Monday, June 8, 2009

I disprove my wife's existence

Now that the hocus pocus and abstraction of Trinity Sunday are past, I can get down to some serious scholarship.

It is claimed that Fountain had a wife, Melissa Clayman Fountain. But the very existence of such a person can be challenged on three levels.

1. Linguistic/textual criticism. The spelling M-E-L-I-S-S-A betrays the influence of a dominant culture at a particular point in time. Many formerly suppressed texts are now available, showing that there were other cultural voices. For example, spellings such as M-I-L-I-S-S-A, M-E-L-I-S-A, M-A-L-I-S-S-A and others show a rich and diverse tradition for this ancient feminine name. The fact that the name of the purported spouse of an oppressive priest was spelled according to a dominant and exclusive cultural norm indicates an effort to perpetuate an oppressive system by intolerant linguistic law.

2. Comparative religion. The middle or oppressive "maiden" name, Clayman, clearly reflects Jewish folklore's "Golem", or "being of inanimate matter." A "Clay man" would of course create these associations among the contextualized audience of the Fountain tradition. Add to this the traditions asserting "Melissa's" Jewish ancestry, and the creation of the character is an obvious attempt to impose Christianity upon more ancient spiritualities based in nature and justice-love. The Melissa myth assumes that the beautiful and wise Jewish woman willingly shares the bed of her repulsive and ignorant oppressor.

3. Anthropojustice studies. Although a "wife" named Melissa Fountain is an obvious fiction, created by the Church to advance its power in the world, there is a good case for rediscovering the repressed, historical Fountain. The borrowed Jewish term "clay-MAN" reveals a homoerotic love that has been removed by the Christianized Fountain tradition. In fact, a popular play and movie of the time, La Cage aux Folles, was a protest against gay lovers being forced to feign heterosexuality. We must assume that Fountain was a partnered gay priest, whose unfortunate partner was consigned to anonymity by the creation of the Melissa myth. (Note: I will be researching and producing my Doctoral Thesis this weekend, conclusively establishing the historical identity of the lost justice-lover.)


Some of you know that a paper like this could get an "A" in Liberal Protestant seminaries. Maybe you've been treated to a sermon or adult ed. class of this sort. Many of the critiques of Christianity that people bring up are based on arguments like these, gathered from pop fiction, the History Channel, revisionist clergy, etc.

And how would I disprove such a critique of Melissa's existence? Well, unless she appeared, in person and with much supporting ID to every doubter, the next best "proof" would be the sustained testimony of people who know her.

That is the evidence by which debate with atheists, religious revisionists and others breaks down. There are many arguments for and against the existence of God, and they have been bouncing off one another for millennia. For the believer, at some point, abstract arguments against the existence of God become as ineffective as the above effort to "disprove" my spouse. Theory and rhetoric will seem manifestly false up against a real and intimate relationship.

This is where the "new atheists" are very effective, because they've left off the dusty philosophical attacks on God and honed in on the ungodly behaviors of "believers." For the new atheist, God fails to make an in-person appearance and then compounds this with a lack of credible representatives. (See Prof. David O'Hara's more detailed discussion).

That's an effective argument - and you can see why "believers" who spout the kind of drivel I wrote above are completely helpless against it. They abandon the God they knew and beg for the chance to make a new one that might be more palatable to the skeptics.

God's witnesses must be both awe-struck citizens of the transcendent realm and practitioners of a lifestyle that reflects it here and now.


Petrus Canisius said...

I lol'd, it reminded me of the good ol' days when I would have conversations with people like that. Very witty :)

TLF+ said...

Hi, Petrus, welcome!

It is just amazing what passes for "scholarship" when it comes to "religion." Just throw out whatever and see what sticks, I guess.

I mean, just look at some of the contemporary "scholarship" produced by seminary and even university types about Jesus:

Jesus was married, because all evidence shows that all Jewish men married.

Jesus was gay, because...

The dead body of Jesus was eaten by dogs, because...

Jesus was just a witty philosopher who showed the absurdity of all thought, because...

You just make it up, throw on a few tidbits of linguistic, historical or other "fact," and, voila! you are have the authority to redefine the faith.

Paul does a pretty good job defining the state of the church in one of this morning's lessons:

For you gladly put up with fools, being wise yourselves! For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

friend of Awestruck said...

what's even wackier is when the rhetoric starts getting into a category where, if used against a different group of people, would be called "hate mongering" -

Example in case, when Dominic Crossan starts talking about how people who believe that the Bible in certain places should not be obfuscated but taken "literally," some how carry a "genocidal germ." Now I've heard liberal Episcopalians complaining about how they feel like they are "lepers." But the leprosy germ isn't quite as utterly dreadful as some kind of "genocidal germ" - and few would imagine a legitimation for killing a leper, but many would feel little compunction at killing someone infected with a "genocidal germ."

So if people in churches are taught that I, who believe that the account of the resurrection should be taken to mean, "Christ rose from the dead," have a "genocidal germ" - well, goodness, I might be safer in prison than on the open streets just in case I happened to meet one of these Tolerant Episcopalians.

I realize that in a sense this is all still fun and games since no one yet has lost an eye. But the situation starts turning from the wacky to the ultra-wacky to the utterly tragic (from a secular humanist point of view). Though from a Christian point of view it was utterly tragic already a long time ago.

TLF+ said...

"Genocide germs",hmmmmm... and we are cretins, this-or-that-phobes, legitimizers of murder, haters...

And I typed those without much effort at thinking about the name calling.

Yes, the great "scholarship" of Liberal Protestantism comes down to sputtered name calling. "The thinking person's church. You don't have to check your brains at the door."