Monday, 9 November 2009

Gerry Bates reviews "The Pauline Conspiracy" by Peter Burton

The history of Christianity is irretrievably myth-ridden. Little is known about Jesus as a historical figure. The early Christians had as little scruples as later Stalinists about inventing things they thought would serve their cause. Surmises, more or less plausible, can be made, but only surmises. Karl Kautsky and others surmised that the myth-cocooned biblical Jesus might in reality have been a Jewish nationalist rebel against the Romans.

One aspect of the myth-making out of which early Christianity emerged was a savage demonisation of the Jews by the Christians who had evolved away from Judaism. Kautsky showed that the account of the trial of Jesus could not, on what is known about Roman courts and court proceedings (and a great deal is known) have been what it is in the Bible story – the death of Jesus is “pinned” on the Jews. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, washes his hands, saying “I am innocent of the blood of this just man.”

The demonisation of the Jews entered into the ideological fabric of Christian society over a period of 2000 years, inciting and licensing the persecution, robbery and murder of Jews.

In the question and answer “catechism”, Catholic children from the age of four were taught to memorise the question, “who killed Jesus Christ?” and the answer, “Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor did it, at the desire of the Jews.” The Catholic Church only recently abandoned that assertion.

Peter Burton’s play The Pauline Conspiracy attacks the myths of orthodox “Pauline” Christianity — after St Paul, the real founder of Christianity — by telling his own fictitious tale of the origins of Christianity. Here Jesus is a religious-nationalist preacher, a revolutionary far from the traditional meek, non-political mystic. The “Kingdom of Heaven” he seeks is in this world, not another after death.

Judas, the Arch-traitor in the Bible, is here a revolutionary crucified at the beginning of the play.

Pontius Pilate is a colonial governor condemning Jesus, a rebel.

Mary Magdalene, a black woman, is Jesus’ wife.

Saul, the future St Paul plots to separate Christians from Jesus by abandoning such practices as circumcision; and to “tame” the teachings of the nationalist Jewish zealot Jesus by turning his quest for liberty from a thing of this world into something to be sought in an imaginary after-life. Paul’s conversion is only a pretence.

Peter Burton makes a parable for the left out of the way historical Christianity, by way of the “Pauline conspiracy”, is diluted, perverted and substituted for the “real” one: so too was the socialist movement corrupted, diluted, turned from its original goal.

His “true story” is, of course fiction too. It is an old secularist gambit to claim that Jesus was “really” a good philosopher. In the secularist hall that still stands in Leicester, busts of philosophers such as Socrates are attached to the walls around the door, and among them is… Jesus. Hard nosed Marxists responded to this sort of attempt to “annex” — and inevitably glorify — Jesus by pointing out that the only Jesus we know, the figure in the Bible, did not even condemn slavery.

All-in-all Peter Burton makes a game attempt to depict the way in which rebels, once they are safely dead are, (in Lenin’s words in State and Revolution), turned into harmless iconic figures as comfort, not revolutionary guides, for the exploited and oppressed.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Synopsis of Drama script on Iraq

Synopsis of Drama script on Iraq

The Project- First two pages.

Quote from Dick Cheney April 29 1991 talking about the absurdity of Invading Iraq.

“Once you’ve got Baghdad, its not clear what you do with it. Its not clear what kind of Government you would put in place of the one that’s currently there…How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when its there ?

……I think to have American military forces engaged in a civil war inside Iraq would fit the definition of quagmire, and we have absolutely no desire to get bogged down in that fashion”

Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney April 29, 1991

Its 1992 in a house in Washington. Two men Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle

are discussing the recent events in Baghdad in bitter but supportive of each other terms. Wolfowitz is an academic with long, thick, greying hair and a soft manner but very hawkish. There is discussion of George Bush senior and Colin Powell encouraging Iraqis to rise up after the expulsion of Saddam from Kuwait only to let them be crushed when they did so-as being all wrong. They talk about the opportunity now for the US with collapse of the Soviet Union to have a more interventionist approach in foreign policy- the need to deal with rogue states, as they will increasingly threaten US interests. They make reference to Japan, Europe and China gaining in the Middle East if the US does not adopt a pre-emptive approach and their pessimism about Clinton acting rightly. Wolfowitz takes out a comb in the middle of the discussion, licks it ,and combs his hair to make a parting.

There are images of 9/11 contrasted with Bush sitting in school. A TV broadcast relays details of 9/11 and this flicks back and forth between Bush and images. There is a Bush press conference . A journalist makes his way to be with the rest of the journalists . They shout questions but he –John – does not –he is pensive.


Oval Office.

Rumsfeld argues that there is an opportunity over 9/11 with Iraq, with Wolfowitz strongly supportive. CIA Director George Tenet gives information about possible links between Bin Laden and Saddam. Powell is dead against war. Bush argues for more detailed discussion at Camp David. Powell likes well-laid plans, order and a high degree of predictability about the consequences of an action and the military man as opposed to politician comes across. Rumsfeld has an almost boyish demeanour and looks younger than 69.Tenet (48) is hefty and outgoing but highly strung and a workaholic. He has been prone to volatility in the past but in better control of this now.

Bush effuses and encourages certainty in others. He is for resolve, and againstsilence, neutrality and indecision and it is important to him that he is seen in this way.

