Thoughts on the Gospel of Thomas Vol 2, #5
No one can mount two horses, or draw two bows at once, and you cannot serve two masters at the same time. If you honor one, the other will be offended. No one drinks a vintage wine and immediately wants to taste wine freshly bottled. New wine is not put into fresh containers lest it be ruined, nor is aged wine put into new barrels lest it spoil. Also, old cloth is not sewn onto new garments because it only makes the tear worse. Logion 47, Gospel of Thomas
Nothing could make the tear worse than these worrisome words from the son of Billy Graham. Yes, that Billy Graham. The one and only. To think we should live so long as to hear the likes of this. You can’t make this stuff up…
Unless your name is George Orwell, that is. He made it up—or seemed to---a long while ago, as far back as 1949, in fact, the very year in which Father Billy was just getting started. Orwell couldn’t know what destiny was weaving, across the Atlantic in far-off L.A., where Billy was planning a huge new evangelistic enterprise, among the earliest of his Crusades for Christ—but he put it out there anyway, the idea of Doublethink. It was the way the citizens of his imagined new dystopian world of 1984 would think (or not think), the kind of garbled speech which would dribble from their lips, from out of their hyper-indoctrinated delusionary psyches.
Doublethink: The acceptance of or mental capacity to accept contrary opinions or beliefs at the same time, especially as a result of political indoctrination.
It means you can’t see straight because your mind is messed up. Have you been watching Fox News too long? The Two-Minute Hate exercise from the Telescreen in the novel 1984 is what Fox has been doing for 30 years, 24/7, and isn’t it ironic that nobody even noticed? They were the original pioneers of Fake News, and oh yes, their own streamlined version of Doublethink, paving the way for what we have now, the eclipse of truth and honesty, led by our pussy-grabbing Great Leader.
By now my readers must surely have figured out that the primary motif in the Gospel of Thomas is doing away with two and making it one, the attainment of a unitive consciousness, becoming no longer divided but whole, healthy, healed. If you still can’t make sense of the GT, still can see no unifying theme, go back and read it again, with this in mind. It’s all-pervasive, omnipresent, from the first to the last saying. Still don’t get it? Don’t feel bad: seems the very first students, the original “disciples,” those who spent intimate hours with this Jesus guy---even in the canonical Gospels---didn’t get it either..
Except for “Thomas,” the “twin.” And a few more, always a small minority faction, lost now in the mists of history.
By the time the Gospel writers got hold of the familiar words of our text, they were made to mean something quite other, something easy enough for all to grasp. It went like this: No man can serve two masters… You have to choose between God and the Devil, or between God and “Mammon,” meaning riches, the things of this world. But the real Jesus who spoke these words had something else in mind, long before Orwell. Were they both on the same page?
Could it be that Jesus was warning us against the perils of Doublethink?
It’s not easy for anybody, this thing of attaining Single Vision. Ask William Blake. We’re such divided beings, broken, scattered, fragmented, fearful, even unconscious. Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on poor Franklin. I’m sure he’s convinced that he’s right, even as Orwell’s denizens of 1984 had talked themselves into accepting the proposition that 2+2=5, except that on some other occasions, the sum of the equation was the same old 4. Where do you start untangling the mess of history, the history of error that has structured humanity as we know it? Where did we first go wrong?
I suggest it started with the “Apostle” Paul… Can you handle it?
The end is nowhere in sight. Where do we go from here? Let me just say right here that I’m not the first to be disturbed by what passes for the Christian religion in America these days (although most of us remain asleep about all this): has anyone out there discovered Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid’s Tale? Check it out, use your computer for something else besides Facebook. Google it. Read for yourself.. Weep for the country that has been our home, even though we know that it has been only a temporary and accidental residence, an episode in a Cosmos-corpse that we must all eventually abandon.
Atwood’s novel continues Orwell’s dystopian vision, and gives it a Feminist twist. Set in the near future, it imagines Gilead: an authoritarian mutation of the United States, in which the constitutional apparatus has been forcibly dismantled and replaced by the patriarchal rule of “Sons of Jacob”, stripping women of all rights and enslaving those who remained fertile as handmaids, serially raped in a pseudo-biblical “ceremony” to provide the childless governing caste with progeny. When the book first appeared, as far back as 1985 (one year after Orwell’s 1984), it was hailed as an ingenious thought-experiment and, of course, a bleak warning. Atwood’s point was that all the practices she described in fictional Gilead were actually taking place somewhere in the world. She was right, too, to draw attention to the strong strain of Puritanism embedded in American culture by the first settlers – at least as powerful as the Enlightenment values usually associated with the founding fathers.
We’ve always had this split, this two-ness. At the very beginning they were there, those troublesome Evangelicals, fascist and irrational proto-dominionists, side by side with the liberal (yes!) founding fathers who hoped to stay true to the Enlightenment and build here a humanist society, based on freedom for all, on human dignity, equality of opportunity. Up through the reign of another Franklin (Roosevelt, that is) we were getting away with this ambitious project, new to human history, but alas! our all-American fundamentalists were still hanging around, biding their time, awaiting their moment.
How sad. How very tragic.
Shame on you, Franklin.
I was a student at Fuller Seminary when your dad was our hero, a member of the board and my sometime coffee shop buddy. An inspiration for us all he was, vibrant and freckle-faced, a red -headed harbinger of the New Evangelicalism which would transform, we hoped, our society into the very Kingdom of God, give or take the Rapture and the Great Tribulation, if enough people got saved and started to act like Christians, doing the will of God. We didn’t even go to the movies in those days, would have been horrified at the idea of owning a gun. We didn’t talk about politics.
None of us could have known the monster we were creating.
And no, I don’t mean you, Franklin. It was us. The New Evangelicals, the New Christians, what was to become the new American Religion. We have met the Enemy, and it is us.
But if the shoe fits...