The Elian Gonzalez  Story – A “Type” of Gethsemane

An open letter to whoever will read it, by Greg Scott

A preliminary definition:

The word “type” is a technical biblical term used to describe an event that is a kind of “picture” that illustrates some biblical truth. In the Bible, it usually prophetically foreshadows an important person or event. The ark that God instructed Noah to build, for example, is seen as a “type” of Jesus, who is our salvation from judgment and death. As with all parables, one must be careful not to overwork the analogy, or there will be theological distortion.

Disclosure of Bias, Hedges, Qualifications, and Disclaimer:

Before I begin, I want to make it clear that the “type” I see illustrated in these events is very imperfect. We live in a fallen world. Also, this is a human declaration, not a divine one. I, the author of this essay, am an extremely fallible sinner like y’all, and I’m not claiming “Thus Sayeth The LORD” authority here. Indeed, if you read on, you’ll find I have a strong bias. I think that we are morally obligated for form opinions of right and wrong, and act on them to the best of our ability. I think that “open mindedness” and “fairness” are often destructive strategies of destructive forces. If there really is objective “truth” and we discern it with any certainty, then we should act decisively on the truth. It would be evil to oppose effective action by insisting on a doctrine of  perpetual “open mindedness”, in the “theological” tradition of modern liberal thought.


Unfortunately, one consequence living in a world tainted by sin is that all available options seem wrong. It is wrong to deny the child the freedom that his mother paid for with her life. It is wrong to enslave a child. It is also wrong to deny a father custody of his child without clear and overriding cause. A legal precedent has been set in the courts in this case which I believe will be used for evil, by those who see the parental rights as inferior to the child’s rights and the “rights” of the state, and who don’t understand that parents are themselves a “type” of God’s protection and love. So even though parents are fallen, their obligation to protect their children is superior to the state's obligation to protect their children in all but the most extreme situations.


So with these cautions and disclaimers and truth-in-ranting notices all properly posted, I will proceed to paint my impression of the allegory in these events:

The Allegory in the events:

Baptism is a “type”, illustrating death, burial, and resurrection. It’s also symbolic of ceremonial cleansing and repentance, and of public proclamation of important truths. Elian was subjected to a painful and very lonely baptism at sea. Though he himself did not die, his mother did, so the death and burial were represented in a very graphic and costly way. He was rescued by a fisherman, who became his first “disciple/ protector”. Like Peter, this practical man took the care and feeding and protection of his central character with great seriousness, and occasional blunders in judgment.


As the climactic part of the passion play unfolded, it became evident that the Pharisees, represented by liberal social workers pretending to operate in the child’s best interest, were going to enlist Caesar/Clinton’s military forces to achieve their objectives. Reno, Clinton’s enabler and hit man, took Pilate’s role in executing Caesar’s policies and orders faithfully, and commanding required military elements.


Now here is that most striking part of the picture: The disciples are gathered around their “central figure” waiting for the inevitable, hoping against hope for some miracle of protection to protect their dreams. This hope is not realized, and their dream is forcibly snatched from them. “ Peter, the fisherman”, makes a last ditch feeble attempt to protect his “central figure”. Instead of shooting his attackers in the ear, as the original fisherman cut off an attacker’s ear with a sword in Gethsemane, this fisherman merely hid in a closet as armed men take his charge by force. (We’re a little grateful that the analogy breaks down a bit at that point. The snatch was unnecessarily traumatic and forcible in nature, as it was, not in the way that it was performed, but because it was avoidable.)


The child will not be crucified. But he will be in a cage of notoriety and fame for the rest of his life. His future will be shaped the fact that two opposing cultures fought over his life. Both cultures are totally populated by sinners, and he himself is also a sinner, so although his material future is likely to be good in any outcome, since he will become a political showpiece for victorious side. Unfortunately, emotional and spiritual risks in the future are severe, since fame thrust on the naive is dangerous, or even potentially lethal.


I draw few further parallels. We could surely discover many more, with a little effort. But this parallelism is no miracle. It’s part of the fabric that is woven into history. The greatest story ever told is told over and over, in some form, in all the lives that surround us. The greatest truths are acted out daily in lives all around us every day, but usually are expressed in a more private, quiet manner. The primary cause of this particular travesty is the divorce and separation of the parents. Just as Adam sought to evade blame by dumping it on Eve, family betrayal is an old, old story. There us a creditable concern that the father is likely to be attempting to save his “current” family, and himself, from harm by acting in manner which is not consistent with his real desires for his son. The father is very plausibly a covert a hostage of the Cuban government. Here is an extreme imaginary example to server as an analogy illustrating the problem with basing a decision solely on parental rights: Who among us would have sent a child into Columbine High School during its holocaust, if one of the hostages under attack requested the child? Nobody would be so foolish! The obvious concern would be that the rampage killer was trying to extract more victims. The father would be amazed and horrified I his request were taken at face value. He would merely be accommodating an insane demand made threat of death. He would never want his request to be honored!


I would side with the fisherman and he Miami branch of the family, in this case. Providentially appointed by God in the role of “in loco parentis” (surrogate parent in the absence of the genuine article) for the boy, they have generally responded well to a morally obligation to operate in the child’s best interest, even if that conflicts with the father, who may not be truthfully expressing his real interests, because the rest of his extended family his hostage in Cuba. 