He is influenced by Roosevelt’s’ decision- making thought processes during WW 2. States -“I’m against silence” quote at Camp David meeting as this encourages the terrorists and rogue states.

Clinton is described as having “reflective pullback” policy by Rumsfeld and too much caution -cruise missile was his weapon of choice- agreement this is no longer applicable post 9/11. Rumsfeld has a driven, workaholic ethos but can also be witty and endearing as well as being a slave-driver to subordinates who he does not always trust. Bush concurs about Clinton inviting terrorism in “launching a cruise missile into some guy’s tent from a submarine” .

11/11 There is a key meeting of top people at Camp David.

Bush, Andrew Card – Chief of Staff, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell. Cheney is 61, balding, heavy, and very pro-war with Iraq. He is the main protagonist of Powell. There is agreement about Afghanistan and the Taliban but then differences of nuance about going after Iraq with Rumsfeld most keen and Powell most against. Cheney argues that the standard of proof has to be lowered , defence alone wasn’t enough , we need offense. They have a vote 4 –0 against war on Iraq at this time with Rumsfeld abstaining Rumsfeld is in favour of a mobile war when the time comes. His style is to get where he wants by continually asking questions.

Bush lets other debate and argues, sitting back before making points.

16th September

Bush tells Condoleezza Rice of conclusions of Camp David in Oval office, that they are putting Iraq off “ We don’t do Iraq now”. For now they would concentrate on Afghanistan but Clinton policy of containment was now out. Rice is very close to Bush. She is tall with good posture, and, like Rumsfeld, has a wide smile. Her walk is graceful.. She is almost a member of Bushs’ family.

John tells his girlfriend he is thinking that the Government will invade Afghanistan followed by Iraq and that he wants to report first hand what goes on. She is worried. Why can’t he just continue to write articles here where it is safe? Responsibility to public is his reply.

Wednesday 21 November, 2001

A meeting in the situation room with the inner circle ends. Bush approaches Rumsfeld and takes him by the arm – he says he needs to see him privately and this is done in front of the others who know this is significant.

In a closed meeting Bush asks Rumsfeld what kind of war plan exists for Iraq and what he feels about that plan. Rumsfeld uses this opportunity to express his frustrations about all the war plans and states that general Tommy Franks feels the same way . A copy of Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris is on Bushs’ desk.

The two men agree that Rumsfeld and Franks have to update the war plan for Iraq, but that this should remain top secret- kept under cover as part of a worldwide review with the exception of the CIA director George Tenet who should be included but not just yet. Rumsfield makes a case for “boots on the ground” and mobile war in general terms. American people have to become used to this again after Vietnam and Clinton.

Somalia disaster meant no troops in Kosovo- “we can’t really win that way”.

Links (Kautsky on Death of Jesus) (Debate on Dawkins)

( Review of Crossan Book "Jesus- A Revolutionary Biography") (The historical Jesus) ( The historical Jesus) ( The historical Jesus)

( Abram Leon on the Jewish Question)

(Marxism and Religion compared -Paul N Siegel -The Meek and the Militant)

(Kautskys' Foundations of Christianity)

(Rosa Luxemburg on Socialism and the Churches)

Recommended Books

Foundations of Christianity-Karl Kautsky

Origins of Christianity- Archibald Robertson

Jesus and the Zealots - SGF Brandon

The Early Church -H Chadwick

James ,the brother of Jesus -Robert Eisenman

Jesus- A Revolutionary Biography-John Dominic Crossan

Mary Magdalene- Lynn Picket

The Meek and the Militant- Paul N Siegel

The Dogma of Christ - Erich Fromm

First two Scenes of "The Pauline Conspiracy"


Act 1 Scene 1

Its around A.D. 42 on the outskirts of Judea. Roman soldiers are hurriedly going from house to house clearly looking for people. In one of the villagers’ houses, an ageing man, the man of the house ,is hiding a woman in her thirties, an elderly man and a nine-year-old girl. He is looking out to ensure a path to a small sailing boat is clear. When the path is clear he hastily beckons them to follow him to the boat.

The party of three do so, and make the sailing boat without a word being spoken under cover of darkness. They each carry clay pots with them. They get into the boat, store the clay pots and the two men then push it into the water before Joseph jumps in. The child begins to wake up:


{Child- Mixed Race} Mum- where are we going? Why are the Roman soldiers still chasing us?

Mary Magdalene:

(Golden Brown in colour

and beautiful)

Sarah-We will be safe in Egypt soon. Please try to sleep. We have a long journey ahead of us.

The girl goes back to sleep and Joseph turns to Mary Magdalene.

Joseph of

Arimathea: ( Quietly)

You know Egypt is not the safe haven it once was. We shall have to get much further away from the Romans

Mary :(Resigned) I know, but it will be good to be there again and away from here.

Joseph: (Reassuring) It will be alright Mary. I know some people in Alexandria who can help us get to Gaul. We should be safe there.

Mary does not reply but her saddened face drifts off to sleep as Joseph continues to steer the small boat.

Scene 2

Day breaks and the weather is good. Mary and Sarah are rested and look less worried. Mary brings out some food and wine and gives these to Sarah and Joseph. They eat in silence but after eating, Sarah makes her way to where Joseph is steering to help

Joseph(smiling) