(Note to readers: the Trayvon case is mentioned briefly in this edition of Inspection. Expect more later in the week.)
Our authors, movie script and TV writers often do society a great disservice these days when they portray evil. “Evil” as in some X-File/Sanctuary monster: a world where all our myths are true. Dean Koontz-type evil, where supernatural in human form pursues us relentlessly, like how some may wish to cast the part of George Zimmerman, if a movie is ever made. It’s so easy to cast others as practically inhuman. That kind of fiction not only misses the point but makes folks think they have more of a right to pull the trigger, throw the punch; do today’s version of hammering a spike through another person’s wrist.
On this Easter, 2012, we can certainly go to the Jesus story for some examples. True, half true, or fable? Doesn’t matter really. The story that’s been told over and over, in various ways: various versions of the Bible and books which never made it into the Bible, has all the elements necessary for this discussion. Especially if we tie into contemporary characters in a more current drama.
But before we attempt to cast either as Judas, or Jesus, in today’s headlines, if we could even do it at all, we should look back at the historical Judas. Born evil? Of course not. There’s even a take on the gospels that Judas was doing the bidding of his cult leader, using “cult” in its more accurate, non-negative sense. But let’s examine the story as most traditional Christians view it.
Do you really think Judas was possessed? Born evil? Just greedy?
There are at least two far more likely scenarios.
1. Judas was part of the more aggressive: terrorist, like, followers of the Jewish faith: unhappy with the less aggressive approach of Jesus. He probably was relieved that maybe Jesus had found his stride as a leader, as he who would save the Jewish people, when he tipped the tables. Then a self righteous Judas was driven to betray when Jesus went back into passivism. The idea that all it took was some pieces of silver is a bit naive’, at best. Certainly there was more to it than that, or Judas would have betrayed him long before he did.
2. Or, perhaps just as likely, maybe he was more appalled that Jesus had turned aggressive and might bring the kind of attention from the Roman authorities to the movement that would result in multiple crucifixions and wild animal feedings.
Judas probably felt he was protecting his community, his group of believers… as misguided as that was. Just like George Zimmerman did.
Either way, Judas didn’t start down this path because he was possessed or greedy. It was as natural to him as the path Jesus took was to him. And, according to the story, Judas probably realized; through his actions, he had brought about the very kind of attention he didn’t want to the movement to have, and killed himself. Or was ripped apart by animals. Depends upon what part of the Bible you draw your conclusions from.
If that’s what happened at all. Kind of like the Martin case: we weren’t there, and those who wrote the Bible… sometimes many years after the fact… had their own spin they wanted to add to the story.
The Crusades and the Inquisition came about, in part, because of the persecution of Christians. Over reaction tends to create over reaction, killing more killing, self righteous murder more murder. Ironically, we never seem to see that evil perpetrated on us has its reasons, its roots, and that in reaction we wind up doing the same evil acts: perpetuating the cycle of violence and hate.
If the life of Jesus stood for anything, if God stood up for any principle here, it was a divine attempt to break that cycle: where Jesus went to his death willingly and chided a disciple who attempted to stop his arrest.
We keep missing the story. Like the disciples who slept, and denied, we think the story is whether the bread is actually the body, blood the wine, how many times we genuflect, the cross or some cup are “holy,” that the Jews were to blame… just like we miss how once killing a black teen would have been kept under the carpet: rather than dragged out into the light. That how we react to a teen in a hoodie, or a man preaching what may seem heresy; disturbing the peace, is very, very important. And making the wrong choice; no matter how “right” it may seem at the time, has consequences.
George Zimmerman and his defenders can learn that now if we keep on keeping on, just like the Romans and religious leaders learned almost two thousand years ago
I think God, Jesus or the story of Easter should be a teachable moment for everyone: no matter what their faith. What happened after Jesus went to the cross? Personally I think we miss the real miracle… the most important lesson here. Resurrection… or not… Christianity spread, it flourished, and the polytheism as practiced by the Romans is pretty much extinct. Even Judaism hasn’t kept up with the explosion of faith that was Christianity from that moment on.
All from an act of peace, an act of acquiescence and multiple re-framings of the story after.
Our minds, our hearts, our determination are all more powerful than the sword, all the bombs in the world, or the spikes they drove into his wrists, his feet, or ankles. More powerful than a bullet in Sanford. With such determination, and turning the horrific into something good, it doesn’t matter how many people they kill. Like pop culture’s Obi, the martyred usually become more powerful than hatemongers can imagine.
The recent killing of Trayvon, for example, can be an empowering moment. Will be an empowering moment: if we keep retelling the story truthfully: the story those who defend the troubled man want to obscure, justify by any means…
…Zimmerman was “screaming for help…”
Proven wrong by analysis of the recording.
Trayvon “beat him” so hard he had to defend himself…
Proven wrong by the autopsy.
These defenders betray us all: for they wish to make sure killing those they fear and hate be perfectly legal: unquestionable, routine.
Just like crucifixion was once routine.
It’s Easter day. 2012. Trayvon is dead. But he can live on.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved
A good article, but I think a little of a stretch in comparing Judas to George. Did Judas know he would be crucified, or think he was only to be arrested? Perhaps there comes the clue to his later suicide.
I was thinking Sunday about the wobbly path of Christianity through the ages, and our own experience with family.
Christ had a handful of disciples who though they learned from him, they didn’t get the idea he was going away (going to die). Then they were left trying to reason WWJD, and “What did Jesus mean?”.
So many times I think of how much I would like to ask my Mom, my Grandpa, older folks I’ve known.
Think of all the old family stories. I thought I knew them by heart, but now I see the missing spots; the questions I could have asked.
If we religious could remember that we are feeling our way along, trying to figure it out from a road-map that has had printing errors from the very beginning, map that was put together from memory, we might be more open to each others ideas. (maybe – I have certainly fought tooth and nail over “how do we get there from here?”)
I suppose it was more about keeping Trayvon alive, than George, though if a villain need be cast he fits the bill more than Trayvon… and the complicit Sanford police department. Comparable to the Roman Empire to a certain extent? At least Jesus was give a trial, such as it was… sort of.
I do believe I started by saying such comparisons were tough, which addressed your point. George was no Judas, Trayvon no Jesus, but similar dynamics of the story exist in both… to a certain extent. That too was my point, not equivalency. This is a story that has been “told” throughout human history in various forms, even pre-Jesus.
What do you do when the powers that be: both authorities and the supposed “righteous,” work together to destroy good? What you need to do to make the good live on.
Note: his “suicide” is called into question: another story tells he was torn apart by wild beasts. Scholars who say “this was the plan” point to the words “go do what you will do…” that varies in various translations… to offer the suggestion that Judas, rather than a traitor, was part of the plan: a plan the others didn’t know. Less likely, I suppose, but possible. Ironically I saw part of Godspell on TV this weekend and in the end Judas is helping carry the crucified savior. Schwartz, who has done great musicals like Wicked, pretty much tore his dialogue out of the Bible: slightly revised/updated, at best. One wonders if he put Judas in that position to suggest the same thing the scholars I mentioned suggest.