Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Gospel according to ... Dan?

Chuck Colson interviewed by Hugh Hewitt in 1996 I've heard Chuck tell this tale in a number of venues, and it's part of my own apologetica. I've been meaning to write about the parallels between this political campaign and the early days of Christianity for some time. In particular, (before RatherGate broke), about the nature of eyewitness testimony. The CBS forgeries offer an opportunity to bring in document analysis as well. This isn't the post I planned to write - I don't have time tonight to really craft my thoughts - but let me toss out a couple of ideas, prompted by Hugh's post. Christanity is based on an historical event - the Resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus didn't really rise from the dead, we'd be better off as Buddhists or neopagans. So the historicity of the Resurrection is really, really key. Problem is, CBS News didn't have a film crew covering the opening of the tomb on Easter Sunday. (And even if they did, I'd want a video expert to go over the tape frame by frame.) The only record we have of the event is the New Testament documents. Read more here about why they're valid records. (Link will open in a new browser window.) Back to current events, we're talking about people's memories of events from 32 to 36 years ago. Some of those memories were supposedly "seared-seared!" [link to a Xmas in Cambodia recap] while others were not so vividly impressed. [link to people remembering and not remembering W sitting at a desk in AL in 72]. Now, look at what Bush and Kerry have to lose or gain by sticking to their stories, versus how outlandish their stories were. Most people don't care whether Bush showed up for every scheduled drill the last couple of months of his service. If the CBS forgeries had turned out to be real, there still would have been a collective "so what" from the voters. Why? 1. Because the story is dreadfully mundane (everybody was skipping out in '72), and 2. Bush doesn't have a great deal to lose - the voters have already factored it in. [link to analogy to a stock price not moving when the bad news is anticipated] Kerry's tale of cross-border incursions are pretty wild, especially given all the evidence that says they didn't happen. (Not quite as much evidence as that showing that dead people stay dead, but a lot nonetheless.) Kerry says he crossed the border. Maybe. Or he got near it. Now, note this: The stakes were pretty high for Kerry - his Presidential aspirations were riding on his war-hero record. But when the heat got turned up just a little, he backed away from the tale. What would he say about it if a gun were held to his head? (Not that I'd advocate that - this is hypothetical.) Would he recant entirely? Dan's documents tell a very believable tale (even if no one cared whether it was true). The fact that they are certainly bogus casts doubt on the tale itself, but more on the teller. Dan Rather has a lot riding on his story. His career. His reputation. But not his life. Compare that to the situation the original disciples - telling a totally outlandish tale, and facing torture and death if they didn't back down. But they didn't back down. Not a one. Here's the other thing. The Gospels were composed in the 80's and 90's AD, but they relied on still-earlier collections of Jesus' words and deeds. Jesus died (and rose) in AD 30. Paul wrote his letters in the mid-50's, and his writings clearly show that the belief in the literal, historical resurrection of Jesus was well-established. That's only 25 years after the event. Living witnesses were still around. The Gospels preserve their eyewitness recollections, in all their messy authenticity. Who was first on the scene that first Easter morning? Had the sun risen or not? When they got the news, the disciples rejoiced - but they were afraid... The essential, central fact, though, remains - THE TOMB WAS EMPTY. There was no 1st-Century equivalent of the SwiftVets, challenging the essential thread of narrative with an alternative set of eyewitness accounts. At least, none that was successful. Certainly the Roman government and the Sanhedrin tried to shut up the disciples, with tactics more heavy-handed than Kerry's lawyers. [link to story of letters to tv stations running fist SBVT ad]

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