Jesus and the fall of Rome.
Thrust of argument: Stan Goff writes << America is now Rome. You are Rome's army of occupation. To the Roman soldier, when Jesus passed down the dusty byways of his occupied land, he appeared no more or less than a random Iraqi or Afghan appears to you. What do you look like to them? Jesus himself looked at the Jewish resistance to Roman occupation, then looked at the corpses rotting on crosses along the roads as Roman examples to the Palestinian Jew,; and he chose a new way. His way was neither passivity, nor counter-violence, but non-violent resistance, just like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, who both cited Jesus' ministry in their own prophetic missions. Jesus looked at the violence-counterviolence cycle, and determined that each person in that system was redeemable as an individual - each a child of God, each beloved of God. Jewish, Roman, Samaritan, male, female.. no matter. He also looked at how the system itself - operating with a self-reinforcing dynamic that transcends the individual - led people into the cycles of accusation and violence; and he proposed to undermine that system with this radical doctrine of spiritual equality, a redemption open to all through grace, and a redemption never imposed at the point of a sword.. or under threat of a bomb. In the original story, written in Greek, Jesus says, 'I am not of this world.' At least that's how many interpretations go. But the original Greek word kosmos means world, flesh, or system, depending on context. 'I am not of this system.' Not simply the system of Roman occupation, but the system of violence-counterviolence.. all systems of domination, because domination breeds the cycle of violence-counterviolence. >>.
Direction of resistance / implied resistance: Goff tells us << Even on the cross, in his final breaths as the Romans' victim, he cries out to God on behalf of those who kill him: 'When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'' (Luke 23:33-34) What do you think that means? Certainly the Roman soldiers (soldiers like you) knew they were participating in a crucifixion. The Roman troops had done this many times.
What they did not understand was how their system led them to do this. In Matthew 27:54, it was a Centurion who heard these words - 'forgive them' - and experienced an earthquake, saying, 'Truly, this is the Son of God.' (Do you see how the symbolic truth here is more powerful than the literal seismology?) Forgiveness unmasks Satan, who is not the boogyman of popular culture, but the spirit in the culture - some would call it a zeitgeist - that acts as God's jealous pretender, that promotes Self as God, that plays the accuser to stir up the mob (weapons of mass destruction?), that sets up idols.. so that we will 'know not what we do,' so we will not know who and whose we are. You can hear the voice of Satan in every instance of boasting, humiliation of another, profaning of what we know to be sacred (like God's Creation), every thought and word of aggression or revenge, every put-down of other people (all beloved of God). Where you are, you can see how the state of war and occupation - putting you at odds with an occupied population that does not want to be occupied - amplifies and focuses the malevolent spirit. Now ask yourself why? Why do troops run down civilians with vehicles to avoid slowing down? Why do troops throw bottles and cans at pedestrians to entertain themselves? Why did the massacres like Haditha occur? Why did the utter destruction of Fallujah happen? Why are wedding parties bombed by US aircraft? Why did a whole squad participate in the premeditated half-hour-long rape and murder of a screaming 14-year-old girl? Why is it that approaching an invader's roadblock can carry death sentence for a whole family? Why can children can be woken from their beds by soldiers kicking down the house doors? Why are thousands are held imprisoned without casue? Why are Iraqi and Afghan elders obliged to obey 20-year-old invaders who can't even speak their language? Why do your peers (perhaps even you) refer to all Iraqis or Afghans with epithets? Why do your peers laugh when they retell stories of their own cruelties and their humiliations of the people whose nations they have invaded? Why are you there? What is the spirit in our culture that spins out clever excuses for these evils? It is that same spirit that you renounced at your baptism, which I call on you to remember now. Remember your baptism, where you renounced Satan. >>
Removal of resistance: Noam Chomsky has pointed out << One of the more or less hidden stories of the past generation is the story of liberation theology. Just this last november there was a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. Great celebration, you know - the liberation of eastern europe, it was non violent you know a lot of odes to love and non violence and so on, all more or less accurate.
There was another event at the very same time - one week after the fall of the Berlin wall. An elite Salvadoran battalion which had just come from extra training, armed and trained by the United States, had just come from extra training at the Fort Bragg JFK special warfare school in North Carolina. They broke into the university and murdered six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests - blew their heads off.
