Archive for July 11th, 2007|Daily archive page

Searching for Neo-Gnostics

The Passion of ChristSure, I pick Lost Christianities for my summer reading and what does the Pope do?

That lovely former Hilter Youth brings out another document “clarifying” the Catholic positions produced during the Second Vatican Council. (The first okayed the Latin mass which is fine by me but has gotten some more liberal Catholics a bit grumpy.) The new clarification is posed as a series of questions and answers. The fifth answer is a doozy. From the official Vatican web site

Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of ‘Church’ with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

“Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense. [scare quotes in the original, my bold]

Oh, Snap! Bad Protestants! Bad. Go – um – stand in a corner or something.

This works wonders for all those people trying to create a dialog, not only among people of no faith but even among those of faith.

The really ironic part is that the Church Benedict is claiming goes right back to that little barn in Bethlehem, didn’t really get started until some time in the fourth century.

My favorite early Christian sect is turning out to be the Gnostics. They thought the world had been created by a bad, corrupt Deity, God of the Jews and creator of this oh-so-imperfect world and who was an offspring of a higher more perfect being, Sophia. She, in turn, existed between the One True God and – well – everything else. The One True God send Jesus to bring this information to the uniformed masses and by doing so, save them.

The Gnostics thought all you had to do was figure out everything is a shame and that everyone has a “divine spark” part of that original True God. Once you know about it, your physical body becomes unimportant. A little like Scientology but without Zenu, the alien thetans, DC-3s and volcanos. Well OK; not at all like Scientology.

These ideas didn’t go over well in Rome. The proto-Catholic church did everything it could to discredit and destroy the Gnostics. Once the Gnostic church was destroyed, the orthodox Christian faith then faked the evidence to make it seem like nothing else ever existed. (Think Alberto Gonzales and the constitution. “First Amendment? What Amendments?”)

But hey. Why let historical facts or science get in the way of your religion? It’s not like religion is something you’d fight over right? Oh. Yeah.

Mr Giggles Doesn’t Work

While I continue to fight my summer malaise and have nothing intelligent or clever to say, you may as well head over to Slate and read Dahlia Lithwick’s latest on her favorite Attorney General – Mr. Giggles – Alberto Gonzales.

Her take is a must read on his latest faux pas, as reported yesterday in the Washington Post. The jist is that Gonzales testified to Congress that “there has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse.” This after getting a number of reports from the FBI detailing exactly that. One predating his testimony only by a couple of days.

From the Washington Post piece,

As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers. “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse,” Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.

Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The acts recounted in the FBI reports included unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect, the documents show. Gonzales was copied on each report that said administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy had been violated.

My take – Gonzales should claim the DOJ hadn’t verified the information, thus taking a legal wiggle in a painful but perhaps bizarrely erotic right wing manner.

Lithwick’s take – Gonzales has just stopped trying to claim he is incompetent and is now just claiming he doesn’t actually do anything.

Her take is probably better.

While you’re at Slate, you might want to read Fred Kaplan’s evisseration of George W. Bush’s latest speech on Iraq. There are three important take away points.

Bush not only didn’t say anything new, he didn’t actually include any factoids in the speech at all – just justifications of faith and belief. Not even the Bush spin doctors nor the Fox News channel can find any good news coming out of Iraq. (Of course Fox just stopped covering the war at some point.)

Second, Bush seems to be asking for a pass until September. When the surge report comes in, he will claim you need several months to analyse it. Following that, you can start discussing ideas, making stratergy. Plans can first be drawn up some time in December; actions much later. It’s his classic Bait and Switch but I doubt even the Republicans in Congress will play along.

Finally – Kaplan points out a change in tone. Bush didn’t create the plan in the first place; the surge was all Petraeus’ idea. Bush just passively listened to his generals. Again. Pesky generals.

Because neither Mr. Giggles nor his boss really do anything. Ever!