polygons inside and outside a circle and measuring their perimeters. By using polygons with more and more sides he was able to calculate pi with more precision and ended determining the value of pi as somewhere between 3.1408 and 3.1429. Archimedes’s method was used in the west for more than eighteen hundred years. The Chinese and Indians used similar methods. The best result using the geometric method was the calculation of pi to 38 digits in 1630.
With the development of calculus by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 1660’s, it was possible to calculate pi using infinite series, or the sum of the terms of an infinite sequence. The best calculations with these methods were done by the mathematician Zacharias Daze who calculated pi to 200 places in 1844 and William Shanks who spent fifteen years calculating pi to 707 digits. Unfortunately, he made a mistake with the 528th digit. Meanwhile, in 1761 Johann Heinrich Lambert proved that pi is irrational.
Computers made the calculation of pi much faster so pi could be calculated to more digits. ENIAC calculated pi to 2037 places in 1949. This record didn’t last long. A million digits were reached in 1970. As of 2011, pi has been calculated to 10,000,000,000,050 places.
Pi is not just used in geometry. There are a number of applications of pi in the fields of statistics, mechanics, thermodynamics, cosmology, and many others. Here is a list of just some of the formulae that use pi. It seems you can find pi everywhere.
With that in mind then, happy pi day! For your enjoyment here are the first thousand digits of pi.
If I could talk to this unhappy individual, I would point out certain facts; not that he would listen to me.
You are a man, not a woman. It doesn’t matter if you feel like a woman. You are still a man. You have a male body and your identity or personhood is not something separate from your body. Because you have a male body, you do not have a uterus and therefore cannot experience a menstrual period. I do not doubt that you are honestly feeling the symptoms you are describing, the bloating, and the pain, but they cannot be the result of a menstrual period. The symptoms you are experiencing are probably psychosomatic in nature. You want to be a woman and experience a menstrual cycle so badly that your mind has caused your body to react with the pain you have described. It is also possible that there is some physical cause of the pain you are experiencing. I urge you to see a physician and possibly a psychiatrist.
It is interesting that this man is so angry that anyone would doubt he is experiencing a menstrual period. Why is he so concerned that his validated by others? If it were a self-evident fact that he was experiencing a period, it wouldn’t matter what anyone thought of what he said. If I were to say I have brown eyes, I wouldn’t care if anyone questioned my statement because it is obvious to anyone who looks that my eyes are brown. If I were to say I have a headache or some other bodily ache, I might be lying, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that I really am suffering. I would not need anyone else to validate my experience. I would know I am feeling pain. It is possible that this man really is experiencing the pain he describes. He does not need anyone to validate his pain. Why is he so angry?
I think the answer is that this man knows, on some level, that he is not, in fact, experiencing menstrual pain. I suspect that he is aware, consciously or not, he is lying to himself. He needs other people to affirm the lies he is telling himself. If everyone around him agrees that he is a woman who is experiencing menstrual cycles, then maybe the lie becomes the truth. If reality is not determined by exterior observation but by our interior feelings, then a shared feeling must be the truth.
That is the biggest problem I have with what might be called the transgender ideology, the denial of objective reality in favor of subjective feelings, or, to put it more bluntly, delusions. Transgender ideology is an ideology based on a lie. Transwomen are not and cannot be women. Transmen are not and cannot be men. There are only two sexes, and gender is not a matter of personal preference. People like that man in the video seem to think that if they can get everyone to affirm or validate their feelings, then it becomes true.
But the truth is the truth regardless of how many people believe it. Two plus two equals four, no matter how many people say it equals five. Men don’t get menstrual periods no matter how many people say so.
It was back in the 1990s that I began to hear a new phrase on the news, ethnic cleansing. This rather prosaic term for an ugly reality that is as old as civilization first came to be used in the context of the mass murders being committed in the post-Communist Balkans, particularly in the former Yugoslavia. The worst examples of ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, however, occurred in the east African nation of Rwanda. In the approximately one hundred days between April 7 to July 15, 1994, Hutu militants slaughtered between 500,000 to 622,000 Tutsis, Twa (Pygmies), and moderate Hutus.
