Jesus, Judas and Che Guevara

EDITORIAL, 20 April 2009

#59 | Johan Galtung

There is an exercise called Western Civilization, and a dramatic narrative at the center of that exercise with two persons in the key roles, Jesus and Judas.  Easter times, now, are here to remind us of the drama.

The outer events, delivered through the millennia, by Mark in the 70s, Matthew in the 80s, then Luke, and then John around 95, are clear and simple.  Jesus was with his disciples in Gethsemane, he was kissed/marked by Judas Iscariot, apprehended  by the Roman soldier, and handed over to the representative of the Supreme Power of this world, at that time and that place, Pontius Pilate of the Roman Empire.  And The Passion unfolded.

So much for the outer behavior.  How about their attitudes in the drama?  What went on inside them?

Mark-Matthew-Luke-John coincide–or are canonical because they coincide: Jesus was predestined by his Father, the Supreme Power in Heaven, to die for the sins of humanity–that not very successful experiment started by God–and through his death opening the gates to heaven, provided they believe in this ultimate atonement by representation, a second window generously opened by the Father (John 3:16).  The only problem for the soldiers, whom to apprehend, was solved by the Act of Infamy, the Judas kiss, made redundant by Jesus saying “I am the one”.  Gethsemane, Kiss and Apprehension are then followed by Golgotha, Crucifixion, Burial and Ascension.  Drama indeed.

Enters the Judas Gospel, around 150?, unearthed some years ago. Painstakingly restored (Der Spiegel, 11 April 2009, has the details).  What is so fascinating is how the same behavior gets a totally new meaning by weaving them together with another story of their inner lives.  Duhem-Poincaré; the theory manifold.

Far from being the traitor Judas was the favorite disciple, invited by Jesus to join the eternal bliss of 72 heavens and an army of jubilant angels, if only the soul could be liberated from the human body keeping it prisoner.  Judas was the helper in the process, not the traitor.  The kiss was not false, but the kiss of deep friendship (also homosexual?).  The suffering was not for our, but for his own salvation.  Gone is suffering for salvation by representation, gone is suffering of the Father losing his only Son; probably now awaiting arrival and reunion.

Gone is Christianity?  Depends on the gospel’s weight. Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon (140-200?), a key gate-keeper for the Canon, ruled around 180 that the Judas gospel is invented. It is gnostic, a part of oppositional sectarianism, apocryphal.

Imagine we shift the weight to the Judas leg, what kind of Christianity would we get?  Maybe even more focus on the stark contrast between this world and the next, and on finding a cause for the sacrifice of one’s body and the soul’s eternal life.

A war would do the job, so would a revolution.  Che Guevara of the Bolivia diaries, and the brilliant movie based on them, comes up.  In an interview in the early 60s he conveyed to this author his disappointment that his respected Fidel privileged Soviet support against a US attack, and the Soviets wanted raw sugar in return for their industrial goods.  Bolivia had in 1952 an agricultural reform, Che knew his continent, was not naive and probably a non-believer like the Judas gospel Jesus laughing at his disciples.  Were the peasants betraying him to the Army-CIA, his Judas gospel friends releasing him from this world’s trap?   His half naked body, after execution, was strikingly similar to the images of the Christ, even with the bullet wounds in the right place.  And as an icon his soul got eternal life.

Not a promising Christianity.  But, is what we have much better, with Christ only good and Judas only bad?  What is the deeper message, so deep that it survives such minor ripples on the Western waves as the Enlightenment?  Maybe two messages, one carried by Jesus and one by Judas, both easily recognizable.

    From Jesus:  in this world we can comfort those who suffer and relieve them of some pain, and we can lash out against the pharisees and overturn their tables, like right now when their money dealing has proved somewhat excessive.  But the poor will always be with us, no basic change in this world, that is for the next.  We are the slaves of our imperfections.  Jesus does not solve conflicts; Jesus heals the victims and scolds the perpetrators.  No alternative economics there. Jesus is an archetype as a Savior, opening the gates to eternal salvation.

    From Judas:  he is of this world, and is also an archetype as the Traitor, opening the gates to eternal damnation through his satanic acts of treason.  Of Jesus there was only one, the Christ.  Of Judas there are many.  As important as knowing the way to Jesus the Savior is guarding against the ways of Judas the Traitor, never mind that the drama presupposed both.

So we get churches to guide us to the Savior and security agencies to protect us against the Traitors.  The more churches the more agencies, like in the USA.  Take Judas away from us and you remove a half of our identity, not the narcissism of being chosen for salvation, but the paranoia of permanent insecurity.  With both we can be the city-upon-a-(gated security) hill of Western megalomania, radiating security if not salvation.  Never mind that somebody else may share that worldview but see the threat in New York and Washington rather than in the Hindukush.

Jesus, save this world.  Judas, join Jesus.  Che, stay Cuban.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 April 2009.

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