They Had Risen Indeed: Christian Pluralism, Cigarettes, and Donuts in the Roman Empire
THROUGHOUT THE MISTS OF TIME, people have bickered over which soteriology is the most salvific. The doctrinal anarchy of the π th century was no exception. From Jerusalem to Byzantium and back, the metallic crashes of clashing gastronomical theologies and their aromatic diversity filled the air. In the east, a smattering of fermented laypeople had theurgical epiphanies that inspired Docetic donuts. Meticulous ecumenical calculations in the west gave us the Kabbalah kabob, partially inspired by widespread Platonic pizza of centuries of yore. Meanwhile, renowned heresiologist Zarathustra-Tertullian IV’s self-proclaimed orthopraxy in cake-baking brought him to conclude that he was qualified to wield the Orthodox Stick with his attacks on rival Christologies. This paper will not concentrate on Docetic donuts or Kabbalah kabobs, but the objects of Zathustra-Tertullian’s (hereunto, ZT) most well-known theological foes, the Baguette Brothers of Pelagnism and Semi-Pelganism, and Quasimodo of the Quasi-Biblical Non Sequiturs.
Quasimodo of the Quasi-Biblical Non Sequiturs was originally known as Jerome Bacon. Jerome Bacon grew up in a boarding school that focused on producing informed hermenuticists. The story of how Jerome Bacon became the figure ZT would later flagellate with the Orthodoxy Stick is one of mildly-gritty, but not obnoxiously gritty, coming-of-age-ness. Like many who feel stifled by desk-ridden academia, Jerome Bacon became very bored and annoyed with his lot in life. Eventually, instead of spending his nights knee-deep in his prescribed studies, Jerome ended up chilling at a gay bar, where he would end up having the revelation that transformed him into Quasimodo of the Quasi-Biblical Non Sequiturs.
The gay bar happened to be the very close neighbor of ZT’s monastery. Scholars throughout the centuries have suggested that it is this and not the far-fetched claims of Quasimodo’s Gnostic gluten-occultism, is the real reason that fired up ZT to write lengthy exegesis against Quasimodo’s work and proposed edicts that were strategic in outlawing certain Quasimodo’s doctrines. ZT had nothing against gay bars, per se, but this gay bar had an unusually large demographic of chain-smoking clientele. ZT’s window was the closest in the monastery to the gay bar itself, thus he was most privy to the pervading miasma of second-hand smoke. Can ya blame the guy for having a chip on his shoulder? ZT had a bad case of asthma. Just sayin.
Aaaanyhizzle, the work that ZT would later condemn as anti-canonical apocrypha (and Quasi-Biblical Non Sequiturs) was a sort-of beatnik take on various wisdom literature: terse proverb-like non-proverb stuff and Ecclesiastes-esque musings against petite-bourgeois consumerism. One of Quasimodo’s works held up Courtney Love’s “Doll Parts” as a perfect example of the disillusioning effect of objectification via capitalism. This made Quasimodo a prophet since both capitalism as we know it and Courtney Love were things of the very-far-off future. Which might also be why it was such a strong point of contention with ZT: although such anachronistic pop culture references were a part of Quasimodo’s spiritual reality, they were not included in ZT’s.
ZT also raised gender issues in his criticisms of the plausibility of the vision that would turn then-Jerome-Bacon into the Quasimodo of Quasi-Biblical Non Sequiturs. The vision then-Jerome-Bacon had was of a female figure named Christine who bought American Spirits by the carton – something else that ZT would dissect as a non-God characteristic, because, surely, if who ZT presumed was Jesus in Quasimodo’s text was really Jesus and Jesus was really smoking American Spirits, he would not buy them, but conjure them, collecting sticks, syringes, and other debris and supernaturally transforming them from the previous matter into smoke-able products. (Was that a run-on sentence? Guess who doesn’t care.) The conjuring would make strong associations with the water-to-wine miracles of the Gospels, and therefore making the Jesus-ness of the character more plausible. ZT also had a bone to pick with the kind of American Spirits “Jesus” was smoking: “If Jesus was a smoker at all,” ZT wrote, “he would not smoke menthols. That’s the rule I made up just now.” You may be wondering why ZT keeps referring to Christine as “Jesus”. This is where the gender issues that I mentioned in the topic sentence of this paragraph come in. Took me long enough, right? ZT was so in denial about the possibility of a woman-deity-figure existing in the Judeo-Christian consciousness, even in the case of someone he deemed a heretic, that he assumed “Christine” was a typo where “Christ” was originally intended. Therefore, ZT concluded, this apparent “Christine” was definitely “Jesus”. Even in the utterly impossible event that this supernatural femaleness could occur, ZT figured, it would not happen in a gay bar, as clearly male homosexuals were woman-haters by nature. This is insanely ignorant. But it’s not my opinion, it’s ZT’s. I’m just quoting him.
Quasimodo detailed to the hagiographers at E-News the first appearance of the chain-smoking, gay-bar-dwelling Christine: “Thus, she approached and said unto me, ‘Jerome Bacon, you will now be Quasimodo.’ And I was like, ‘Why Quasimodo, LORD?’ And she was like, ‘b/c I think the name is cute, and someone will someday call the things you write ‘Quasi-Biblical Non Sequiturs’. I like alliteration. Furthermore, I need you to up and bail from this place in the time of 30-50 days and make a one-way pilgrimage to Notre Dame, where you will neither eat nor sex, but pen the musings of your heart during the time in which you are not ringing the bells.’ To which I said, ‘What’s this Nortre Dame place, and how do I know they will accept me as a bell-ringer?’ ‘Chillax, bro,’ the LORD said unto me, ‘I got this covered.’ Christine then also said that I would know what to write because she would direct my heart what to say.”
