I read the passion as a story of what happened to Christ, but I am flattering myself. If I were alive at the time, even if I followed Jesus I would have seen his passion as a story of what the Governor and religious authorities did. Christ would have only been- at best- a secondary character of personal interest to me. The Pharisees and the Procurator had all the prestige, the degrees, the power, and benefit of cultural reverence. I would have envied and been cowed by them just as much as I now envy and am cowed by tenured, well published philosophers at prestigious universities. I think about how hard it is for me not to see Brian Leiter and P.Z. Myers as the primary figures in stories which feature them (especially about religious topics).

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying I would have agreed with what the Governor or the Pharisees did. I might have thought it was a terrible crime. I’m saying that while looking a the events of passover weekend, I probably would have seen them as “What Caiaphas, Pilate, and Roman Legion X (now forgotten) did”. Christ would have been, even to those who loved him, the supporting actor in a tale of injustice or mixed motives, not the lead role in the passion play.

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15 Comments

  1. Gagdad Bob said,

    March 30, 2009 at 5:15 am

    I was just reading in Balthasar’s book about the Holy Spirit how it is only the Spirit that allows us to see or know who Christ is at all. I probably won’t express this correctly, but, being that the Spirit was not poured out to others in its fullness until after the resurrection, frankly, no one at the time could have known what the passion was about — any more than it is possible to do so today in the absence of the “Spirit of Truth,” as Balthasar calls it.

  2. March 30, 2009 at 5:28 am

    Seeing him rise from the dead probably went a long way to making him the lead role in the story too.That being said, the Apostles didn’t take their message to the world until after the Descent of the Spirit.

  3. peeping thomist said,

    March 30, 2009 at 6:24 am

    I can’t see how for those who loved Him He would have been a supporting character, but I suppose I see what you mean. Those few days add up to “What everyone with big names and power did to Jesus, and got the people to agree to…” Add in the crowd’s willing reaction to what the elite classes and Caiaphas, Pilate, and Roman Legion X did. The apostles would have to be stunned at the wild turnaround of those days, when all of a sudden things went to the best they had ever been to the worst very quickly, and over and above the objections/questions/hesitancy of Pilate the Jewish people themselves were crying for his blood. But you’d think the friends of Chris would have known that the pharisees and similar leader types weren’t exactly friendlies for a good while before the crucifixion.

  4. John Farrell said,

    March 30, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Wait a sec. You envy and are cowed by…PZ Myers????
    ;)

  5. peeping thomist said,

    March 30, 2009 at 11:57 am

    heheheh….and that is where your post gets a FAIL grade on the believability test….

  6. March 30, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    John,

    Look, the guy’s got tenure. His blog gets around 80,000 hits a day. If I asked him a question about his argument, everyone in the room would be thinking “who’s this incoherent nobody who is questioning PZ, the great theological authority?” His pond looks pretty big from my puddle.

    It’s not about arguments or even being rational, but who is seen as the lead and the one who follows. I envy him not because I covet what he has, but because I see the benefits he enjoys as goods- but I’m quite sure he sees nothing of the kind in me. I’m cowed by him because he has a great deal of power: to wreck a career, to humiliate a person, to clog up a blog with trolls, etc.

  7. peeping thomist said,

    March 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    And Brian Leiter? This guy would be hilarious if he wasn’t so painful to read…I love the political screeds devoid of anything resembling argument. This is a blog whose reader’s picked Ludwig Wittgenstein as the most influential philosopher of the last 200 years. Among them, most certainly.

    The stuff this guy links to is absolutely atrocious. I suppose all this is why you pick his name. And if one wants to get a job within the system, your point holds. But even taking these clowns seriously in jest is disturbing to your readership. :)

  8. peeping thomist said,

    March 30, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Seriously, the mere thought of taking Leiter seriously in any way is impossible for me to capture clearly in my soul. The only way they have power is through the modern educational system. Don’t depend on the system and work outside of it. Your point holds. I can’t communicate my distaste in print.

  9. Joseph A. said,

    March 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    James,

    As someone who gained a tremendous amount (and still growing) of interest in Thomism and Aristotle by way of your blog, let me just say: Sure, there are others who have a bigger audience than you, and therefore are in lead roles of a sort. But in the case of Myers and Leiter, keep in mind they’re starring in comedies and don’t realize it.

    Keep on truckin’, your blog is great.

  10. John Farrell said,

    March 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    I’m cowed by him because he has a great deal of power: to wreck a career, to humiliate a person, to clog up a blog with trolls, etc.

    The latter two I can see…but not the first. One, aside from his blog persona, PZ isn’t really the snarling bulldog he comes across as. I doubt PZ would really go out of his way to wreck someone’s career–especially if it was a fellow blogger. I could see him arguing that someone he thought was a dyed-in-the-wool creationist should not be granted tenure–and make a big deal out of that.

    For myself, whenever I’ve ventured comments at Pharyngula, on the whole, I haven’t had my head chewed off there (except once when I made the dumb mistake of posting a comment or two after a couple of cocktails on a Friday night–that was a mistake…). I also had the temerity once to suggest to PZ –for PR book purposes–that he lose the beard. He didn’t agree, but I didn’t get slammed by irate PZ zombies.

    For what it’s worth.

  11. John Farrell said,

    March 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    BTW–just to give you an idea of how much more influential your blog is with me–I’ve been subscribed to PZ’s for at least a year if not longer than yours–but the number of posts from yours that I “keep” is almost twice the number I keep from his.

    Keep up the great work.

  12. Eric said,

    March 30, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    I have to agree with James about Pharyngula.

    If you post there with anything that can be read as sympathetic to religion, you will be instantly attacked by a dozen ‘regulars’ who will demand that you either respond to each one of them, or concede that you’re avoiding their questions (if not immediately, they’ll bring this up on another thread: Oh, here’s so-and-so; you know, the one who ran away without answering any questions). And if you attempt to respond, it will get worse: more and more ‘regulars’ will jump in, and, worst of all, a refutation of regular X will be severely punished as everyone comes to X’s defense. There is this pack mentality there, and no matter how strong your arguments are, you’ll be dismissed as a buffoon. Oh, *unless* you pull a ‘John McCain’: If you go on and say that you’re religious *but* spend all your time attacking religion, not defending it, they’ll *love* you, and point to you as an example of how fairly they treat the religious folks who aren’t idiots.

  13. Martin T. said,

    March 30, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Excellent post.

    BTW: Even when Christ rose and ascended the apostles continued to hide and do nothing until Pentacost. Heck, Peter went back to fishing. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant by, “do you love me more than these” (…fish you have in your nets).

  14. John Farrell said,

    March 31, 2009 at 3:59 am

    If you post there with anything that can be read as sympathetic to religion, you will be instantly attacked by a dozen ‘regulars’ who will demand that you either respond to each one of them, or concede that you’re avoiding their questions (if not immediately, they’ll bring this up on another thread:

    That’s quite true. What I try to do, however, (when I do venture a comment there) is not discuss religion, but rather question whatever presuppositions happen to lurk behind the post. That tends to generate less flaming hostility….

  15. Sean said,

    March 31, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Well, Fr. Corapi makes a strong point that Pilate is the exemplar for every cowardly politician who’s ever existed.

    And I think an exception can be made for what you are saying for Our Lady and St. John….they probably didn’t get caught up in the prestige of Pilate and the High Priests because of their deep love of Christ.


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