Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

Judas, DaVinci, and other confusion about the Truth

Now we have the Gospel of Judas.

I’ve got to tell you, I just don’t understand the (apparent) fear that drives the true believers. Folks claim to have the One True Faith. The various branches of the various faiths seem to have different beliefs, some of them claiming to be the O.T.F., others admitting that there’s a possibility that some others may have it more-or-less right (but they’re the rightest), and still others saying It’s All Good. This is true not only of Christians but of all the other major religions. Some don’t really care what others believe, but they all seem to think they’re the ones on the right track. A fellow could go nuts just figuring out which One True Faith to espouse!

Of course, yours is the real One True Faith. All those other folks are misguided at best, and Servants of the Devil at worst, depending on the degree of paranoia that your local shaman managed to warp into your head.

OK. You’ve got the O.T.F. Good on yer. I’m glad for you. But if that’s the case, why do you have to keep defending it? I mean, if it’s the real thing, it’s the real thing. Period. No argument. You’ve got it, and they don’t. I can understand if you want to spread the Word – generous of you, and all that – but what’s with the defensive stuff? You’d think God couldn’t take care of Himself, or something.

So here’s the Gospel of Judas, purporting to show that the Iscariot conspired with Jesus to get him arrested and put on trial. Well, heck, it was a prophecy, wasn’t it? What difference does it make? Fulfilled is fulfilled, isn’t it? And besides, who ya gonna believe, anyway? The other Gospels (four survivors out of several dozen, the historians tell us) have it outnumbered, and have had nearly 2000 years to get embedded in folks’ brains. What threat is a Johnny-come-lately jigsaw puzzle of a gospel to that? I mean, True Faith is true faith, isn’t it? If you really believe, what you say is something like “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but false jigsaw gospels can never hurt me,” right? You ignore the thing, and watch with amusement while the religious historians mull it over for a few centuries, convinced (aren’t you?) that God will sort the Truth out in the long run.

Oddly enough, that seems to be pretty much what’s happening with the Gospel of Judas. The media have been giving it a bit of a run, but even the most conservative of the shamans seem to be taking it in stride. Which makes the response to The DaVinci Code seem even more ridiculous than it did to begin with.

I suppose we should be impressed by one thing: The DaVinci Code has brought Christian leaders into agreement on a basic matter of dogma, sort of (if anyone’s even sure what dogma it contradicted). Anyway, they seem to agree that it’s unacceptable to all right-thinking Christians and that it may well be a Work of the Devil or something like that. (Well, not everyone agrees, but you get the idea.)

How weird!

Dan Brown’s book isn’t even a very good novel. It’s OK, but not great work. If the Defenders of the Faith had ignored the thing, it would have run its course and sunk without a trace in a year or so. But no – they had to make it a cause celebre, and now it’s famous. Dumb. Just dumb.

The Catholics commissioned books, made pronouncements from the pulpits, published letters from bishops and generally publicized the pondering of various biblical scholars who felt called to criticize the theology of a blinkin’ work of fiction! The other Christians did likewise, especially the more fundamentalist groups, creating the first real meeting of the various minds since the inception of the Right to Life campaign. Omigod! Jesus might have been a heterosexual! He might have really forgiven that hooker! Better straighten that out right away! Even the Muslims got involved, for heaven’s sake.

I mean, what’s that about, anyway? Here’s a gen-u-wine ancient papyrus document dating to the Third or Fourth Century, that they’ve known about for at least a couple of years. (Well, I knew about it; perhaps the shamans weren’t paying attention.) It’s not very revolutionary, but at least it’s historical as heck — worth a look and comment, perhaps. Throw a few stones at the Gnostics, beat our chests, say how right we are and how wrong they were. That sort of thing. It gets virtually no play at all except for the media trying to stir something up, with notable lack of success. Another gospel? Oh, that old thing…

But a work of fiction? Jump right on that sucker. Do you suppose it’s because they were afraid someone might actually read it? Well, they certainly guaranteed that, didn’t they? Just like the critics of A Million Little Pieces (or whatever it was called), they made the author and publishers very, very happy. Could be that some, reading the book, might actually have Had Their Faith Shaken. Good work, Christian apologists! Another example of well-considered theological inspiration. Must be the same folks who thought up the strategy for the War on Terror.

I’ll bet Dan Brown’s laughing all the way to the bank.

I know I would.

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