The Outrage of Christ

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST by Nikos Kazantzakis was a revelation for a young Catholic boy living on the South Shore of Boston in 1967. I found the book in our town library next to his successful novel ZORBA THE GREEK. The blurb on the dust cover shockingly declared that Kazantzakis had written this book to argue the innate weakness of the flesh in the Son of God. Works like this had traditionally been regularly banned in Boston throughout the 1950s. The lack of due date stamps within the front cover revealed that book had never been read by anyone in my town. I stuck it under my arm and walked to the check-out counter.

“This book has been here over seven years.” The librarian examined THE LAST TEMPTATION, as if she had never seen it before. She opened the pages to the publishing date. “It came out in 1960.”

“Maybe it was in hiding.” I was a weekly visitor to the library. The librarian was familiar with my reading habits. She allowed me to withdraw adult books without question.

“ZORBA THE GREEK was very popular. Any time someone makes a movie from a book, people come into the library to read it. Afterward I have to hear how the book was better or the movie was better.”

“THE TEN COMMANDMENTS were better than the book.”

I had seen the Blble epic at the South Shore Drive-In with my parents. I hadn’t told them that I was a non-believer. An admission like that earned the belt from my mother.

“That’s almost sacrilegious.” She frowned from behind her desk, then laughed, “I was kidding. I liked THE TEN COMMANDMENTS better too. Let me know how this book is.”

I left and read the entire novel over the weekend.

On Saturday night my older brother came into the bedroom and grabbed it out of my hands. He asked if it was a dirty book.

“No.” Kazantzakis offered an intoxication of heresy more heady than sex.

Frunk threw the book on my bed.

Then what good is it?”

“None, I guess,” I laid back on the pillows and returned to ancient Judea.

The author contradicted the very teachings of the Church. Jesus was a man. He succumbed to the pleasure of Mary Magdalene. The devil tore at his soul. After surviving the crucifixion Messiah fled in India and lived a long life, unfortunately it was all a dream and he woke to find himself nailed to the cross. Kazantzakis’ suggestions created a Fifth Testament complementing my juvenile atheistic version of the last chapters of the New Testament..

Jesus had been crucified on the cross. The Romans had declared him dead, but he had been in a coma. After the earthquake had opened his tomb, the apostles had discovered him alive and declared him the Son of God. Jesus had believed them until Thomas had returned from India.

The missing apostle to the unhealed wounds in Jesus’ feet and hands and told his friend that if the Romans had done this once, then they will complete the job, if they found him alive. Jesus hadn’t come back from the dead to be re-crucified and he fled to India with Thomas, his mother, and Mary Magdalene.

My version was unfounded heresy, until I later read in VS Naipul’s AMONGST THE BELIEVERS that a tomb existed in Northern India containing the body of a holy man from Judea. Yuz Asaf or Issar had been a healer and lived to the age of 127. Muslims in Kashmir revered the tomb as the final resting place of Mary. Craved footprints of Yuz Araf’s gravestone bore wounds in the feet.

More heresy.

In 1988 Martin Scorcese released THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. The movie was banned in the Philippines and Singapore and a Paris cinema was firebombed by Christian extremists. Thirteen spectators were injured in the attack. The same number of people at the Last Dinner.

Christians are very sensitive about any questioning of the divinity of Jesus or blasphemous exploitation of his image.

The controversial photo PISS CHRIST earned Richard Serrano a brimstone outrage for its use of urine. The artist received hate mail and death threats. His grants were cancelled, despite counter-protests for the freedom of speech as guaranteed by the American Constitution. The work was thoroughly trashed by Christian Fundamentalists in France that Spring and they have mounted a similar campaign against a Paris theater for showing a play in which a portrait of Jesus is covered in shit at the end of the play.


As an atheist I refrain from attacking anyone’s religion.

If belief in a mythical Nailed God happifies the believers, so be it, but if they seek to change the way I think, then I’ll resist the bible-thumpers and jihadists every step of the way.

And here’s how.

Why did Jesus cross the road?

Because he was nailed to the chicken!

Yes, if there is a Hell, we’re all going to go there.

I think that comes from a Curtis Mayfield song.

And I found Hell’s address in THE LAST TEMPTATION.


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