How did this happen? How did people who had been living at peace with one another decide to pick rifles and machetes and start massacring their neighbors? Could something like that happen here, in America? The history of the relationship between the ethnic groups that make up the Great Lakes region of Africa is rather complex, and I can only give a brief outline here.
In any case, the inhabitants of the present-day states of Rwanda and Burundi, along with portions of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are divided into two major ethnic groups, the Tutsis and the Hutus. The Twa comprise only around one percent of the region’s population and hardly count. The Hutus make up around ninety percent of the population, and were mostly farmers, while the Tutsis are most of the remaining ten percent and were pastoralists. Although they are very much in the minority, the Tutsis have historically ruled the kingdoms, forming an aristocratic class. The Germans, and later the Belgians who colonized the region, tended to reinforce Tutsi rule. The colonialist preferred a clearer distinction between Hutu and Tutsi for administrative purposes and perhaps as an attempt to divide and rule the population. This policy tended to cause increased tensions between the two groups.
In the last years of colonial rule, fighting broke out between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The Hutus massacred thousands of Tutsis before the Belgian authorities could stop the violence. Thousands more Tutsis fled to neighboring territories, particularly the region that would become the Nation of Uganda. When Rwanda became independent in 1962, the Hutus dominated the new government. Naturally, the Hutu majority decided it was time to get revenge for centuries of oppression by oppressing the Tutsis. The Tutsis were not pleased with this reduction in status from being the nobility to second-class citizenship, so the fighting between the two groups continued.
The violence settled down over the next two decades, although the Hutu-led government still discriminated against the Tutsis. Rwanda enjoyed some measure of economic growth. The rule of President Habyarimana was autocratic, but his government seemed stable. By the late 1980s, conditions deteriorated. Economic growth slowed, and there began to be increasing dissatisfaction with President Habyarimana’s corrupt and repressive rule. In response, Habyarimana used the oldest trick in the despot’s book. He secured his power by stirring up ethnic tensions. Government-sponsored newspapers and radio stations began to vilify the Tutsis. The Tutsis were cockroaches and termites who had spent centuries oppressing the Hutus. They were planning to re-impose a government based on Tutsi supremacy. The government began to organize Hutu militias to defend the Hutus against the coming Tutsi attacks. Naturally, Hutus who opposed President Habyarimana were traitors working with the Tutsis.
Violence broke out once again between the Hutus and Tutsis. In 1990, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded Rwanda from its bases in the refugee camps in Uganda, and Rwanda plunged into civil war. This war did not go well for President Habyarimana, and in 1992 he began peace talks with the RPF. Habyarimana discovered that it was not so easy to put the genie of ethnic hatred he had unleashed back into the bottle and Hutu militants led by his own First Lady resisted the peace process. On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying President Habyarimana was shot down. This was the cue for the massacre to begin. For the next three weeks, Hutus murdered Tutsis. The Rwandan Patriotic Front launched an offensive, and by August, they had captured Kigali, the capital. The Hutus, terrified of Tutsi retribution, fled into Zaire, sparking the Congo Wars.
Note that the Hutus did not simply decide one day to pick up rifles and machetes to slaughter their Tutsi neighbors. They were incited by years of propaganda depicting the Tutsis as an existential threat to their lives and freedom. At the same time, the Tutsis were also being dehumanized as vermin, fit for extermination. The fact is that engaging in pogroms and genocide is hard work. Most people would rather live in peace, minding their own business. They have to be motivated before they commit horrendous atrocities, generally by an appeal to fear, greed, or vengeance for past wrongs.
