A closer look at the story of Judas: It matters today

Last night, July 29, 2020, I posted this on Facebook:

I went from conservative Christianity-to burn-it-all-down-to Open Table-to there are rules, but not like that. I’m questioning Open Table theology, but not based on ideology; it’s abuser/abused sharing a table-I’m not for it. Melissa Florer-Bixler wrote this (and this seems appropriate considering a video that went viral recently (demon sex, you’d think that subject would be more fun)):

I’m thinking about how rarely we talk about Satan entering Judas as soon as he takes the bread at the Last Supper. Ponder.

We should ponder this. And my mind is creating a blog post to respond, because I surprisingly have thoughts. Also, Mike Tyson was recently on Jimmy Fallon. John Crist, a serial abuser is back. I have thoughts. And I’m going to write them. Tomorrow.

So here I am today, true to my word, to respond to this thought-provoking tweet by Melissa Florer-Bixler. I have written posts trying to redeem Judas, and I will stand by that it isn’t all his fault for the death of Jesus, but my defense of him is waning. Yes, he tried to take it back. People could have made different decisions when he decided the 30 pieces of silver wasn’t worth the cost. We do not know his motivation for the betrayal; every gospel portrays him differently, especially John. And John is the gospel I am going to use to make my argument that in America we allow known abusers in our midst, and listen to their so-called confessions of guilt, and we let them right back in. And victims see their abusers celebrated again. The life of victims rarely matter to us. Even in the Bible we read right over the abuse of women, and talk about the experience of the men instead. Or if we do talk about women, we talk about their questionable past, and not the society they lived in making them vulnerable. Today, we make victims feel terrible for not wanting to forgive. We dig through their past to see why they probably deserved it. It is traumatizing, to say the least. Why would any victim come forward in America? Our first thought is to not believe them. Then when we have to believe them, we dig up their past to make justifications to let the abuser go free.

I want to address forgiveness for a minute. Christians are notorious for using cheap grace through the act of “forgiveness”. Jesus on the cross, in the gospel of Luke, speaks to me in a different way today. He is asking God to forgive the ones betraying him. He did not say: I forgive you. This lens takes a huge weight off of my shoulders. When I experienced so much betrayal at once, I was trying to forgive everyone–and heal myself at the same time. I searched myself to find reasons I deserved this treatment, because I have to be guilty too. “Both sides”. I hate that phrase now, because it is used to silence victims. I could not forgive them. My pastor at the time was so good to me in this moment-he told me this: You don’t have to forgive them. Jesus can carry that burden. Take care of yourself.

No one has ever told me that before, and I will never forget it. Since then, I have learned that the Jewish tradition has a much better grasp of repentance and forgiveness than Christians do. Forgiveness from God and forgiveness from the one offended are two separate processes. The one offended does not have to forgive the one who harmed them. It is a good idea to forgive to cut themselves off from the betrayal, but it doesn’t mean they have to be friends or on good terms again. Restoration to the community doesn’t have to happen (and should not!) where the victim belongs. Healing can happen elsewhere. And some offenses have lifelong consequences. You lose the position you once had because you betrayed the community. Healing will look like something other than what you once did.

Back to the gospel of John. This gospel is different from all the others. This is why it is not considered a synoptic gospel. Matthew, Mark and Luke share similar stories even though they are told differently. It is interesting to compare them. Now I know when we talk about Jesus we need to cite which version of Jesus we are using. The only thing the gospels agree completely on is that it is Jesus of Nazareth, and that he died and was resurrected. Oh, and the women were the ones PREACHING the resurrection. John has distinct material, and I love it because it is the most personal gospel. It is weird that this gospel is used to justify Gnosticism when right at the beginning of the gospel it talks about the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14). Our humanity matters to God. God became a human. Jesus is Lady Wisdom personified. I have more to say regarding this statement another time using Queer theology, but I will save that for another post.

In the gospel of John, it is clear Jesus knew who his betrayer was and gave him the bread-and Satan entered Judas. John has a very different take on Judas than all the other gospels. John said what he said, and I think it is important to let it sit with us and wonder why. I told my mentor, Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles-who is a Johannine scholar, that I love the gospel of John, but I don’t understand what he is doing. She said that is a good description. My exegesis paper in New Testament first semester, I was told I wrote a great paper with original thought, but I did not do much with John. I could have said more about Judas. I am going to attempt to do that now in this blog post by what I am noticing in our society today. John has strong feelings about who Judas was as a person, and this is more significant than I knew when I wrote the paper.

