The Philistine

The Anointed and Their Hotline to Heaven

“Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Know ye not that there are more nations than one?” Thus saith the Lord God (2 Nephi 29:6–7). And why not? The Lord God talks to lots of people. God the Father had extensive conversations with Adam, Eve, Cain, Abraham and Moses, to say nothing of Jesus’s ministry on Earth. The Holy Spirit may not be quite so garrulous, but has nonetheless been known to whisper in the ear of many a saint and sinner. And although Mohammed learned God’s will mainly from Gabriel, Muslim theologians assure us that he scored an audience with the Big Man while en route to Heaven. Better late than never.

Second Nephi (cited above) was the second of two holy books authored by the prophet Nephi, son of Lehi of the tribe of Joseph. The father of the author of 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi was Lehi of the tribe of Joseph, an ancient Israelite who took to the seas. He and his family left the old Promised Land for a new Promised Land in what would become the Americas. It stands to reason that God would not have so forsaken the world as to have only shared his Word with the residents of Afro-Eurasia, and (according to the Book of Mormon) Lehi was His vehicle for bringing the Good News to the New World—some 600 years before He sent His only begotten Son to the Old. The timeline is a bit convoluted, but if you don’t think about it too much, it all makes sense.

Salvatore Babones appears in every Quadrant.
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Of course, Mormons—members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and related splinter denominations—consider themselves Christians, and are widely (though not universally) accepted as such. The extra book ruffles some feathers, but not too many. Anyway it’s near-impossible not to like Mormons; they’re just so gosh-darned nice. And so refreshingly non-violent. When their religion was satirised on Broadway (by the scatologically-obsessed creators of South Park, no less), the Mormons didn’t attack the actors or burn down the theatre. They didn’t even protest the cultural appropriation of their latter-day Bible as the title of the show. Instead, they bought advertising space in the playbill. Muslims, take note.

When the satirical play “Book of Mohammed” with lyrics like “I believe that God has a plan for all of us / I believe that plan involves me getting seventy-two virgins” gets a peaceful run in the West End, followed by global syndication and a tour of the Middle East, the Philistine will eat that quip. Until then, it seems fair to contrast these two remarkably parallel forms of Christian heterodoxy. And they are parallel. Mormons and Muslims both embrace the monotheism of Abraham, both accept the virgin birth of Jesus, and both have an extra book in their respective Bibles. Both religions (let’s not quibble over what to call them) arose in thinly populated desert areas on the margins of settled Christendom. Both were founded by illiterate prophets who embraced polygamy as a means for propagating the faith. The words Mormon and Muslim even sound alike, and both start with M.

If Mormons and Muslims have pursued different trajectories in their relationships with Christianity, it is because nineteenth-century Mormons desperately wanted “in” to the United States, while seventh-century Muslims desperately wanted “out” of the Byzantine empire. Well, it wasn’t so much the Muslims who wanted out, as those who became Muslim. For centuries before the Muslim conquests, the Orthodox emperors of Byzantium had been persecuting the various Gnostics, Arians, Nestorians, Monophysites and other non-conforming sects that flourished in the major population centres of North Africa and the Near East. When the Arab armies came along and offered them religious toleration in exchange for a nominal one-dinar jizya, many jumped at the chance. Better to pay a head tax than to pay with your head.

Most of these various Christian sects ultimately melted into Muslim society, learning Arabic and ultimately coming to think of themselves as Arabs. That shouldn’t shock anyone. Seventh-century Islam wasn’t really so different from seventh-century Christianity. Back then, prophets were coming fast and thick, and if Mohammed was somewhat less literate than Arius or Nestorius, he was no less eloquent. Strict Muslim monotheism and iconoclasm were readily accepted by people who opposed Nicene trinitarianism and the Byzantine veneration of icons. And of course many mosques were (and still are) modelled on the domed basilicas of Byzantine Christendom. Often Christian churches were simply whitewashed into mosques.

The result is that most “Arabs” today are not Arabian at all; they are in fact the descendants of the local Greek, Phoenician, Egyptian and (yes) Philistine peoples of what had once been the eastern Roman empire. That’s the true backstory of the “Islamic” philosophers who translated Aristotle into Arabic and preserved the Greek classics for posterity. These scholars weren’t enlightened Muslims open-mindedly labouring to understand an alien civilisation. They were Greeks saving what they could of their own cultural inheritance.

Today, Christians and Muslims tend to see themselves as belonging to very different religions, and almost as worshipping different Gods. But that is to embrace the narcissism of minor differences. To many Buddhists, Confucians and Hindus, we all look alike. Shrill, exclusionary, always complaining, always proselytising: Christians and Muslims are insufferable in their insistence that their God is the only God. When St Peter visited the Pantheon, the resident Roman priest kindly offered to find a nook for Jesus among the many gods on display. Peter petulantly refused—and was promptly ejected. The Romans may have crucified St Peter for sticking to his faith, but they crucified him upside down for being annoying about it.

Fifteen hundred years later, having converted all of the pagans in their immediate vicinity, Medieval Christians and Muslims took to the seas to find fresh fields for proselytisation. The Christian Conquistadores found a whole new heathen world in the Americas (Nephi and his flock having apparently died out in the intervening millennia), while the Muslim Mujahideen finally penetrated into the old heathen worlds of India and South-East Asia (where the church set up by Doubting Thomas himself had survived but not flourished). The Christian conquest was complete; the Muslim one, somewhat less thorough. As a result, the Americas are now the last bastion of Christianity, while South Asia remains a religious battleground between proselytising monotheism and complacent polytheism.

Yes, polytheism. Please, no complaint letters claiming that Parvati (the north Indian daughter of the Himalayas) and Hanuman (the monkey king of the Dravidian jungles) are simply manifestations of the one Supreme Being. If God wanted to appear on Earth as a monkey, He wouldn’t have made man in His image.

