FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Rebel Jew Jesus

by CLANCY SIGAL

Some years ago I was stricken with an unforeseen religious fervor.  Until then, I’d been your normal, rational secular Jew raised on the fusty ideas of those apostles of reason, “the great agnostic” Robert Ingersoll, and the free thinking criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow.  Suddenly, like an iron bar crashing on my head, I began to see – and “be” – Jesus Christ.

True, the ground had been prepared by my working closely with hospitalized, often visionary or delusionary schizophrenics in England.  Of course, any spontaneous expression of religious mania got them medically tagged as mental cases and dispatched to the nearest “bin”.  In therapy sessions we’d sit for hours exchanging our mutual visions; on examination, theirs seemed no more weird than mine.  As Jesus, I did not prophesy or insist I was a reincarnated Roman gladiator as some of my schizophrenic friends did.  But they respected what I was seeing, and gradually I came to understand the validity of their visions.

A mitigating factor in all this was that it was the ‘swinging Sixties’ in London when taking acid and Triptomine and similar exotic herbs was fairly common among the young – and for a short time, me.  It was when everybody could be his own Krishna or Buddha.

My own previous teenage attempts to join an organized religion had ended badly.  The friendly priest across the street at St Agatha’s church on Chicago’s west side threw me out when I suggested that Jesus was the first union organizer.  And the rabbi my mother sent me to for Hebrew instruction hurled me down a flight of stairs for throwing spitballs in class.  Religion of any form seemed a no-go area after that.

When Jesus later came to me in London, he (not in Capital Letters) seemed as palpable as the corner news vendor.  This was a secret, personal Jesus.  Devotional messages began to creep into my writing.   I submitted and had published an entire article for a Sunday newspaper riddled with disguised canonical code, without getting caught.

All this time I kept wondering, why me?  And why not Moses or Mohammed?

Over time, Jesus and I developed an easy conversational dialogue.  I’m told this is how certain native tribes connect to their tutelary spirits, a guardian or protective presence.  It wasn’t quite the same as a Christian patron saint.  He was colloquially accessible and wasn’t afraid to use street language.  I never asked for advice per se for fear the bubble would burst if I asked him the winner of the third at the Newmarket races.

In this condition, I thought it wise if I dated a BBC religious affairs broadcaster, but even she kept giving me strange looks.

In the end there was a “breakdown”, or moment of illumination (choose one), where, perversely, Jesus signed off with a farewell word which, boiled down, urged me to stop messing about with the myth and mystery of the Christ and to go back to mundane work that had no extraterrestial “meaning”.

I miss “my” Jesus.

The ultimate result of my passing passion for The  Passion was a feeling of closeness to both the myth and whatever we know of the historical Jesus the rebel Jew, rabbi and prophet.

We Jews are not supposed to believe in a heaven – Olam Ha-Ba (the world to come) or She’ol, hell. But I like to think that in a happy afterlife, amidst all those puffy clouds and singing harps, these two great men, Robert Ingersoll and Jesus, are up there having a gentle, friendly debate that will forever be without a resolution.

CLANCY SIGAL is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. His latest book, Hemingway Lives!, will be published this spring by OR Books. He can be reached at clancy@jsasoc.com

 

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail