jesus wasn’t white either.

December 25, 2010

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A Gospel of Gabriel

December 21, 2010

A Gospel According to Gabriel
the story as god told it to me over a pint of ale.

In this beginning, forgive a minor correction. It was indeed ale, but a gospel this is not. (Editors, not authors write the titles).  A “gospel” is not just a story. Gospel means “good news”… and this is a story, but it is not one with much good news.

My friend god has been described as lots of different things. There have been plenty of contradictions, arguments and the occasional fista-cuffs. Some said that he was a loving god, others said that tended to towards jealousy.

God, it has very seldom been said, was a very frustrated god.

With the best of intentions, god sent his son down to the earth. God offered his best wishes and some fatherly advice: “Remember, Jesus,  the earth is full of temptations, polluted with terribly catchy music, and populated by a surplus of idiots”. And then, as he did with each of his creations, he cut all the ties. Trustful, hopeful, reckless, foolish or lazy, who knows? – god sent all things into the world untethered.

For years, god looked down at his son with the patience of an exemplary father. The mighty smile was tentative, but Jesus seemed to be growing up to be a son to be proud of. He just might manage to improve things on the earth. Perhaps.

Looking down at the unholy mess, god was often tempted to start anew (even in heaven, there are temptations). But god had promised not to resort to another destruction of the world. God regretted the rainbow. It was, complained to his friends, painted on a day when he had been miserable in a fit of guilt.

As his son became a man, God was happy with most of what he had seen. When telling the story, he liked to reprise an old line: “it was good”.

Jesus seemed to be gathering a nice group of companions. Friends were what mattered, god assured himself… making a few enemies was inevitable. Who could do better in that world of idiots?

When Jesus did something particularly pleasing, god would clap. When Jesus defeated Lucifer he opened a bottle of fine champagne.

It did seem that Jesus had developed a weakness for impressing with immodest showmanship. God was not thrilled with the miracle at Qana: the ability to turn water into wine was not a skill which any worried parent would wish for a son. Giving sight to the blind, now that was a trick with plenty of merit.

It was going  so well.
And then it was not.

With god watching from his distance, Jesus did something which sons tend to do (or which parents think they see): he began to veer off the rails which had been laid out for him.

God should have seen trouble coming. He was an omnipotent god who, frankly, sometimes chooses to not see.

That gaggle of friends which had gathered around Jesus – the one which had made god glow with pride – had some ideas which turned out to be as infectious as they were regrettable. Under their influence, Jesus slid from harmless metaphors through cryptic parables, to frightening people with talk of an imminent apocalypse.

God was very tired of hearing prophets shouting that the end is not nigh. Through the grinding of teeth, god said to me: “the apocalypse is tempting, not coming”.

God enjoyed a pleasing moment when he heard Jesus suggest to his friends that they go to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. He wasn’t keen on the donkey: showmanship, and false modesty. But these were embarrassments, not major sins.
And then Jesus resumed his preaching.
“Very soon, Jerusalem will be destroyed” and then “the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light and the stars will fall from the sky”. Yes, be afraid: the end is almost here.

A woman gave Jesus some expensive perfume. This gesture, god knew, had two possible meanings: a prince was becoming a king, or a body was being prepared for burial. Jesus chose the second meaning, and tried to help his friends to understand.
God was alarmed.

Still trying to make himself understood, Jesus told his friends that he would be killed… and more: he was looking forward to his execution.
His friends were, quite sensibly, no less confused.
God cried out.

God watched his son pull one friend aside, saying “Judas, I need your help me with something”.
“The donkey was clever”
“Thanks”.
“But the message isn’t catching on. People aren’t listening”.
“We listen”.
“That’s nice, but I am the sower of grain and the harvest isn’t looking good. You guys – plus Mary – are only a baker’s dozen.”
“True enough”.
“My plan calls for a spectacle, something which can be fodder for a great story… one which will spread the message by inspiring great stories”.
“Another miracle?”
“No, my crucifixion”.
“We’re all a little confused about that”.
“I noticed. My destiny is to be arrested, tortured and then crucified by the oppressors. That will be fodder for the stories which the others will tell”.
After a pause: “I won’t be telling stories?”
“Well… no. I am giving you a special task instead. Our story needs a betrayer – who wants to listen to, and retell, a story about someone who turned himself in to the Romans?”.
Pause.
“I have decided to give that very special honour to you. Later tonight, I will be at Gethsemane. You will bring the Romans there so that I can be arrested in a way that doesn’t look fishy”.
“The rest of the twelve will be angry”.
“I admit it; that is the catch. As your lord, I ask you to do this”.
“Are you sure”.
“Yes”.
“With respect, this is not a good idea”.
“It will be done”.
“If my lord wills it – alright”.
God began to grind his teeth.

Jesus gathered his friends for the passover meal. After the candle was lit, he spoke:
“I have, my friends, been trying to say goodbye. I tell you that this will be the last time that we will meet. One among you will betray me to the Romans. They will gloat, and I will be put to death”.
“Crucified?!”
“That is the fashion these days, yes”.
“I would not betray you”.
“Nor I”
“And certainly not me”.

In clenched teeth, god held a thought: “nice trick, predicting what you have just arranged, but…”.

“After tomorrow, you will go out into the world, spreading my message. You will have a great martyrdom-story to help you”.
The wine-bearer whispered: “That is a stupid idea”.
God cried out: “For the love of me, it is more than stupid”.

That night, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus began to have second thoughts. It may well have been the wine.
“Father, I wish I didn’t have to go through with this”.
Down a telephone like which god had chosen never to install, he uttered “You don’t”.
“Father, please don’t make me go through this”.
That made god yell.

