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April 13, 2006
For the son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!

We puzzled over the Gospel of Judas for over an hour in Bible study class: its tantalizing gaps, its guesses at words now missing from its tattered parchment. Judas isn't bad, it turns out; he is good. He is truly evolved, more than the others. Jesus laughs a lot in the Gospel of Judas: he laughs at the disciples' reliance on the traditions of observance they've inherited, their prayers of thanksgiving, the rituals they perform. Jesus and Judas have a secret -- a special knowledge that reveals everything that happens here as an illusion. Death is the way into the true life, and the sooner the better.

And so Judas is drafted into his role as betrayer. He's not a volunteer.

The Gnostic texts invert the traditions surrounding the texts that made the cut and became Holy Scripture. They are mystical and unorganized, more or less indifferent to the ethical dilemmas that so absorb religious folk. It was no way to run a church, I guess, and so they did not survive, once everyone decided that this was, indeed, what they were doing, running a church. Only a fragment of this one is left.

In order to keep everybody on the straight and narrow, the Gnostic texts were spun as something just north of witchcraft -- really bad stuff. Dangerous. People who believed and taught them it were bad, too, bad and dangerous. The age of theological politeness had yet to dawn: people killed each other over all this.

But they are stories, these texts. Allegories and tales intended to show forth the mystical life. They are stories about the return to God -- maybe that return is by a strange road in some of them, but they are not wrong about the limitations of this world and this life. It's short and hard. We begin to die as soon as we're born. The passing of time and the parade of history, which we love and never want to leave, carries pain with it for every last one of us. I can understand why a person might conclude that it would be better to check out early. Why it would be hard to imagine God willingly subjecting himself to the pain we all want to leave behind.

What I can't imagine is wanting to kill anyone because I didn't agree with his teaching. It's not like ours is so all-fired logical, anyway: give me a quick explanation of what happened in the Resurrection. Explain the Trinity to me. Tell me how it is that Jesus was both human and divine. Tell me where evil comes from. I think about these things all the time, am devoted to thinking about them, and can explain nary a one.

So I keep my hands to myself.


April 24-25 Barbara Crafton will lead a retreat for older adults at the Diocese of Florida Conference for Older Adults at the beautiful Cerveny Conference Center near Live Oak. Contact or phone Melody Marshall at 352-375-7876
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