It was intended to be a final blow to liberation theology. They didn't quite kill it off but it was a serious blow. That brought to an end a decade in Central America of horrifying terrorist atrocities. For which we are responsible. In El Salvador alone maybe 70,000 people were killed mostly by the U.S. backed armed forces, including this elite battalion which was the U.S. favourite you know .. our pride and joy, they killed thousands of people.
That's bad enough, but it's more than that. Liberation theology grew out of an attempt by Pope John the 23rd to revive the gospels. There's a history of Christianity - the first three centuries of Christianity, it was a radical pacifist religion, which is why it was persecuted. It was the religion of the poor and the suffering. Jesus was a symbol of the poor and suffering, that's what the cross was. In the 4th Century it was taken over by the Roman Empire - Emperor Constantine. He turned the Church into the Church of the persecutors. The persecutors, the rich, the powerful. The cross went from being the symbol of the suffering of the poor to the shield of the forces of the Roman Empire. And for the rest of its history that's what the Church has pretty much been. It's been the Church of the rich, the persecutors, the privileged, the powerful.
Well John 23rd tried to reverse that. Tried to revive the Church of the gospels. This is in 1962. Vatican 2. The U.S. responded immediately. With extreme violence. This was a heresy. The Church was taking up the message of the gospels - it was called the preferential option for the poor. Can't allow that, you know. So a major campaign began. The first major step was the Kennedy-initiated military coup in Brasil - took place right after the assassination, which installed the first of the kind of neo-nazi style national security terror and torture states of the region. This plague spread throughout the continent, including Pinochet .. Chile .. the Argentine killers and torturers and worst of all Reagan's favourites, Uruguay .. all through the continent, reached Central America in the 1980s. Then came that decade of horror and atrocities. And it finally ended with the murder of the Jesuit intellectuals by the U.S. trained elite battalion. That's a pretty significant event in history: reversing an effort to restore Christianity. Did anybody commemorate that in November 2009? No. That's are our crimes. Therefore they didn't occur. Nobody knows about them.
Liberation theology was a religious movement. Was based on the gospels. If that's not religious I don't know what is. It was of course what we would call a radical movement. Because the gospels are radical - it was the preferential option for the poor, we're supposed to be in favour of the preferential option for the rich. So sure it was 'radical', you know 'marxist', one or another epithet.
But it was in fact the message of the gospels. And it awakened many currents elsewhere, including here. Also the evangelical movements here are not universal by any means. There's an element within the evangelical movements which is very much influenced by liberation theology and these are part of the core of the solidarity movements that developed in the 1980s .. it spread throughout the world, it's part of the core of the international solidarity movements. The catholic bishops here were influenced by it. In fact the national bishops' council took positions so radical the press couldn't even report it .. keep away from clichés, this world's much more complicated. >>
Unification: John B Good, a friend of mine, wrote (may he rest in peace).. "Dear Reader,
Quite recently I viewed a video-cassette of an interview with Gore Vidal and three distinguished Christian advocate interlocutors who took Mr Vidal pointedly to task for his non-Christian views of our society. I'm troubled. At first I wondered why Mr Vidal didn't call to the defense of his other-than-Christian religio-philosophical position on the words of Jesus, the brilliant Jew born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth as recorded in Matthew. Then I harked back to something Mr Vidal said of one of his interlocutors during the interview, "It's difficult to say anything harsh to such a charming man," which made all clear. Mr Vidal was being soft-hearted so he wouldn't embarrass the three distinguished interlocutors before such a large television audience.
Jesus' own words about members of organised Judaeo and Roman religion-businesses of his time were rough-tongued indeed. Because of Mr Vidal's considerate soft-heartedness I couldn't rely on him to bring up hard-nosed quotes from the man Jesus himself, so I reviewed Jesus' words as they are recorded in Matthew in the New English Bible "New Testament" translated under the imprint of the Oxford and Cambridge press. I cite some of Jesus' observations about religion below for your benefit.
In the introduction to the New English New Testament this passage: "In doing ur work," say the translators from Cambridge and Oxford, "we have striven to.. render the (original) Greek.. into the English of the present day, .. into the natural vocabulary, constructions, rhythms of contemporary speech." .. "..always the overriding aims were accuracy and clarity." So..
