The Theologico-Philosophical Tractatus

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With apologies to Herr Wittgenstein, the roots of the ideological affinity between neocons and Jesuscons like Tom Coburn, Zach Wamp, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Mark Pryor, etc., have recently come clear to me.  On the neocon side, it’s a matter of philosophy.  On the Jesuscon side, it’s a matter of theology.  Theological heresy, actually.

Here’s the link: lying to the public is a virtue — not just okay, a virtue — so long as you’re honest with your confrères behind closed doors.

We’ve known this about neocons for a very long time.  It originated in the University of Chicago philosopher Leo Strauss, who said the public isn’t capable of understanding the truth, processing the truth, or identifying the good or the right.  They have to be fed fairy tales.  Therefore, if you are one of the chosen few with the intelligence and moral discernment to understand the Truth, and the courage to act on your special, insider, widely-misunderstood knowledge, then it is your duty to do so, and equally your duty to tell the public whatever they need to be told in order to get them to go along with you.   It might be diametrically opposite of reality, or even of what you and your fellow insiders “know” to be true, but that doesn’t matter.  Not only can you say one thing in public and a totally different thing in private, you should.  All that matters is that because you are one of the privileged few who know the Truth, you must do whatever it takes to move the country — the world — in accordance with it.  Lie, cheat, steal, and even kill.  It’s all justified virtuous.

The ends justify the means.

Neocons were Straussians before they were neocons.  Clean back to good ol’ Irving Kristol.  And there is nothing that renders their behavior more comprehensible.  Once you realize William Kristol and Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, etc., are philosophically committed to this Straussian notion, their behavior becomes complete clear.  Transparent, you might say.

But what’s this got to do with the Jesuscons?  Surely they’re not devotees of an agnostic Jewish philosopher, right?

Right.

According to religion journalist Jeff Sharlet, however, who lived with Coburn and his fellow Jesuscons in their group house in D.C., they do hold a theological belief that amounts to the same thing.  Their theology holds — and stop me if this sounds familiar — that there’s knowledge for public consumption, and then there’s the True Knowledge known only to a chosen few insiders.  According to them, this comes right from Jesus.  Jesus had a public message for the masses, who lacked the understanding to comprehend the Real Truth, and he had a different message for a select few insiders.  You know, them apostle guys.  He told the public what they needed to hear — lies — but gave the insiders the real story.

Yeah, I know, that sounds, like, rilly, rilly familiar.  Because it’s the Jesusy version of Straussianism, right?

Well, yeah.  But if you remember your Christian history, it sounds familiar for another reason, too.

See, there was this massive Christian heresy that plagued the early church.  It turns up in the New Testament.  The early church fathers couldn’t shut up about it.  The second and third century church spent a lot of good time and effort stamping it out.  It’s been considered heresy, ever since.  It’ll get you excommunicated from the Catholic Church faster than you can say “Bob’s yer uncle.”

Yep.  You got it.  Gnosticism.  Just about the oldest Christian heresy there is.  Anathematized by orthodox Christianity for almost as long as there’s been an orthodox Christianity.  (In fact, orthodox Christianity came into existence largely by stamping out its Gnostic competitors.)

Tom Coburn and his merry band of brothers, who can’t trumpet their Christianity loudly enough or often enough, aren’t Christians at all.   They’re Gnostics.  Heretics.  Newt and Antonin and Sammy and Johnny and their many fellow devout Catholic Republicans ought to be shunning these guys, and condemning them in the loudest, clearest possible terms.  They should be refusing to have anything to do with them — to speak to them, be seen with them, or be in any way associated with them.

As good Gnostics, these Jesuscons hold it as core doctrine that Jesus was a liar, and therefore they should be, too.  Because, see, as luck would have it, they are the insiders in the Gnostic world of concentric circles of knowledge.  They’re the apostles.  They’re the chosen few who are capable of understanding True Reality, and of acting on it.  And they must tell the unwashed whatever lies the unwashed need to hear in order to go along with them.

How do they know they’re the insiders who really understand the true nature of the world, instead of the deceived unwashed?  Well, duh.  The same way the neocons know they’re the smart ones: it’s just self-evident to them.  If you weren’t such an unwashed dullard, it’d be obvious to you, too.  But you are.  So you just have to take their word for it, believe what they tell you, and be a good little supporter of whatever it is they want to do at the moment.

See how neat that works?

So there you have it.  The fundamental theologico-philosophical kinship between neocons like the Kristols and Podhoretzes, and Jesuscons like Senators Coburn and Ensign and Pryor, and Rep. Wamp: they’re all raging egomaniacs who hold the public in contempt, and, therefore, lie to them unremittingly to get what they want.

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2 Responses to “The Theologico-Philosophical Tractatus”

  1. jazzbumpa Says:

    Did the early gnostics really believe that Jesus was a liar? I’ll have to admit to not being a scholar of gnosticism, but I’ve never seen that anywhere before.

    I have some vague awareness of the doctrinal battles within the church in the first few centuries, C.E: was Jesus God, which gospel’s are in the cannon, etc. Jesus officially became God, and the Trinity was firmly established at the Council of Nicea in 325, with only two dissenting votes among the 300 attending bishops.

    I thought the gnostic gospels were a set of the ones excluded from the cannon. Which one has the Jesus-as-liar pitch?

    There is another potential explanation: the Jesuscons are simply bat-shit crazy. Which way would Occam’s razor slice?

  2. urbino Says:

    Gnosticism was a whole range of varying groups with different leaders and different beliefs and practices. One of the things they all had in common, however, was the notion that Jesus had as exoteric message and an esoteric message. The former was for the masses; he told them what they needed to hear. The latter was the real truth, and Jesus shared it only with the select insiders who could handle. This was the “gnosis” from which Gnosticism got its name. This notion is key to pretty much all the so-called Gnostic gospels.

    So, “liar”? Not in so many words, but effectively, yes. Jesus didn’t tell the public the truth; he told them something else. The truth he kept for a select few. Members of the Gnostic communities believed they were those few, naturally. Just as the neocons and Jesuscons do, today. And, as disciples of this two-faced Jesus, they believe it’s their duty to do the same.

    The early church fathers (the Ante-Nicene Fathers) had Gnosticism pretty well knocked out before the Council of Nicea, so it didn’t come up much. That council was more about settling differences within the various major Christian communities who considered each other more or less orthodox.

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