Jesusism-Paulism, Introduction: The Revolution of Early Christianity

After a particularly long post, Chirol from Coming Anarchy suggested that when I have a lot to say, I should break it up into a series of articles. I’ve taken his advice, and now for several subjects (Embracing Defeat, Guerrillaz, Liberal Education, and OODA-PISRR) I’ve written four tetrologies.

However, before all that I wrote a trilogy on early Christianity. I described it as essentially a 4G movement, such as Maoism, but one that also drew energy from existing family structures. In that sense it is similar to the religious right in America or al Qaeda in Iraq. Early Christianity was profoundly shaped by two thinkers, Jesus and Paul, similar to the way that Sovietism was shaped by Marx and Lenin.

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Symbol of the Revolution

This insight is not original. About the time I wrote my posts, Jeffrey Obbins of Lebanon Valley College published The Politics of Paul, where he wrote…

Paul is every bit Jesus’ equal as a social and political revolutionary, standing to Jesus as Lenin does to Marx.

The importance of this is at least threefold: First, this recovery of Paul is a repoliticization of Christianity – or, more precisely, the realization of the intrinsically political nature that was and is at the very heart of the Christian identity. Second, as a politicized religion, this Christian legacy (which is distinctively Pauline, if not Paul’s own creation) establishes the conditions of Western thought

Nonetheless, I think my original posts have something to contribute. So with his introduction and some fiddling in the original works, I am reformatting by trilogy as a series. Since then I have continued the story, chronicling the Christian and Muslim battles against Rome

There are five parts

  • Part I, Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You
    Christian doctrine was built to win. It emphasized People’s War from its first commandments.
  • Part II, Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better
    The High Priest and the Emperor get a bad wrap for attacking a harmless religious. Yet they correctly understood the political implications of the growing movement and attempted to kill it. They almost succeeded.
  • Part III, Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat
    The early Christians used gender to their advantage. Exploiting genetic tendencies in men and women, they equipped themselves for unlimited war. They won.
  • Part IV, The Fall of Rome
    Constantine gave the Christians their Army, and with it the Christians gave Constantine his Empire. A short conventional victory to a long unconventional war, the Battle of Milvian Bridge brought about the defeat of Greco-Roman civilization.
  • Part V, The People of the Book
    Hundreds of years after the Christian victory, another semitic religion would emerge to challenge the Christian Empire of the Romans. Perhaps the first Totalitarian faith in history, Islam would shatter the unipolar world of the Christians while replacing itself with a minimum of mutations.
  • Part VI, Embrace and Extend
    While Christianity in the East was shattered by Islam and Islamization, the Church in the west continued its ancient 4G operation. Refusing to look away from the worst of barbarian culture, the Catholic Church embraced and extended the pre-Christian ways of modern Europe, eventually exterminating rival organizing principles.

To all those who have not read these yet, I hope you enjoy.

21 thoughts on “Jesusism-Paulism, Introduction: The Revolution of Early Christianity”

  1. I don't know. I usually see this as evidence that Christianity was far from monolithic back then. In any case, I pointed it out, merely because it seemed to fit with Tdaxp's thesis in these posts about christianity as an insurgent movement.

  2. I submit to you that the post-communist governments resemble the weak pagan Roman empire enough that your analysis of how christianity won Rome is very much apropos.

  3. I read your posts earlier this week and found them truly fascinating. Today while browsing for news, I came upon this story on the NY Times. It is about the recently discovered Gospel of Judas, which alleges that Jesus asked Judas to aid him in “liberating” himself from his human shell. An event, which strengthened the Jesus movement and allowed it to gain a wider following. IN essence, following your posts, it made Jesus a martyr, one who was able to go beyond death to resurrection. Anywho, just thought you would find it interesting. Here's the link:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/science/06cnd-judas.html?hp&ex=1144382400&en=d58e9f87384d906d&ei=5094&partner=homepage

  4. I hate the Da Vinci code and all its evil spawns. The Gospel of Judas, along with the “Gospel of Thomas” and other “gospels”, were attempts by Gnostics to turn Jesus into some mystical teacher. The only reason they are popular is because of the Da Vinci Code and other efforts by secularists and very “progressive” Christians who are trying to turn Christianity into a tool of the “progressive” movement and undermined traditional Christianity.

    The Gnostics became a threat about 200 years after the events. What really hurts their credibility is that they claim to be written at the time of the events but they clearly were made latter.

    In the 4 gospels Jesus scorned Judas after the kiss betrayal, which is different from asking Judas.

    Poopey to all of it I say!

  5. TM,

    It would be interesting to compare the exhausted post-atheism of Eastern Europe with the exhausted post-polytheism of the 1st century Empire. For Christianity, the Empire's history of reason and literature meshed with a Semitic population's (about 10% of the Empire's) passion and fire.

