Most of the media coverage has mocked Invictus for his religion, but it’s fascinating to me the way fringe history, right wing politics, and the occult melt together in Invictus, a pretty much perfect example of the worst case scenario I’ve warned about for the ideas promoted by fringe historians and their media enablers. That said, it’s kind of hard to complain that Invictus is practicing a distasteful religion in an era where “religious freedom restoration” acts are sailing through statehouses. If anything, this contrast emphasizes that such laws are intended to institutionalize conservative Christianity, not to promote true religious freedom.
America’s uneasy feelings about what counts as an acceptable religion have been around for a long time, and for most of American history, down to the 1960s, that question revolved around whether Catholicism counted as true Christianity and whether Catholics could be true and loyal Americans. In his new book Myths of the Rune Stone, David M. Krueger raised a very interesting issue that I wasn’t aware of and which gives the lie to Scott Wolter’s conspiracy theories about the Kensington Rune Stone. Wolter claims that the Catholic Church is conspiring to discredit the Rune Stone because it reveals a hidden truth about Jesus. According to Krueger, in the twentieth century the Catholic Church not only embraced the KRS as authentic, but considered it important proof of the Catholic colonization of America before the Protestant British. The massive Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912, for example, considered the Rune Stone to be “the earliest Catholic record of what became afterwards the Diocese of St. Paul.” Later, the Church dedicated a statue to Our Lady of the Runestone at St. Mary’s Catholic School and named a church Our Lady of the Runestone on the strength of the assumption that the letters AVM appearing on the stone were the first American prayer to Mary. This doesn’t seem like the work of conspirators trying to discredit the artifact.
The more you know, huh?
Finally, on a lighter note, check out this Craigslist ad looking for $9,000 for a modern stone statue carved in Africa in the middle twentieth century. In order to jack up the value, the seller has tried to tie it to Ancient Aliens and relies on the fringe history website Ancient Origins to explain what it is. The seller implies that the statue came from outer space by citing legends about nomoli statues having an uncertain origin attributed to heavenly beings, but doesn’t disclose that the original Ancient Origins article referred to statues made around 500 BCE (which they try to re-date to 17,000 BCE), not to a twentieth century piece. The seller would have done better to call it a real-life Cthulhu idol!