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Judas: A Saint for Our Season

If we betray the people who love us, what’s to stop us from betraying the country that makes us possible?

Did you ever break a promise?
Did you ever break a vow?
Have you traded love for money,
And are you happy now?

Did you kiss him in the garden,
And then abandon him to fate?
Are the first and final sins  forgiven,
Or is it far too late?

When it comes to discovering new ways to cheapen the human soul, the “professional intellectuals” of our society have cornered the market. So it was in 2006 when, timed carefully to cash in on the Easter holiday, the “serious” editors of National Geographic chose to release their gleanings from a sheaf of rags and call them “The Gospel of Judas.”

Having risen through the echo chamber of “higher” education and survived the ruthless but quiet vetting process of their “profession,” these editors knew full well that what they were putting out into the world was not a “gospel.” They also knew that calling it a “gospel” would ensure greater attention and greater sales. Beyond that, the editors, secular cultists all, also got a quiet little tingle by having, in their minds, “stuck it” to the Christian church once again. As usual, such secularists love to stick it to Christianity. Addicts of auto-erotic spiritual asphyxiation, their onanistic pleasure in these deeds is only enhanced if they can be performed during the most holy days of the Christian calendar. Only then can maximum profit and pleasure be assured.

This dark thrill of denigration has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming them in their own Church of Zero, and the secondary benefit of being much, much safer than, say, sticking it to Islam, a faith that enforces its demands for respect with bombs and beheadings, and whose central message to all cowards is “Don’t mess with Muhammad.” The sad fact of our modern era is that if you denigrate Islam, you often have to bag up body parts and hose down the sidewalk, but when you denigrate Christianity the most you need to clean up after yourself is a warm washcloth.

Your gedankenexperiment for today is to ask yourself, regardless of your religious beliefs, if the editors of National Geographic, being given an ancient manuscript that “proved” the Koran was nothing more than the blatherings of some ergot-besotted Bedouin who had munched one too many hallucinogenic plants while hanging out in a cave near Mecca, would have published the same “proof” as loudly and as broadly? Would they have done so, or would they have issued a Press Release citing concerns for the “provenance” of the manuscript and their employees’ safety? Regardless of your religious beliefs, you know the shameful answer.

But beyond these considerations, the publication of the “Gospel” of Judas has another, deeper and more lasting benefit to our neophytes of nihilism. It puts one of the final elements of their anti-morality play at center stage. It seeks to sanctify treason.

It was never a question of “if,” but only a question of “when” our contemporary society would discover an avatar who would make treason acceptable. It only codifies the realities of their secular belief system. Treason against others or one’s country has long been as common as adultery in this country. Like adultery the rate of treason is on the rise because, like adultery and similar forms of personal betrayal, it no longer has any consequences at all.

It is true that the federal crime of treason is not easily established and is rarely if ever charged. But the formal crime of treason is not what I am discussing here. Rather the more common, garden variety of treason as understood by plain people — the rabid and unremitting hatred, expressed in word or deed, of the country that gives you the freedom express your hatred. It is the treason of the ingrate, the soul-dead, the politically perverted, and the bitter; it is, as Roger Kimball at The New Criterion discusses, the treason of the intellectuals and “the undoing of thought.”

It’s a fact of our self-centered contemporary existence that betrayal has become one of the common forces that shape our lives. For when our own desires ride us like a drunken demon lodged on our shoulders, betrayal is the first order of the day when others seek to thwart our desires, or even when others become a mere inconvenience to our wants and whims.

We’ve long permitted greater and greater levels of betrayal in our society. We’ve codified them as law, policy and custom as far as the wishes of the individual are concerned. It is no longer sophisticated or fashionable to speak of selfishness as betrayal. That word is so harsh when, after all, we are only speaking of “differing needs,” aren’t we. When the betrayal of others is glossed over with phrases such as “I needed to be me,” or “I needed my space,” or “I needed more money,”or “We were just on different paths,” then the elevation of this disease of the soul from the betrayal of another into the larger realm of treason against all is only a question of degree.

The problem is that shame, a vestigial thing in many shrunken souls, persists, and shame must be driven out of the soul if the secular is to thrive. Both betrayal and treason are still weighted down by a lingering sense of shame within at the same time they are made safe from the onus of blame without. Both are permitted by our cults of personal freedom and “sensible” selfishness, but both are formed of dark matter and not easily expunged from one’s soul no matter how reduced it may have become.

