With this post I will mark the Easter weekend and start a shift from my look at movies, which is coming to an end, to books. Today I want to quote a rather long passage from a novel I recently read, Laura Warholic or The Sexual Intellectual, by Alexander Theroux. I don't recommend the book. It's almost one thousand pages of rants on various topics: Why San Francisco is a grossly overrated city. Why Democracy is a grossly overrated political system. Why women fail as artists and intellectuals. There are many many more, and details escape me. It was exhausting. I thought however this rant about Jesus was worth repeating. It struck me as having the unusual power to shock and outrage even an audience of today. We can get an inkling of how those who read the anti clerical rants of Voltaire or de Sade might have felt.
Feast at the House of Levi - Veronese
“Christ was a sponge!" deblaterated fat Warholic, angrily leering, his face going heavy, with folds, like a bull's scrotum. He aimed a cold eye. "He was a fucking mendicant! A pet! A leech! A deadbeat! He was always walking around inveighing against ill-gotten riches and corruption by way of private property, but what did the guy ever do to pay his own way?" Inflamed with revenge, Warholic was ready to launch. Emotion made him impolite, and his bigoted fury prepared. A fierce thorn impaling him gave him unappeasable anger, a black, annihilating hatred of Christianity that allowed him the change he relished acutely to deliver the darts he would.Seeing as how Jesus was offering those who followed him a ticket to eternal life in Heaven at the feet of God, only a cheap charlie could begrudge him a meal. Still I confess to feeling a frisson of sacrilegious guilty pleasure on reading the rant. The content is true, after all, yet until reading this I've never seen Jesus portrayed as a mooching beggar. Why do we avoid the obvious? His entourage, the apostles were drawn from the lowest orders of society. The main woman in Jesus' life was a prostitute. A begging Jesus would not be out of place. Spiritual practitioners of other times and places have often taken up begging to get their daily bread. Buddha and his begging bowl is one example; there must be countless others. I think we owe this frisson of almost blasphemous pleasure not to any teachings of Judaism which the Warholic character supposedly follows, but to a heritage of Calvinism. This is the doctrine where religious devotion is expressed by our works here on earth - the protestant work ethic. Against the teachings of Calvin we should set those of Jesus... Matthew 6:20 - "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Sound advice, maybe, but what and where is heaven?
“Of the million subjects available to Christ, his second favorite to discuss, after the Kingdom of God—it is scripturally proven—was cash," barked the detracting editor. "Long green. The ol' do-re-mi. Spondulicks. Money! But, tell me, did he ever have any money on him? They had to bring the damned fool a denarius—Matthew 22:14—to make that obvious point about Caesar and God. He owned nothing. He borrowed everything. You people turn this into a virtue? He cadged. He wheedled. He bullied. It was not his own stable at birth. It was not his cross at death. The tomb he was buried in was not even his own. Live free or die, the good old New Hampshire state motto, right?"
Warholic was under full steam. Having been bested in such arguments before, he had done his homework, and it was bring it on.
“He was always hungry. Ever notice? He spitefully withered a fig tree for bearing no fruit just when he petulantly wanted something to eat (Matthew 21:19). Don't go trying to make me look like Mickey the Dunce. We learned all this crap seated at long wooden tables from Horev to Yavneh—Jew school to you jamokes, OK?—under the knuckle-knocking zaddiks in shul. What, you don't think we know our enemy? 'Where's the grub? Where's the grub?' he complained, starved for food when leaving Bethany and then frustrated, spitefully took it out on that tree. 'May no one ever eat from you again!' he cursed, blasting the tree with the prosecution of a poison finger. The very day before that, not twelve hours before, spitting in fury because of an empty stomach, he barged into the holy temple on his big feet and furiously punted over all the tables. That's not food rage? That's not a glaring example of hunger-spite? This scavenger is your messiah, Discknickers? Your savior? Mr. Big? He defended David's right to go barging into the house of God and blasphemously wolf down shewbread. The apostles and disciples themselves were always starving. The poor ignorant fools were driven like ravenous giraffes to have to snatch and munch handfuls of wheat in the fields, crumblestumble they had to glom from the fucking yarrowstalks through which they walked (Matthew 12:1-2)! Check your own bibles! Face it, Christ was the ultimate parasite and invitee. A dinner dog! He attended huge sumptuous banquets at a certain Levi's wearing costly apparel and gulping from flasks of date spirits and eating fig cakes, herbed cheese, and salted meat with rich, overindulged tax-collectors—Luke 5:29—but with a visible weakness for social climbing and parvenuism was constantly queening it at long groaning tables with pompous and wealthy snobs every chance he got! It was if he were born to the manor. Disgusting! Take a look sometime at that famous painting Feast in the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese which depicts exactly what I'm talking about where you can see this so-called ascetic of yours with perfumed hair all farputst and sporting exquisite silks and sitting center-stage in an expensive marbled atrium in the company of a whole passel of performing buffoons, noshers, red-nosed drunkards, upstart coons, pimp hustlers, fawning hangers-on, and a zooful of malignant dwarves without so much as a hint of anything spiritual. No elevated ideals at all. Scatheful! Devouring! Rude!
“On the cross itself he was still whining—I am thirsty!' Get me a Fresca! Why even after he dies, it is duly recorded by the four fabulists that he suddenly appears like Banquo's ghost, pale as paper, and what's the very first request from this universal bailiff of poverty and toiling in the vineyard? Exactly. 'Do you have anything to eat (Luke 24:41)? Will you tell me something, does a dead man have an appetite? Hunger pains? Belly cramps? 'Bring me some of the fish you have just caught,' he demands as if he had just sat down to table (John 21:10). Once again it is back to food, strapping on the feedbag, banging his tin cup up and down for a waiter. And so what happens? They throw the goldbricker a boiled fish! I told you, we had to memorize all this shit in yeshivots, twice a day. Christ then proceeds to tell the apostles or the epistles or whatever they were, 'Come and have breakfast, 'John 21:12 in the godbook, if you're interested. He tears into a hank of bread, then wolfs down a haddock or two. This is, what, an hour or two after he has been just raised from the dead? Unearthed from the dark tomb, folks, trailing his filthy graveclothes behind like a mud-mummy? Had he even a stomach?"
Indignant, Discknickers struggled to go after him, but Spalatin grabbed the accountant and said, "No point, he's on a roll."
“Tell me, who paid for all of Christ's lodgings? When he went roaming about the countryside with that circus troupe of his, all of those performing monkeys, wandering through Galilee, Caesarea, Sidon, Philippi, Carphanaum, and Bethpage, had the man a fucking shekel? Answer?" Warholic mockingly put an open hand to his ear. "I don't hear anything." He paused. "Had he a seashell?" He fake-looked up at the ceiling and hummed. "Cloudy with showers?" With a big grin, he stood back in triumph. "Don't all of you mevshavs look so shocked. Are you afraid you'll be hit by lightning and barbecued? These are facts, not fictions. My old rabbi who knew from Christian ugly and scorn and never failed to warn me not to trust a smiling Gentile—he came from an impoverished little dorp in Russia called Motol where the uncircumcized putzes all treated him like donkeyballs—used to quote Proverbs 30:15: 'The leech has two daughters. "Give! Give!" they cry.' I know I'm correct in saying that the figure the reb had in mind was nobody but your greedy Middle Eastern carpenter!"
“Swine," shot Discknickers.
Warholic shoved his face forward. "This was not a chiseler, a mooch, a beggar, a schnorrer figuring how to live off other people?"
“Do you happen to remember how one day just roaming around the countryside he spies that rich little shitpad, Zacchaeus, and walking right up to the guy, buttonholes him with, 'I must stop at your house today' (Luke 19:5). What is this rubbish, I must? I must reach into your deep pockets and grab some cash, you gullible nudnicks? He brazenly walks—walks—into the houses of strangers and commandeers their rooms as if he fucking owned them (Mark 7:24-25)! Drop what you're doin, bublik, I don't give a shit what, and wait on me! What poor slob had to pay for the luxury of the Upper Room into which this bearded nuchshlepper walks with all of those stinking, illiterate fisherfolk for companions (Matthew 26:18)? He appropriated some perfect stranger's room for Passover the same way because that was his habit! Beggary! Who paid for the donkey on which he rode into Jerusalem? Clyde Beatty? Robert Ruark? Buffalo Bill? The Ringling Brothers? A delegation of suits from the Moose Club of Nazareth? He then proceeds to order some of his lackeys to go into town and snag a colt and a donkey—a donkey he royally insists, notice, that no one has ever ridden—giving these same obedient dumbbells by way of permission in taking these animals the lame excuse to pass on as an explanation, 'The Lord needs them.' The Lord—! The Lord, my ass! Hey, the Lord needs someone to settle my gas bill! The Lord needs someone to buy my lunch! How about to float my loans and to pay my taxes and to cover my mortgage? Why not simply come out and declare without the flannel, 'We, the Gestapo, take what we want'?
“He was always riding in someone's boat, ordering one of his pursuivants to pour him a cup of water, demanding that milling crowds be parted for him to walk through, insisting they throw their cloaks into the roads, badgering someone to feed him, commanding someone to wash his feet or to fetch him this or that. These were just plain scams, out and out. I've often wondered whether research into the old police records of Jerusalem, if such still exist, would not reward the industrious investigator with proof that as a deadbeat Christ the check-kiter didn't spend some serious time in the clink, wearing cast-iron leg-chains for all of those pea-and-thimble tricks he pulled on the innocent and unsuspecting. Expensive oils and unguents were always being lavished on him (Matthew 26:7) which of course he assumed were his due. Had he and his family already been so badly spoiled by the Magi's extravagant offerings given him at birth which he felt were owed him and which his parents clearly cashed in in order to travel to Egypt? Had he no ethics? Nothing stopped the man. He kept it up day after day. All sorts of people were pissed off, of course. The Pharisees. The Essenes. The Roman authorities. Did that make him rein it in? Not a bit. The dude never quit. No, I can see nothing in his character to persuade me that any indignation a flout of his might arouse would have driven him from a place he did not want to leave. There were too many good pickings there! He turned his disciples and dogsbodies into beggars. Remember how he told all of them whenever they were setting out to bring nothing but scrip and staff?"