Mike Aquilina

Abraham, Martin, and Mithras

Sunday October 19th 2008, 2:50 pm

When I was a little kid, my grown-up sister Ro took me to visit the Lincoln Memorial. I was much impressed and wanted to memorialize the day with a purchase from the gift shop. I found the coolest thing, and right smack in my price range (under a dollar). It was a Lincoln penny with the face of John F. Kennedy engraved in the blank space, so that JFK was facing Honest Abe. It reminded me of my brother’s 45-rpm record of “Abraham, Martin & John,” which I used to play to death.

Anyhow, the altered penny came in a white cardboard frame that was covered with copy. The headline read:

COINCIDENCE? Kennedy Looks at Lincoln

What followed then was a listing of odd correspondences: “Mr. Lincoln had a secretary named Kenedy. Mr. Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln. … Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre. Kennedy was shot in a Ford. … Both assassins had three names: John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. There is a total of 15 letters in each name.”

And so on. It made quite an impression on my ten-year-old mind.

A few years went by and I saw the Harvard Lampoon parody of my souvenir. It sent me into hysterics. The list began with the items on the original, but it gradually morphed toward the absurd: “Mr. Lincoln fought a war with the South. Mr. Kennedy fought a war with Vietnam. Both countries are populated by sneaky, devious citizens. … Mr. Kennedy was a Catholic. Mr. Lincoln was a Satanist. Each religion has eight letters in its name.” The grand finale was: “Mrs. Kennedy liked bananas. Mrs. Lincoln went bananas.”

You’re asking, I’m sure, what this has to do with the Church Fathers, and I’m glad you asked.

Persian Journal, an Iranian new service, posted an article so similar in tone to those little bits of my childhood. But I can’t tell if it’s reminding me of the souvenir or the parody. No matter. It’s titled “MITHRAS EQUALS CHRISTIANITY?” and you probably want to see it for yourself. SPOILER ALERT on the conclusion: “As you can now see, Christianity derived many of its essential elements from the ancient religion of Mithraism.”

Here’s another take on Mithraism and Christianity.