Could something like the Rwandan genocide happen here in America? There are a lot of differences between the culture and historical circumstances of North America and Central East Africa. Yet the narrative promoted by the “woke” left is disturbingly similar to the anti-Tutsi propaganda disseminated by the militant Hutus of Rwanda. The left is rewriting American history before our eyes changing from the shared history of a united people into a history of grievances. The institutions and traditions that unite us are denigrated in favor of ever-narrowing degrees of balkanization. White is increasingly becoming a synonym for wickedness. Whiteness is blamed for all the evils of the world. The White race is held to have produced nothing but hatred and racism, and Whites are seen as an accursed race bent on oppressing innocent people of color. To be White is scarcely to be human.
A 2021 video of a critical race theory scholar claiming that “white people are committed to being villains” and warning that “whiteness is going to have an end date” has recently resurfaced on social media sparking renewed outrage.
Brittney Cooper, who is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, made the comments during a podcast interview with The Root, during which she also said “We gotta take these muthaf*kers out.”
Cooper further portrayed the world before colonialism as a utopia of peace and tranquility, with black and brown people traveling the seas and oceans spreading friendship and prosperity.
“White human beings thought there’s a world here and we own it,” said the professor of gender studies. “Prior to them, black and brown people have been sailing across oceans, interacting with each other for centirues without total subjugation, domination, and colonialism.”
“My hope is that we would do it differently in the moments that we have some power,” she continued. “We will not do it perfectly, but I do think that all of us can sort of agree that a politics that says there are superior and inferior human beings just isn’t a way to go. And that’s the thing that white people don’t trust us to do because they’re so corrupt and their thinking is so morally and spiritually bankrupt about power that they fear, viscerally, existentially, letting go of power.”
“The thing I want to say to you is that we gotta take these muthaf*ckers out, but we can’t say that,” Cooper said before stressing that she doesn’t believe in a project of violence.
In Cooper’s view, Whites are the serpent that drove the Human race out of Eden.
How long before hatred of Whiteness becomes hatred of Whites? How long before Blacks and others, fueled by hatred and fear, spread by the likes of Cooper, form militias to kill their alleged oppressors? How long before Whites form their own militias in self-defense? Will America have its own experience of ethnic cleansing? Have the people who seem intent on fomenting a civil war between the races in America given any thought to how it is likely to end up? It won’t be pleasant, whatever happens.
As for Rwanda, there is a happy ending, of sorts. The leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a Tutsi named Paul Kagame, turned out to be more interested in reconciliation and economic growth than vengeance. He formed a national unity government with a Hutu President and himself as Vice-President and Minister of Defense. The Hutu leaders most responsible for the atrocities have been tried for their crimes in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and lesser figures associated with the massacres have been encouraged to come forward and make restitution for their crimes. Discussion of ethnicity is outlawed in Rwanda. As far as the government is concerned there are no Hutus or Tutsis, only Rwandans. Kagame is a dictator and Rwanda is far from being a free country, but things seem to be getting better for the people of Rwanda.
Will we Americans be able to do so well if we manage to tear our country apart? Do we really want to find out?
Today is Valentine’s Day, or St. Valentine‘s Day. Who was Valentine and why does he get a day named after him? The truth is, nobody really knows. Valentine or Valentinus was the name of an early Christian saint and martyr. The trouble is that nothing is known of him except his name. He may have been a Roman priest who was martyred in 269. There was a Valentine who was bishop of Terni who may have been the same man. St. Valentine was dropped from the Roman calendar of Saints in 1969 because of these uncertainties but local churches may still celebrate his day.
It is also not certain how Valentine’s day became associated with love. Some have speculated that the holiday was a Christian substitute for the Roman festival of Lupercalia. However, there is no hint of any association of Valentine’s Day with romance until the time of Chaucer. The holiday seems to have really taken off with the invention of greeting cards.
The co-owner of a queer Indigenous artists’ collective in Wisconsin is facing accusations of being white after claiming to hold Native American heritage, according to a report.
Kay LeClaire, who identifies as non-binary, allegedly faked their indigenous heritage and used the front to make money, according to a local outlet.
