Saturday, 10 June 2006
Armstrongism in drag
I finally got around to viewing the Hulme COG DVD on the apostle Paul today. David Hulme being the ex-WCG executive, ex-UCG president, currently High Poobah of his own splinter sect with an unmemorable name.
To give credit where it's due, the Lord's Anointed scrubs up well for the cameras. And he has a talent for slick PR. Hulme managed to enlist quite a lineup of experts for the program, including:
James Tabor (author of The Jesus Dynasty, former AC lecturer and a respected academic)
John Garr (spokesperson for something called the Restoration Foundation, author of several obscure books)
N.T. Wright (Anglican Bishop of Durham and British Evangelical poster-boy)
Paula Fredriksen (author of From Jesus to Christ and a very insightful commentator by anyone's standards)
John Gager (author of Reinventing Paul and a top scholar)
Craig A. Evans (another legitimate academic and author)
Amy-Jill Levine (who describes herself as a Yankee Jewish feminist, and specialises in feminist commentary on the Gospels)
Despite having all these knowledgeable people on call, along with some superb graphics, there was no disguising the fact that this was cold-COG leftovers reheated with a scholarly garnish. Hulme even trotted out the ancient Herbal chestnut about the missing decades in church history, and then the curtain rising on a new religion invented by the early church fathers (somebody should lock him in a small room with Jared Olar and a copy of Eusebius!)
It must be nice to fly around the world with a big, fat, tithe-funded media and travel budget, shooting backdrops in Antioch and posing casually in front of the Acropolis. And yes, the resulting 70-minute program looks as professional as money can buy.
There were moments of wonder. When the much maligned second century heretic Marcion was described as a Catholic bishop, for example. And when Dapper Dave stated that all adult converts to Judaism had to be circumcised (he seems to have forgotten about the 50% of the species who are female). While the experts (with the possible exception of Garr, whose credentials I'm unable to verify) said sensible things, Hulme himself was clearly on an apologetic mission for "God's law", the Sabbath and the "Church of God." Fair enough, but how on earth did he manage to convince N.T. Wright to play ball? "Excuse me Tom, but I run an exclusivist non-Trinitarian pseudo-Ebionite sect, and I'd love you to appear on a TV special I'm doing so you can make me look good..."?
Top marks for presentation, but a D for content (excepting the contributions from the scholars). Hulme is the COG leader who shows the most awareness of contemporary theology and church history, but Quest for the Real Paul amounts to little more than putting chocolate frosting on a very stale fruitcake called Armstrongism.