I originally posted this on Texas HB 36: Informed Consent to an Abortion in response to something Canary, resident commentor extraordinaire, said about the concept “First among equals.”
Here is what she said:
Gee – I thought the Greeks were a bit wiser than that. To tell someone “We are all equal, but I’m first” is really dumb, and that Christian Theology adopted the idea is even dumber. Even a first grader at the end of the lunch line knows just how DUMB that saying really is in literal terms. “If I’m equal, hows come I didn’t get a slice of the sausage pizza like those in the front of the line, and hows come I didn’t get equal time to eat my mystery meat casserole?” Amazing what sort of nonsense we will ingest simply because a leader assumes authority over us and therefore must know everything. Down, Kitty. I’m finished
However, after adding my comments, I got some off line heat about my responde being a post of its own. They raised all sorts of ruckus, telling me the thoughts would get lost. People are always looking out for me.
So…even though I have been saying in my previous articles that I was going to follow a theme for three successive posts, I am going to give in to pressure and render this to the world for blogging consumption.
Canary’s ever so hysterical satire of “first among equals” notwithstanding…I want to wax brainy for a minute.
Political and social thought has been in flux, well, since humans formed confederations based on genetic codes. We call them tribes. The function of tribalism is nothing more than protection. When individuals realize they do not have the requisite strength to fend off all interlopers against their person, they look for ways to increase that power. The historic challenge was to know who was willing to share mutual best interest: value you and defend you. The easiest distinction is to gravitate to those who look like you do. Tribal-ism is effectively racism: the belief that genetic heritage means philosophical solidarity. That was a wordy way of saying that because you look like me, you will be most likely to value me.
Racism was (and still is) the lowest common denominator of social/political organization. The problem with Tribalism is that it is a bloody, bloody, bloody way to live. History proves that out.
The question becomes in every tribe: Who decides what the individual sacrifice is for the sake of the tribe to participate in the protection?
This is the beginning of political theory.
By the emergence of the Greco/Roman culture, the world had been awash in blood from the ruling power of warlords and mystic despots since time immemorial. The end result was to wrestle with that very fundamental question stated above: “Who decides the nature of sacrifice?”
The historic power to dictate was called king, despot, ruler, emperor et al. But this has begged a predicate question: what makes this man qualified to dictate to everyone else? The gods? Genetics?
Does being Emperor make this man a qualitatively better KIND of man?
If so, who can oppose him?
Do the gods oppose him?
If he is not a qualitatively better person, what does that say of all men?
(And here was the radical evolution of thought.) Could it be that all men are equal? If all men are equal, then how can we justify who is in charge?
The Greco/Roman world wrestled with this very question seeking many different political answers. First among Equals was one of those answers: primus inter pares I think is the Latin.
Christianity hit the world stage dead square in the middle of this ongoing political debate and rode the evolution of thought into the Middle Ages. By the middle of the 2nd century, Christianity had become fully inundated with Greco/Roman preoccupations and concerns. Christianity found itself needing to answer a very similar tribalistic question: Who is authentic and able to participate in our group?
Over time I will expand on this BUNCHES to make my point, but I will offer this fodder now.
Philosophical tribalism is called Sectarianism. Sectarianism is really nothing more than intellectual racism: the assumption that those of like MIND will be most likely to value and validate and protect me.
So, here is the issue. The Greco/Roman world was not stupid as such… they were struggling to understand the proper relationship between the governed and the governing.
They were making an evolution of thought from the utter inequality of people, to considering how can we have all men equal but some exercise governance?
And I will never let you forget that Governance is ALWAYS FORCE.
Historically, Christianity decided that AUTHORITY dictated good and men in authority were indeed a better KINDS of men. Christianity also decided that genetics mattered in who had authority. Apostolic Succession is the Catholics’ solution to “Who is Qualified?” which is really the non-genetic version of Monarch succession via birth, which really has its roots in Tribalism.
Protestants have a problem, however. They can’t claim succession, so they need a justification for “Who is qualified?” And because they started this whole reformation dealeo by saying that everyone can read the book for themselves–scripture alone–they needed to find a political concept that seems to satisfy the very obvious Biblical idea that all men are in fact equal.
Some half clever folks decided to reach back into history and pull out some Latin, with some ties to political theory. “First among Equals” fits the bill.
Political thought and evolution did not stop with the first, second, or third century. And canonical literature draws no definitive lines around the subject: the writers tending to emulate historic Judaic social/political organization or copying emerging Greco/roman political development. And more insidious, successive generations of Christian leadership just hijacked existing Roman political structure and retrofitted with biblical shamanism to sanctify their actions.
The atrocities committed by the perpetrators of biblical shamanism and subsequent spiritual tyranny have been covered up by modern academic shills who fail to scrutinize the relationshp between the source ideas that produced the historic doctrines. It is easier to sanctify the ideas with the wonder word “orthodoxy,” and start screaming Heresy the moment anyone points to the slithering, writhing mass of Helenisitc/Plantonist Christian thought as the source of tyranny. This is how they get around having to address the obvious destructive outcomes.
Humanity has made all sorts of social and political improvements in the last few thousand years in spite of the church. That is a hard reality to absorb, but it is obvious to those that look. Christianity has not been an agent of political or social liberty. This reality inspired these quotes by James Madison in Memorial and Remonstrance 1785:
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.
Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
Why do Christians ignore the social and political evolutions over the last 1,700 years? Because no one wants to argue with Latin.
We ignore the evolutions because of a vain commitment to interpretive literalism and misplaced “Biblical Modeling.” These intellectual Red Herrings lead to theological cul-de-sacs and are exacerbated by slavish commitments to historic arguments and the endless dance around the “orthodoxy” tree.
But if you start asking the right questions, the Toga-Induced Christian Tribalims starts to lose its power, and eventually one realizes that the source of the spiritual tyranny is deeply embedded in sectarianism.