Wednesday, July 22, 2009


(The following is a short story under 600 words. If there was an honest historical Jesus debate, such a story would not be necessary. But scholars have very cleverly used their power to suppress debate and close examination of the evidence. Hence, the need for a story like this.)

He was born too soon. It was still the dark ages. He had been happy once. He had licked up the labors of love with his wife more times than he could count. And when you’re eating chicken with mango, pizza from another world, ice cream to curl your toes, all on a regular basis … well, life was golden. Truly.

Then he met a Jehovah Witness. Read the New Testament! Just to humor him, he asked for a Bible with English in one column, Greek in the other. He liked to do things right. He really got into it. That’s when his life went to hell. The Bible titillated his intellect.

Ten years later, he looked in the mirror. “I used to be a man who wore clean underwear. I wasn’t sleeping in paint chips peeling from the ceiling.” Ah, sad. His wife left him three years into it. The thing is, it was a fascinating story. What a Jew this guy Jesus was. Like a Baal Shem Tov spouting Jewish wisdom and miracles. Only the schmaltz, the lox and bagels, the spoken Yiddish was missing. Otherwise, a Yid from his tassels to his Yiddishe kup. Who wouldn’t love a Jew like that?

That’s when he started to notice things. He did not know seeing was dangerous and asking questions even more. Where did it say Judas was a traitor? Only once in Luke’s Gospel. Everywhere else you looked, it was all ambiguity, equivocations. Only one word clearly spoken. That lone accusation proved nothing, except that once upon a time the accusation had been made. But was it true or was it slander? Things would get uglier and uglier for Judas, but looking back at the beginning, there was no record that anyone who knew Judas had ever said a bad word about him or cursed him out. Now wasn’t that something?

He started telling people Judas was likely innocent. He had more evidence besides. The evidence said so, not him, the evidence. If the last two Gospel authors said the devil made Judas do it, they meant his act was a mystery to them. They had nothing, only the devil, to pin on him. Isn’t demonization more a sign of innocence than guilt? Who but the innocent get demonized? Professors burned with shame when he said this, then called him an idiot. "Can’t we have an honest debate about this?" No!, they said. The guilt of Judas serves a purpose!

At a conference, one scholar almost punched him. Another spit at him. No almost about it. A nun spun on her heels and walked away from him. That hurt. That went deep. No argument moved them. No evidence made them think again. They would convict a man on nothing but their arrogance. It was meeting these hateful people who called themselves scholars that he learned about poison for the first time.

It took all his strength to work alone. “When I die, I will get stronger.” He would send missives to future generations who might listen. He had hitched his wagon to a man who had been maligned for two millennia. He never found love again. Or is it love to care for an innocent man whom everyone was bent on disappearing? Where would a love like that get you? Might as well try to change the world with postcards.

SO — that's it. End of story. Some people may realize that the last line was inspired by Otto and Elise Hampel, a couple who rebelled against the Nazi regime by writing postcards to inspire resistance and dropping them all over Berlin. They kept it up for three years before they were caught and executed. Hans Fallada memorialized them in a novel, Every Man Dies Alone, written a couple of years after the war. One of the questions that haunted him was whether their effort was worth anything, considering that most of the postcards were turned in immediately by the frightened people who found them and who did not want to be involved in any subversive activities.

This is always a difficult question to answer. It may seem like they did not inspire any rebellion, but who knows? And they have not been forgotten, as Fallada's novel proves. Who might be encouraged to act against some injustice when they read about the Hampels? Who knows what the Hampels' actions might bring forth now or in the generations to come? It caused me to write this story. And what if someone reads it and gets — I mean, really gets —what the story is about. It may never happen, but if it does, chalk it up to the Hampels' amazing courage in the face of constant danger over sixty years ago.

Leon Zitzer

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