Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Theology and history for fun and no profit

I suppose one should not be terribly surprised that, according to Andrew Sullivan - yes, I know he's an irritating squirt, but he keeps track of some interesting stuff - some politicised Evangelicals have taken to referring to Christians of whom they disapprove as 'once-borns'. They really don't ever pay any attention to what it says in the Gospels about spiritual snobbery, do they? Strange that, in people who regard the Bible as a total guide to life.

Meanwhile, on a linked matter, the Archbishop of Canterbury has actually confronted fundamentalists and the Pope on another issue - whether good non-Christians go to Heaven. 'Neither I nor any other Christian controls access to Heaven...I say this as someone who is quite happy to say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him. But how God leads people through Jesus to heaven - that can be quite varied I think.'

This is a radical reading of the text - arguing that Christ saved people through intercession and death and not by founding a Church - but my friends who read Greek say it is a rather more plausible reading of the Gospels than the standard sectarian one. It is also an interpretation that I had troubled to work out for myself, hence checking with the friends who read Greek.

You may ask why an atheist like me should care what Christians think, or what Jesus said, and it is a fair question. The answer is partly that I have friends and relatives who are Christians, and who worry endlessly about the fate of my soul and the souls of other friends now dead, and it was an act of kindness to talk to them in their own terms about this. And it is partly that we have to share a planet with Christians who are not our friends, and that anything that gives us a chance of confounding their dangerous certainties is useful.

Meanwhile, I fell on my bad knee again yesterday- in spite of the weather, I am just going to have to wear Docs for a while until my ankle stops being floppy. The annoying thing was that I had planned a day of serious movie-going and, by the time I limped home, clearly wasn't in the mood. So I watched another thirteen episodes of Alias Season Two instead - I have so many other things I should be watching, but I wanted something that was by no means work. Once I have watched the remaining six - which will mean two seasons in less than a week - I shall try and have thoughts.

Trying to make sense of the Rambaldi stuff has meant that I have also been thinking about the historical backstory of the Jossverse.

Specifically, no one ever explained why an ancient organization like the Watcher's Council should be based in London, a city of no great importance until the Sixteenth Century. The simple answer is, of course, that Joss never sat down and worked anything out logically, because he just doesn't - hence the Virginia colony with large houses within a few years of its foundation and with Catholic clergy, or at least the Master dressed up, wandering around freely.

One way of coping is to fanwank that it is all an AU in which the Reformation took a different course, for which there is some evidence. Another is the one I prefer, in which supernatural investigations got hived off by the Catholic Church in Spain and Italy to the Inquisition. After all, if you are busy investigating people for secret adherence to heresy, Judaism and Islam, sorting out the odd vampire is all part of a night's work. We know, after all, from Angel Season Three, that the Inquisition was dealing with vampires in C18 Rome - no reason to doubt this was the case earlier.

In Germany and France, the Reformation overlaps with the witch-craze and no-one interested in the supernatural would have been entirely safe. In late C16 Prague, magicians and alchemists were expected to go work for the Holy Roman Emperor, who was obsessed with such things, on a purely selfish level. The Netherlands were not a safe place - a few months campaigning going the other way would have meant that the Spanish got to extirpate dissent there at any point in the 1580s or 90s. The Netherlands was a tolerant place, but not a secure one.

The safe place for a big organization disapproved of by the Catholic Church was the moderate Protestant state of England under Elizabeth. Put it this way - she was the first English monarch to invest seriously in intelligence and was also quite prepared to make use of the practical advantages of having a personal magus, even if she did not believe in everything he claimed to be able to do. Offer her a large international organization with a stock of esoteric knowledge prepared to do business with her and she would have jumped at the chance, as would men around her like the Walsinghams.

There are some lovely implications here. Giordano Bruno's talk of many worlds, the death of Christopher Marlowe, the scuppering of James I's attempt to kick-start a witch craze in his new kingdom - all of these sort of slot in.

I mention all of this partly because, when and if I write my big Romefic cycle, I need to work out the complexities involved in Dawn - who is, or used to be, the Key - using the Vatican library for research. I know I want Ilona in, because she is the sort of flash Kennedy could get distracted by. I think I want the Knights of Byzantium - because I like the idea of sectarian war in the night streets of Rome. ( Clearly the Knights started off as a Crusading order, and were hired by the Orthodox in Byzantium in the years following the Fourth Crusade. 'If you can't beat them, or knife them in the back, hire them' was always the Byzantine way and you can see how Byzantium would have wanted to fight supernatural menaces just like anyone else - in fact, you can almost see the Ottomans being quite prepared to go on using them for the dirty work. Come in from Anatolia to the cities of the Levant and there are some things you leave in place...)

I have too many thoughts. I need to do actual work.

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