(Also posted at Plague of Mice)
A Saturday morning like any other, I thought. Quick shower, check weight for the week, then breakfast while browsing the news online. Everyone else was away for the weekend, so I could do what I pleased. I was towelling my hair when I heard a noise from the front room. Damn cat up to mischief again, I thought and went to see what had been knocked over this time.
There was a short, swarthy bloke with curly hair and a beard sitting on my sofa. He was wearing robes and calmly rolling what looked suspiciously like a spliff. I grabbed at the towel.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’ve seen it all before, you know,” he said airily. He ran his tongue along the Rizla and saw that it was good. “Diet’s coming on nicely, I must say. The abs need work, though.”
“Jesus fucking christ!” I expostulated. He bowed.
“The same, although between you and me I don’t get a lot of that kind of action these days. Being dead and all that. You know how it is. Or you will, one day. Except you’ll be dead, so you won’t know. Ecclesiastes 9:5, by the way; you can look it up later. Got a light?”
“On the table,” I said automatically.
“Ta, mate.” He took a long drag. “Well go get some clothes on then. I haven’t got all day.”
“This isn’t the Second Coming?”
“I haven’t come once ye… Oh that. No. Just a visitation. You said you wanted to see me.”
“But I’m an atheist!”
“Yes, I know. When you said you’d love to talk with me and find out what I really thought – well, you actually meant it, unlike all those bible-thumping – what’s your word? – fuckwits who claim they speak with me, when in fact they only hear the echoes of their own fears and prejudices rattling around in their skulls. So I thought: well, I don’t do interviews on principle, but why not just this once? And here I am. Now go cover it up, there’s a good chap.”
Quarter of an hour later, I am drinking coffee with the Son of Man and trying to set up a microphone to record all this. He watches with interest for a couple of minutes, then taps me gently on the shoulder and points to the mirror. I can only see myself. “No pictures, no sound. Just between you and me. Shall we begin?”
AT: So, um…
JC: Call me Josh. Only my Mum ever called me Emmanuel anyway. Jesus is Greek: nobody ever called me that.
AT: Josh then. Why exactly did you decide to come out of retirement for one interview, and why me? Why not with a representative of one of the established churches, like the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope?
JC: You mean guys who live like kings while promoting a completely distorted version of my teachings on the basis of a book written a hundred years after I died, near as dammit? For my sake: if they walked in on me rolling a joint in their living room they’d call the guards. Fucking Pharisees, the lot of them. I couldn’t trust them not to distort the message again, especially the kiddie-fiddlers. I want to set a few things straight. Now.
AT: So, where would you like to begin?
JC: Oh, I wept, there’s so much stupidity going on in my name I don’t know where to begin. Women, let’s start with them. They’re half the human race. Who are these creeps who put down women? You do realise my own mother should have been stoned to death by law just for getting pregnant because she wasn’t married? Joseph had his faults, but he wasn’t a total arse. Leviticus? You can shove it. I stopped a stoning or two – it’s in the Book – and you’ll notice it’s always the women who get the rough end of it. Me, even the girls among my disciples hardly get a mention in the Book, it’s all about the guys! There was (counts on fingers) me Mum, Mary Magdalen, Joanna, Salome…. (waves arms) and quite a few more. The Book doesn’t even name all of them! They did loads of good work, but the sexist idiots that wrote it all down a century later couldn’t even be bothered to count them.
AT: Were you close to your mother? The New Testament gives conflicting reports. For example, In Mark 3:31-34…
JC: We had our good days and our bad days, like any family. Even I can’t tell now which parts of the New Testament are broadly correct and which are misogyny or romanticism that snuck in later. She was there at the end, which is what counts, I suppose.
AT: Didn’t you run away, aged 12? They found you in the Temple after searching for 3 days, Luke says…
JC: I’d rather not comment. I was 12. It’s an awkward age.
AT: Usually when children run away from home it’s because they’re unhappy. It’s still happening today, Josh, and a word from you might help.
JC: Fine, okay, I got bullied. Of course I did. I was a bastard who should have been stoned to death in his mother’s womb and of course there were regressive bigots who delighted in saying it to my face. You should have heard what they called my mother too. Fucking dicknozzles. Seriously, I tip my hat to Joseph for marrying her and raising me. Balls of steel, that guy. Anyway, yeah: to all bullied kids out there – IT GETS BETTER. Remember I told you that, and pass it on. It gets better.
AT: You know that “It gets better” is the watchword of the movement to prevent bullying of LGBT youth?
JC: Yeah, though just saying it doesn’t make it so. I told them back in the day: you have to make your own miracles. I didn’t mean any of this faith healing crap, I meant get off your arses and work at it. So don’t just mouth “it gets better”, give them a hand. Educate the bigots’ kids before they end up as sad and petty and vicious as their parents. If you see them living on the streets, buy them a meal and find them shelter. Basic decency, for crying out loud. When I said “Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!” I didn’t add: “excluding queers, lezzies, trannies, blacks and anyone else you don’t like the thought of” did I? Me!
AT: So God doesn’t hate fags?
JC: Why should He? If you accept His existence, logically He made ’em. I never had any problems with anyone because of who they love. Does it say otherwise in the Book? No. There you go then. That Saul of Tarsus, though, he had some serious issues, if you get my drift.
AT: Are you referring to the findings that 4 out of 5 homophobes are probably…
JC: No comment. Wouldn’t be polite in his absence.
AT: There seems to be a resurgence of Biblical literalism these days, in spite of scientific progress. What do you say to those who claim, for example, that Genesis is literally true or that the Flood actually happened, in spite of much scientific evidence to the contrary?
JC: Remember the parable of the talents? You anti-science types are like the idiot who buried his in the garden. Science is a tool to understanding – well, call it God’s creation if you want, but you usually apply that name to something very tiny and local, like this planet. You have no concept of the marvels out there, and never will unless you drop your Bronze age folk tales and use the tools God gave you.
AT: They tend to argue that science is the Devil’s work.
JC: They also claim the Devil never created anything, which means that by their own standards they’re talking nonsense. Any more coffee? Can we have a window open for a bit of a breeze? I’m sweating buckets here.
AT: One last question: global warming…
JC: Man made. Up to you lot to sort out your own mess.
AT: A lot of conservative Christians deny it exists. I get the impression that many believe the End of Days is near and that it doesn’t matter what happens to the climate, since only the afterlife counts.
JC: I ask you this, mate: if you were running Paradise and found your front gate besieged by people who’d left behind a world ravaged by pollution, dwindling resources and a climate spiralling out of control, would you want to let them in to ruin the ecology of the afterlife as well? Back to the parable of the talents: it’s about waste. Don’t. Do. It. You get one life, and then that’s it. Doesn’t matter if there’s an afterlife or not, you get one life. Don’t screw it up or waste time on hate. (pause) That’s over 2,000 years now and people still aren’t getting the message.
AT: You seem upset.
JC: I am. People are behaving like Pharisees in my name. That hurts. Look, I’d better go; you need to write this up and I’ve got… well, I suppose I shouldn’t Reveal more than the strict minimum. Ethics, you know. I won’t say if we’ll meet again either. I’ll be with you though. You’ll know when I’m around.
AT: I don’t understand…
JC: When people are following the only Commandment that really counts – love thy neighbour as thyself – I’ll be there. See ya.