Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Spy Wednesday

In Christian tradition Wednesday of Holy Week is the day on which we remember Judas' conspiracy with the religious authorities to lead them to Jesus, so that he could be arrested before the Passover. There has been much about Judas in the press over the last year, beginning with the publication of the Gospel of Judas, and again more recently with Elaine Pagels and Karen King's book exploring the theology of that work. I listened to a podcast of Pagels and King last month while shoveling snow. Their basic reading of the gospel of Judas is this: Judas was especially close to Jesus-- the beloved disciple, if you will-- and Jesus revealed his inner thoughts and beliefs to him. These included the idea that disciples need not and should not "sacrifice" themselves (I now feel the need to use quotation marks around what feels like an alternative meaning for that word); that in the face of persecution they should protect themselves, because the death of Jesus was enough.

There was more, of course, but this intrigues me as an alternate reading to parts of the New Testament (for example, the gospel of Mark, which is pretty clear about needing to participate with Jesus in the way of the cross). But it is not at all an alternative to anything (perhaps Hebrews?) that smacks of a substitutionary reading of atonement.

I have not read the gospel of Judas (though it is in a tall, precariously balanced pile of books in my bedroom). But I have also wondered about this: I have an abiding interest in those pieces of the NT in which it is possible to read anti-semitic statements (the gospel of John's passion account is particularly troubling). I have often wondered whether "Judas" wasn't a later invention of the early church, personifying Jews for the betrayal of Jesus. In that scenario the gospel of Judas is an apologetic and a defense of what was becoming a persecuted community (by another persecuted community, yes). What is the earliest mention of Judas in the NT? Is it Mark? If so, why is he not mentioned by Paul?

On another note, I read a poem years ago called "Spy Wednesday's Kind." As a closeted lesbian I have also wondered how safe my secret is with various people. I rode to a meeting yesterday with a fellow pastor whom I know to be liberal-leaning on the GLBT issue in the church. But the trust was not there for me to tell him. This is one of the losses of living in the closet: knowing that a deeper level of friendship might be possible with someone, but being on guard and rejecting that possibility. The constant fear that trust might be betrayed.


KJ said...

I've never been too troubled by who is made out to be the villain in the Passion story, since no matter how we may want to deflect blame somewhere, it all comes back to us.

Not revealing all to your friend is understandable as is the "wear" from wearing a mask. Those are frightening words to say, since unlike Emily Latella, they cannot be erased with a simple, "Never mind."

Whenever I watch someone "coming out" in film, even in the context of a silly sitcom (e.g., Jack coming out to his mom on Thanksgiving Day in the first season of "Will & Grace" is one of my favorites.), my heart rate goes up and my breathing becomes shallow. I've been told many times by others that it gets easier over time, but given different contexts, I have not found that to be true.

Share Cropper said...

I don't know about Judas; he's a good addition to the story - a villain - and, he provides a mini-climax - a signal that the action is beginning. Beyond that, I don't think much about Judas - since I believe the crucifixion was mostly about humans and perhaps a re-enactment of the original sin story. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts and, thus, have crucified Jesus - over and over.

As for coming out. I can say that being over 60 and having a secure income and someone who loves me and no boss to worry about - coming out is as simple as saying, "This is my partner." or "My partner and I...." We live in a small town where many are disapproving, but only one person has been rude to me. Perhaps this is more of my courting danger?

KJ said...

Share Cropper,

Reading what I wrote, I see that I wasn't real clear. I should have said "depending on social context." There are many situations which are simple, as you've described (You'll get the Cecilia!). However, I grew up in a conservative, evangelical faith setting, a setting in which most of the immediate and extended family still reside, so I get many opportunities for the more challenging "outings", and my heart rate still goes up.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Judas did repent, however, I presume that he could not believe that God would forgive him, and he killed himself.

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5

God is merciful beyond what we can imagine.

Of course, all you good people, you know that I can't know what it's like to "come out", but it must be a fraught experience, and it must be liberating once it's done.

Cecilia, I could be wrong, but you seem to be getting there inch by inch. Take your time, and do what seems right to you.