Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Sad Progression

 Jesus built his Church on a rock called Peter.

That was about 2000 years ago.

Jesus himself got crossways to the power structure of his time and he ultimately was executed by exponents of that power structure.

Peter and his followers went underground for a time: ten days.

Then the eleven - those left over after Judas' unfortunate betrayal of Jesus - all together, it is said, were huddled together wondering what was next when "next" came upon them.

It was Sunday.

It was the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit imbued the eleven with the gift of tongues and they went forth and used that multi-lingual gift and preached Jesus' word to the known world; and it was a message ripe for adoption: its followers became legion and, as such, they became a threat to Rome.

So Rome started feeding vast numbers of the followers of Jesus to lions and other assorted large carnivores.

But there was a problem: the more followers the Roman power structure fed to the carnivores, the more followers came tramping down the road to Rome - and its outlying districts; it was kind of a zombie apocalypse.

This went on for quite a while.

But accommodation began to creep in; people need to live their lives after all; going to the Colly to watch the lions eat the Christians (by this time the followers had adopted an opprobrious term that had been assigned to them as their go-to-the-lion-feast marketing name, and it has stuck ever since) gets to be dull after just so much of it; besides, the barbarians were beginning to storm the gates over night and that made alternate news in the six o'clock time slot.

The Christians got a break: their god was sorta added to the approved god list of Rome and things moved on with a new religious viewpoint mixed unofficially into the polyglot population that was Rome.

Finally a woman named Helena convinced her son Constantine that it was time to give the Christians special status.

Constantine was emperor at the time so he could do whatever he wanted and he made the religion and god of the Christians Rome's sole official cult.

Constantine eschewed membership, but being a pragmatist who could count, he knew when to buckle and when to resist; there were just too many Christians out there (Paul had set up the world's first wildly successful multi-national franchise) and it was pointless fighting over the fine points with the majority of his subjects: one god, or a lot of gods, after all, from a political viewpoint were pretty much the same thing.

At least that's what Constantine thought.

Not long after that the barbarians got through the gates one night and things went dark for quite a while.

As the light gradually returned there was a whole new deal.

All the barbarians had become Christians and even the rulers of the myriad kingdom-descendants of the Empire were under the thumb of Peter's then in power successor; and he lived in Rome.

Even though the temporal rulers had absolute power over all their hapless subjects, the rulers themselves were under the thumb of the guy in Rome: he could cast any ruler that crossed him into the outer darkness of excommunication - from the one true church.

That temporally overwhelming power - the power of excommunication - made even the least among the guy-in-Rome's factotums (factota?) known locally as The Clergy, overwhelmingly powerful.

By this time everybody was calling the guy in Rome "papa".

Somewhat later somebody decided that papa was holy.

Somewhere in there the guy in Rome called all his high level clergy to Nicaea where they decided that Jesus was really god.

Somebody later decided that "Pope" was a good shorthand for the name of that guy in Rome.

So the Pope's guys had a lot of power.

One of their powers was that they could read; they were pretty much the only people at that time who could read; that gave them a lot of power: the handbooks of personal behavior of the times were two books - the Old Testament and the New Testament, mainly the New Testament.

You were supposed to live according to the tenets of those two books (actually they were surviving documents cobbled together over time by various men with agendas, but Paul was not the first marketing guy, so things had begun to get organized millennia before the Pope and his boys) but there was a catch: if you couldn't read you had no idea how to live according to the tenets of the handbook.

No problem: the Pope's boys could read; they could tell you what the handbook said; all you had to do was go to meeting and be told what to do and what, and how, to think; maybe a little offering now and then for the upkeep of the Pope's guys would be appropriate.

And that seemed to work.

For a long time.

Then some guy invented a way to mass-produce words on paper.

The obvious thing to print - there wasn't much else except in the library in Alexandria, and that was full of old pagan shit, so a good christian wouldn't print any of that - was the handbook.

So the bible got printed.

One of the side effects of mass production is low unit cost.

So if you had a little accumulated wealth you could afford to buy a bible, and there were a lot of people who did have some wealth - things had been looking up economically for quite some time - and a lot of them bought a bible, just to have it around; they still couldn't read, but a bible made nice coffee table object, a sign of your economic clout and, as it turned out, a ticking time bomb.

I don't have any idea how it came to pass that large numbers of people learned to read, but somewhere before, during and after the production of the mass produced bible they did.

At first things remained placid; people bought bibles and more and more read them.

Then the shit hit the fan.

"This isn't what the Pope's guys say this thing says" was heard throughout the land; before long what the bible meant had as many interpretations as there were readers of the thing.

Massive dispersion of interpretation of the bible was followed by massive consolidation of interpretation: inevitably, stronger intellects dominated weaker, or less interested, intellects.

Consolidated groups of interpretation emerged; some failed and disappeared; some prospered and grew; some grew to a size and success that made them ripe for fracture and schism; whole new interpretations emerged and joined the dialectic process of consolidation and dispersion.

The Pope's guys pretty much disappeared.

They were replaced by every form and type a charlatan, scamp and ne'er-do-well imaginable.

But they couldn't lord it over the populace any more.

Because that populace could read and therefore could think.

A multi component revolution had been unleashed upon the land: religious thought, political thought, philosophical thought, sociological thought, scientific thought - Renaissance; Enlightenment; Revolution; Constitution.

What happened?

How did we get from the Constitution, the Declaration, Federalist Papers, two hundred years of thought, culture and literature of all stripes, to You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and trump with a 42% approval rating?

Anything above 0% is in the danger zone.

So a question becomes obvious.

Has the ability to read, to write, to think, to express and to evaluate abandoned America?

Or have the Pope's guys changed their clothes and come back with a vengeance?

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