Or maybe He would have. For who has known the mind of the Lord? Certainly not the Philistines. You can read about them in 1 Samuel, but only if you accept that God really does talk to humans. He especially wanted to talk to Samuel, though he was little more than a typical teenage slacker at the time (Samuel, that is, not the Lord). God actually had to call the future prophet four times before the kid finally picked up. Younger readers may wonder at that, but this was before caller ID—and God doesn’t leave voicemail. When God finally did reach Samuel, it was to tell him that He would destroy the house of Eli (Samuel’s mentor). Bad luck, Eli. It seems that his sons had stolen some offerings from the temple. The Jewish God is nothing if not a jealous god.

That’s one thing that all the Abrahamic faiths share: a jealous God. Those few Hindus who insist on the Oneness of the Supreme Being know nothing of the jealousness of Yahweh. Jews, Christians, Muslims and Mormons, by contrast, all instinctively understand the injunction “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, even when they have ceased to worship any god at all. Their faith having lapsed, they nonetheless cling to the sentiment. That’s why the post-Christian proponents of the postmodern West’s new woke religion push their agenda with the full fiery force of Abrahamic religious fervour. No Iranian Ayatollah or Salafi Imam ever laid down the law with more self-righteousness than the Woollahra Municipal Council. God speaks directly to them, as surely as He speaks to Greta.

You can read all about it in the Book of Malcolm. It’s the ostentatiously inclusive book with the teal cover and the #RacismNotWelcome hashtag. It takes as its theme “for whosoever hath, to him shall be given”. No parable intended.

12 thoughts on “The Anointed and Their Hotline to Heaven

  • vdsrm says:

    I am getting to enjoy and better understand your work with each contribution. thank you so much.

  • lbloveday says:

    Quote: “The Romans may have crucified St Peter for sticking to his faith, but they crucified him upside down for being annoying about it”.

    We, well certainly I, can’t know, but most accounts I’ve read are along the line “Peter requested to be crucified upside down, as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ”.

  • STD says:

    “#Racism Not Welcome”- sounds awfully authoritarian in tone ,just not nice.
    Similar to the sign on a pole outside Macquarie Uni, however the ‘N’ has not been capitalised, and the sign is red.
    Japanese, Chinese and Indian girls don’t appeal to my male ocular sense – I must be racist, no other way.
    I can be fixed tho (UGH) all one needs is some education, re-education in fact.
    University these days ,especially with the UNLEARN mantra is the perfect place to replace good old fashion common sense with none sense.
    The exclusion to the unlearn rule, being Campion.
    Maybe the hashtag could be replaced, and thoughtfulness, courtesy, manners and politeness are more than and most welcome, not as offensive or brutish ‘as you are not welcome’.
    Feb 18 2023, 12.29 ESST

  • STD says:

    I live in hope that the Philistine as will the God’s ,pardon my jocularity and forgivingly anoint my gender transgression.
    Feb 18 2023 ,12.56 ESST.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “When their religion was satirised on Broadway (by the scatologically-obsessed creators of South Park, no less), the Mormons didn’t attack the actors or burn down the theatre. They didn’t even protest the cultural appropriation of their latter-day Bible as the title of the show. Instead, they bought advertising space in the playbill. Muslims, take note.”
    Careful now.! Careful Salvatore.! My sources tell me that a fatwah is about to be declared on you, in Mecca no less. And with the usual prize of 72 virgins for the fanatic who carries it out. You maybe could do a lot worse than nip down to your nearest mosque and convert to Islam while there is still time, as the cleric Abu Bakar Bashir recommended in the case of John Howard, back in 2006. 😉

  • STD says:

    Would someone kindly chime in, and egg Ian on…

  • 48header says:

    Core question. Is it possible that God, if there is a God, might make Godself known sufficiently? The first 14 verses of St John are a sustained affirmation that that is so and contain the mind bending affirmation of revelation by Incarnation (sarx egeneto) The world of course is a weird and wonderful place and Jesus, unlike some followers at different times, did not wear nor claim a visible halo. It’s possible. Literal speech cannot be ruled out either, though some see speech as an attributed metaphor. Yeah Nah.

  • STD says:

    An addendum to my comments above.
    With regard to the # sequence.-My fault, it should quiet rightly be read as “Racism not Welcome” – not not being capitalised as I inadvertently betrayed the truth in that not but not the latter former not.
    When it comes to truth, one needs to be committed.
    Must have been a Freudian capitalist slip up.

  • bomber49 says:

    Thanks for pointing out the fact that the culture of the old Eastern Roman Empire ran in parallel with Islam, until one day it was diluted so much that enlightenment just shrivelled up and died.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    “We, well certainly I, can’t know, but most accounts I’ve read are along the line “Peter requested to be crucified upside down, as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ”.”
    Accounts may vary. This one however does sound suspiciously like making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
    Roman graffiti shows a Christ with the head of a donkey being crucified. I doubt they were any more respectful to Peter, Sainted man though he was.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Thanks Salvatore for your historical sketch about desert offshoots of Christianity, showing that Islam moved far further from the fold than did the Mormans, yet highlighting how much of Greek tradition was still maintained over generations by Islamic scholars. Thankfully for us, when it came to documents, these scholars were unable to let go of their Greek antecedents. They saved so much that lay in wait to fertilize the Western Renaissance. As did, let us recall, those frozen-fingered monks copying away in their stone huts in remote Irish Christian settlements that eventually became monasteries. Thus the Irish too have a strong claim to having saved some major treasures of Greek and Roman civilisation.
    When civilisations fall, only the fragments remain. In our digital world, what would remain to inform?

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