The Christian Code

Was listening to the inaugural episode of the Stupid Evil Bastard Podcast a few days ago, and was struck by the hosts’ comment that it would be useful to have some kind of a taxonomy of Christianities to prevent people, both pro and con, from making too sweeping statements about them.

That’s not a code I have the ability or impartiality to make: but I was immediately reminded of the Geek Code, which uses strings like this —

GM d- s+++:++ a- C++ L>++ W++ w PS++ PE- Y+ !t 5+++ X+ R(+) !tv b++++ DI++ D+ G e+++>++++ h* r* y*

— to communicate in a compact form one’s opinions on Star Trek, Unix, and other supremely important subjects of geek interest.

Thus below is a modest stab at a Christian Code of similar organization, with examples of subjects, and a few examples to flesh out the range of each subject. The options are the extremes (- – to + +), the moderates (- and +), the carefully undecideds (no sign), and the indecipherables (?). Minuses usually mean metaphoricalism; the plusses That Good Ol’ Fundie Religion.

* * *

G : the existence of God

  • G – – : “It’s metaphorical, baby”; “Of course grown-up really there is no God, but He’s necessary to keep the sheep in line.”
  • G – : Deism; “Er, he’s retired.”
  • G : Agnosticism; “Don’t know and don’t care.”; “Such a question has no meaningful answer.”; “Really, I just don’t know.”
  • G+ : “Er, yes, there is a God. Is there a problem?”
  • G++ : “Yes, there is a God, and I have talked with him! No, not to him, with him!
  • G? : “God? Why yes, that is me.”

O : Organization

  • O – – : “There’s none but I!”; traditional Gnostics, hermits and the like.
  • O – : The religious should be organized for community and mutual support, and that’s about it. No authorities.
  • O : Doesn’t matter. We may have authorities, but it’s not like they have any power.
  • O+ : We need a priest. And we need to listen to him. He may even have the power to tell someone to leave if they don’t behave. (And maybe we have the power to tell the priest to go bunch his cassock if we don’t like him.)
  • O++ : Popemania! Roman Catholics, Mormons, the Middle Ages. Any organization that has a boss on earth as there is a boss up there in the sky.
  • G? : “All that breathes is an Organ in the Body Organick of Christ!”

One more “switch” that should be included would be one’s adherence to the opinions and commands of one’s organization (or that “O” above), to differentiate lazy Catholics from the Opus Dei.

J : Jesus

  • J – – : Jesus is irrelevant. What matters is the message.
  • J – : Jesus was just a man, but oh man, what a message he had!
  • J : Jesus was something else, I tell you, and he came from God.
  • J+ : Jesus was the son of God, born out of a virgin, died on a cross.
  • J++ : Jesus was the Son of God and God Himself and the Holy Ghost, too! I can give the whole homoiousion… wait, homoousion, twin-nature coexistent assumptioned overliften Christology if you have a couple of hours to spare.
  • J? : If you think you’re Jesus, or his young/elder brother, or some other relative; or if you have a Christianity without Jesus.

M : Miracles

  • M – – : Miracles don’t happen because God is dead or Deistic. “Miracle” is just a word for the goodwill and potency of mankind.
  • M – : God inspires, people act. And who are we to say what is coincidence, what His hand?
  • M : Miracles are mostly a voice deep within you. Also “coincidences” that have “miraculous” results.
  • M+ : Lourdes works, from time to time. The Shroud of Turin is genuine and without an explanation.
  • M++ : Miracles happen every single day. There is no such thing as an accident. Lourdes is all true. Life is a miracle. Consciousness is a miracle. And look, here’s Jesus in a clump of pasta!
  • M? : “I’m a faith healer! Bring yer arm stumps over here!”

S : Salvation

  • S – – : “Salvation? Don’t worry about it. It’s all in higher hands.”
  • S – : It’s enough to be a Christian. Whatever that might mean.
  • S : Baptism and not being a prick are enough.
  • S+ : Pray this, eat this, drink this, and recite this magic formula daily, and you will be saved! Also no shrimp, no gay sex.
  • S++ : You got to be born again, be “well versed in matters soteriological”, and work and fight for it every single moment of your existence… and then, maybe. Unless your neighbors drag the whole city down to damnation. Also don’t die without a last confession.
  • S? : “Well, ‘salvation’ is highly metaphorical; mostly it means don’t be a prick. It’s a continuing process of non-prickness.”

H : Heaven and Hell

  • H – – : There is no afterlife. It’s all highly symbolical.
  • H – : There’s an afterlife, but strictly speaking no Heaven or Hell. We all reincarnate, or merge with God.
  • H : Heaven and Hell exist, but it’s futile to speculate what they’re like or who’ll go to either.
  • H+ : Some knowledge of who goes where; some infernal and celestial mechanics. This will take you to Hell. Or everyone goes to Heaven… or maybe everyone goes to Hell? Or then annihilationism (an actual real theological term).
  • H++ : The room arrangements are known already. This, that and the other will be saved; the others will all burn. (Including you!) Often there are details of the burning.
  • H? : We are living in Hell right now. Or in Heaven. Or maybe Hell’s in New Jersey?

NT : New Testament

  • NT – – : There was no Jesus. Paul made it all up. No, Paul was made up too. It’s all just a tale. No, it was stolen from the OT. No, from the Cynics. No, from the Buddhists.
  • NT – : There was a man called Jesus, but we can’t really know much more than that. His teachings are in some fashion contained in the NT.
  • NT : Jesus’s teachings are in the NT; the details beyond that are kind vague. The NT is inspired in thought, but not in word.
  • NT+ : The New Testament is accurate, as it is divinely inspired. The details are nothing to stress about.
  • NT++ : The New Testament is accurate in all it says. The confusion about the day of the crucifixion is easily explained by supposing He was crucified twice…
  • N? : “But you gots to add the Gospel of Judas to learn what was really going on. Judas and Jesus planned it all, man.

OT : Old Testament

  • OT – – : “…jealous and proud of it; petty, unjust, unforgiving, control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic…”; Cathars, some Gnostics, Marcionites, etc.
  • OT – : The OT is useful mostly for poetry and for prophecies of Christ.
  • OT : The God of OT is irrelevant since He got a makeover in Jesus. It’s a story, so just leave it as that. “What’re these bears you’re talking about?”
  • OT+ : There are excuses. He got better. He had his reasons. Judaism. (Which of course is not a Christianity, but some Christianities get close to it.)
  • OT++ : “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”; “What’s so wrong in being a misogynistic, homophobic vindictive ethnic cleanser?”; Ebionites; young-Earth creationists
  • OT? :

There probably should be two other categories, say Bt and Ba, that signified one’s opinions on the amount of true statements in the Bible, and the accuracy of those statements. The second might go, too, for just how literal one is when reading the Book. That way NT and OT would more reflect one’s emotional attachment to the old and new halves, rather than views of their content.

FE : Faith over evidence

  • FE – – : The existence of God can not only be shown, but has been proven. Creationism. I have found the Ark of Noah, and that of Covenant!
  • FE – : Faith is necessary, but there are very good evidences to support it.
  • FE : It seems a stretch that things would be they way they are without God. Theistic evolution.
  • FE+ : Non-overlapping magisteria. Don’t worry about these here evidences.
    FE++ : Fideism. Religious truths are beyond all reason and evidence. Or: There is evidence for the nonexistence of God and none for His existence, but so what?
  • FE? : “You see my hand, don’t you? One hand, five fingers. Like they say in Latin, non sequitur, and God exists!”

If one had too much time, one could invent sufficient categories like these and then start expressing more general Christian movements with them — say Creationism (“usually G++, FE – – and OT++”) — and work one’s way to bigger gestalts — say the Roman Catholic Church, oh I don’t know what that would be — and eventually, after giving weights to these categories, have a measure for determining the “distance” between any given two Christians sects/churches.

I don’t have the time or patience for that, but it’s an idea that nicely warms a mathematical mind such as mine.

E : Ecumenicism

  • E – – : All ways to God are equally true. (Except maybe the Satanists. And the atheists are obviously no good. And you musn’t interpret your religion wrong, you know. And the Aztec human sacrifice…)
  • E – : Well, most ways to God work, but ours is the best. Those that are good, for some definition of good, will do okay.
  • E : Christians are saved. The others aren’t. But we’re talking “Christian” in the broad sense, though. Some Muslims are pretty Christian, you know. (And those that haven’t heard of Jesus get a free pass anyhow.)
  • E+ : We are saved; the others, well, probably they’re all out of luck — but possibly they can get by with a bit of Purgatory.
  • E++ : “You know what? The Dalai Lama will burn in Hell forever. Along with Anna Frank, mwa ha ha!
  • E? : “Actually my faith is a false diabolical imposture. I wouldn’t recommend conversion.”

R : Rapture and related stuff

  • R – – : Don’t think Christianity has anything to do with any End of the World. Or then “Er, Jesus was a wee bit wrong about that. Sorry.”
  • R – : The Rapture was metaphorical and/or happened during Jesus’s lifetime.
  • R : It’s a mystery.
  • R+ : Maybe it’ll happen someday, but it’s not much to fret about.
  • R++ : Left Behind, Hal Lindsey fans. Have their pets registered for post-Rapture care over at Trustworthy Infidels. Think the Anti-Christ is a Jewish male alive today, possibly in New Jersey.
  • R? : “Pleased to meet you; hope you guess my name… Nicolae Carpathia.”

Then there’re the usual issues: abortion, birth control, sex, and the like, which could eat a few dozen switches by themselves. I’m too lazy to concern myself with them, though.

3 Responses to “The Christian Code”

  1. Funny but Insightful Classification of Christians « A Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian Says:

    […] 2, 2010 by Episcopalian The godless freethinker, as he describes himself in his Masks of Eris blog, has done a brilliant, humorous and insightful job of classification of Christians. It is far […]

  2. Episcopalian Says:

    Brilliant, humorous and insightful job of classification of Christians. It is far too modest to say, as you do, “modest.”

    I tend to be, in most cases, in the single plus category but not at all what you call “That Good Ol’ Fundie Religion.” That is the only fault I find with your analysis. You confuse fundamentalism with orthodoxy. Would you be surprised to know that I accept evolution completely without theistic tinkering? That I reject “them vs. us” notions of salvation? That I am not a biblical literalist? That I think the Shroud of Turin is genuine though it may not be the product of a miracle in a classical sense of that word? That I see absolutely no conflict between science and my faith? Oh, the price of being an Episcopalian.

  3. PlatinumBeetle Says:

    This is pretty good, other than the mockery. Would you mind if I adapted this for actual use?

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