Friday, April 07, 2006

Re-examining Judas ...

In light of the proximity to Easter, and the recent discussions in the news of 'new-found' documents and theories about Judas' role (such as this recent CBC one and this recent CNN one), I thought I'd post a piece I wrote just over a year ago, in recognition of last Easter, and how I felt the role of Judas needed to be re-examined. The text isn't even that new ... people have been talking about it for awhile, but the clues to this theory, in my opinion, have ALWAYS been in Jesus life. Anyway, since there is a 'buzz' on the topic now, here's a reprint of my article from last year :)

From: "Elron Steele"
Date: Sun Mar 27, 2005 11:11 pm
Subject: Happy Easter ... and re-examining Judas ...
Online Now Send IM
Send Email Send Email
Easter weekend is as good a time as any to re-examine the role of
Judas Iscsariot in Jesus story. Usually, Christians focus on Jesus'
death and ressurection during this time, but its just as relevant to
meditate on the events that led up to that final outcome.

The traditional story, ofc, casts Judas as the betrayer of Jesus,
selling Jesus' freedom for 30 peices of silver, before repenting at
the end. But it seems odd, to me at least, that this version of
events has become som commonplace, when there's plenty of reason, in
Biblical verse alone, to question what REALLY happened the night
Jesus' was turned over to Roman Authorities.

The first thing that strikes me as odd in the whole thing are the
players involved. Except for this one, isolated instance, Judas is
portrayed throughout the Gospels as one of Jesus' closest, and most
trusted, associates. Judas is the treasurer for the group, indicating
great trust in both his honesty and intelligence, and Judas is OFTEN
described as one of Jesus' closest associates among the disciples.

After Jesus is taken into custody, and what will happen becomes
apparent, and REAL, Judas repents, trying to offer his silver back to
the Romans. Through this act, he shows his continued (or renewed,
perhaps) devotion to Jesus. But yet, for 6 hours or so the night
before, Judas is a TOTALLY different person, by the traditional view.

Now, traditionally, Judas is always viewed as a disciple who was
'faking it' through Jesus ministry, that he wasn't the devoted
follower of Jesus that everyone thought he was. Traditional views of
that time have the betrayel of Jesus as the act that reveals Judas'
TRUE character.

My main problem with that is that his repentence the next day makes no
sense in that context. Again, the traditional view shows it as an
evil man trying to repent, but does that REALLY make any sense in context?

What DOES make sense to me is a different story entirely. All the
FACTS are the same, as described in the Bible, but the focus is
different. It seems FAR more reasonable to me to assume that rather
than betraying Jesus, Judas was merely following Jesus' instructions.

Jesus was the leader of a radical sect, who wandered the countryside
preaching VERY seditious views, from a Roman perspective anyway, and
probably also from the perspective of the Jewish authorities at the
time. He was also a very smart man, who would have been KEENLY aware
of the political and spiritual currents around him. He would have
known, very well, as they made their way towards Jeruselum for that
final Passover, that his days were numbered. It would have been clear
to him, I think, that eventually the authorities would catch up with
him. Remember, this is THREE YEARS after he trashed the Temple ... he
has ALWAYS been something of a fugitive, and now he's back with a band
of disciples.

Clearly, to me anyway, Jesus was aware enough to have seen all that
brewing around him. And I think he knew he had a dilema. As it was,
he was a criminal, really, on the run from the law. If Roman Soldiers
caught up with them and arrested them, it would be easy to portray
them as fugitives from justice, and a danger to order. But I think
Jesus was a VERY smart man who devised a solution to the problem.

He told Judas to betray him to the Roman Soldiers. He gave Judas the
time and place of meeting, and told him what price to ask the soldiers
for when he went to them. And I think Judas protested loudly,
vehemently, strongly, that what Jesus proposed was suicide, and that
they needed their leader.

I think Jesus would have tried to explain the situation, without
complete success. To Jesus, the path would have been clear. By
willingly surrendering to the Romans, He shows that he is happy to
stand accountable for his 'crimes.' And even though Jesus would have
rationally predicted the final outcome, he ALSO would have rationally
predicted the impact he would make with his actions. He could see how
willingly going to court to stand up for his actions was the RIGHT
thing to do, and willingly accepting the unjust verdict and sentence
was the RIGHT thing do do. And he knew it was the right thing to do
because he knew the rightness of his position, and wrongness of those
who condemned him, would be obvious. 2000 years later, we still
debate the meaning of it all, but its hard to argue, no matter who you
are and what you believe, that Jesus deserved to die on the cross for
his actions.

