last temptation of Christ: a deeper revolution

The Last Temptation of Christ unsurprisingly stuck with me. Usually when I complete a novel, I think “hmm, that was nice” and I move on to the next thing. But Kazantzakis’s interpretation of “the Greatest Story Ever Told” is rewarding and leaves a lot to think about, especially if you’re obsessed with early Christian history.

I mean, obviously it’s not historically accurate. That’s not the point. The point is that the book brings these familiar characters to life. Jesus begins the book as a sickly carpenter before transforming into the messianic figure we’ve come to know and love. However, his humanity is emphasized. At times, Jesus comes across as a jerk with megalomaniac fantasies. This helps contextualize Jesus the man and the era he lived in.

This is best demonstrated by his relationship with Judas Iscariot. Judas is a true revolutionary with a hatred for the Romans and is often frustrated by Jesus and his message of love. Jesus feels that Judas’s revolutionary ideals don’t go far enough: the concerns for the body are temporary, Jesus wants to bring salvation to the world…Jew and gentile alike.

The various characters are often puzzled by this. This universalism is too lofty, too radical to ever be realized.

And this sort of remains true today. I’ve expressed my admiration for John Dominic Crossan views: Jesus was responding to the imperial authority of the Romans. Jesus and his followers might not thought of it in that way, but that was effectively what he was doing. I don’t think enough scholars, both Christian and secular, stop to appreciate this. Not even Bart Ehrman.

I think this is best demonstrated by the cross as the official symbol of Christianity. Jesus unquestionably died by crucifixion, perhaps the most ruthless form of punishment by the Romans. And none of the early Christian apologists deny that it happened. Stop and think about that: their very leader got “owned” by the Romans. In fact, it HAD to have happened so that he could be resurrected. So Christians took this event and chalked it up as a win for their beliefs, and a loss for the ruthless rule of the Romans.

Scholars often wonder how Paul was able to convince so many pagans to convert to Christianity (or, to be more historically accurate, his form of Christian Judaism, as Paul still thought of himself as a Jew), well maybe here’s an answer: Roman rule under the Pax Romana pissed off enough people that when they heard of a man who was resurrected after a crucifixion, conversion was a way to subtly stick it to the Romans. This could be why Paul put so much emphasis on death and resurrection in his theology.

Yes, I know there are plenty of problems with this theory, chief among these is how little the Romans are criticized in the New Testament. In fact, the Gospels explicitly blame the Jews for Jesus’s death and not the Romans, even though the Romans certainly DID execute Jesus. My response to this is that you don’t have to spend more than two minutes following populist/leftist politics before realizing that they hate each other more than they hate their opposition. It is my opinion (maybe more on that at another time) that this is fundamentally rooted in these kinds of movements. Even though the Romans were THE existential threat to life in the Mediterranean world, it would have been mainstream Judaism that were the primary theological/ideological opponents of early Christianity…even if the Jews were as much under the thumb of Roman rule as they were. This is heresy in the world of radical movements, what leftists might call “class traitors” today, and it wouldn’t take much for Christian writers to switch out Romans for the Jews in regards to who was guilty for Jesus’s death.

It is this narcissism of small differences that plague radical movements, religious and political alike, and I doubt early Christianity was any different. (See Monty Python’s Life of Brian)

It is difficult to tell if the real Jesus actually preached this message of universalism, or a peaceful coexistence of all people under one God. Crossan might, but it’s more likely this was extracted by later thinkers and is now considered the ethical message of Christianity IF people could move past their short-sightedness (maybe not under “one god”, but you get the idea).

Anyways, I’ve spent too much time on this post, forgot where I was going. The end.

what is truth?

Obviously I’m going through a Bart D Ehrman phase. It’s not because I agree with him most of the time or that I find him a master debater (sorry, had to say it). It’s because he’s the only public intellectual that I can think of at the top of my head that has a genuine passion for teaching.

Because Ehrman’s area of expertise is the Bible, specifically the New Testament and early Christianity, people naturally have strong opinions about the subject. Some people, specifically atheists but a few Christians aren’t exempt, like to use this subject as a way to “trigger” their opponents.

