I got an e-mail from my friend Maurice about an essay written by Andrew Sullivan. I started reading the response by an Orthodox priest, but felt that it’s more correct to read the original essay first.
I’ve read and heard about Mr. Sullivan. He’s all over the blogosphere; I remember him especially from the last US presidential elections.
As Fr. Lawrence points out, Mr. Sullivan’s essay is impassioned and at length. Where it abounds in energy, it lacks in convincing me or even humouring me with anything new. This essay, along with its all siblings, is written by another writer infected by The Dan Brown Virus. Perhaps I wasn’t of intellectual and theological consciouness before Mr. Brown released his book The Da Vinci Code, but it seems like any time any writer, regardless of their intellectual prowess or popularity, starts talking about the politicized, bad-bad church, my brain does three things immediately:
1. “Dan Brown Spawn”
2. “God bless you, Dan Brown.” <braintalk tone=”sarcasm” />
It’s nothing new and it’s nothing exciting. It just seems too often that people find it convenient to tell me, as a Christian, that the Christ I have been professing for the last 30 years is a fabrication of the evil and bad Church, and that the Christ he knows, simply by reading a few books and writing about it on public channels, is the real deal. It might as well be a deleted scene from The Da Vinci Code or another footnote to the book. It’s the same old droning moaning that I’m right and you’re wrong.
Fr. Lawrence puts it succinctly and with much historical evidence to refute Mr. Sullivan’s points, but my take on it is that it’s irrelevant. If I was to do a find/replace on the original essay, I could apply it to Islam, Buddhism, and the cult of Justin Bieber worship. There’s always going to be the mainstream and the reductionist, the established and the fluid, the orthodox and the ‘gnostic’. In most circles, such tension between these two opposing forces just forces the intellectually honest and mature to never be complacent about their faith, to always seek more clarity and question the received reality, as George Carlin famously said before he died.
But to brand the mainstream as inherently political, fundmentally flawed, and wholly devoid of any value is to be an extremist just as much as the Evangelical Protestants and Catholics that Mr. Sullivan attacks. Mr. Sullivan also forgets, despite any prostetation he can make, that it’s the collective will of the early Church that put together the canon of Scripture. This means that the Bible known to us went through a process of being disparate books to becoming a single canon. The Church made the Bible, the Bible didn’t make the Church.
Yes, this means that the Bible was then susceptible to human error, but what isn’t? Can you apply Jefferson’s methodology to any book? Would you like it if I took your book, one that you spent countless hours on, I turned your pages into an origami, and – because I’m enlightened and not mainstream – then declare that the circumcised pages are now what Andrew Sullivan really meant?
Who gives me the authority to do so? Who gives you or any other proponent of the historical Jesus to do so?
An answer to that question can perhaps start a real discussion on this subject.