Happy Easter everyone!
I hope your celebrations were as wonderful as mine were today, spent with family and enjoying the delight of my two ultra-super-heroes, my nieces, in the spoils of their day.
My bud Marcus Dalton left this piece by Mark Morford of San Francisco's SF Gate forwarded to my box and others. It captures quite well how I feel about religions, and it's worth a read for certain, so I've posted it for you all to see.
Not to "spoil it," but the bottom line is that God is within us, individually, right there, in our heads, and that is the only place where He can be found. Best get lookin.'
If only the search were a bit easier... then again, maybe the process and the lessons learned are the whole point of our being stuck on this big rock for what can seem like forever... or like a flash in the pan.
An ISHTAR Message...
An Easter Message from me (M.K. Dalton) and Mark Morford.
Happy ISHTAR! M
The Bible's All Wrong, Again
The surprising Gospel of Judas proves you just can't be too sure about all that God stuff
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, April 14, 2006
Is it not just tremendous heaps of casually blasphemous fun to learn, once again and for the thousandth time, that the Bible -- that happy mish-mashed messed-up hodgepodgey cocktail of myths and folklore and revisionist propaganda and who's-your-daddy reproaches intermixed with lovely stories of redemption and hope and oh yes sin and hellfire and death -- is so full of colorful holes it might as well be a bedsheet from Baghdad Target?
Is it not some sort of curious intellectual delight to hear about the discovery of yet another Gnostic gospel, this time the Gospel of Judas, a scruffy ol' tract that's been lying around for years, which would seem to reveal Christianity's second-favorite villain to be, well, not at all the sniveling ass who turned Jesus over to the cops for a fistful of hummus money, but actually a sly and secret conspirator of his pal Jesus, much in the way Biff helped young Christ learn Zen Buddhism and martial arts and got him drunk (and very nearly laid) in Christopher Moore's fabulous "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff: Christ's Childhood Pal"? Of course it is.
If the Bible is the gold brick in the American spiritual sidewalk, then you simply have to ask: What is the relevance in the fact that Christ might not have been betrayed at all? That he may have orchestrated his own arrest? What does this say about his divine wisdom? About Bible stories as a whole? More importantly, how does the new and improved Judas story pinch the ass of our collective mythology? Does it or does it not kick out one of the shaky support beams of the modern Church. Shouldn't it?
The answer, of course, is it depends on just how deep your personal stick is stuck in the divine mud. Because now more than ever, hard-core religious and political types think it's all clear and righteous and straight, that life's moral codes and cultural guidelines have all been correctly (and homophobically, and misogynistically) spelled out in grainy divine ink, in ancient ironclad stories that would deign to tell us how to think and feel and live.
It's the prevalent, simpleminded ideology: God somehow spoke in perfect English through some sort of giant megaphone (the original podcast), which was then beamed straight into a number of deep believers, whose myriad stories were then perfectly transcribed by some honest and devout and in no way corrupt or politicized or sexually frustrated bishop's pen about 2,000 years ago, and there is no debate don't you dare question its legitimacy and motives lest you be cast into the hellpit of Sodom. Or maybe, you know, San Francisco.
These are the Bible literalists, those who blindly take the Bible as the exact word of God (of whom our president is one, as are many of his fundamentalist minions), and they only look at discoveries like this new gospel and stare numbly, uncomprehendingly, as fluid divinity swirls around them like some sort of frustrated mist.
The truth is, the Church was formed to serve people just like this, those who are unable to grasp nuances and unable to think beyond a certain scope, those who are unwilling or unable follow what is perhaps the singlemost powerful and significant of all Christ's (and Buddha's, and the Tao's, etc.) teachings: that is, to seek God within. Not in a priest. Not in a building. Not in an organized institution. Within you.
So let us delight in how the new version of Judas reveals, merely by its very existence, exactly that. Let us calmly relish how we are reminded, once again, that belief and faith and the dusty ancient oral-tradition stories that attempted to define them are, and always have been, and always will be, suspect, and fluid, and problematic, and wonderful, and dubious and malleable as pita bread on a warm summer's day.
In other words, it may not matter that the Gospel of Judas entirely reframes the classic tale of Christ's betrayal and hence will keep scholars busy for ages as to what it might mean. It may not matter that the vast majority of "true" believers won't be swayed in the slightest by this discovery, that it wouldn't matter if Christ's body were unearthed tomorrow and Jesus were found to have an "OM" symbol tattooed on his sacrum and an Astarte pendant around his neck and an ancient iPod with lots of old Sabbath and Leonard Cohen songs. Most staunch Christians would still adhere to current codes like nervous kittens huddling in a leaky life raft.
But here's what does matter, now more than ever: We do not always know what we think we know. The Bible certainly does not always say what we think it says. Faith and divinity and even entire religions are not static and fixed; they should move and dance and inbreed and adapt with time, with culture, with intellectual evolution. Simple enough? Did you already know? Judas is winking in your direction.
Hell, it's only been about 65 years since the publication of the last earthshaking, goddess-cranking Gnostic tract, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, a truly landmark find that rocked the Christian world and sucker-punched the misogynist Church and revolutionized Magdalene scholarship and inspired Tom Hanks to grow his hair long so he could appear in "The Da Vinci Code," much of which was based on the discovery of Mary's truly astounding gospel.
It's a breathtaking piece of writing that essentially paints Jesus' favorite consort as quite deeply informed of a rich and particularly mystical version of Christ's message -- one that, it must be said, essentially defies just about everything the modern Church stands for, in how it extols the virtues of finding God, once again, not through a church or priest or blind faith but by raw self-exploration and unique
individual spirit. You gotta love it.
And all this only 60 years after the big daddy of recent biblical discoveries, the massive Nag Hammadi library of Gnostic gospels, an astonishing collection of delicious, banned writings from one of the more mystical, pro-sexual, pro-women, open-minded sects of early Christianity, one of many that offered radically differing versions of Christ's story and message, but which, like the rest, eventually lost out to the more militant and dogmatic Church many of us know and recoil from today.
(Remember, like history, religion is written by the victors. It is then revised by the powermongers, leveraged by the fearful and wielded as a nasty weapon by the conservatives. Same as it ever was.)
Is it not perhaps the single greatest fallacy of all time? That mankind is somehow a meek and inferior quasi-deity ever struggling to live up to some hideously puritanical idea of the sacred and the enlightened? That morality and religion are somehow clean and flawless in their messages and that God is somehow scowling down every day, watching and taking notes?
Or that the Bible -- make that all bibles, of every shape and kind, from any culture, are merely ever-shifting kaleidoscopes through which you may observe the world and absorb some lovely wisdom and moral color, but which you should never, ever mistake for real life?
Can I get an amen?