This is a fad on YouTube. The “Intellectual Dark Web” (IDW), or guys that found fame on the internet during the “alt-Right” hay day (people like Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, etc.) perfected the science of “triggering” (also known as “owning the libs”) and many online personalities have attempted to emulate it, including leftists with varying degrees of success. It’s a way of weaponizing information.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to discussions on the Bible, religion, and politics, but even movies and fucking geography!

Because “owning the line” is currency on YouTube, this has led to many quaks pretending to be experts littering the platform and distracting us away from those trying to present information in good faith.

Just because an opinion triggers someone, that doesn’t give it more credence. But that appears to be sound logic in some circles. Even if the opinion is true, if presented in a way that’s designed to give offense, that doesn’t make the one with the opinion more noble or virtuous…it makes you an asshole.

Thankfully my man Ehrman avoids that.

pee pee poo poo

The YouTube algorithm sucks sometimes. When you search certain people, you can’t rid their videos from your recommendations.

Bart D Ehrman, the distinguished James Gray professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one such person. Not that I hate Ehrman, quite the contrary. The man knows the Bible better than anyone. But I don’t find the subject of “God’s existence” to be particularly interesting.

Nevertheless, I watched him debate this with a professional snake oil salesman named Kyle Butt. The subject they were specifically debating was “God and suffering”. Ehrman’s fans swear up and down that he won the debate, but no one “wins” a debate. Everyone loses (and, sorry to say Christians, but agnostics/atheists have the much easier argument).

But I’m always intrigued by how the “problem of morality” gets tossed around like a hot potato in a debate. Maybe I’ve spent too much time of Twitter and Reddit forums, but it feels that in our political climate that all sides wish to enter into a “post moral” phase where one can gain points by accusing their opponent of “moralizing”. However, I have never once found this to be convincing.

Mostly because it makes no fucking sense. Even if we move past “good and evil”, new social mores become established which sets up a whole other paradigm of morality.

When viewed in this political climate, the Ehrman/Butt debate seems outdated (it took place in 2014). Butt believed that there are objective platonic forms of morality established by God of the Bible, while Ehrman simply took a sublime, “know right/wrong when I see it” approach. Naturally, I agreed with Ehrman (even though I didn’t find it philosophically consistent).

But I think what Ehrman was trying (or should have) focused on was the power of empathy in understanding the conditions of our fellow humans. From my understanding, empathy is a real scientifically falsifiable phenomenon that everyone (except psychopaths) feels. HOWEVER, the power of ideology does everything it can to undermine this.

Ideology can take many forms, from personal, to political, to religious.

In my view, individualist ideology, propagated by consumer culture, is the most prevalent. In fact, it even lays the foundation for current political/religious ideologies. When viewed in this light, it makes sense why online atheists and the Christian Right are suddenly bedfellows: Christians can rest easy knowing that God is invested in their individual lives, and the fate and suffering of everyone else is in His hands. And atheists become unburdened in believing that there’s a moralistic force binding the universe together, and can instead focus on their own truths.

Either way, they don’t have to show concern over the suffering of their fellow humans.

I guess that’s another reason why everyone wants to jump on the “post moral” train.

was Jesus an ascetic?

I don’t know man, I wasn’t there.

I’ll say this though: Jesus at least dabbled in asceticism. Any hard evidence for this? No. And none will ever turn up. BUT the two earliest accounts of Jesus’s life, the Gospel of Mark and the hypothetical “Q source” (which survives in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew) mention Jesus turning to the wilderness after his baptism from John the Baptist.

John the Baptist’s existence can be independently confirmed by Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. This is partly why it is universally agreed upon that the baptism of Jesus by John is a real historical event. The other reason why historians believe this is due to the criterion of embarrassment, which simply means that Jesus’s associations with John the Baptist would have been well known enough that it had to of been accounted for by early Christian writers, despite Jesus’s superiority to John.

It’s difficult to establish any degree of certainty from this period. Was John the Baptist an ascetic? It certainly appears that he had those tendencies from the surviving texts. It’s has even been suggested that he was an Essene, a “semi-ascetic” Jewish sect from the first century. Could Jesus have been a follower of John? We know that they met at least once, and the Gospels (whatever their historical worth) say that Jesus immediately did something ascetic-like after that meeting.

I like questions like these because it helps contextualize this era. I personally think that Jesus did ascetic-like things and might’ve ran with a few ascetic groups. But I don’t think he thought of himself ascetic or even monastic. Like I said, the historical information contained in the Gospels are dubious and hard facts will likely never appear, but I think it’s important to look at the language of the Gospels.