Jesus point, in life and death, was that our actions are determined by
our own moral convictions, NOT by the actions of those around us. His
final message was one that I think Judas helped deliver, albeit very
reluctantly. To me, Judas was a faithful follower of Jesus, faithful
to the very end in fact, who performed a supremely difficult task
against his better judgement.

I don't know the truth, ofc. I wasn't there. But to me, that story
fits all the available facts, before and after the event, better than
other stories do. Its really a shame Judas has gotten such a bad rap
over the centuries ... from my way of looking, Judas was the prime
conduit for the most important message Jesus gave us.

But regardless of what you believe, I hope this long weekend has been
nice for everyone. Passover, Easter, or just a nice long weekend, I
hope it was enjoyable for all :)

The universality of morality

Confucianism - Do not do to others what you would not
like yourself. Then there will be no
against you, either in the family or in the state.
Analects 12:2
Buddhism - Hurt not others in ways that you yourself
would find hurtful. Udana-Varga 5,1
Christianity - All things whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye so to them; for this
is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:1
Hinduism - This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others
what you would not have them do
unto you.
Mahabharata 5,1517
Islam - No one of you is a believer until he desires for
his brother that which he desires for himself.
Judaism - What is hateful to you, do not do to your
fellowman. This is the entire Law; all
rest is commentary. Talmud, Shabbat 3id
Taoism - Regard your neighbor's gain as your gain, and
your neighbor's loss as your own loss.
Tai Shang Kan Yin P'ien
Zoroastrianism - That nature alone is good which refrains
from doing another whatsoever is not
good for itself.
Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5

It doesn't really matter what book you read, what God you call Father (or mother), what language you chant your prayers or meditations in, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and do not unto others that which you would not have done to you." Seems to be a good general rule ... EVERYONE seems to say it at one time or another :). Thanks to Apollo from PVP for the quotes :)

The Geneva Conventions ...

... Today a post came through one of my groups that I wanted to share with everyone, including my response to it. It reiterated the common argument these days that the other side in our modern war on terror don't deserve the protections of the Geneva Convention. The full text of the post is below ... It's a well written explanation of the basic argument used by most of those who put forth this position.

On 4/6/06, Rocker092752@YYY.XXX <Rocker092752@YYY.XXX > wrote:
The Geneva Convention is for combatants fighting in uniform for a country. Terrorists wear no uniform, are not combatants like soldiers, and are usually not part of any country, as much as an ideology/religion-Islam, therefore they don't fall under the Convention, so don't deserve its protections.

So, a Navy SEAL operating on a secret covert mission out of uniform (happens ALL the time) is no longer protected by Geneva if captured? What about those Rockwell contractors captured by insurgents in Fallujah in 04? Since they weren't uniformed soldiers in any way, there was no reason to protest their treatment at the hands of insurgents, since they had no right to expect protection from Geneva. The insurgents were free to treat them anyway they felt necessary, as our troops are free to treat captured insurgents in any way necessary, right?

The problem with arguments about uniformed soldiers is that there are MANY times that we would assert Geneva protections for people captured who aren't uniformed soldiers in standard combat operations. Special/black ops are a perfect example. Geneva was written to ensure that ALL humans could expect a basic level of treatment from anyone, no matter what the circumstances are. That others don't follow the rules is no excuse for us to ignore them.

Geneva is about acknowledging the fact that no matter how heinous our enemy, they are still human beings deserving of basic rights. Using legalese and definitions to absolve yourself of those obligations may help you sleep at night, but it does nothing to change the fact you've decided there are humans out there not deserving of basic rights. If that's not worrisome to you morally, then you are too far gone to help, IMO. As soon as we can acknowledge that some people don't deserve to be treated as human beings, we haven't just stepped onto the slippery slope, we've slid all the way to a bottom of barbarism. Geneva isn't about giving special rights to those who abuse us or fight against us ... It's about acknowledging that, regardless of circumstance, every human being is deserving of certain basic rights. If we ignore that, we have already lost this war against terror, and become as bad as the people and ideologies we claim to be fighting against.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Some Computer Humour ...

Computer Terms

  • State-of-the-art - Any computer you can't afford.
  • Obsolete - Any computer you own.
  • Microsecond - The time it takes for your state-of-the-art computer to become obsolete. GUI - What your computer becomes after spilling your coffee on it. (pronounced "gooey") Keyboard - The standard way to generate computer errors.
  • Mouse - An advanced input device to make computer errors easier to generate.
  • Floppy - The state of your wallet after purchasing a computer.
  • Portable Computer - A device invented to force businessmen to work at home, on vacation, and on business trips.
  • Disk Crash - A typical computer response to any critical deadline.
  • System Update - A quick method of trashing ALL of your software.
  • PEBKAC - Problem exists between keyboard and chair
Just some light humour for the day ...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Answering a question ...