There was, perhaps, only one moment in history when humans “knew not what they did.” In all other times we know, at the deepest level, exactly what we do when we betray another, or others, or ourselves, or our country. We know it clearly and so we bury the ugly deed deeply. Still it persists, remains and rots in the tomb of our souls. A wiser culture called this “sin” and sought to have it confessed and forgiven as meaningless in the shadow of the greatest sacrifice. Our therapeutic culture calls it “guilt” and seeks to palliate and expunge it so that we may live a guilt-free life regardless of our acts. More and more of us live in the latter culture and seek a life forever free from sin, from guilt, from the consequences of our betrayals. And yet this final freedom eludes us.

What is needed, in this secular age of self-intoxication, is a Saint who will remit our sins of betrayal; who will by his very existence sanctify treason. And who better fits this role than the man who betrayed the greatest love for the smallest change, Judas?

The worshipers of the Church of the Self need Judas today more than they need Christ, and they need Christ more than they can know. They need Him so much that they are compelled to reject Him utterly lest their shabby Church be seen as it is, a hovel made of mud and wattle, of empty objects, shabby dreams and promises broken. A statue of Judas would blend right into the niche above their television; a household god whose only requirement is an offering of silver, from time to time, or a shopping spree at the mall to secure his love and blessing; our “Saint Judas of Perpetual Extortion.”

Betrayal is a common catechism in the Church of the Self. Hymns to Me are the hosannas it hurls at an empty heaven. The politics of such a church require as First Things a rejection of all things not of, by, and for the self. A religion or a country of the people, by the people, and for the people is high on the list of things to be abhorred since it requires an allegiance that is other than to the self. The Church of the Self effectively mandates treason, and we see it now manifested daily in the bright robes of “unstiffled dissent” which shroud an increasingly vicious anti-Americanism that has its roots, not in reasoned criticism, but in unreasoned hate. We hear the hate but what we have not been allowed to see is the treason behind it.

That is now “changed, changed utterly.”

Now our traitors to God and Country have found a sheaf of rags that “prove” that the greatest treason was really “all good;” that Judas was really the greatest friend Jesus ever had and was, with a kiss, doing him the greatest favor ever done.

Treason, done with the kiss of “my personal freedom,” proves that you do not really hate your country, you love it. You are, in the final analysis, your country’s best friend. In these “new” old tales about Jesus we read that Judas betrayed the Son of God because Jesus told him to do it. Really? Or did his betrayal come, not from any request that may or may not have been made, but from humanity’s persistant lust to sin freely and without even the thin penalty of remorse? Was this final treason done because this sin had been secretly blessed by God, or for the sheer dark thrill of asserting the self at the expense of life in the light?

“I betrayed my friend, because he gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for him.”

“I betrayed my country because it gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for it.”

Black is white. Hate is Love. Slavery is Freedom. Treason is Loyalty. That last phrase fits right in to the secular catechism, doesn’t it? All it needs to become holy writ is an avatar, a solid historical personage with the power to turn darkness into light, lies into truth, and betrayal into something that was, in the final analysis, “all good.”

Saint Judas, step right up to the Gates, ring that bell, and don your halo — you the man.

Alert the Authorities!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • John Venlet March 29, 2018, 9:28 AM

    Well put, Gerard.

  • Howard Nelson March 29, 2018, 1:59 PM

    Never more truly or better stated. It’s like a tidal wave of sorrow and rage.
    We must deal with people of little or no conscience, whose nativity is negativity and mean-spirited destructiveness.
    Gung ho!

  • Joseph Krill March 29, 2018, 5:55 PM

    Gerard: A banquet for the soul. Thank you. Joe Krill

  • Missy March 29, 2018, 6:03 PM

    Your essay propelled me to go to Tenenbrae (Protestant) tonight. Thank you is not enough.

  • Deana March 29, 2018, 6:36 PM

    Stunning writing. A true pleasure to read.

  • Bob March 30, 2018, 4:49 AM

    What a shame that the ones who need to read this the most, no longer have the attention span to read a block of text.

    Time to build an ark.

    Excellent post.

  • Rob De Witt March 30, 2018, 6:33 AM

    Beautiful, Gerard – and bitter. The anger is necessary, the disgust, since we are not saints, unavoidable. Just beautiful.

    Meanwhile, the Cult of Death celebrates its collective uniqueness:

    https://www.sfgate.com/healthredesign/article/reimagine-end-of-life-brad-wolfe-jessica-zitter-12786010.php

    It’s pretty obvious what the recent “zombie” fad was all about, don’t you think? Lefties can never stay away from a mirror for long.

  • Jack March 30, 2018, 9:51 AM

    I’m not arguing with the article. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    As a Christian I’ve always wondered why Judas, a devoted and trusted follower of Jesus, betrayed Him. The act seems so strange, out of place and out of step in the scheme of human relationships, especially when you consider that it occurred so long ago and in comparison of those days to the behavior of people today.