In the New Testament Jesus said: "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who DO the will of my Heavenly father. When that day comes many will say to me 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out devils in your name, and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them to their face, 'I never knew you: out of my sight, you and your wicked ways.'.. What then of the man who hears my words and ACTS on them? He is like a man who had the sense to build his house on a rock.."
To be a true disciple of Jesus you DO what he says to do and Don't do what he says NOT to do.
Jesus said to his followers, "Again, when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites ('hypocrite', greek word for actorl one who pretends to be what he is NOT"; a liar); they love to say their prayers standing in synagogue and at street corners, for everyone to see them. I tell you this: they have had their reward already.. But when YOU (any true disciple of Jesus) pray, go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is there in the SECRET place; and your Father who sees what is SECRET will reward you.".. In other words, NEVER pray where anybody can see/hear you doing it, as, for instance, in a Christian church or in the White House garden or in Hyde Park, because if you DO pray in such a public place people can see you and hear you doit and YOU ARE THEREFORE NO REAL FOLLOWER OF THE REAL JESUS AT ALL. All three of the distinguished conventionally Christian interviewees claimed their stout adherence to the teachings of "Jesus Christ". I ask. "Do they pray in a church or any other public place?" If they do, says Jesus, .. "out of my sight! I never knew you."
Jesus says "You cannot serve god and money." Sneaky Christian propagandists have rewritten Jesus' direct, simple words like this: "You cannot serve God and Mammon." To the simple unlettered Palestinian fishermen and shepherds to whom Jesus spoke, who the hell is "Mammon"? Jesus was devoted to the simple word for the sake of clarity. Jesus said "If you mean Yes, say Yes; if you mean No, say No; everything else comes from the Devil". What comes from the Devil is misleading and confuses the communications between people so they can't behave beneficially and rationally.
When Jesus needed money he went out and got a job as a carpenter. He never took a cent for "teaching" or "preaching" his word. But the first thing you see when you walk into the vestibule of a Christian church is a begging bowl, the kind Jesus overturned in a rage, spilling all the money onto the floor. In passing it's worth noting that unlike Jesus two of the distinguished visotors on the Vidal program were/are PAID "Doctors" teaching "religion".
And when Jesus meets the pope (any pope) at the door to the principal Christian religion-business emporium, the Vatican, and the pope asks, "Lord, Lord, how do I get into heaven?" Jesus replies, "SELL ALL THAT THOU HAST AND SHARE WITH THE POOR." Sell all those stocks and bonds? All that gold plate? All those "silk and satin" vestments? All that valuable real estate (on which they pay no taxes, while their congregations sweat it out with Internal Revenue?) all those limousines? You must be kiddin. That's no way to run a profitable Christian business.. Incidentally Jesus' "sell all that thou hast and share" stricture is PURE business democracy, PURE ground level political democracy. Think about it. (And one of the distinguished scholars on the program said, "Christ" -- whoever that may be -- "didn't institute any moral or political system!" Really!".
Jesus said, "Be careful not to make a show of your religion." "Christ" is a religious title and to "wear" it IS to "Make a show of your religion", a flat-out contradiction of Jesus' own words on the subject of religious titles. To assume that Jesus, who said don't make a show of your religion, would turn tail on himself and accept such a title is a direct insult to his integrity as a person. And ALL of the three "Christian thinkers" insulted Jesus in this fashion during the interview. In historical fact, Jesus was an anti"Christ"!
About the crucifixion: all three "Christian thinkers" said they believe Jesus died on the cross. DID he? Speaking of the history which two of the interviewees said that Gore ignored, it was Roman practise to hang "malefactors" on crosses alive for as long as they lived as a warning that THIS is what happens to you if you violate Roman law and custom. The average life on the cross was, historically speaking, 12 to 24 hours. But Jesus was taken down from the cross after ONLY 3 HOURS. Why?
According to the publication Biblical Archeology, Jesus' cousin, Joseph of Arimathea, was a friend and business acquaintance of Pontius Pilate. Consider the probable bearing this has on Jesus' short 'life' on the cross. Consider also, in those days, the persons usually concerned with "laying out" corpses for burial were the mother and/or wife of the deceased. When Jesus' supposedly dead body (after only 3 hours?) was 'laid out', Joseph of Arimathea supervised his being deposited in the tomb, and the two women who supposedly laid him out there were his mother, Mary, and his wife Mary Magdalen -- the latter the woman "Christian historians" spend hours denigrating, calling her a whore in order to "erase" her from the reality of history.