In John 12, when Mary anoints Jesus, it is Judas who is upset. He is the one (not some people, not the disciples) who thinks she wasted, and the money earned from the oil could have been given to the poor. John says Judas did not care about the poor. He was a thief and stole from their common purse that he was in charge of keeping. The Bible doesn’t give us lots of details on many situations, so when we get a direct statement, it matters.

This story is speaking to me now. I am seeing abusers being restored to the community in the same capacity they were in before, and I don’t understand it. I have some examples of Judas stories that might shed light on what we are doing. We are settling for thirty pieces of silver.

Mike Tyson is where I am going to start, because his story goes back to my youth and what I heard when it comes to rape of women. In 1991 he raped eighteen year old Desiree Washington-Miss Black Rhode Island. He invited her up to his room, and he raped her. You know what I heard from the public around me about this: she should have known better than to go to his room. Do we hear ourselves? She was eighteen. She was the vulnerable one. She was raped by someone with way more power than she had, and the public blamed her. His ex-wife, Robin Givens, also said she was abused by him. Then we have Clarence Thomas, Bill Cosby and OJ Simpson. Power let these men off the hook. And black women suffer and we don’t hear their cries. Mike Tyson was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on July 27, 2020 talking about fighting again. They were laughing together. I had to turn it off. This man has raped and abused women, and he has bitten a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear off. Why the hell does he get to be on the Tonight Show, and return to fighting?

Now lets talk about John Crist, Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, and all the Catholic and SBC pastors (not just these two denoms, but they are large and in the spotlight) that get away with abuse. John Crist is a serial abuser. His platform was built off of making fun of women, and too many of us-myself included-laughed. Turns out building a career that way also leads to abuse of women, and he did. Now, not even a year later, he is back trying to do the same damn thing, but differently. His non-apology was all about him; zero apology to women.

Brett Kavanaugh. I knew that man’s voice, as I did Donald Trump’s voice. These are the men that have abused me my whole life (not literally them). I cried. I was dismissed. Trump is President and Kavanaugh got a Supreme Court seat, and gets to make decisions for women. So does Clarence Thomas. I engaged a friend about Kavanaugh because he was saying foolish things about the abuse of women. I told them flat out about my own abuse, and I was met with silence. Then another man came in and told the friend I was challenging that his daughter would never be abused because he is raising her with morals. And my friend liked that comment. Oh my God! Too many people think women get abused because we have no morals. Even Jake could not contain his anger on that remark and engaged. Very rare for my very patient enneagram nine partner. I am so grateful for him. He is so good to me and to all of humanity. He is everything a person should be-no gender requirement to be the kind of person my partner is.

Now all of the pastors who have abused women and children with no justice. And some are restored to the community with applause. Women and children are not protected by their own faith communities far too often. And their faith community abuses them again spiritually with their applause the abuser who says they are sorry and want to do the right thing now. Got to forgive and forget they say.

I seriously do not understand people’s obsession with police. I have friends who are police, and I appreciate all they do. I also appreciate they know the system is broken and want a new way of doing their job. Very few of us are truly protected. There is still no justice for Breonna Taylor, who was killed for just sleeping while black. I hope I am highlighting clearly enough that BIPOC suffer the most from all of this, but all women, children and men suffer, and we should join our voices together. Patriarchy harms all of us. It is not a suffering contest. Black women have been telling us this for years, and their history got erased by both white women and black men. They are victims of racism and misogyny. Also, black transgender women are the reason we had the Stonewall Riots and the beginnings of LGBTQ+ rights movement, but black trans women are not benefitting in the same capacity from the movement they started. Black women are not benefitting in the same capacity for women’s suffrage movement they helped start-along with feminism; civil rights movement-men got the mic. You know who is addressing this? Trevor Noah. He is reading the room, and not putting abusers on his show. He is instead re-telling black women’s history to help get their stories back into our history we erased from the books. We are more comfortable presenting it as a white movement, or we listen to men instead of women because history on oppressing women goes back to the beginning of time. We have denied our Mother God, and it shows.

I was triggered last night seeing Mike Tyson. Then I read a thread on John Crist. Then I read a thread on Christopher Heuertz. I know I need to protect my mental health, because my body feels this as strongly as my memories do, and it is affecting my physical health. This is why I will no longer advocate for an open table. The gospel of John seems to agree. John is making it clear Judas should not have been trusted, and it got Jesus killed. It is not all of his fault, but it did not help.

I will end with this: We need to stop saying everyone killed Jesus, and that he died alone and abandoned. He did not. The women are clearly portrayed in the gospel of John crying out by his side the whole time. Jesus died crying for his- MOTHER.

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