Don’t know what Frontline is or of its politics, but it advertised a 4 hour doco about the C religion; intermittently a US doctor of divinity would be interviewed to spout inanities. I know how easily that degree is obtainable; a Sydney friend graduated & went on to practise the CRAFT; and I don’t mean pottery or weaving.
Here are some tips about primary sources, and questions they could confront.
I visited Rome in 1979, and went down into the catacombs on Via Appia, home of the first christians. Curiously, I approached a group of true believers, who were doing the melt, melt… & their guide confronted me with the words: “you’re not one of us, you shouldn’t be here”. More about such rampant paranoia & insecurity later.
But in essence I agree with the guide. I didn’t want to be there; EXCEPT for that fact that I need an antidote to 10 years of internse & effective indoctrination, which I needed to neutralise.
I have not been back recently, so here are some recent archaeological discoveries. A series of frescos have been found which seem to show a woman in ecclesiastical vestments, officiating at mass. A FEMALE PRIEST. NO, no, no, says the Vatican spokesman, just misinterpretation.
In the course of my uninformed, amateur ramblings around the catacombs, I remarked on the LACK of Christ crucified visual imagery. I remember an episode of Inspector Morse inside a catholic church; the camera does a brisk montage of the visual imagery, it amounts to an S&M snuff movie. So, in the catacombs, hiding underground like rats, persecuted by the Romans, the first christians lived together in what seems harmony & optimism: their saviour is shown as the good shepherd with his flock, everywhere there is the vine & the branches, bunches of grapes, both agrarian, pastoral images.
Then, the Roman emperor was converted to christianity; Romans had always shown themselves eager to morph with the stuff of recently conquered cultures; they absorbed Egyptianism rather thoroughly.
So what happened when the first christians emerged into the sunlight. That wonderful sports arena, the Colosseum, continued to function for another 150 years of christian rule, rather a long time for the emperor & his advisors to get their cultural viewpoint & ethics right?
The Frontline advertised doco on christianity quotes Josephus, the Roman historian; let’s be clear about J as a source; as they say the victor always writes the history, or cultural propaganda. Josephus remarked on the phenomenon among Jewish people of producing a messiah, who would convince thousands of people of his bona fides; he would lead them into the desert to form an isolated community. Even in the epistles, we find an account by Paul of a village, who became convinced that the messiah was due to return next Wednesday; so, en masse, they downed tools and sat around waiting for his return. The only conclusion I can arrive at was that domination by the Babylonians had been culturally traumatic; they had to find solace in the magnificent psalms: By the rivers of Babylon we sat down & wept, when we remembered you, O Zion.
A recent tourist guide to Jerusalem remarked ruefully, that on a bad day you could encounter up to half a dozen re-incarnations of Abraham or Solomon on the streets; worst was when two of them met and disputed each other’s legitimacy. Sadly, we have inherited this disgusting spirituality, so called, so that in mostly first world Australia, there are isolated communities called Children of the light, yadda yadda, who mistrust medical persons, & who endure a high rate of child deaths during childbirth, as a result.
Sweet, lovable Pope John 23 set up the Vatican council reforms; he had been criticised earlier in his career for supposedly making light of the ritual of christian baptism by baptising jewish children & saving them from the holocaust. I know what my jesus would have thought of that.
So an old patriarch in a jeweled frock denies that women were priests: Pope John 23 wanted that eventuality; that a husband & wife might co-celebrate the ritual of communal affirmation of belief. These historians & documentary makers are very selective in their choice of materials; why does none of the Gnostic texts get examined. Let all the craziness & psychosis of the era in. The Gospel of Saint Mary Magdalene shows a woman of steadfast, unshakeable faith in her teacher & leader, some even say her husband; by comparison, Peter was a dolt & a clod; but clearly his wrenching of power from a presumptuous female had to be historically asserted.
If we could just cancel the absurd patriarchalism of the Vatican Curia, we might begin to undo 2 millenia of sexual neurosis. Having been addressed by quite cross clergy, clearly gay & frustrated, inside the Sistine Chapel, I would be reassured that some sanity exists among them, if only they seemed just cynically going through the motions, the attitude, the ecclesiastical high campery. BUT NO, clearly, they believe it all. Even though, as a friend remarked recently, they precepts of religion are propagated as if unchangeable, carved in tablets of stone. However, as the need arises, subtle changes are made. For instance, when I was a young, blind believer, I was taught that, having committed a mortal sin, it was necessary to go to confession, usually a Saturday arvo ritual. Now, given that the number of priests decreases annually, and are simply not available to hear confessions, it is now permissible to make a solemn act of contrition. This enables the true believer to receive communion and resolve to go to confession later at the first opportunity.
Just go into the light.