Mark and the “Q” source (or possible sources) seem to address a rural audience, meaning that Jesus likely focused his mission on the poor or “working class”. There are obvious problems with this assumption, the main one being that the entire New Testament is written in Koine Greek while the poor in Galilee and Judea, including Jesus, spoke Aramaic (plus the Gospels are written 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus). How much of Jesus’s message was changed between his death and the written accounts is impossible to determine. Despite these problems though, I do think that Mark and Q are more than likely correct in Jesus’s focus.

So as I’ve said before, I think that Jesus was a religious-populist figure, and as we often find in populist movements, leaders often take a “postmodern” turn by becoming (as Apostle Paul later found out) “all things to all people”. This is why so many people can have so many different interpretations on what happened.

the last temptation of christ-a film by martin Scorsese

A lot of people don’t know this about me, but between laughing hysterically at shit and cum jokes I obsess over the historicity a man named Jesus of Nazareth, aka our Lord and Savior.

I even read the New Testament in Koine Greek (it’s a lot easier than you think).

For the record, I’m not a “mythicist”-or those that believe Jesus was a myth that the Romans or later believers fabricated. That’s stupid. Modern archeology and scholarship affirm that Jesus almost certainly existed.

Sure, some of my opinions my be a little bit outside the mainstream. I tend to agree with John Dominic Crossan’s assessment that perhaps Jesus’s ministry needs to be viewed in light of Roman authority. The Roman’s notoriously ruled with an iron fist. Jesus, by contrast, appeared more as a pacifist that appealed to neighborly love. His “Kingdom of God”, which Jesus almost certainly believed was going to be on earth rather than in some supernatural realm, directly challenged Roman Rule. So in many ways, Jesus was more than just a religious figure-he was a political one (not that anyone distinguished between the two in those days). Could this be wrong? Sure. But I think this view is worth taking seriously.

When viewed in this light, Jesus’s message remains just as radical today as it was in the first century AD: it was a direct challenge to the violence of the era.

But another interesting perspective on early Christianity is how it provides insight into the nature of radical politics: it starts off as fringe then branches off into rivaling sects before becoming mainstream. Once it becomes mainstream, it becomes orthodox and therefore conservative-if not authoritarian-in nature.

I’ve always thought that this subject, the “real” Jesus, would make an excellent film.

Unfortunately no such film has been made.

So the next best thing is Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Is it a perfect film? No. I can appreciate some of the modern characterizations of Jesus, the Apostles, Judas Iscariot, and so on. But Paul Schrader’s dialogue comes across as academic, which at times undermines the effectiveness of the story.

But Scorsese’s frenzied take on a familiar story is refreshing. Of course Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack might be one of the best in film history (a hill I’m willing to die on).

What I love most about this movie though is it’s influence on my favorite film franchise: the James Bond series.

“The fuck are you talking about?” you might ask.

Think I’m crazy? Well you’re right. But I’m also correct.

Watch the final act of The Last Temptation of Christ. Then go watch the final act of Casino Royale.

Coincidence? I think not.

machismo

I always thought that collectively we had two choices: evolve to a Star Trek-like utopia where poverty, disease, prejudice, and war are eradicated—or take Ted Kaczynski’s advice and shun industrialized civilization altogether.

This middle ground that we’re hellbent on occupying is some bullshit though.

Heaven forbid if I call any of this out, however. Apparently my disdain for consumerism, narcissism, the eradication of public trust, and concern for unprecedented technological advancement on our psyche and relationships is no longer fashionable within Left/Right political framework.

It probably never was tbh

Where am I going with this?

Nowhere.

I’m as directionless as our collective consciousness.

The end

credo quia absurdum

While I was reading Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, I was introduced to the term credo quia absurdum, translated as “I believe because it is absurd.”

The phrase is usually attributed to Tertullian in reference to Christian belief.

However, I have said many times before that the mechanism of religious belief has been franchised out to other forms of belief, specifically in the political realm. This process is exacerbated by constant internet usage.

Naturally, this causes further consternation within civilization because we know intellectually that the internet isn’t real, but our relationship and understanding of the real world is constantly being shaped by it.