LeClaire was accused in an online forum of actually being white after claiming since 2017 they were of Metis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban and Jewish heritage, Madison 365 reported on Tuesday.
LeClaire, also a founding member of the collective and emerging leader in the Madison Indigenous arts community, earned artist stipends, a paid residency at the University of Wisconsin, speaking gigs, and art exhibitions with the help of their Native American claim.
But LeClaire, who went by the Native American name nibiiwakamigkwe, was allegedly exposed after a hobbyist genealogist posted evidence of LeClair’s real genealogy on an online forum, Madison 365 reported. The online forum user, AdvancedSmite, told Madison 365 that questions about LeClaire’s claims led to some digging.
The user, who did not want to reveal their actual identity to the outlet, used online records and resources to connect LeClaire’s lineage to German, Swedish and French Canadian ancestors and posted the findings on a forum.
LeClaire didn’t answers questions when contacted by Madison 365, but instead sent a long statement. LeClaire reportedly said any culturally related items they had are being given back to the community and vowed not to seek new grants while taking themselves off current grants.
“I am sorry,” they reportedly wrote. “A lot of information has come to my attention since late December. I am still processing it all and do not yet know how to respond adequately. What I can do now is offer change.
“Moving forward, my efforts will be towards reducing harm by following the directions provided by Native community members and community-specified proxies. Currently, this means that I am not using the Ojibwe name given to me and am removing myself from all community spaces, positions, projects, and grants and will not seek new ones.”
I admit I am something of a grammar Nazi (Are we still allowed to say that?), so using the pronoun ‘they’ to refer to a single person really irritates me. In English, there are three singular third-person pronouns and one plural third-person pronoun. When the subject or object is masculine, we use he/him. When it is feminine, we use she/her. When it has no gender, we use it. It is almost always used for inanimate objects. The plural third-person pronoun is they/them. They can be used for a single person if the person’s gender is indeterminate, as a shorthand for he or she. They should not be used for a single individual whose gender is known unless that individual is a conjoined twin or suffers from multiple personality disorder. Judging by the picture, Ms. LeClaire is a woman. The article ought to use the pronouns she and her.
This brings me to my next peeve. There is no such thing as being of nonbinary gender. On Earth, the most complex organisms, certainly every vertebrate animal, are divided into two genders, male and female. Every human being is either male or female, except a very few persons who due to some birth defect or medical condition are intersexed. Unless you are one of the very few intersexed, you are not nonbinary. You are either male or female, and your supposed nonbinary condition is a product of your imagination. It is a free country, and you can imagine yourself to be whatever you want, but you cannot expect the rest of us to validate your delusions.
If you truly are non-binary then you are most likely an extraterrestrial. If so, welcome to Earth. You will find that there is no intelligent life here, and we are not eligible to join your Galactic Federation.
The final point I want to make is not a peeve but an observation. There is a lot of talk from the left about White privilege. Whenever I hear someone talking about White privilege, I wonder if they think Eddie Murphy’s “White Like Me” sketch is real.
Perhaps being White in America has its advantages, but that is far less true in 2023 than in 1923. In fact, in 1923, not all Whites were privileged. If you happened to be of southern or eastern European ancestry, then you were not quite the right sort of White. Considering all of the government affirmative action legislation and the diversity initiatives sponsored by every major corporation, one might argue that being White is a disadvantage in twenty-first-century America. In any case, the question of privilege is more complicated than many seem to think. There are many privileged Whites but also many Whites who aren’t especially privileged at all. There are many Blacks who are not privileged, but many who are privileged. This is not simply a black-and-white issue.
But, if Whites are so privileged in today’s America, then why are people like Kay LeClair pretending to be non-white. No one goes out of their way to fake being a member of an oppressed group. No one pretended to be Black when Jim Crow was in force. No one claimed Native American ancestry when the U. S. Calvery was herding the Indians into reservations. Why did Rachel Dolezal claim to be Black if Whites are so privileged? Why did Senator Elizabeth Warren pretend to have Native American ancestry? It seems that it is not so clear which precisely the privileged groups are?