... I was asked in a group recently about my religious beliefs. I won't include the other post like I usually do, as the question wasn't phrased in a very nice way, lol, but I did want to preserve the answer. Suffice to say, I was asked what religion I was, and my answer was ...

Who me? I am someone who thinks Jesus was one of the most moral men to walk the planet. I think Buddha offers advice for life that will make anyone's life better. I think Hindu philosophy has fascinating concepts of how the universe and life renew themselves, and I am someone who finds the Asian concept of yin/yang FAR more satisfying than any western notions of good/evil.

I don't go to any church on Sunday, no synagogue on Saturday, and no mosque on Friday, but I see God everywhere I look, and I express my love for God in every action where I acknowledge the value of the lives and the creation around me.

Does that answer your question? I suspect it doesn't, lol

I just wanted to preserve my answer, lol ... and share it with everyone who reads here.

A Sad Anniversary

Martin Luther King's daughter to speak in Miami tonight

I've Been to the Mountaintop - the full text of the "I have a dream" Speech

38 years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. was cut down in the prime of his life, political career, and sacred mission. Much has been said about the man himself, and the movement ... political hay has been made of his alleged affairs and plagiarism, and political hay has also been made of his selfless devotion to the cause. In the 38 years since his death, he has become a true symbol of the civil rights movement, both of its success and failure in many ways.

But I'm not sure its meaningful to talk about MLK Jr's life. I'm not trying to defend plagiarism or cheating on a faithful wife, nor am I trying to glorify a selfless devotion to cause, but there are places where we can cut through all that, and see and hear Martin for who he truly was, for the contribution he made to the world.

Its not in the history books. Its not in the accounts of his life, the biographies or the fictions. Its not in the accounts of friends and colleagues. It is in Martin's words themselves that we see the true man. Somewhere on TV tonight, one of your local channels will rebroadcast his I Have a Dream speech ... I urge you to look for it and watch it. Find a copy on the web and listen to it. Or go to the link above to read the text. It doesn't matter HOW you listen to it again, but I urge you to listen, read, watch.

Other words he wrote or spoke would work as well ... in every example of a public speech or essay, Martin Luther King Jr gives us one of the finest examples of English oratory from the 20th century. His only competition, certainly among his contemporaries, are his other speeches ... in the class of oratory and command of English, Martin Luther King Jr was second and third only to himself.

In this, and many other speeches, he almost predicts his own death. In the final paragraph, he talks about not getting to see the promised land with us, and throughout his public life, he spoke very much as a man who knew he was walking into the path of a bullet, but a man who knew he could walk no other path. He wasn't a man who sought death, but he was a man who knew he was destined to die.

For me, the key to MLK Jr. isn't in his life, or even his religion really. Its all in his speeches. Here, and elsewhere, he leaves us with a vision of peace, of love, of what we all know is right. He says it so eloquently, with such quiet strength. He knew he would never get to the promised land on Earth ... he saw that very clearly. But his gift to the rest of us was that he knew we couldn't make it without his help, and he was willing to sacrifice himself to help our journey to that promised land. He never wanted to die ... he just knew that was what had to happen.

Poem ... a repeat for some ...

This is a poem I sent out to my groups a few weeks back. I've been letting it bounce around my head and I've made some small edits to it. I wanted to publish the final version here ...

If I picked at each loose end
of fear and anguish and doubt
until they unraveled into long threads of blue and yellow
do you think I could knit a sweater?

The sentiment is the same I think, but I think this version is pithier and has more power. Comments are welcome and appreciated.

The Other Side of the Story
Margaret Wente
Globe and Mail

This post will hark back to the Charles Adler post I made last week ... its on the CPT rescue and all the controversy it seems to be generating. I wonder why people like Wente can't see that they are engaging in as much propoganda as the accuse CPT of? The following is the text of a letter to the editor (and cc'd to Wente herself) about this piece.

This was an interesting piece, but there is something in all this that Ms Wente and other critics of the CPT miss. She says "Were they right to put others in harms way for their political beliefs?" They did no such thing ... they chose to go to Iraq, and never requested any rescue attempts. Anyone who put their life at risk because of the CPT in Iraq, did so by their own choice (or by their commanders choice). She goes on to ask "Are we obliged to rescue people who say they don't want to be rescued?" Why in the world would be be obliged. The CPT in Iraq did not ask the US or any military to mount a rescue ... they went to Iraq of their own accord, and it was no one elses business what they were doing there.

