Lots of people think the Gnostics of the second century were the Cool Christians, muzzled by the Religious Establishment of the Church. The popular notion with lots of postmoderns is that if Gnostics had only prevailed then we would still have access to the Real Jesus, not some figure encrusted over with Theology, Sacraments, Tradition and Scripture.
If you want to really get the hang of the actual picture of things, however, take a good look at the responsible medical professionals trying desperately to get the accurate picture of the Pandemic to the world while QANON conspiracy theorists and gun-toting whack jobs babble insanely about the Deep State and the COVID plot to Rule the World. That is much closer to the dynamic that really characterized the Church’s struggle with the gnostics. The gnostics were people spinning demented fantasies with no interest in preserving knowledge of who Jesus was and what he actually said and did. He was a name to be strip-mined in support of whatever each gnostic had some whack theory about.
And a lot of those theories were so whack that a standard 19th and early 20th century criticism of Irenaeus, who wrote his great treatise Adversus Haereses to debunk them, was that he was clearly just making stuff up to make his gnostic opponents look crazy since nobody could really say and think such stuff. All we knew of gnostic texts was preserved by Irenaeus as he quoted them to rebut them. So, said the critics, this was clearly just Irenaeus picking, choosing, and garbling his enemies words in order to discredit them.
Then came the discovery of the treasure trove of gnostic texts in Nag Hammadi in the mid 40s. Turns out Irenaeus had been meticulously fair in quoting the gnostics. Their sundry sects and theories really were as whack as he said they were. He didn’t have to twist a word. He just let them talk.
Some will, of course, complain that the Gnostics were “suppressed” by Irenaeus and his fellow evil Catholics, which is why the gnostic texts vanished for 17 centuries.
Problem: the Church had zero political power in the second century. The Gnostics vanished and their texts vanished, not because they were suppressed, but because the gospel made sense and the sundry gnostic sects did not. Gnostic nuttery went out of fashion as MAGA conspiracy nuttery is doomed to do.
Think of the books on “pyramid power” that were popular in the 70s. You can’t find them now. Why? Because nobody reads them. Suppression was unnecessary. Publishers stopped publishing them because nobody wanted them anymore.
In an age when books were literally copied by hand on materials that were not always easy to find, books nobody wanted anymore stopped getting copied. It was not conspiracy that doomed gnostic texts, but supply and demand. It was dumb luck that Nag Hammadi’s location kept a bunch of old parchments from dampness, mold and rot, which is what happened to the rest of them.
Getting back to the gnostic picture of things, what is remarkable about the gospel is that it tells us that the Hidden History of our Time is that there is no Hidden History of Our Time. The gospel is not some secret being kept from the uninitiated. It was veiled before Jesus. As Jesus himself says, the Law and the Prophets bear witness to him. And it was, again as Jesus says, partly hidden during his public ministry. (So we find him healing people and then telling those he cures to tell nobody, or telling his disciples not to talk about the Transfiguration, or to keep some saying or event quiet. We even see him shushing demons who are shouting “You are the Son of God.”) But since Pentecost any ordinary person off the street can hear the whole thing by asking around at any parish. As he puts it:
“What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” – Jesus of Nazareth
The real gospel is the commonplace “establishment narrative”, not the tantalizing Secret known only to the initiate.
Now what is fascinating to me is that much the same dynamic is playing out now as the ordinary and commonplace facts of COVID are likewise being spoken in plain English by competent experts who know the facts and are relaying them to the rest of us.
Those facts are that this is a dangerous and deadly global pandemic, caused by a virus (actually a family of mutating viruses now), that is highly contagious, and which kills roughly 2-3% of its victims. On a global and even national scale, that is more than our health care system can bear. So the best “treatment” we have (since we have so few tests, no vaccine, and no cure (yet)) is for everybody to stay at home as much as possible and to wash our hands so as to limit the spread. What we desperately need is to test everybody (as South Korea did), thereby enabling us to send the healthy back to work and keep the sick quarantined. But since our bungling President has resisted doing that (along with a host other criminally stupid lies and blunders) because he does not want us to know the actual scope of the Pandemic he did nothing to prevent, we have to quarantine everybody except essential workers so that we can eat and have water and electricity, etc.
That is the actual, dull, real world situation, understood and explained by competent medical authority.
But now comes QANON Karen with her gnostic Google fu:
And she is accompanied by her boyfriend, PatriotEagleMAGA2020 Cletus and his Guns of Liberty. And driven by their gnostic Hidden Knowledge, they figure out the real story and therefore are fighting the Deep State Establishment, threatening the life of Anthony Fauci, blocking hospital entrances, and brandishing weapons while gathering in the thousands to spread COVID and their gnostic theories that this is all a plot to make Trump–who possesses the Hidden Gnosis–look bad and enslave us all.