What all this seems to have in common, besides irritating me, is pretense. Kay Leclair and many others are pretending to be something they are not. They pretend we still live in a country where George Wallace is standing at the school door proclaiming, “Segregation forever!!“. They invent imaginary genders with strange new pronouns. They pretend to be tolerant while acting like intolerant bullies. They pretend to be victims of oppression by reimagining themselves to be members of an allegedly marginalized group in what is undoubtedly the least oppressive country and most tolerant society in history.
The pretense cannot go on forever. At some point, pretense collides with reality. There are only two genders. There are no truly oppressed groups in twenty-first-century America. The sooner we return to reality, the better.
Writing that postNot Teaching English about the teacher who decided not to teach her students proper English because speaking clearly and intelligibly has something to do with reinforcing White supremacy has got me wondering about the whole subject of White supremacy.
To start with, who exactly out there is promoting White supremacy? As far as I can tell, everybody in every major institution is dead set against any manifestation of White supremacy. Yet somehow, White supremacists are lurking around every corner, threatening to hold back people of color by reinstituting Jim Crow. There is not a single politician of either major party who is openly campaigning for White supremacy. There is no Theodore G. Bilbo out there. No corporation has adopted White Supremacy as a policy. Instead, corporations are falling all over themselves to issue statements affirming their support for diversity, inclusion, and equity, even at the expense of profitability.
The woke left assures us that evil racists bent on keeping people of color down threaten the whole country, but where are these racists? Most of the hate crimes the woke produce as evidence of the omnipresent White supremacists turn out to be hoaxes. The situation reminds me not a little of Orwell’s 1984. Everyone believes that agents of the evil Goldstein are everywhere, subverting the wise rule of Big Brother. Yet, somehow no one ever encounters any actual agents of Goldstein, except for the people on the telescreen who have been tortured into confessing. Maybe that’s the whole point of the anti-racist hysteria, to provide an Emmanuel Goldstein for the masses to hate.
I wonder how Whites came to be supreme in the first place. Are Whites somehow more wicked than other races? Are Whites more ruthless, perhaps, more willing to use violence to take what they want from others? Do Whites have some insatiable need to dominate and exploit the world around them, including the natural world, as well as people of other races? That is what the logic of woke anti-racism seems to suggest. This anti-racist idea that Whites and whiteness are somehow evil seems more than a little racist itself. It is reminiscent of Nazi ideology concerning the Jews. If the Aryans were the master race, how was it that the Jews tended to be more successful? Well, the Jews must be cheating. They are parasites who rip off the efforts of the noble Aryans. If all races are equal, how did White Europeans come to dominate the world through colonialism? Whites must be more vicious.
If it were true that Whites are inherently racist villains bent on oppression, then there can only be one solution to the problem of White supremacy, a final solution, if you will. It will not be enough to continue teaching Whites to revile their own history of racist oppression. Sooner or later, the White instinct to dominate and oppress will come to the fore. The only way to ensure the end of White supremacy is to end the White race. That is far from a mainstream position even among the wokest left, but the logic is quite clear.
But are White Europeans really more violent and ruthless than other races and cultures? An honest review of world history: real history, not what the Marxist professors are teaching, shows that there is plenty of wickedness evident among every race and culture in every corner of the world. The sins that the woke attribute to Western civilization, slavery, and colonialism, are the sins of the whole human race. The colonial powers who conquered the Americas and ruled most of Africa and Asia may have been oppressive. Still, they were no worse than the indigenous rulers who preceded them. Indeed, in some respects, colonial rule was an improvement.
If Whites are no worse than other races, perhaps they are better. Maybe they are better. Maybe the reason that Whites became supreme is that they are, in fact, superior to other races, particularly those Whites from nations that became colonial powers. If this is the case, why should anyone be against White supremacy? If Whites have superior traits that have allowed them to rule most of the world, then Whites should be supreme for the good of everyone, especially the inferior races who may not be able to govern themselves.