    Scholem Asch wrote The Nazarene and I found some parts of it tedious because I think it’s written in a little bit different style and meter than what I prefer but he examines Jesus’ relationship with Judas who, like the other apostles was a zealot that wanted desperately to help issue in Jesus’ promised Kingdom of God.

    Scripture records that the disciples argued among themselves over many things and in particular who would be the greatest within the Kingdom. In Asch’s account, Judas was well aware of all that Jesus had taught them, publicly and privately and of what Jesus said must occur…that He must give up His life…..before the Kingdom could be established.

    In Asch’s story Judas’ betrayal was his own effort to help the Kingdom come to pass and that Judas’ betrayal was not done out of disbelief, anger or hatred of Jesus. Judas simply thought that he was helping by selling Jesus out.

  • Anonymous March 30, 2018, 9:55 AM

    Who Judas really was and his reasons for doing what he did is clearly stated in the Bible:

    John 12:4-6 New International Version (NIV)
    4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[a]” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

    Judas only considerd Jesus a teacher (calling him Rabbi instead of Lord) even after seeing Jesus perform miracles:

    Matthew 26:21-25 New International Version (NIV)
    21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
    22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
    23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
    25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
    Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

  • wendystringer48088 March 30, 2018, 10:05 AM

    “When the betrayal of others is glossed over with phrases such as “I needed to be me,”or “I needed my space,”…”

    Seen it plenty of times with divorce and abandonment with both straight people who get tired of their spouse and think they can do better with someone richer or younger, and lgbt people who discover that they are homosexual / bisexual / transgender and want to go down that path.
    Even changing course in life and traveling down a different path still means you have to honor your previous commitments that you made to other people. If you can’t do that then you can’t be trusted with anything.

  • Patrice Stanton March 30, 2018, 3:26 PM

    Jack:
    “Judas simply thought that he was helping by selling Jesus out.”

    With friends like that, who needs enemies? If I recollect the Biblical gospels at all, seems to me any of the twelve would have known the likelihood Jesus would get arrested sooner or later.

    Not buying your theory that (a sane individual sees) betrayal=helpfulness.

  • wendystringer48088 March 30, 2018, 8:34 PM

    Actually what the author here (Vanderleun) is saying is that the 2006 National Geographic article “The Gospel of Judas” was saying that betrayal = helpfulness, that the greatest treason was really the greatest favor ever done.

    Vanderleun went on to gave examples of how people use that kind of “logic” to betray their oaths and promises to other people, and how it is really from a desire to escape their obligations and to sin freely.

    But since this sort of thing seems to be how pop psychology is today giving people excuses to do as they please, maybe Judas should be a representative of a saint for our time.

    This is a response to that National Geographic article that explains that “The Gospel of Judas” actually states that Judas was either a demon or controlled by a demon:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/opinion/02iht-edeconick.1.8558749.html

  • ghostsniper March 31, 2018, 4:35 AM

    “maybe Judas should be a representative of a saint for our time”
    ============
    Masthead

  • Anonymous April 1, 2018, 9:18 AM

    Patrice,

    Asch’s novel (a work of fiction), was not an attempt to proselytize or counter Scripture and if you ever get the chance you might want to read it. His story deals with a great deal more than Judas and it is actually part of a Trilogy which included The Apostle and Mary, ostensibly viewed, contemplated and related by a Jew who had been influenced during his life by customs and traditions from various Jewish sects and by the some sects of Christianity.

    He had a wealth of sources from which to draw and his tales are worth the read, even though, like I said, to me they were a little tedious. But anyway….

    When Jesus made His announcement that He would be betrayed all of His disciples looked at Him as if
    He would, and could, point any of them out as a betrayer. He had chosen these men, He had trained them, He had listened to their banter, squabbles and doubts and they knew that He knew their hearts so, when He said: “One of you will betray me” they were all, I imagine, quickly taking stock of themselves and questioning their own hearts to see if they possessed the lowness of character, deep inside, to betray Him. His announcement rattled them to the extent that they began to ask if they were the betrayer.

    Asch’s tale is a story and he never set any of the tale up as a theory for the world to consider. I’m sure that if he were alive today he could provide you with a laundry list of other ideas (for much of what is reported in Scripture) that were plucked from the theories and beliefs of other sects and religions, all of which from the Christian point of view being little more than interesting ideas or points of view, but hardly a challenge to anyone with mustard seed faith.

  • Francis W. Porretto April 2, 2018, 3:42 AM

    A brilliant article, Gerard.

    In pondering how the betrayers among us can numb themselves to shame, I am reminded of a passage from The Screwtape Letters:

    — Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear. The more he fears, the more he will hate. And Hatred is also a great anodyne for shame. —

    The connection between their willingness to betray and their willingness to hate is “obvious”…which is probably why it’s been overlooked until now.