That is the parallel, because one of the defining marks of the MAGA cult, like the gnostics of olde, is their deep and intense belief in the Myth of the Untutored Genius. This myth is one of the oldest refuges of the lazy and dumb.
So just as the members of the Master Race are always guys who look like this Adonis
…so the people who fancy themselves untutored geniuses always talk as though their native, instinctive brilliance confers on them an intuitive understanding of everything by a kind of direct spiritual illumination that leaves all those pencil-necked dweebs who did the homework in the dust.
So Trump, like Bart Simpson on the day of the test he couldn’t bother to study for, tells us that he has a “natural instinct” for Science.
He brags that doctors are astounded at how he just intuitively knows so much about coronavirus.
When people relying on the best facts, data and hard numbers crunch those numbers and report what they add up to, the Untutored Genius consults his “gut” and declares them all wrong because he “just knows”.
While the scientific and medical community were laboring at getting their educations, doing the research, and amassing facts and information, this lazy, ignorant rich kid spent his years beating up George McFly and making him do his loser homework for him while he laid cheerleaders. Then he bought the passing grades with Daddy’s money. Consequently, he thinks he has a “natural ability” to address viral outbreaks that far outstrips those loser geeks who did the homework.
And his gnostic cult of followers, who are just as lazy and ignorant as he is, deeply admire and imitate this laziness with their own claims of Intuition that Humiliates the Experts because they all hope to be him someday. So, like the virus, Trump’s “Experts are Stoopid. I Just Listen to My Gut” gnosticism replicates through the Cult at Pandemic speed.
Here, for instance, is Champion of Wrong and Dumb Matt Walsh, working hard to make you dumber and deader a month ago with some of his vintage “Experts are Stoopid” gnosticism.
The reason he is wrong here is, of course, that we are seeing thousands of deaths (48,000 today, over 50,000 by the time Walsh’s post reaches its one month birthday, and we have not yet reached the peak). Yet he and the suckers who parrot his ignorant prattle never think that trust in themselves and their “instinct” and “gut” and “intuition” and “common sense” should be eroded. They are always certain. They are always wrong. And they never learn. They believe without question in the Myth of the Untutored Genius whose native intuition guides them unerringly and shows up the Experts as fools.
Consequently, this ignorant Cult is declaring the death tolls to be “inflated” because that is the new narrative of the Right Wing Lie Machine, which tells the suckers it lies to that if you had an underlying condition that COVID made fatal, then you did not die from COVID. By this stupid logic, nobody ever died from HIV/AIDS, since what kills you is not HIV but some secondary infection. Just like the gnostics did, they declare that The Establishment is a Conspiracy to Hide the TRVTH, which they and they alone know. And that Conspiracy is that Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci are part of the Deep State plot to make Trump look incompetent and tank the economy and infect us all with 5G vaccine nanobots that will make us turn gay so that they can take our guns and turn America into Nazi Stalinland.
How do they know this? Intuition. Their gut. Common sense. Googling around and finding that other people with intuition agree. Facts are for dweebs and sheeple.
Moral: Listen to competent authorities. No. They are not always right about everything. Your car repair guy might make a bad call on that funny sound your Volvo is making. Your doctor might make a bad call on what that odd pain is. But they are not part of a global conspiracy to kill you. And more to the point: your Googling around for five minutes is not equivalent to years of experience and training in car repair, nor to a degree in epidemiology, medicine, or statistics. Think it possible that you are the incompetent one and that your intuition and common sense is not worth a tinker’s dam.
So, when a Matt Walsh declares that “the models were wrong” consider the thought that models are models, not prophecies from the mouth of God. Models say, “If A is done, than we will see a range of X outcomes. If B is done, then we will see a range of Y outcomes. And if C is done, then we could be looking at a range of Z outcomes.” This happens in real time and new information changes the picture.
So the reason the infection rate and death rate, while still dreadful, is dropping is because of the wise policies of those competent authorities that modern gnostics want you to distrust in favor of their ignorant prattle. They are like people laughing, “You said cholera was deadly, but now people are getting well! Clearly, your stupid ‘antibiotics’ were a waste of time! Let’s stop wasting all this money on a purely unnecessary treatment!”
Stop listening to the Right Wing Lie Machine. If you heed them and stop doing what the science says to do, you will see a spike in infections and death (as Kentucky is now discovering after a week of mass protests by ignorant, selfish people), an overwhelmed medical system, and more destruction. Keep being smart and do not let fools be your guide. Especially the one in the White House who is urging gun-toting weirdos to hold mass protests across the nation demanding the death of lebensunwertes leben as human sacrifices to the Trumpian unholy trinity of Mammon, Power, and Eugenics.
— Joshua Cole (@JoshuaColeLive) April 20, 2020
Beware the gnostic who tells you he and he alone possesses the Secret Knowledge, whether in the 2nd century or on antisocial right wing media today.