February 09, 2007


Caption: This man could easily be a character of Dostoevsky's.

Lately El Cabrero has been listening to Johnny Cash and re-reading Dostoevsky (specifically the Brothers K.).

Not at the same time--that would really mess with your mind. But they do go pretty well together.

Both share a concern for the marginalized and down and out. Shared themes are sin and redemption, mercy and compassion.

The main difference is that it's easier to play Johnny than Fyodor on a guitar--three chords and a bass run can take you a long way.

I went back to this book to refresh my memory on one of literature's most memorable parables, Ivan Karamazov's "poem" (the kind that don't rhyme) about Christ and the Grand Inquisitor.

It's pretty relevant to the state of religion and of differing versions of Christianity in today's world.

(In the sad history of much of institutional Christianity, the score has been something like Grand Inquisitor 97-Christ 6.)

In this story within a story, Christ returns in human form as of old to Spain in the 1500s

...during the most terrible time of the Inquisition, when the fires were lighted everyday throughout the land to the glory of God and

In the splendid autos-da-fe'
Wicked heretics were burnt

Christ walks in silence among the crowd, blessing and healing the sick and raising the dead when he is spotted by the Grand Inquisitor (GI for short), a Cardinal of nearly 90 years, who orders his guards to arrest him at once and confine him to a dungeon.

The GI is not exactly happy to see JC. As the latter sits in silence, he says

...you have no right to add anything to what you have said already in the days of old. Why, then, did you come to meddle with us? For you have come to meddle with us, and you know it. But do you know what is going to happen tomorrow?...tomorrow I shall condemn you and burn you at the state as the vilest of heretics, and the same people who today kissed your feet, will at the first sign from me rush up to rake up the coals at your stake tomorrow.

Not very hospitable, huh? Then follows a long monologue from the GI on human freedom where he scorns Christ for wanting people to be able to choose for themselves:

For fifteen centuries we've been troubled by this freedom, but now it's over and done with for good.

From his viewpoint, freedom is a curse for humanity:

I tell you man has no more agonizing anxiety than to find someone to whom he can had over with all speed the gift of freedom with which the unhappy creature is born...Or did you forget that a tranquil mind and even death is dearer to man than the free choice in the knowledge of good and evil?

In the place of a religion of justice and compassion, the Grand Inquisitor and his ilk have built an edifice based on mystery, miracle and authority--spectacle awe, entertainment, and fear--which keeps the masses in a state of happy bondage.


To conclude the story, Christ listens in silence, then he

suddenly approached the old man and kissed him gently on his bloodless, aged lips. That was all his answer. The old man gave a start. There was an imperceptible movement at the corners of his mouth; he went to the door, opened it and said to him: "Go, and come no more--don't come at all--never, never!" And he let him out into "the dark streets and lanes of the city." The Prisoner went away.'

It makes you wonder what kind of welcome some of the purveyors of authoritarian versions of Christianity today would give if they were in the same situation...



Jspiker said...

Well....I can't see Jerry Falwell doing that....

But there are a few in the news that talk DIRECTLY to GOD.

I just wish they would bring a tape recorder and share it with the rest of us poor souls.

El Cabrero said...

That's a good question: What would Jerry do?

I like your stuff on WV Blue. I recommended your blog to them a while back. I may ask you some questions if and when I get around to traveling


Jspiker said...

Thank You...I wondered how they got word of it.

I hope they tolerate my animal pictures....

I hope the people at the statehouse read it...This 'ol Nation ain't what it used to be.

Apathy is the best tool the Republicans ever had. We got'a get people involved !!!!!!

On traveling...just remember one thing. NEVER drink the Water and use lot's of ALCOHOL.

E-mail me any time.

El Cabrero said...

Re WV Blue, I think it's going to grow and grow.

Re water and alcohol... I kinda do that here too (and we have good well water)!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

'm reminded of the song written by
Kris Kristofferson (I wonder if Johnny Cash ever sang it?):

"Jesus was a Capricorn, he ate organic foods.
He believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes.
Long hair, beard and sandals and a funky bunch of friends.
Reckon they'd just nail him up if He come down again.

'Cos everybody's got to have somebody to look down on.
Who they can feel better than at anytime they please.
Someone doin' somethin' dirty, decent folks can frown on.
If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me."

elipsos said...

Random retorts:

-Water into wine business...actually a good idea to drink the water with the wine. This was apparently one way the locals in Israel disinfected well water- by mixing it with wine and letting it sit before serving. Which makes that whole Canaan wedding thing less auspicious and that whole water treatment plant not seems so far a jump. I myself though wouldn't mind so much some J.Walker flavored water.
which makes me laugh. and then it doesn't. Because although I didn't know that "transportation is a moral issue", I do think a WWJD on the back of a hybrid or EV is pretty funny. (Who Killed the Electric Car is spot on for you furry film critics to enjoy btw. Full of GEMS of idiocracy.)

El Cabrero said...

Re Who Killed the Electric Car...Is that a movie?

Re: Jesus songs. The one by Woody Guthrie comes to mind.

And thanks for your comments!