Thus, after a period of 31 days, in which he organized his affairs and his friends threw him bon voyage parties, Quasimodo got on a Greyhound bus for Paris. Our faithful and possibly-hallucinating pilgrim applied for the position of bell-toller at Notre Dame cathedral. Despite fierce competition – it was a very nonsexually sexy job, you see – the monks and nuns awarded him the title. I know. I was one of them. Quasimodo moved into the bell-tower, an established votary, who took on an ascetic lifestyle. The monks supplied him with cartons of menthol American Spirits, and he smoked them as he adorned the bells with iconography of his gay bar Christine, with abstract embellishments of Pollock-like paint splatters. Christine would eventually appear to him again, saying, “Alright, Quasi, don’t get me wrong or anything, I mean, the icons are nice. But I asked you to write the musings of your heart.” Quasimodo replied, “I know, LORD, but…I’ve got writer’s block. And I don’t know how to write. I know I didn’t mention it at the gay bar, but I don’t think I’m up to putting my thoughts into words.” Christine told Quasimodo that he should trust her and that she would direct his heart to write such things. After the vision, Quasimodo put off the writing for 15 more days, fraught with anxiety and smoking more cigarettes than he was used to. He didn’t drink any water, either, so eventually the smoking, mixed with the heat-wave that hit Paris that winter, made him get a migraine and puke his guts out. Quasimodo started crying and cried, “Okay, I get it. I realize this migraine was punishment for my procrastination.” Christine showed up posthaste and was like, “Hey, dude. That was no punishment. Punishment is not how I roll. You’re dehydrated and smoking more stoges than even I smoke. But, here, before this vomit dries – I’m telling you now – take this stick and dip it in and I will tell you what to write.”Quasimodo took the glittery fairy-stick from Christine and said, “What wondrous stick is this, LORD?” And Christine was like, “I see what you’re trying to do – don’t change the subject just so you can put this off more. I’m right here. I’m going to help you write this.” Christine then dictated to Quasimodo what to write and Quasi wrote it. His migraine eventually lifted, and once Quasimodo got going, Christine didn’t have to DIRECTLY dictate to him anymore, and his faith increased manifold.
There, on the floor of the bell tower, Quasimodo transcribed what ZT would later call Quasi-Biblical Non Sequiturs – a title which he meant to be derogatory, but Quasimodo’s followers adopted it lovingly, much like how “beatnik” and “Christian” were supposed to be derogatory terms and the actual beatniks and Christians made it their own. After he was finished, Quasimodo fell asleep in the corner. The monks arrived with Quasimodo’s menthol American Spirits, saw the dried up vomit, and were amazed. They ran down to their quarters to fetch their scrolls and inkwells, and ran back up the stairs to capture the vomit-writing in ink-writing, eventually waking up Quasimodo for some verification, since vomit-writing can be hard to read sometimes.
Quasimodo’s asceticism was yet another point of contention for ZT. Few movements of the day swore off food, seeing as the movements were mostly baked-good-based. ZT said that he would have found Quasimodo’s spiritual revelation more plausible if Jesus (Christine, really) prompted him to make and eat food instead of abstain from food altogether. ZT deemed Quasimodo’s anomalous asceticism unholy. Although ZT was essentially against Pelagnism and Semipelganism, he had some nice things to say about it, while he had no nice things to say about Quasimodo’s movement.
Pelagnism (seeded) and Semipelganism (unseeded) were conceived by JM and MM, also known as the Baguette Brothers. JM is short of Joesphus Meredith, this abbreviation causes him to be frequently confused with Justin Martyr in ecclesiastical scholarship, but, you can’t win ‘em all. MM is short for Meredith Meredith ,because, again, you can’t win ‘em all.
JM and MM came from a theological background of bizarre eschatology from an obscure cult of patristic nomads. Even the most radical on the outer-most fringe of Jewish Apocalyptists wouldn’t touch this theology. It was that weird. So very much so, that can’t begin to accurately describe it in this essay. So I won’t try. I mean, it’s a pretty long paper already. Despite being long-steeped in these creeds, JM and MM felt like they were out of their element, and broke off to establish a more conventional order in a suburban setting. This element of conventionality, however subtle, was why ZT managed to formulate a few, rare, nice things to say about their heresy. “At least,” ZT wrote, “JM and MM have managed to include a structured liturgy in their weird religious ways.”
The liturgy was like this:
Wake up 1.5 hours before sunrise. Make baguettes. Carry baguettes through streets much like how Episcopalians carry in The Holy Book and people kiss it (that’s what Episcopalians do…right?). Lead procession full circle back to the bakery. Have Eucharist with bread. Seeded for those who want seeded. Unseeded for those who want unseeded. Because that’s fair.
Quasimodo didn’t have a structured liturgy, and despite that, I think his story is more interesting, otherwise I wouldn’t have written so damn much about him about him in comparison to the Baguette Brothers. Despite having no evidence of how Quasimodo felt about the Baguette Brothers, and vice versa, we can infer that the Baguette Brothers ALSO thought Quasimodo was cooler than them, because…who wouldn’t?
In conclusion: while Docetic donuts and Kabbalah kabobs were very nice and had their place in the π th century churchy debates, ZT focused mostly on the Baguette Brothers and Quasimodo of the Quasi-Biblical Non Sequiturs. Now you know a lot about them. Even though you’re a professor, so, being the smart person you are, you already knew. #forthecupcakes
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