When this contradiction is pointed out, there’s an almost violent psychological reaction to it because it undermines our entire understanding of self and society. And to maintain this flawed understanding, we double down on our patently false assumptions.

Therefore this “credo quia absurdum” becomes the de facto mode of political/religious discourse.

THE END 🤷‍♂️

the joker sucks iii: still smokin

As we fall further down the technological abyss, bombarded by competing information and ideas, we struggle to make sense of anything.

With an endless stream of movies, television, videos, and literature, we perceive the world through a dramatic prism, unable to grasp that the universe is impartial to our reasoning.

When confronted with this cognitive dissonance, we double down. And the opportunists in the media are all too happy to entertain our delusions.

In a sense, we are living in the “matrix.”

But perhaps this has always been true, even prior to the Internet. Maybe to live in a cultivated society means to live in a “matrix”, and no one wants to admit this.

Because of this, there rises either futile sentiments of cultural superiority, or need to “break free” from the restraints of society. But they’re both fantasies…fantasies that fuel our collective imagination.

Philosophers and theorists have failed to understand this: “the dramatic progression” that underpins our understanding. This is how nationalists can assert dominance, or how Christians and Marxists share an almost identical eschatological worldview despite being seemingly opposed. We view the world through a dramatic lens, and there are bad actors out there that try to entertain it.

All of this lies in our subconscious, and we may not be able to escape it. Being a part of this human collective is what makes us…human. So maybe the real political objective is not more theory, but to take from Sigmund Freud: we need to “sublimate well”.

Some might argue that’s Machiavellian, or utopian, or Orwellian, or naive, or overly optimistic, over pessimistic, liberal, conservative, or whatever.

With the Kantian blockage…or the inability to perceive the universe in its total, final form…it becomes difficult to understand that multiple truths can simultaneously exist.

Or maybe none of it is true.

It doesn’t matter. Stay pissed off if you choose. The universe goes on.

the joker sucks

I wasn’t cut out for politics.

I’m easily persuaded because I know that my own understanding is limited and people should be open to new information as it becomes available.

That’s what sensible people SHOULD do.

But that’s heresy in the world of politics. And purity of ideals is currency.

I remember, what felt like a million years ago but was actually last year, when Joe Rogan said he’d vote for Bernie Sanders because he’s been “consistent”, or whatever. In many circles on Twitter, “consistency” became a buzz word and some took it up as a badge of virtue.

I always thought that was odd.

Maybe I’m crazy, but what if you’re consistently WRONG? How is consistency a virtue then?

I dunno. I’ve spent the last month not paying attention to the news and honestly…it paid off. I don’t miss it.

Or I didn’t miss it.

Unfortunately, like a bad habit, I got sucked back in. And after not looking at the news, or Twitter, or any of that bullshit for a month, the world just looks stupid.

Post 9/11, when the 24/7 news became the hottest show in town, politics slowly began to take the stage as the #1 form of entertainment. That’s pathetic.

This is why your conspiracy theories are absolute trash: because politics is our entertainment, we see the world as an ongoing…totally coherent, totally plotted…drama. There are heroes, and there are villains. The left hand always knows what the right hand is doing….and they’re both plotting against you and people like you. You’re the hero, fighting the good fight on social media. And it’s all a wet fantasy.

Politics is business and business is a boomin.

And when business is boomin, out comes the con artists and cult leaders. Any dickhead with a camera, microphone, and smartphone wants in. And when their lies are exposed, they have to double down.

Is the mass media lying to you? Yes. That’s just business my friend.

Is your paranoid uncle or anarchist roommate on Twitter and Facebook lying to you? You bet. And they’re in it for the love of the game.

If you’re a person with any, and I mean ANY sort of political convictions, you are broadcasting to the world that you are someone that can’t be trusted.

How do I know that?

Your mind is objectively finite and the world doesn’t conform to your narrow parameters. But you will deliberately bend or distort the truth to claim it does.

You’re a terrible person.

What I do find interesting though are the psychological effects of unprecedented technological advancement. That’s the real question no one wants to ask because the answer might mean we’d have to log off for a few days.

I’m just always astounded when people can claim with absolute certainty that they know the truth of the universe. God exists, God doesn’t exist. Capitalism good, capitalism bad. That sort of shit. How can people still hold certainty of correctness during the era of the Internet?

