David Leyonhjelm guest post. Was Jesus a terrorist?

In the three years I’ve been in the Senate, the Abbott and Turnbull governments have introduced multiple bills to address terrorist threats. Each has involved loss of liberty, justified on the grounds that existing laws must be ‘strengthened’. Agencies responsible for combating terrorism have also received substantially increased funding.

Those agencies are now better resourced and have greater powers than any time in our history. Whereas once we could only commit a crime by planning, inciting or undertaking violence, we now risk infringing the law if we investigate, talk about, promote or write about either terrorism or anti-terrorist activity. And of course, the definition of terrorism is sufficiently flexible to cover a multitude of sins.

Recognising how much we have abandoned liberty in favour of security can be difficult when it occurs incrementally, with each change minor in isolation. Often a comparison between the present and the past is required to demonstrate what we have lost.

I had an opportunity to consider this recently when I launched Kingdom of the Wicked, a novel written by my former staffer, Helen Dale. It reimagines how Jesus would fare under Roman law assuming the Roman Empire had undergone an industrial revolution. That is, while it enjoys modern technology, Roman law and culture remain intact. Helen has degrees in both common law and Roman law and an extensive understanding of life in Ancient Rome.

The book describes a charismatic carpenter known as Yeshua Ben Yusuf who is attracting attention. The Jewish establishment is concerned about losing control over their people and lobby the Romans to do something about him, calling him a “serious threat to the internal security of this province.”

There is a riot in the Jerusalem Temple when Yusuf and his followers violently assault the money-changers and trash the Temple market. Yusuf is armed with a whip and there is a death when he grapples with a man who falls and hits his head. They are all arrested and charged, including Yehuda Iscariot, a genuine terrorist who wants Yusuf to be more violent than he is.

The book describes the process, under Roman law, leading to the trial of both men. The advocate assigned to defend them takes the task seriously, while the prosecution is equally diligent in gathering evidence to prove guilt. Yusuf and Iscariot are remanded in custody.

The riot occurs against a backdrop of cultural clashes. The Romans are convinced their laws and culture are superior and view the straight-laced Jews as weird. The Jews regard the Romans as immoral and dissolute – tolerant of homosexuality and abortion, and sexually uninhibited.

Notwithstanding the benefits of Roman rule (low crime rates, good public health and high rates of literacy), many Jews want to expel the Roman colonial power. Led by the Zealots, they use IEDs, conduct raids and shoot people – both Romans and Jewish collaborators. There are no suicide bombs but plenty of dead bodies, with a particularly vicious attack on an abortion clinic.

There are obvious parallels with current circumstances and it’s fascinating to compare the story as described in the book with how Yusuf would be treated today. Some differences are clear-cut; Roman law allows the use of torture on non-citizens, subject to a warrant and within strict limits. The Romans also endorse the death penalty.

However, the Romans have no specific laws against terrorism. Planning, plotting and advocating the overthrow of Roman rule is not an offence. Yusuf can only be tried for conspiring and undertaking activities that lead to deaths and injuries. He isn’t charged for having links to the Zealots, isn’t subject to preventative detention or secret evidence, doesn’t have his passport cancelled and isn’t made subject to a control order. The media are also not at risk for reporting on his activities or the activities of the security agencies. However, as the story in Kingdom of the Wicked unfolds, the Romans become more and more paranoid about the province of Judaea and start breaking their own laws concerning treatment of suspects and responses to terrorism.

Less than half a century ago, Jesus was sometimes regarded as a bit of a hippy. Asking whether a religious figure commonly associated with pacifism (or at least principled opposition to authority) would be caught under modern counter-terrorism legislation enables us to reflect on the sort of authoritarian, illiberal laws we have enacted in the name of the “War on Terror”.

David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats.

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47 Responses to David Leyonhjelm guest post. Was Jesus a terrorist?

  1. mareeS

    Interesting thesis, David. He did upset a lot of people on the traditional side, that’s for sure, and that’s why they killed him.

    But he was never silenced, so here we are 2000+ yrs later, still trying.

  2. notafan

    There are obvious parallels with current circumstances and it’s fascinating to compare the story

    No there aren’t. The Romans conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC and “Notwithstanding the benefits of Roman rule” the indigenous people thought they would like to be free.

    Not terrorists.

    Pretty damn patronizing really.

  3. MrZee

    It’s difficult for me to get past Helen Dale’s anti-semitic novel The Hand That Signed The Paper to give this one a chance.

