Is there a Gnostic church somewhere, I wonder? I think that would be just up my alley. I mentioned Elaine Pagels’ Beyond Belief the other day, and reading that led me to start reading The Gnostic Gospels again. She has to be one of the finest minds in comparative religion today. It’s not just that she comes up with solidly researched ideas about the origins of Christianity, it’s that her simplicity of language makes it accessible to anyone. I actually saw her speak here in St. Paul a few years ago, and she’s not only brilliant but adorable. The way she spoke reflects the way she writes: simple, humble, learned, and engaged. Also, you just want to pick her up and hug her.

If you haven’t read her, you really should. I imagine some Christians would find her ideas disturbing, but they’re not ideas so much as they are observations from reading ancient texts from the early days of Christianity in their original languages and getting the best sense of what Christianity was really like in its early years. It may not fit with the usual idea of Christianity, but you can’t claim she’s made stuff up.

Her work is comforting to me, because it suggests that any religion can change and still survive. She shows how the Christianity of the first few centuries after Christ is actually quite different from the Christianity of today, and how the changes in Christianity arose from the political situation then extant in the Roman Empire and other parts of the Christian diaspora.

I know there are a lot of people who think their faith can’t be allowed to change. But Pagels shows that faiths can change and survive, even flourish as a result of the changes, but not abandon core beliefs. Hey, maybe Islam could become a little more liberal toward women. Maybe Christians who make homophobia an article of faith could let go of their fear of gay and lesbian people. Maybe the world wouldn’t end. Just a thought. 🙂


3 Responses to “Gnosticism”

  1. 1 Jordan Stratford August 24, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Yes, there are several Gnostic Churches

    Closest to you is likely one of the two AJC parishes in Wisconsin.



  2. 2 Rev. Marsha August 24, 2007 at 2:31 am

    Greetings in Gnosis,

    There are many Gnostic Churches around. There is The Gnostic Church of St. Mary Magdalene of which I am the pastor of the parish in Seattle Washington. There is also the Ecclesia Gnostica with parishes in Hollywood, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle and one in Norway.
    The Apostolic Johannite Church has parishes in the U.S and in Canada.

    All of these churches weloome gays and lesbians. In fact a large percentage of the clergy is gay or lesbian. All are welcome at the altar of gnosis.

    Pax Pleromae,

    Rev. Marsha Emrick+
    Our Lady Star of the Sea Gnostic Chapel, Seattle Washington

  3. 3 tobeme August 27, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Very cool, the idean of Gnostic church. I think the funny thing is that if Jesus was here today, he would probably say, why did you start a church, that was not my intent, I never advocated an organized religion.
    I love your thoughts!
    Thanks for the lead on this book, I will add it to my reading wish list.

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