God watched the Romans arrest his son.
God listened his son scold Peter for pulling out a sword.
God waited for his son to say something in his own defence. “Jesus. If you want a show, free yourself from the Romans”.

Jesus said nothing.
God cursed.

When they nailed Jesus a cross, god closed his eyes… the sun and moon went dark, the stars fell from the sky.

At the end, he heard his son cry out: “My god, why have you forsaken me?”.
God pulled out one last tuft of his hair.
I went to find my trumpet.

This is the gospel of Gabriel.

taste, picture this. No5

December 19, 2010

“…it is impossible to sow seed on rock and harvest its fruit.”

from gospel of Judas  (43:25 to 44:2)

10Amusements: No.1&2

December 16, 2010

There have been complaints that I lack a sense of humour.

I do dislike comedy. This is because I dislike failing to find something funny, especially when surrounded by an hysterically thrilled audience.  The results of these moments are miserable: having grumpiness reaffirmed, highlighting alienation from social convention or common-sense.

I am – I try to remember to remember – capable of laughing.

At what?

Somewhere in the boredom of truck-driving school, the teacher was telling us stories to emphasize the importance of load-security. Most freight is stolen by hooking onto an entire trailer, but some is snatched the back of pryed-open trailers. The particular story: a couple of kids were breaking into the back of trailers to find something worth stealing… eventually, they found themselves confronted with an entire load of cookies.

In 2008, another in a long series of ships was seized by pirates.  The Faina was carrying Ukrainian freight to the SPLA in southern Sudan (via Kenya). To their amazement, this cargo turned out to be weaponry: including 32 battle-tanks.

A bit of sober thought makes it clear that Somali sea-pirates would have not actually had any use for the tanks… it was improbable that they would be able to make it to any port at which the 80,000 pound bohiemeffs could be unloaded. They were, as always, interested in collecting a ransom (they ended up being handed $3.2 million for their haul).  But such sober second thought – which would have spoiled some of my fun – comes after the giggles.

Cockelshells

Like my habitual relationship to film (or written fiction), I find the bible most interesting for its structure. For better or worse (my own loss perhaps) the plot seems much less interesting.

This interest has the gospels at its heart. The life of Jesus is told four times in four differing versions. (We should also add the lost and heretical gospels which were excluded from the canon, plus the narratives related by film makers such as George Stevens, Terry Jones, Martin Scorsese and Mel Gibson, plus one more: scholar Bart Erhman argues our habit of conflating the differing gospels into one single narrative creates yet another gospel. In this last gospel, Jesus says and did all things recorded in each of the gospels, and ignoring any contradictions).

This gospel-structure swirls with wonderfully post-modern questions. Deconstructed, what is the meaning of the common phrase “the gospel-truth”. Is one of the gospels correct, a true version of the story? Does the truth lie somewhere between the various versions?  (If this is the case, can we trust ourselves to distinguish between understanding and our habitual conflations?). Can a particular string of chronologically narrated facts be truthful? (Indeed, did any of the authors even wish to be read in such a way?). Are our minds capable of reading a text in this way? Is it possible capture such a method in words? (Listen for the word of god – rather than the more common listen to the word of god – is the best I know).

Finally, my favourite:

Who can/could point to Jesus?

Was he a man, contained in flesh?, or is he some sum total of how others saw – or believed, remembered and said about – him?

Cockelshells

Spent Shells

December 14, 2010

"Spent Shells" photo by Chris Jordan

In a flurry of Leaks

December 9, 2010

For the past week or so, we have been in a flurry raw tidbits of evidence.

Wikileaks has been releasing its 250,000 “diplomatic cables”. Prominent politicians and their advisers have been openly calling for murder of Julian Assange (who, as head of WikiLeaks, they blame).

With credit to a caller on a CBC’s “Cross Country Checkup”… It is remarkable: An amazing amount of public attention is being paid  — encouraged by a riot of governmental blustering — to this pile of documents.  This is well and good, but we are allowing this current mega-leak to overshadow previous Wikileaks releases. Especially the Iraq/Afghanistan “War Logs”, are much more important than the embarrassing, but rather obvious, babble of diplomats and other bureaucrats.

_____

Here in Ontario, a bit of raw evidence has been thrown into our own works.
A fantastic (disturbing) new video-clip has turned up… dating  from this summer’s G20 protests
.
Police officers have been refusing to help identify their fellows who were involved in assaulting protesters. Investigations have been called off because without this co-operation, they could not proceed… Even with video evidence, it has been impossible to identify offending officers since their faces are hidden behind riot-gear face-shields.
Yesterday, all this changed.

A new video has been turned in by another bystander. This one shows an officer repeatedly slugging an already detained protester. When the thug stands up, he has forgotten to hide his face.

the face of one thug

Certainly this officer should be fired and charged with assault. But I fear he will become a solitary scapegoat…

An entire province of officers have disgraced themselves by refusing to co-operate with investigations into many well established cases involving “excessive use of force”.  We should all be revolted by this obstruction. It should not be legal, in fact it already is.
The chief of Toronto Police has promised that,  if any evidence makes identification possible, offenders will be disciplined.  At the same time he has refused to order his officers to co-operate with investigators by providing such identifications.   He has also been caught lying about a key video (claimed that it was doctored by editing).  Chief Blair is an embarasment, continuing to damage any respect for the police… without respect, we can have no effective policing.

A great day for those who love raw evidence. A great day in a week buried in the stuff.

cockelshells

 

Goodye John.

December 8, 2010

He was the Walrus, and then John…and now he is gone.

John Winston Ono Lennon.
Murdered on this day, 1980.

The first world changing event which I remember.

 

 

cockelshells