    [Helen Dale’s first book is not anti-semitic. Sinc]

  4. A Lurker

    No, Jesus was not a terrorist. He preached love not hate.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

    “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35).

    “Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:37-40).

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

    Planning, plotting and advocating the overthrow of Roman rule is not an offence.

    I’m not certain about that point. Romans were very particular in retaliating with absolute and brutal force anyone who incited a revolt against Rome – especially in the provinces. Evidence – Boudicca and the Celtic/British tribes who were involved in that ‘little’ fracas. Also, there were three Jewish rebellions – and from my scarce knowledge of those, those rebellions weren’t led by the followers of Jesus.

    Another thing – one of the main reasons that Christians were persecuted in Rome was because they refused to take part in traditional Roman religious ceremonies. The ceremonies were ordered because Rome was experiencing a downturn, so various Emperors thought that making sacrifices to appease the Gods would do the trick. The Christians (naturally) did not want to be involved – and their non-involvement/refusal was seen as working against the interests of Rome and thus the persecutions began and continued on and off for a century or two.

    As for others who work against Rome?
    Perhaps the good Senator should also consider this quote from Cicero, who lived and died a little bit before Jesus was born.

    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”

    My advice is for the Senator to look closer to home for those who conspire against ‘Rome’ rather than attempting to find ancient parallels to the war on terror.

  5. pbw

    David Leyonhjelm is trying to attract attention again–and sales for his former staffer’s book. He’s not usually so silly though.

  6. mh

    David, I will defend to the death your right to be ridiculous.

  7. BrettW

    Thanks for letting me know there are degrees in Roman Law.

  8. cynical1

    authoritarian, illiberal laws we have enacted in the name of the “War on Terror”.

    Huh? Like importing the usual suspects?

    Like giving them welfare and ignoring their rorting of it?

    Like putting fucking bollards up instead of dealing with the threat?

    Paying out compo to law breaking country shoppers?

    We have more laws against homophobes, “Climate deniers” and Islamophobes because they are the real threat.

    The usual simplistic nonsense that saw even Bolt leave DL without answers to just how his brain farts
    could be implemented.

  9. Snoopy

    It is at moments like these I miss Dot.

  10. Phill

    I have always been a bit bewildered by the need for more and more specific laws. Surely treason, sedition, murder and so on were already against the law, even in roman times. So, in the case of Jesus (from Luke 23:2) we find that he was charged with “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.” In modern times, that might equate to sedition, tax avoidance and perhaps impersonation or fraud (if financial gain can be demonstrated). While Pilate wasn’t convinced on the merits of the prosecution case, he still found Jesus guilty. Why? It was politically expedient.

  11. Infidel Tiger 2.0 (Premium Content Subscribers Only)

    This is a bit like Jeffrey Dahmer writing a cookbook.

    When you start with the wrong ingredients it’s hard to get back on track.

  12. Zyconoclast

    Thanks for letting me know there are degrees in Roman Law

    Useful in a modern Roman Court?

  13. entropy

    Get back to your real job we are paying you $200k plus for David.

  14. Suburban Boy

    Planning, plotting and advocating the overthrow of Roman rule is not an offence.

    Compare: “He who shall have roused up a public enemy or handed over a citizen to a public enemy must suffer capital punishment” (from Table IX of the Leges Duodecim Tabularum of 449 BC).

  15. Kneel

    We don’t need anti-terrorist laws and never did – all they are is a sop to the electorate, so the pollies can say “we did SOMETHING”.

    Someone (planning to) set off a bomb at a football game? Charge them with conspiracy to commit murder and/or murder as appropriate. That is all. No mention of motive etc in those charges, just that they did, or tried to arrange to, kill people.
    End of story.
    Charges of “terrorism” legitimise their “cause” – to absolutely NO benefit. Stick to basic criminal murder/conspiracy charges. The more charges proven, the greater the sentence. That is all.

  16. Dr Fred Lenin

    Yes, according to the Roman Occupiers and their Jewish quislings . Just as today anyone who doesn’t support u.n.communist /cronycapitalist fascism ,is “Extreme Right Wing “ , you notice they don’t call us Nazis , they were socialists too .

  17. Barbara

    Someone wrote a book without a good knowledge of the Gospels and what Jesus said.
    Jesus said “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is God’s” Mark 12:17 when Pharasees tried to trap him just before crucifiction.
    He also did not believe in fighting as in the garden Mark 14:48 when Jesus stopped disciples from fighting the men who arrested him.
    Jesus was not trying to overturn the Roman empire although his disciples wanted that. Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God, not on the earth.