So what are these White traits that have led Whites to colonize most of the world in centuries past? Perhaps we should look at the notorious chart issued by the Smithsonian Institute to see what it means to be White.
The curious thing about this chart is that many of the supposedly White traits, a strong work ethic, desire for competition, scientific and rational thinking, using correct language, and others are not uniquely White at all. There are many cultures all over the world that prize some or all of these traits; while there are many White cultures that do not. Individuals and cultures that value these “White” traits are successful. People and cultures that do not value these traits, no matter the color of their skin, tend not to be very successful. This assault on White supremacy is really an assault on the qualities that lead to success. These are values that should be encouraged in every young American, whatever their race or ethnicity.
This leads me to my final question. Why do people like that woke teacher want minority children to fail? By teaching them that working hard, being on time, and speaking proper English are examples of White supremacy, to be avoided at all costs by people of color, they are setting their students up for failure. As long as they fail, they will always need anti-racist White leftists to protect them. Woke anti-racism is about really affluent White Progressives holding power over people of every race by dividing us to rule over us.
I think that New Year’s Day must be my least favorite holiday. The problem is the date, January 1. This has to be the worst time to start off the new year. It is only a week after Christmas. All the excitement of the Christmas season has dissipated and there is a general impression of anti-climax. The holidays are over and it is time to go back to the general routine of everyday life. In addition, January is the coldest, dreariest month of the year and January 1 is right in the middle of winter. I know that winter officially begins on the winter solstice, December 21 or 22, but in midwestern North America, the cold weather begins about a month or more before the solstice. It is possible to forget the dreariness of winter during the Christmas season, but by January, it feels that winter has been here forever and will never end.
It seems to me that it would be better to start the new year at the transition between one season and the next, preferably when winter becomes spring. What would be more appropriate than to start the new year at the beginning of Spring, when the cycle of nature is renewed and new life springs up? Spring is a time of new hopes and beginnings, so why not start the new year at the vernal equinox, March 21? If starting the new year at the beginning of a month seems weird, why not start the new year on March 1 or April 1? Well, maybe starting the new year on April Fool’s Day is not such a good idea. Why do we start the new year on January 1 anyway?
We have the Romans to thank for the date of New Year’s Day. as well as for our calendar, which is derived from the ancient Roman calendar. Originally, the Roman calendar did have March as the first month of the year. According to Roman legend, Rome’s founder Romulus established a ten-month calendar, beginning in March and extending to December. This is why our ninth through twelfth months, September to December have names meaning seventh through tenth months. Obviously, this ten-month calendar didn’t work out at all, so Romulus’s successor, Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, added the months of January and February.
It is not clear how true these legends are, but the twelve-month calendar attributed to Numa was used until Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 46 BC. At first, the year continued to start in March, but during the republic, new consuls began their terms of office on the kalends, or first day, of January, named for Janus the double-headed god of new beginnings. The Romans did not number their years forward from a past year, as we do, Instead, they named each year after the consuls who served for that year. So, instead of a particular year being 132 since whatever, it would be the year Titus Maximus and Gaius Flavius were consuls. For this reason, it seemed to make sense to start the new year with the beginning of the consuls’ terms, and January first gradually became accepted as the first day of the new year, and when Julius Caesar introduced his Julian calendar, the first of January was officially established as the new year.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, New Year’s Day began to be seen as a holdover from Rome’s pagan past, and a variety of dates were used as New Year’s Day, including Christmas, March 1, and March 25. Calendars still began with January, however, leaving the actual date the new year began up to whoever had the calendar. January 1 was restored as New Year’s Day when Pope Gregory XIII promulgated the Gregorian Calendar in 1582. As the Gregorian Calendar became established as the most widely used calendar in the world, January 1 became the first day of the year worldwide. This means thanks to the Romans and Pope Gregory XIII we are stuck with the new year starting in the dead of winter, instead of spring, and there is nothing I can do about it.
