The Acts of the Apostle Code

I’ve been watching a ridiculous piece of Easter television, The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples.

It starts with how Jesus’ family really ran the early Church, but that later this was all washed away. Apparently nobody knows that James was bishop of Jerusalem. You have to “decode” the Book of Acts to figure this out! (I’ve known all along and it is plainly mentioned in Acts 15.) This was all done to remove the Jewish connections to Christianity.

St Paul has his own version of Christianity. As theologian Robert Beckford narrates, “It was his version of Christianity that triumphed. It was his later followers that created and used the stories of the 12 disciples to fit their own purpose.” Of course Paul is as much a Jew as James or any of Jesus cousins were. Beckwith doesn’t explain how this fits in.

Beckford has apparently spent way, way too much time reading Dan Brown novels. It’s the Pauline Conspiracy. Paul created Peter as the Pope, because he needed a link back to the Twelve. But it’s all based on “legendary” materials – Christian inventions. Apparently, nothing written by Christian sources can be trusted as historical. With everything, there are scholars who dispute. For Beckwith it is all about vested interests.

I never did catch what Paul’s vested interests were. They certainly aren’t clear from his writings or the things written about him in the Book of Acts. But then, according to Beckwith it has to be decoded. And the only thing certain is that it isn’t reliable. The only thing that is reliable is Beckwith’s conjecture. After all, scholars dispute.

According to Beckwith, whoever wrote the Revelation “most scholars” agree that it wasn’t the Apostle John. I take that to mean most liberal scholars who have started with the presupposition that whatever the Church has always believed must not only not be true, but must also not be what the Church has always believed. After all, it is the Church who is telling us what it has always believed, and the guiding First Principle is that the Church cannot be believed. Convoluted? Just a bit.

The further along the programme went, the more predictable it got. The men running the Church removed all the women from the story. (Huh? What about the fact that at both the Crucifixion and just after the Resurrection, it was women who were present? Nevermind.) I don’t think he said Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, but that could have been when I went to make a cup of tea.

Most of Beckwith’s accusation and theories are aimed at the Big Bad Catholic Church. Conspiracies and dubious activities abound. See what I mean about Dan Brown? Apparently no one knows about the Thomas Christians in India and this is once again because of the Catholics. (I would have suggested it is because few people in this country know anything of world Christianity, other than caricatures of American evangelicalism.) I couldn’t figure out if he believed the claims of the Mar Thoma tradition, even though the records were destroyed by Portuguese Catholics under orders of the Pope in 1599, or if he disbelieved the claims anyway.

And what re-assessment of the Twelve would be complete without rehabilitating Judas Iscariot? Judas goes from betrayer to hero. I kid you not. He was just getting bad press because of a wrongly translated Greek word and the imagery used in paintings of the Last Supper. Anything else bad about him in the Bible was added later. Conspiracy.

That’s the thing about conspiracy theories: if you go looking for one assuming it is there in the first place, it’s not going to be a surprise when you find one.

Without Objection

Except for presidential politics, I tend to blog mostly about things on the eastern side of the Atlantic. That’s probably because living here, most of the things that affect my life on a daily basis are here. However, having visited the blog of a commenter to a previous post, my attention is drawn westward.

Each of Mark McGaha’s children have been declared a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) by an Indiana Circuit Court at the behest of the Department of Child Services. I can’t opine on whether they should be CHINS or not, or whether they should be in foster care.

As a lawyer I used to handle occasional CHINS cases in Indiana, usually representing the interests of one or both parents. One of my longest-running cases was a CHINS case involving what I called the family tree that didn’t fork. So I’m not denying that there can be situations whether the State needs to step in.

Unless there have been significant changes in my absence, like all buraucrats, DCS workers range from good to bad. If McGaha’s allegations are true, then there are some in Fountain County who are very bad. One thing that concerns me is that there is no mention of McGaha’s lawyer. He needs one. If he is doing this on his own, sadly he is fighting at a severe disadvantage.

This may be why the Fountain County Circuit Court judge got away with an outrageous unconstitutional act. She issued a restraining order preventing WXIN in Indianapolis from showing McGaha’s face or even allowing him to make his complaints against DCS. As one of my old law professors commented to the Indianapolis Star, “I don’t know what’s more outrageous: the judge ordering this and not knowing it violates the Constitution, or knowing and still issuing the injunction.” He described this as bordering on judicial misconduct. “Quite simply, a judge does not have the authority to stop the press from publishing or airing a story. Any person has a right to contact the press and say a public agency is not treating them right.”

Because of the inherent power of the bureaucracy, the press is one of the only checks upon it. That is why it is so important that access to the press not be denied. The greater the power, the more important the power to question it and challenge it. The more important that it stay on the straight and narrow. Otherwise rights get trampled upon. Otherwise democracy is meaningless.

