Some years ago, on a car trip, my daughter and I listened to a tape of How the Irish Saved Civilization, a really superb book by Thomas Cahill, about how Christianity, and learning, and even literacy, and all the writings of Greek and Roman authors, were all confined by pagan conquests to the religious communities of Ireland, and how, from there, the Irish reconverted Europe.
These communities weren’t monasteries or nunneries, because men and women lived together. This was before the Christian church became obsessed with celibacy, which didn’t happen until the tenth century. Women were leaders of the church in the earliest days of Christianity, as confirmed in the correspondence of Pliny the Younger with the Emperor Trajan.
Cahill talks about the conflict between the followers of St. Augustine, who were very sex-negative and inclined to stamp out all vestiges of paganism, and the followers of St. Patrick, the spiritual heir of St. Colmcille, aka St. Columba, who weren’t particularly uptight about sexuality and who thought it was okay to incorporate elements of the old paganism into their new religion of learning and spirituality.
We all know how that turned out.
So anyway, later I find this book at a tag sale about Sister Fidelma, part of a series by the pseudonymous Peter Tremayne, which is all about ninth-century Christianity in Ireland, where women are coequal with men, and everybody is celebrating the spread of lieracy and learning and spirituality, which is triumphing over brutality and slavery.from
Sister Fidelma is a kind of lawyer/district attorney, and the sister of a prince who then becomes a king, so she takes no shit off anyone. And she kicks ass and solves crimes, and this makes for really great reading.
So I sent a copy of A Shroud for the Archbishop to my friend Vince, who really liked How the Irish Saved Civilization, and he started going through all 26 books in the series, and he started sending them to me. How cool is that?
Sister Fidelma goes to a religious convention in Northumbria that’s focused on the really important issues of Christianity, like when to celebrate Easter, which fingers to use when giving the blessing, and how religious men ought to shave their heads, and this stuff is really, really important to the Augustinians, so it shows you that, in my view, they had completely lost the message that Jesus was teaching.
If you were paying attention to what Jesus said, how could you possibly care about this shit?
Reminds me of when the narrator of Bob Dylan’s 113th Dream goes into a house “with the US flag upon display” and says, “‘Could you help me out? I’ve got some friends down the way.’ A man says ‘Get out of here. I’ll tear you limb from limb.’, I said, ‘You know they refused Jesus, too.’ He said, ‘You’re not him.'”
I have always believed that one should concentrate on what Jesus said, without worrying about how he came here or how he left, but this view has left me with precious few coreligionists.