Reluctant Concessions:

As much as I hate to say it, Janet Reno did the right things, legally and tactically, given her obligations in this drama. Our country will demand the return of children abducted by spouses in other countries. (Although the mother clearly did not abduct the child.)  If we legally weaken the right of the parent in this situation, it will work against us in many others. I heard a legal proverb once that said something like: “Hard cases make bad laws”. When we write or interpret laws in a knee-jerk reaction to a short-term dramatic situation, we lose the balance and tempering that would be wiser. The child did not actually reach our shores under his own control, which may be a legal requirement for being allowed to stay. So “Peter the fisherman” unwittingly betrayed his charge by rescuing him. He’d have done better to give him food  and rest, and put him back in the inner tube to swim ashore on his own. What a Pharisaical legal system we have! Anyway, perhaps this irony is a weak parallel to Peter’s betrayal in the form of three denials in the morning just before the rooster crowed. I like our modern day fisherman, and think that he did better than most of us might have done in his situation.


Conceding for the moment a decision to take the child by force, Janet Reno did properly, in my opinion, in using S.W.A.T. teams and overwhelming force accomplish that objective. To have gone in slower, and softer, would have actually endangered the boy, the family, and the crowd of disciples/protectors outside. Just one armed person deciding to resist the invading force could have been deadly and dangerous both to lawful servants of our government, and to the people gathered in opposition to the government’s stated intentions.  By using overwhelming force, any hotheaded reaction from the crowd or the family was effectively preempted. This is, I believe, a standard law enforcement and military doctrine, demonstrated, for example, in the Gulf War. Massive force, applied with restraint, can minimize harm.

Day Dream or Nightmare: If I could make the decisions!

On the other hand, I would have taken a different position, if I had the power. I would have granted Elian an honorary and legal dual citizenship, and told the father that he could have the child immediately… Just as soon as he could authoritatively prove that he was acting under any form of compulsion by the Cuban government. The only way I would know to do that is to have the entire extended family come here, and live for a time, perhaps a month or two, outside any Cuban influence. If, after that time, they wished to return to Cuba, then that would be regrettable. If on the other hand, Cuba complained, we could have asserted that since Castro’s people love him so, that such a stipulation was totally reasonable. And if they don’t want to accept such a mild stipulation, they must not really want the boy very badly, anyway. If they took Elian under these conditions and Elian later wanted to return, his dual citizenship would be honored just as it would be for any other child that reaches maturity. But hey, enough of that dreaming. I’m neither president nor supreme dictator, and you are undoubtedly thanking God right now that I never will be, and breathing a short prayer to that effect, just for a little insurance.


Anyway, it would have been good if the government had negotiated with the family in Miami something like this: “You must immediately deliver Elian to us now, or risk that some time in the future, perhaps the near future, that we will suddenly appear and take him by force.” Such a plain threat might have spared the child the trauma, and all others involved the risk. Perhaps they did. One would hope so.


As a side note, it’s not so bad to disagree with my President about his actions, considering that I disagree with God about some of the ways that He designed our world! For example, wouldn’t it be a lot easier for all of us if whenever we did what was wrong, it felt acutely uncomfortable, and whenever we did what was right, it was at almost always pleasant? At least after being “remodeled” by the Holy Spirit. It’s quite inconvenient, really, that God’s not a good behavioral psychologist. It seems that He wants, for some reason, to build people who are a little more “refined” than that. Just be careful about praying for humility, for example. Humiliation may soon follow! Lightning has not struck, so I have now proved that God has a sense of humor. Not to mention patience. Anyway, if I can disagree with God, then I think I can disagree with anybody. Part of the Good News in the bible is that even really bizarre or defective people like Gideon, Sampson, Thomas or Saul all may be found among God’s people, and they remain an important part of the story of His unfolding benevolence. They even have their own, if limited,  useful role in the implementation of God’s plan. I take comfort in that!

The Omissions in Our Government’s Response:

My main criticism of our government, in this occasion, is that  it appears to me that the law is being applied, but not mercy, and not wisdom. I hope I’m wrong. I would hope that privately, the boy’s father is even now being begged to defect, and allow the child to be raised in the freedom that his mother sought. Given the current administration, I have no faith that this is being effectively pursued. Clinton is no seeker of either justice or mercy. Indeed, since many of the father’s extended family are back in Cuba, we can assume that there is no way that he can be completely free, completely delivered from his unfortunate role as a puppet hostage to a dictator.

Rejoice: The end of the document is near.
Also, the End of the World as We Know It!

In conclusion, I marvel at the dramatic emotion evoked by this little passion play. And it is so extremely passionate! I’ve had to avoid talking about it too much, because it’s so upsetting. But I also feel compelled to share my thoughts, as part of my personal testimony, since I believe that this drama is, in part, a reminder from God about how badly bent and broken life becomes when it deviates from His original design. Anyway, it’s a great occasion to remember that the Father sacrificed His precious perfect Son, in an act totally pure, totally free of the nasty contradictions that stain this sad story. Jesus was not compelled to give up His Divine Freedoms to become a man, He undertook His work of salvation eagerly, if with very human feelings of distress. He sacrificed everything so that you could be free, even if you might still have to live in the shadow of a dictator or a liar. Or even if one is a dictator or a liar! (If you are, I would also add that God would like to help you fix those problems, and many of the rest of us sinners out here are impatiently hoping for exactly such a miracle. I would also point out that God might fix those problems, in part,  by removing a dictator or liar from office. But perhaps not. The murdering and adulterous King David was left in power. However, that power became hard to distinguish from curse, also. He ended up killing  sons who were plotting against him, and his power.)


Jesus is risen! Happy Easter! One day the world itself will rise again, and the triumphant Messiah will rule it as supreme unquestioned authority. And we need not shudder at the prospect! May God make it so.

The End!

You made it! Thanks for listening

Greg Scott


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