God Loves the Poorly Educated

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A megachurch, Julian J Rossig/iStock/Getty Images Plus

On February 24, 2016, during a victory speech after his Nevada caucus win, republican candidate Donald Trump exclaimed that he loved the poorly educated. His critics and political opponents used the statement as evidence of his ineptitude and lack of wisdom. But if you read more of the full quote and put it into the proper context, his statement is consistent with the Republican platform of the last 40 years.

Winning the Evangelical vote and loving the poorly educated go hand in hand. If there is one being that loves the poorly educated more than Donald J. Trump, it is the Judeo-Christian god.

It is Christmas time, and Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. They will also celebrate events that surrounded his birth, like when the Heavenly Host appeared to shepherds and announced the Good News.

The Lord could have appeared to anyone. He could have appeared to scribes or the high priests in Jerusalem, or other educated Jews. The scribes could have written everything down and spread the word quickly. Instead, he chose to reveal the good news to illiterate shepherds.

When Jesus chose his inner circle, he did the same. Most of the apostles were illiterate. The most educated apostle was Judas, who later and not coincidentally became the most vilified figure in Western culture.

We don’t have to look back thousands of years to witness God’s preferential love of the poorly educated. A famous case occurred on May 13th, 1917 when an apparition appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. All children were illiterate.

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Lúcia dos Santos (left) with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, 1917 (public domain)

The children reported seeing a woman who was “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.

Due to the apparition’s appearance and how it admonished them to pray the Hail Mary, the children assumed the vision was of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Jesus’ mother was a minor character in the gospels. In the Gospel of Mark, which scholars of early Christianity agree was the first gospel written (approx. 65 AD), Jesus’ mother is mentioned only once. As readers of the New Testament, we encounter Mary in the Gospel of Mark when she and Jesus’ brothers try to hold an intervention for him.

Jesus’ first recorded encounter with his mother was less than reverent. Rather than welcoming her, he disavowed her publicly.

How had Mary come to be regarded by the 20th Century Catholic Church as a powerful goddess when it is clear, by reading the gospels written in the 1st Century, she was a passive side character who Jesus himself did not respect?

(Note: For the purpose of this discussion, let’s ignore how praying to anything other than God the Father breaks the 1st Commandment. We will overlook how every Christian who has ever said a Hail Mary has broken the 1st Commandment every time; and since it is doubtful a Christian has gone into a confessional and confessed to saying a Hail Mary as if confessing a sin (many priests even give a certain number of Hail Marys as penance), most Christians have given false confessions, which is a mortal sin. In Catholic teaching, mortal sins are a fast track to Hell unless repentance is performed before death.)

There is a man who developed a theory that explains how the character of Mary underwent such a transformation. His name was Leonard Shlain.

Leonard Shlain was an American polymath and surgeon who pioneered the use of surgical procedures such as laparoscopy. He also developed theories about the human brain such as how the invention of writing rewired the brain and pushed it away from the feminine and toward the masculine. He detailed his theory in the book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image.

The kernel of the idea came to Shlain as he toured ancient Greek ruins. He noticed that whenever his tour guide described temples dedicated to male gods, like the Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Apollo, he mentioned how they were built upon the ruins of earlier temples built to female earth goddesses. The kernel took root and led Shlain on a journey to find out why. He applied his wide breadth of knowledge in other areas to this question and developed the hypothesis that writing, which had been invented around the time that humans swapped female gods for male gods— roughly 5,000 years ago — was responsible for strengthening the left hemisphere of the brain at the expense of the right and it led to male domination of human societies.

But if this is true, reasoned Shlain, then the reverse should be true. He wondered if there was a time in human history when writing was abandoned and, if so, did it lead to a resurgence of female goddess worship. He did not have to look far or to an obscure region of history to arrive at his answer. After the western Roman Empire fell in the Fifth Century, literacy rates in Europe plummeted. With that, and in the Dark Ages that followed, the worship of the Virgin Mary rose steeply.

Perhaps the most lucid description of the importance of writing comes from the rewriting of the book of Genesis in the Gospel of John.

Both and are capitalized. The Word and God are one and the same. Images threaten this relationship.

Words are whispered to the faithful, quietly, when they are alone and far from other influences. They peer up from the pages of text. They guide the eye along a rail, either horizontal or vertical, whether left to right or the opposite. They use the cones of the eye, the same part of the eye used by hunters to track prey. The cones are wired through the brain to the spear-throwing arm. The activity of hunting and reading and writing strengthen the left side of the brain, according to Shlain.

By contrast, visions are volcanic explosions. They terrify. They tear down building blocks of reality. Would Paul have converted to Christianity had he only heard a voice on the road to Damascus? Or did it require a vision that threw him to the ground and struck him blind?

Yes, both God and Donald Trump love the poorly educated, but for different reasons. For God, the illiterate may be the most able to receive visions, whether from an external deity, or from within their own minds. Donald Trump loves the poorly educated because they don’t read and won’t check facts.

Merry Christmas.

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