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By Mr. Curmudgeon:
I’ve always been fascinated by the New Testament’s telling of Christ’s trial before the Roman Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate. Finding Christ guiltless, Pilate brought the prisoner before the people and gave them a choice: they could elect to free the innocent man or the one the Gospel of Mark describes as a “notorious prisoner” – Barabbas.
“Give us Barabbas!” shouted the mob. There was something in the innocent man the mob could not stomach. The notorious prisoner, on the other hand, presented a comfortable and familiar image – reflecting aspects of the crowd in the mirror of his twisted character.
Paralyzed by a rare fit of conscience, the representative of imperial Caesar washed his hands in the matter and left the moral question to the voters – a rare event for the times. The innocent man was brutally tortured and eventually crucified. What became of the freed Barabbas the Bible does not say. In any event, the people had spoken.
Historian Robert Eisenman believes Barabbas was imprisoned for staging an armed uprising against Imperial Roman occupation. Biblical references say Barabbas participated in a stasis (riot), a term the ancient Jewish historian Josephus used to describe the acts of revolutionaries. Barabbas, therefore, was most likely a community organizer familiar to Jerusalem’s teaming masses. Christ’s innocence was of little consequence to the mob. Having Barabbas free and on the move was, for the mob, a higher value.
Pilate’s refusal to enforce Roman law provided democracy an opportunity to express its moral superiority to the world. It failed.
The postmortem criticism of Mitt Romney by many Republicans is that he was not conservative enough. However, in the real world, moral beings are forced to choose between the real and the real. The question before the crowd was to choose between two men: One who created companies and wealth and jobs, the other who used imperial power to seize wealth to distribute to the mob.
The mob shouted, “Give us Barack Barabbas!”
Ironically, fools have used the Biblical story above to excuse their anti-Semitism. These idiots miss the story’s moral: That mob in ancient Jerusalem is indistinguishable from a lynch mob in Mississippi or the Molotov cocktail-throwing throngs of Athens, Greece – or Chicago for that matter. Expressions of popular will tend to cast the majority in the role of the cat seeking innocent and tasty mice.
The law, not democracy, is the minority’s only protection … provided the law is not undermined by the hungry cats.