Now, assuming the probabilities of history, if Mary and his wife Magdalen, knew Jesus was not dead when they pretended to lay him out in the tomb, then the whole fictional episode of the stone being rolled away from the tomb by "magical" means, his "rising from the dead", and his subsequent appearances to his "disciples" makes entirely acceptable realistic common sense and the whole superstitious fiction about "resurrection" the three distinguised Christian thinkers indulge vanishes in smoke.
During the interview considerable argument was made over the "fundamentalist" fantasist ravings of American religious nuts like Pat Robertson, Christian Scientists, et al without recognizing that an equally fundamentalist "Christian" emotional fantasist -- one of the distinguished Doctors -- was sitting right there at the table. This latter "Christian" said Gore didn't "take seriously the lessons of history", but the "history" he referred to, the Bible, is a mishmash of fantasy and fairy stories (Jesus walking on water, raising the dead, turning water into wine, magicking a storm into silence and calm, and other cheap tricks for mesmerising the credulous) with a few real nuggets of identifiable fact buried in the mishmash like raisins in a rice pudding, and is not real history at all.
In the presence of "true believers in the Christian fantasy", like the three featured on the program, I find myself in an uneasy "wary" state, sort of apprehensive, much as you find yourself in the presence of other humanimals with their sense of reality unrooted or uprooted. You never know which way these emotionals are going to jump. Rather than face Vidal's real historical facts, for example, the emotionally rigid pedantic one of the interviewees went off into a totally irrelevant pseudo-literary "criticism" of Vidal's rewrite of the crucifixion -- which latter, in passing, I found surprisingly below the standard of most of Gore's splendid writings I have read. The other two Christians kept evasively changing the subject rather than dealing head on with the statements immediately posed by Mr Vidal and/or Jesus.
I also found the whole 'forgiveness' business from one of the interviewees eerie. Historical Jesus has been dead for 2,000 years or more. Who but someone with a deeply buried psychiatrically distorted sense of guilt would need forgiveness from a dead man?
In addition, Jesus himself said, 'Anybody who nourishes anger should be brought into court' - criminal court, of course, since bringing such a one into marriage relations court or business relations court would be beside the point and the brilliant Jew wasn't so dumb as to use the wrong term in such a case. Nor was he hipped on the soft-headed 'forgiveness' syndrome advanced by the three 'Christian thinkers'. If you nourish anger, thereby spreading anger and violence throughout society, Jesus' recommendation is to put you in prison under lock and key.
Jesus said, 'Be careful not to make a show of your religion before men'. So how do you NOT make a show of your religion before men? Well, you don't wear a yarmulke like the orthodox jew or the pope to SHOW that you're religious. You don't turn your collar around backwards to SHOW that you're religious. You don't wear funeral black to show you're religious. You don't take on religious titles - reverend, christ, pope, doctor, cardinal, bishop, saint - the Christian landscape is riddled with them - to SHOW you're religious. You don't go around telling everyone 'Hey look at me, I'm a Catholic! I'm a Baptist! I'm Church of England! I'm Episcopalian! I'm a Christian Scientist!' to SHOW you're religious - when it's customary in your society for men to wear trousers you don't wear the kind of skirts popes and priests wear in public to SHOW they're religious.
Jesus said, speaking of the religious 'doctors of the law and pharisees' .. 'they say one thing and do another .. whatever they do is done for show. They go out with broad phylacteries and wear deep fringes on their robes; they like to have places of honour at feasts and the chief seats in synagogues, to be greeted respectfully in the streets.' Just as 'Christian' priests and practitioners march up and down in fancy red, white and black skirts waving religious banners and crosses, swinging incense pots all 'for show', occupying the chief seats in church, expecting to be addressed reverently in the streets as Father This and Father That. As Jesus said, you have ONE father and he is in heaven. By Jesus' rubric, 'Christian' priests et al expect to be addressed as God?
And Jesus hardly ever refers to temple or church officials except in terms of opprobrium - blind guides, hypocrites. ' .. you have overlooked the weightier demands of the Law, justice, mercy and good faith'. And one of the distinguished trio said Jesus did not mean to set up a just society! 'Alas for you lawyers and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like tombs covered with whitewash; they look well from the outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones.. so it is with you: outside you look like honest men, but inside you are brimful of hypocrisy and crime'.