    One wonders if French Arabs are the new Roman Jews…

    Nykrindc,

    From your description, I guessed that the book was a Gnostic tract, and from the article it definitely is — paper copied in AD 300 from an original around AD 200. Gnosticism was a counter-semitic (in the sense of trying to remove Semitic influence) attempt at hellenizing Christianity. (Most theological features of Christianity — such as the Trinity — have Jewish roots) I'll send this thread to Catholicgauze, he's discussed these things before.

  6. I'm going to translate your three posts on christianity (unless you have a major problem with it) for a priest group I'm working with in Romania. I'm going to be very interested in how they react to it.

    One note, you end up with:
    “Centuries later, Paul's creation would deform under the frictional heat of Islam. But such is a post for another time…”

    Did you ever write that later post? The undeformation of christianity is actually a pressing concern.

  7. TM,

    Being translated into Romanians would be a top honor, especially to be read by priests. I'm very interested in their take.

    No, I never continued the series past the persecution. Aaron has read The Closing of the Western Mind, [1] which describes the Phase IV operations [2] of the Christians in the Empire. (the new social “immune system” [3]). That was the natural evolution of Christianity — but the Jihad saw its obliteration.

    The Jihad was so big, so long, so successful, and so complete (areas not conquered were put under centuries-long economic embargo) that I can't think of any modern analogy.

    Whether in Greece, Syria, Spain, or Britain, the jihad replaced all that came before.

    I think American evangelicals closest to the form of the insurgent Christians (I say this as a Catholic). Their rhetoric combines Love and War [4] [5], and their organizations emphasize family, [6] in a very Pauline way.

    [1] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/140004085X?v=glance
    [2] http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBZ/is_3_85/ai_n14695885
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/01/28/liberal-education-part-iv-the-mitochondrial-peace.html
    [4] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/07/26/beauty-from-pain.html
    [5] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/07/27/one-girl-secretwar.html
    [6] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/05/17/pmp_4gp_fusion_the_christian_right.html

  8. nykrindc – No serious student of christianity believes that it was monotheistic. There's plenty of drama and confrontation with lots of early heresies being proposed and debated, eventually being banished from Orthodox thought. There's a very good bet that the Koran is heavily influenced by heretical christianity, specifically the monophysites.

    I hate these times. I almost eliminated that last sentence due to fatwa concerns (stating [correctly] that the Koran has any sort of a history is a heresy in conventional Islam). Well, I'm feeling ornery today so I'll leave it in.

  9. I think that TM Lutas meant “no serious student of Christianity believes that it was monolithic.” :-)

    That said, TM is definitely right. Paul correcting other churches only makes sense if one thinks there were other churches to correct. Paul contrasting himself to to Christian teachers he disagrees with only makese sense if those teachers existed.

    Thus Nykrindc's larger point stands, while Gnostiticism appears not to have been one of the earlier disagreements.

    My impression of the Koran is that it matches the impression an impression of Christianity an extremely smart of illiterate son of bigshots could have had in a town beyond imperial frontiers. In other words, it's what Mohammed bin Abdullah could have figured out by listening and asking questions.

    I see Catholicgauze has continued his rant on his blog [1] ;-)

    [1] http://catholicgauze.blogspot.com/2006/04/religiousography-of-gospel-of-judas.html

  10. Dear Dan. in no way does Paul compare to Jesus. In fact.. any Christian following Paul is disobeying a direct command from Jesus..who stated as a command .. why say ye love Me if you do not the things which I say? .. Jesus said follow Jesus. There is no other name mentioned there. Paul states basically..follow me as I follow Jesus. To follow Paul is to ignore Jesus commands. Of course..to know that..you have to study the scriptures, which is yet another command of Jesus.

    God bless you for all that work you did on the politics of the day..but the truth is.. Jesus didn't really play politician. He is the Saviour. The true Saviour doesn't need to run for office.

    God bless you.

  11. Julie, thank you for your kind words. I have a theological question and then two non-theological points:

    What scriptural basis is there for believing that Paul contradicted Jesus, or tried to lead people away from Christ?

    Of course, in a non-religious sense it doesn't matter if Paul contradicted Jesus, any more than it doesn't matter if Lenin contradicted Marx. Jesusism-Paulism is an identifiable family of ideologies, such as Marxism-Leninism is. Indeed, contradiction is somewhat besides the point because just as Marxism-Leninism is Marx in the context of the words of Lenin, Jesusism-Paulism is Jesus in the context of the words of Paul.

    (Just as whatever a Christian philosophy informed by your words would be Jesusism-Julieism…)

    Last, remember that politics is more than running for office. Jesus, Paul, Marx, and Machiavelli never had elected offices. That didn't diminish their influence.

  12. My guess is that two interlocking rings is a marriage symbol, a perfect union of a bride and bridegroom. In Christian symbolism, I’d imagine that stands for Christ and His church.

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