Like Mark, John does not include a narrative of the nativity. Instead, John chooses to go all the way back to the beginning.
1.In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was with God in the beginning.3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-4)
“The Word” is the usual translation of the Greek word λογος (logos) but logos means more than just “word” Logos means something like speech or discourse or reason. Hence the word logic is derived from logos, as well as “ology” as in geology or biology. The Stoic philosophers used the word logos to refer to the divine Reason in their pantheistic belief system while the Hellenistic Jews identified logos with the wisdom or spirit of God. John follows the Jewish view by identifying the logos with God. Notice he also identifies light and life with God this is a theme found throughout his gospel and in the first letter of John.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John.7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:6-8)
John the Baptist was not the Word. He was only a messenger.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14)
The Word became flesh. But who was the Word or the Son?
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:15-18)
The Word made flesh was Jesus Christ. Of the four gospels, John most emphasizes the divine nature of Jesus, even to the point of omitting incidents that show any weakness on the part of Jesus. John does not mention Jesus’s temptation in the desert by the Devil after being baptized by John the Baptist nor does he show Jesus’s agony at the Garden of Gethsemane. There is no cry of despair from the cross. Jesus is always shown as being calm and in control of events.
It may be that John wanted to emphasize the divinity of Jesus as a rebuttal to those who either believed that Jesus, while the Messiah was merely human and those who held that Jesus was born human but had been adopted as the Son at his baptism or at some other time. John states that Jesus has existed since before time began as the eternal Word of God. At the same time, John firmly rejects the other extreme that Jesus did not really have a body made of matter but only seemed to be flesh. This idea was held by many Gnostics who taught that physical matter was an inferior substance to the spiritual realm, created by an inferior, and perhaps evil, deity. Jesus Christ, being an emissary from the higher God could not have a body made of mere flesh. John asserts that the Word was made flesh and that really did have a body and really did eat and sleep.
Curiously, both these heresies are still found today, clothed in modern garb. Many liberal theologians cannot believe in the divinity of Jesus and insist that he was merely a great moral teacher. Some Atheists insist that Jesus never really existed in the physical realm but only as a myth. Maybe there really is nothing new under the Sun.
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah,the Son of God,2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.8 I baptize you withwater, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Then Jesus makes his first appearance, fully grown and ready to begin His public ministry.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness,13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being temptedby Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark’s gospel was probably the first gospel written. It is the shortest of the four gospels and seems to have been intended as a sort of FAQ for Christians wanting to know more about the central figure of their faith. Mark doesn’t include a lot of details about Jesus’s life and teachings. He just gives the basic facts about Jesus’s ministry, his miracles, and his death on the cross.
The earliest Christians weren’t really interested in the details of Jesus’s birth or His early life. Even His teachings were of secondary importance. For the early Christians, the most important fact about Jesus was that he was crucified, died, and then came back to life, defeating death and sin and redeeming the whole world. Paul, whose letters are some of the earliest Christian writings hardly mentions any details of Jesus’s life. He was surely not ignorant. Both he and the recipients of his letters already knew the information found in the Gospels. For both Paul and the people he wrote to, the most important thing was the death and resurrection. For the earliest Christians Easter, not Christmas, was the most important day of the year. Indeed, the birth of Christ may not have been celebrated by Christians until the third or fourth century.
There is a lot of talk, these days, about the War on Christmas, and I have written posts about the Secular Christmas Grinches who seem determined to ruin Christmas for everyone, or at least strip it of all meaning until it is a generic “Holiday”. As Christians, we should remember the importance of Christmas and should fight against the increasing marginalization of the Judeo-Christian worldview that this nation was founded upon. Still, we should also remember that Christ’s death and resurrection was the reason he came into the world. If Jesus is the reason for Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are the reason for Jesus. We should remember Christ on the cross as well as baby Jesus in the manger.