'You snakes, you vipers' brood.. I send you therefor prophets, sages and teachers; some of them you will kill and crucify, others you will flog in your synagogues and hound from city to city'. This is the forgiving figure of Christianity who talks this way about priests and popes?
Nor did the Sadducees escape his notice - just as he would 'notice' the Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians and other divisive sects of 'Christianity'. Said Jesus.. 'you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.' At the time when, hopefully, Jesus' 'teaching' comes into fruition, words spoken to heaven must be spoken in SECRET not by some show-off 'religious' with a phoney title.
Speaking of temples (churches) Jesus said, 'You see all these buildings? I tell you this: not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.' When Jesus' REAL religiopublic political 'program' comes to fruition, ALL temples and churches will be rubble. Does this sound like a man who wants to promote Christian-business buildings - churches, temples, shrines?
One of the three distinguished religious Doctors brought up the subject of 'abortion' - ugh! From the above, you can see that Jesus spent the last three years of his life almost desperately trying to abort the Christianity-baby before it could draw breath. He was a total failure in this noble effort, but he courageously tried.
I realise that if one published any of these realities about Jesus' opinions of Christianity, the Christians would burn down your television station and murder you in the streets, so quite bluntly I expect nothing further from this letter. Except I hope it has been of clarifying benefit to you.
We come now to the interesting question of the deleterious or damaging effect of papal/hierarchical 'Christian' policy on the ecological and environmental 'health' and survival of the people of America and Great Britain, the 'health' and survival of the people in predominantly Catholic countries, such as Brazil, and of the 'health' and survival of the entire hum animal species as in Somalia. I'm sure the posing of this question seems 'far out' at first blush, but I assure you the question is in no sense idle. Bear with me.
As a sort of preamble to my comment on the stated subject, I call to your attention the attached [[sadly I don't have it here, I'll see if I can find it]] excerpt from the long term, on-going study in depth of the problem of overpopulation by Zero Population, an organisation based in Washington, D.C. (see ZPG Reporter, Vol. 23, No. 1) plus the article titled 'Two by Two, we'll fill the planet' from the pen of UCLA Professor Benjamin Zuckerman plus the enclosed [again, I'll look] piece titled 'On pollution'.
In order to insure the extension of the reasonable life-span of each of us and of the species to which we belong, it is mandatory for us to respect the simple, easily understood 'rules and regulations' 'Mother Nature' (generic term) lays down for our behaviour. Thou shalt not contaminate the air you breathe;' 'Thou shalt not contaminate the water you drink and with which you bathe and wash your clothes;' 'Thou shalt not with an over-production of humanimal babies contaminate the environmental-ecological ozone envelope which Mother Nature has thrown around our planet to protect our humanimal species from the freezing impersonally hostile vacuum outside the friendly ozone layer.'
One of the most dangerously suicidal 'guiding principles' handed down to 'Christians' by Papa from the pulpit under the Dome of the Rock reads, 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it'. This doctrine, founded by ignorant men in defiance of historical fact, to which one of the three interviewees said he is dedicated, is a direct threat to the survival of the humanimal species, including the 'CHristian' minority thereof, since if the humanimal keeps 'multiplying' and 'replenishing' and 'subduing' unabated into our future without intelligently applied strict self disciplinary 'law' in sexual matters the humanimal species - including the American and British nations - can and will multiply, replenish and subdue themselves into a nationwide/worldwide 'Somalia' and out of existence. If this sounds like Armageddon, so be it. The stupidly, self-destructive termination of our nations and of the humanimal species in general is already 'historically' in train. ('Stupid' in this context = any behaviour which is patently self-destructive of the humanimal person or her/his environment.)
The introduction of the word 'law' into this disquisition is undoubtedly chilling. The words 'freedom' and 'privatisation' are thrown around in our media and in our society for propaganda purposes and with a certain wild abandon rooted in nothing but thoughtless emotion and nameless fear. It is flattering, exciting, comforting to apply 'freedom' and 'privatisation' to oneself and/or one's society or one's business, but the application is plainly misleading upon serious reflection.
There are a dozen more instances in the New Testament where Jesus railed at organised religions and all who subscribe to them, but to continue would be simply beating a dead horse so I'll quit.
Yours in Jesus, (the REAL one)."