  18. Dr Fred Lenin

    Snoopy. Agree .where is the Dotster, obviously silenced by anti libertarian reactionaries ,gagged and tied to a chair in some dungeon , you would have to gag him. He would drive his captors to acute alcohol dependence if he weren’t . Miss his convoluted law trade jargon .

  19. Rebel with cause

    If David really wanted to be provocative he might ask the same question about a bloke named Mo.

  20. Streetcred

    Terrorist? Jesus? Last I knew, Jesus didn’t kill anybody.

  21. BorisG

    It appears that Pilate had a lot more judicial power than any Australian judges today.

  22. Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV)

    You can’t have a war on “terror”. Terror isn’t a state or a thing it’s a strategy or an act.

    What we have here is a war on the religion that can not be named: islam. All the while pretending its minions are not out to conquer the world by the womb or by the sword.

  23. Combine Dave

    With appropriate immigration controls in place and the return of capital punishment for murder and attempted murder; police state style anti-terrorism rules become unnecessary.

  24. Jannie

    This article suggests that when Jesus cleared the money lenders from Temple it was an act of terrorism.

    Big call. Pilate did not see it as a breach of Roman Law, which was why Jesus was referred to Herod. Herod in turn sent Jesus back to Pilate because there was no breach of Herod’s civil laws. It was a religious offence, the charges laid and prosecuted by the Pharisees. The death penalty was pronounced on the basis of Roman authority to satisfy the Pharisees, Pilate used his discretion on a non Roman. It was a judicial mess.

    Jesus repeatedly denounced violence, and specifically indicated his “revolution” was a religious issue and not directed at the Roman state or authority.

    No, Jesus was not a terrorist.

  25. anonandon

    Yes, but nobody was killed in the Temple so the story falls apart right at the start.

  26. m.statement

    As SciFi books go Patrick Tilley’s cult Jesus book ‘Mission’ is one of the better efforts

    ‘Some Templars from Switzerland made contact with me because they were convinced I belonged to one of their Orders. Apparently I had revealed many things which they regarded as their deepest Inner Mysteries and were curious to know who had directed me to ‘go public’.’

    https://www.patricktilley.co.uk/mission/genesis.php

  27. RobK

    Was Jesus a terrorist?
    No.

  28. Helen

    This is what happens with Hollywood History. I got a book on that the other day.

    If no-one died in the Temple, – and it appears no-one did, then to pretend someone did is pure invention and adding another layer to the model. We know all about modelling now because of non existent global warming. If you want to test something by placing it in another time to test if some some laws would have interpreted another ending – then that is ALL that should be done. Not add accidental or otherwise murder as well. If you have to do that to make your model work, then your hypothesis is wrong.

    If Jesus was a terrorist, then I would all terrorists were Jesus. Hmmm. Mo. Kinda doesn’t fit, does it? Name the beast, the beast is Islam.

  29. RobK

    Generally, it is understood that the victors have a greater impact on the recording of history. Accordingly, you should refer your question to the Pope’s organization.
    I expect he would give you much the same answer as most of the comments above, for much the same reasons but not so few words.
    Not a very good baiting exercise.

  30. Louis

    I went to uni with Helen and knowing she was your staff member has just lost the last shred of respect I had for you.

    BTW Helen claimed to have a lot of ‘degrees’ and expertise in things back in those days too.

  31. Nato

    Let me guess… it doesn’t end with the crucifixion of Yeshua Ben Yusuf.

  32. J.H.

    The doctrine of Jesus Christ is about compassion and faith, not terrorism. Nobody died in the Temple, so the whole premise is absurd.

    What Jesus actually did was ride into town on a donkey as the new King of Jerusalem and drove out of the Temple the people selling animals there for sacrifice, he overturned the tables of the money lenders and upset the benches of those selling doves. All were indications that the children of Moses had strayed…… He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

    Jesus was presenting himself into Jerusalem as the new King of Jerusalem, the new Prophet riding into the city on the back of a donkey as prophecy would have it. He asked that they examine their motives and their actions and reconcile that with the teachings of the lord God. He knew they were wanting, they knew they were lacking

    Jesus was no terrorist….. It’s an absurd position to hold.

  33. Paridell

    I wouldn’t draw attention to any association with Helen Dale if I were you, David.

  34. Stimpson J. Cat

    David Leyonhjelm, in all honesty next to you I look like a sane bald genius.
    Go and do something useful, and no, I don’t mean writing a Parliament Christmas song or creating flare sections at the soccer.

  35. NB

    Gosh, DL has got some flack for this. I just say ‘always look on the bright side of life’.