Observing the Day

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

Romans 14:5-6

Today is the Sunday of St Gregory Palamas, unless you are in the Western Church (or just culturally attached to a country historically a part of the Western Church), in which case it is Easter. Even though we are Orthodox, we have been celebrating Easter. This is not because I’m not particularly a big fan of St Gregory and his hesychasm. Rather it is because one unnamed child is in a Catholic school with Catholic (or at least Catholic-influenced) friends, plus Western cultural and Western Christian grandparents with chocolate and cards and presents, Easter fetes, Easter egg hunts – you get the picture. Explaining that we don’t actually celebrate Pascha for more than another month has pretty much fallen on deaf ears. I don’t want to deny that I put this down to bad Ortho-parenting as much as anything.

I’m sure that as we get closer to Pascha, the kids will get reasonably excited again, especially if we come up with more chocolate and gifts.

It seems to go entirely against the teaching of St Paul in Romans that the observance of days is one of the key issues separating parts of the Orthodox from each other (New Calendarists versus Old Calendarists) as well as a sticking point separating the Orthodox and Catholics (though there are a number of others of greater or lesser significance). I know there are much more theologically astute and devotionally pure adherants on both sides who could explain the deep importance of this and it congruence with the Epistle to the Romans. (I don’t think any of them visit this blog, so I doubt there will be any explaining in the comments – though they are welcome.) After all, as Orthodox, we interpret Scripture as a part of the Tradition of the Church. I also know that the dating of Pascha was one of the earliest and most divisive issues in the Church.

So Happy Easter to all of my Western friends, while we Orthodox do a little more omphaloskepsis in honour of St Gregory.

A Real Disgrace

For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.

Wisdom of Sirach 3:11

The truth of this verse was made evident by the elder son of Susan Pope. Mrs Pope was until recently the senior nurse at one of the most prestigious private girls schools in the country, Malvern St James. She was sacked for gross misconduct.

However, as has become increasingly common in this country, she was not sacked for anything she did or didn’t do at work. She was sacked for something that happened at home. The facts are not in dispute. Her ten-year-old son swore at her, and after giving him a warning that he would get a smack on the bottom if he did it again, he called her bluff. She was true to her word and applied the mildest discipline to his buttocks over his trousers.

Now most decent reasonable people would immediately recognise that she made a mistake. The warning was entirely out of order. He already knew that what he was doing was wrong. He had already made a conscious decision to curse his mother. This is unquestionably one-strike-and-you’re-out territory.

So all you need now is another rebellious son and a society in complete disconnect with reality. Mrs Pope has both. Her fifteen-year-old snatched his younger brother from the house and called the police. She was arrested and spent 32 hours in police custody. Not only that, her husband was also arrested and held for 32 hours and he didn’t do anything at all. That didn’t stop police questioning him for four hours. She was only questioned for 90 minutes. (I know, I know: on top of all this you are wondering why they were held for 32 hours to be questioned for so little time. That’s the way police do business in this country.)

Someone at the Crown Prosecution Service wisely decided not to charge Mrs Pope with any offence. But as I’m sure you know, Newton’s Third Law of Bureaucratic Motion requires that for every wise action there is an equally stupid reaction. Worcestershire County Council social services stepped in and put both the ten-year-old potty mouth and his eight-year-old sister on the Child Protection Register. They have been on the Register since this occurred last May. According The Daily Telegraph:

sources within the department indicated the Popes had not yet satisfied them that they had met the welfare criteria laid out when the children were placed on the register. “There are issues that still need to be sorted, it’s not simply about a child being smacked,” the source said.

In case you need a translation from the Bureaucraspeak language, the source said that the Pope children are still in danger because bureaurcrats do not believe the parents have accepted the re-education required of them. The State has decided how its children are to be raised and parents must realised that they are merely agents of the State.

So finally, you would think that a posh private school steeped in tradition would be above such things. Well, no. You would think that they would be aware of the character of their employee, but that’s not the issue. Denis Smith, the school’s bursar made the real issue plain in his letter to Mrs Pope informing her that she had been sacked:

The school’s reputation could be significantly damaged in the event that parents or potential parents were to discover that your children are on the Child Protection Register.

We do not believe that the school needs to accept this very real risk to its reputation, which has arisen directly as a result of your conduct.

That’s a lot of words when just two were required: pride and money. But if he wanted to be verbose, he should have just been honest and written something like: “You innocence is irrelevant. We don’t care if social services are completely off their rocker. It is all about appearances and the wrong appearance could cost us pride and money. We care much more about our pride and our money than we could ever possibly care about you, our devalued employee.”

The only positive outcome from this would be for the school’s reputation to be significantly damaged as a result of their conduct. If the values demonstrated by Malvern St James in sacking Susan Pope exemplify what parents want for their children, when they ship them off to be raised by this boarding school, then they should go ahead. Otherwise, they might pause to consider first whether they want their child to be inculcated with the opposite of the Golden Rule. They might further pause to consider whether the way the school treats its employees will be reflected in the way it treats its pupils. Before making a £25,000 per year gamble with the life of a child, perhaps that’s much more worthy of consideration than whether the school nurse smacked her sons bum when he swore at her.

After all, their child may come home thinking that it is okay to destroy the parents’ career if they don’t like being disciplined. Seems like there’s a lot at stake here. I hope the bursar at Malvern St James finds out they gambled the wrong way.