For people like Wente to complain now because the CPT haven't been "grateful" enough for their rescue is ridiculous. The CPT were in Iraq for their own political purposes, and those purposes are definately anti-American. Its their right to be political and to protest on whatever way they want. The fact remains they never asked to be rescued because they were making the political points they wanted to make. They haven't expressed gratitude for their rescue because the rescue was something they didn't request, was carried out based on rules they wouldn't have approved of, and was done for the express purpose of propaganda to show the US military bravely rescuing civilians. Thats all well and good, but those civilians have to want to be rescued. If thats the way the CBC is reporting this its only because, unlike Wente, they can see what the CPT stands for, and isn't trying to score their own political points. The CBC reports the facts of what happened ... its people like Wente who want to score political points by now complaining that they are getting the respect they deserve. CPT didn't want to be rescued, and certainly not by the very military they are protesting. To expect them to be grateful for it is naive, but worse, its a complete misunderstanding of why they were there in the first place. CPT is only making the same political points they made before. I wonder why anyone is at all surprised by any of this ... I know from my perspective, the rhetoric from CPT is as preductable as the whining from the hawks ... its ALL about trying t score propoganda points. I know Ms. Wente hopes people won't point this out, but she is as guilty of cheap propoganda points as any of the CPT statements.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Why I Am a Christian (Sort Of)

By Robert Jensen, AlterNet. Posted March 10, 2006.

Why We Let an Atheist Join Our Church

By Jim Rigby, AlterNet. Posted April 1, 2006.

One of my main 'issues' when I have tried to embrace modern Christianity in any of its organized forms is gap between acts and faith. I understand the concept of faith, and I understand pretty clearly where faith plays a role in my belief system and world view, and I can see that there is a powerful role for faith in Jesus' teaching.

But what I see even more clearly is that Jesus was concerned with how he acted. Jesus was concerned with his own thoughts and beliefs, to be sure, but time and again, He makes the point through what he says and what he does that it is his Acts that we are to marvel at, not Jesus himself. We are not to marvel at his faith ... we are to witness his acts. We are not to marvel at the divine power which brings forth food ... we are to witness the compassion of feeding those which without His help would have nothing to eat.

In the good Samaritan story, the point is plain. Two men of faith walk past the injured stranger, and are not neighbours of Jesus. But a Samaritan, a true Heathen by Jesus' standards, becomes a neighbour of Christ simply by stepping forth to help the man. Jesus does not speak of his faith in God, or anything of the sort ... Jesus does not care about that. What Jesus cares about in the good Samaritan story is that one man stepped up to help a wounded stranger, and two men walked by, more concerned with themselves than their brother. Jesus cares about acts here, but he also speaks to faith, and its relation. If his only point was to speak on the importance of helping those in need, any 3 men would have sufficed for his story. But Jesus chose his 3 men very specifically, and an accurate reading of the parable cannot miss the fact that, at the end of the story, the two non-neighbours of Jesus started off as the two 'men of faith' and the man who ends up wlaking beside Jesus started off as the Heathen stranger. Jesus chose his stories very carefully, and the way he chose to represent those three men was not by accident ... he was making a strong point about the value of doing.

Jim Rigbty seems to understand this distinction, and this article shows a VERY nuanced view of the power and the value of faith. Its a shame that I haven't ever found someone like Rigby leading a Church around me ... I actually might be able to feel at home in his congregation, and for me, thats saying a lot. Regardless, the article is amazing ... even aethiests and agnistics need to read this article IMO.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

CNN Presents looks at two women at the heart of Christianity -- Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene, the most misunderstood and controversial of his disciples. This show reveals the historical reality of these two main archetypes of Christian womanhood, and examines how they are being reimagined today.

ARCHIVE: More from CNN Presents

Its not a new documentary ... I think I first saw it last year around Easter time ... but its actually a very good look at the history surrounding Mary Magdela, and Mary of Nazereth. They look at canonical Bible sources, as well as newer text from Nag Hammadi and other sources; they examine the social and environmental settings where the women grew up; in general, they paint a much more realistic picture of the only people to stay and witness Jesus crucifiction.

They discuss the recently discovered partial fragment of the Gospel of Mary, and the implications it raises for women's roles in Jesus church. They discuss the oft-overlooked fact that wealthy, powerful women financed and bankrolled Jesus travelling ministry, and they discussed the VERY real possibility that Mary's 'working girl' image is a basterdization of her roots in fishing villages, not prostitution, and she was a key financier of Jesus travels.

Its a fascinating documentary, and well worth a look, IMO. The role of the Marys in the early church in one that has been intentionally supressed throughout the millenia ... it wasn't politically expediant for earl Christian leaders to acknowledge that woment played an equal role to men in Jesus eyes, and so they disguised that fact. Its always worth stepping back and taking a second look ... I think the view you get is far more satisfying.