  36. Tel

    Roman law was not particularly fussy over the treatment of prisoners.

    At least, if such laws existed, no one worried much about them.

  37. Tel

    The doctrine of Jesus Christ is about compassion and faith, not terrorism. Nobody died in the Temple, so the whole premise is absurd.

    There’s kind of a conflation going on between Jesus as a religious heretic who was also morally opposed to the Roman military industrial complex (but also very careful not to advocate violence) and other anti-Roman uprisings that were indeed violent (such as the Siege of Masada which happened a little bit later).

    Having said that, in a parallel history who knows? Was Jesus genuinely peaceful, or simply too cautious and never met with the practical opportunity for violent resistance? Impossible to say, IMHO.

  38. Clam Chowdah

    Whereas once we could only commit a crime by planning, inciting or undertaking violence, we now risk infringing the law if we investigate, talk about, promote or write about either terrorism or anti-terrorist activity.

    Talk about? Write about? Can you cite examples?

  39. classical_hero

    Terrorist? He was a freedom fighter.

  40. a reader

    FMD…we pay senators to write stuff like this?

  41. BorisG

    FMD…we pay senators to write stuff like this?

    I’d say DL is a citizen and has the right to free speech.

  42. The riot occurs against a backdrop of cultural clashes. The Romans are convinced their laws and culture are superior and view the straight-laced Jews as weird. The Jews regard the Romans as immoral and dissolute – tolerant of homosexuality and abortion, and sexually uninhibited.

    Notwithstanding the benefits of Roman rule (low crime rates, good public health and high rates of literacy), many Jews want to expel the Roman colonial power. Led by the Zealots, they use IEDs, conduct raids and shoot people – both Romans and Jewish collaborators. There are no suicide bombs but plenty of dead bodies, with a particularly vicious attack on an abortion clinic.

    There are obvious parallels with current circumstances

    This part of the story and the essay is the most interesting to me because it indicates how both authors, Dale and Leyonhjelm, view Rome and Jerusalem, then and now. Not only was Rome tolerant of ‘homosexuality’ but also of pederasty. Not only of abortion but also of infanticide. However, look at those ‘straight-laced’ heirs of Jerusalem, tut-tutting those oh so tolerant Roman mores that would abandon an infant in a ditch or wink at the patrician seducing a poor teenage boy. Oh, heirs of Jerusalem, have you no manners!

  43. The riot occurs against a backdrop of cultural clashes. The Romans are convinced their laws and culture are superior and view the straight-laced [email protected] as weird. The [email protected] regard the Romans as immoral and dissolute – tolerant of homosexuality and abortion, and sexually uninhibited.

    Notwithstanding the benefits of Roman rule (low crime rates, good public health and high rates of literacy), many [email protected] want to expel the Roman colonial power. Led by the Zealots, they use IEDs, conduct raids and shoot people – both Romans and [email protected] collaborators. There are no suicide bombs but plenty of dead bodies, with a particularly vicious attack on an abortion clinic.

    There are obvious parallels with current circumstances

    This part of the story and the essay is the most interesting to me because it indicates how both authors, Dale and Leyonhjelm, view Rome and Jerusalem, then and now. Not only was Rome tolerant of ‘homosexuality’ but also of pederasty. Not only of abortion but also of infanticide. However, look at those ‘straight-laced’ heirs of Jerusalem, tut-tutting those oh so tolerant Roman mores that would abandon an infant in a ditch or wink at the patrician seducing a poor teenage boy. Oh, heirs of Jerusalem, have you no manners!

  44. rickw

    Stopping Terrorism is fucking simple.

    Don’t import them.

  45. Penguinte

    Lets have a few more executions! SouthBank would be as good a venue as any! Catch the casino crowd on their way home.

  46. struth

    Terrorism compared to random mass violence by a criminally insane whackjob, is easily distinguished.

    All mas murder is not terrorism just because it happened.
    A single murder is not terrorism just because it happened.

    Be very careful to stop the left wing narrative that it is from gaining traction.

    Terrorism is the intent to change politics/religion using violence.
    To strike fear into the political or religious opposite.

    One murder can be terrorism.

    The beheading of one soldier on a British side walk, done in the name of religion and as it’s Islam, that’s political as well.

    A lot of people lay dead in Jamestown once, because of religion.
    That wasn’t terrorism.

    It wasn’t done to strike fear into a religious or political(or both) opposition.

    We need, as keyboard warriors to reinforce this throughout the forums.
    If we allow the left to call any act of violence “terrorism” we really are stupid.

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