Obviously, not everything on the Internet is true. You have to be adult enough to use your fucking head when you see bullshit. But claiming ignorance of opposing views and facts is getting tiresome.

You have the most important tool ever created by man at your fingertips. So use it wisely, jackass.

Delete all your social media accounts.

Be happy and embrace the fact that you live in a non-homogeneous world. Be open to the challenge and don’t claim CONSPIRACY! when confronted with something you don’t understand or contradicts your narrow view.

I’m right. You’re wrong. I’m better than you.

And my dick is small

magnum enforcer ii

“Tony! How’ve you been you useless sack of shit?”

“How’s it been hangin’ James?”

I hadn’t been to Tony’s on 4th in weeks. He brought me a Philly cheesesteak with extra grease. I told him it was my birthday and was ready for an early grave.

“Oh hell, James. It looks like the pawn shop next door is getting robbed. Should I call the police?”

I pulled out my 357.

“Don’t lift a finger you fat, stupid mother fucker. I’ll take care of it.”

I walked outside and the robbers were loading merchandise into the trunk of their Pontiac.

“Freeze assholes!”

They looked up and one of them fired off a 12 gauge. It grazed my right arm. Nevertheless, I managed to unleashed my 357, killing two of them.

The last one ran off. I fired off another round, blasting a hole in his leg. As he laid there bleeding out, I walked up to him and lifted my gun.

“Now I know what you’re thinking,” I said. “Did I fire 8 shots, or only 7?”

“You shot 3! Please don’t shoot me again!”

“Are you sure? Pretty sure I shot 7.”

“Please sir! Call an ambulance! I’m dying here!”

“Well I think today is your lucky day.” I cocked the 357 and a bullet fired out, splattering his brains all over the concrete.

“Holy shit, he was right. I did only fire 3.”

I was in the hospital all night while they sowed up my arm. I couldn’t sleep. LP nudged me the next morning at City Hall.

“Wake up,” he said. “The mayor’s speaking.”

I sat up in the seat and took my feet off the table. LP handed me a cup of coffee.

“Crime has gone up fivefold since I took office,” said Mayor Tortellini. “At this rate, I won’t get re-elected. This killer on the loose, what’s he called?”

“The Hillside Choker, sir,” the LA police chief responded.

“We must stop this killer, this coward, from choking again. He must be behind bars before election season next year.”

The mayor looked around the room. “Does anyone here have any pressing information regarding this case?”

LP stood up.

“I do sir. The rise in crime appears to be linked to the Hillside murders,” he said.

“Obviously, dipshit. Does anybody here have anything else,” the mayor replied.

I stood up.

“I think what LP means, Mr. Mayor, is that the Hillside Choker is motivated specifically by the rise in crime. All of his victims appear to be drug dealers, thieves, pimps, prostitutes, etc. The killer might think of himself as some sort of vigilante,” I said.

“And you are?”

“James, Mr. Mayor. Private Detective.”

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” the mayor said. “Admiral Majors speaks very highly of you. He told me all about your escapades in Nicaragua.”

“Correction sir, it was Honduras. And with all due respect, Admiral Majors is the dumbest man I’ve ever met.”

“Nevertheless, I am deputizing you for the duration of this case. Welcome to the Los Angeles Police Department. Please don’t destroy this city like you did to Honduras.”

“Thank you sir.”

“This meeting is adjourned.”

LP got up and patted me on the back. “It looks like we’re partners now.” We shared a few laughs and I grabbed my coat.

As I was leaving, I caught a familiar stranger glancing at me. It was the same police officer from Malibu and San Luis Obispo stalking me. He scampered off into the bathroom.

I followed him in.

I kicked open the stall door and pulled out my 357.

“Caught ya asshole,” I said.

While sitting on the shitter, he raised his hands.

“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into James,” the man said.

I cocked the gun back. “Well you better tell me now or you’ve taken your last shit.”

“You can’t kill me here.”

“Haven’t you heard? I’ve been deputized. I can kill with impunity.”

At that moment, LP came in. “Drop it, James,” he said. “He’s not worth it.”

I lowered my gun. The mystery man got up, flushed the toilet, and washed his hands. “I’ll be seeing you around,” he said, and left the bathroom.

“Who is that guy, LP?”

“You’re in the LAPD now, James. There’s some questions you just don’t ask.”