ADAM, EVE, AND THE SERPENT BY ELAINE PAGELS
Politics works within a certain ideological framework. A political structure is based upon a particular ideology. Such a case can be considered more or less parallel with that of religion, wherein individuals are encouraged, if not coerced, to subscribe to a certain religious belief. Christianity is a religious doctrine that has long been subject to both physical and ideological dispute. In Adam, Eve, and the Serpent by Elaine Pagels, the developments in Christian theology was explored in its first five centuries. Through the literature’s historical account of the evolution of Christianity, several issues on ecclesiastical politics came up along with corresponding political theories (Pagels).
The ideological influence somehow embodies the umbrella theme of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent in the sense that the issues on religion within the book all boils down to a goal of eventual subscription to Christianity. Predictably, the matter of “original sin” is at the top of the list, being the turning point of the gist in the first book of the Bible. Not unlike any ideology, the theory of “original sin” as presented by Augustine, a belief that influenced past generations and is still present today, proved to be enforcing to the political and psychological thinking of Christians and non-Christians alike, therefore creating a need for establishing both a Christian state and state-supported church (Pagels).
This thus becomes a preliminary issue that indirectly subsumes the others under its wing. Here, Louis Althusser’s theory on the ideological state apparatus or ISA is rather applicable. According to Althusser, the ideological state apparatus is a method of domination which, unlike the repressive state apparatus, does not employ force but instead works based on a particular ideology. In Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, the ideology is Christianity, wherein pagans and Jews alike are induced to become advocates of the religious belief. Nevertheless, as political power or pure power for that matter only exists when one party dominates another, the ideological state apparatus similarly functions with a repressive state apparatus, one which uses force, although not simultaneously.
This can be explained by the persecution of Christians. The persecution, as a repressive state apparatus, was one of the reasons that many Christians accepted the institutionalized structure and in effect, supervision of each group was easily done as well as instructing and disciplining its members. By the second century, there was an attempt of turning Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount into an ethical imperative that separated Christians from paganistic influence (and sometimes opposed it) and strengthened further the political structure of the institutionalized church.
In the aforementioned statements, another political framework surfaces, being that the Christian institution is bound to face inevitable opposition. In such disposition of the church can be applied the conflict theory, a sort of political strategy that breeds internal solidarity through conflict with outside elements. This theory may also be applied in an absolute or general sense, as in the concept of good and evil, wherein the good builds solidarity by fighting the forces of evil from the outside. The theory might also be found applicable on the differences in religious belief between the Christians and the Romans, where Roman gods, which pagan skeptics derided as “naïve and foolish illusions,” were regarded as “real and dangerous adversaries” for Christ’s followers.
The theories of dominance thus surface once more with this impending threat, as they form the strategy of attracting more Christian advocates and consequently opposing the pagan side. Other issues in the book such as sexuality and marriage also fall under this umbrella theme, for adherents as well as non-adherents are encouraged and influenced to subscribe to the Christian beliefs regarding such matters, despite conflicting traditions that seem to be loopholes in both sides’ strategies. For instance, as stated in Pagel’s book, Jews, Romans and pagans criticize each other’s ideologies and practices about sexuality and marriage which they found ridiculous or peculiar.
Jewish customs, such as circumcision and polygamous marriage, had long been criticized by Romans and Babylonians, just as Jews condemn pagan sexual habits. These differences and clashes among various religious ideologies were already prevalent even before Jesus’ day and still exist in the present age. Christianity also works this way however based from Jesus’ moral enforced by its highly institutionalized political structure. To date, there are over 2 million Christians around the world and many are still subscribing to its ideologies.
Some if not all ecclesiastical ideologies strive to best one another in the field of religion, in the same way that oppositions exist between different political ideologies, as was written and proven by history and exhibited in the modern generation, especially now that more and more religious ideologies, some of them more or less similar to one another, continue to emerge. Thus, not unlike in the political arena, the methods of domination exist.
Pagels, Elaine. “Adam, Eve, and the Serpent”. 1988. April 10, 2007.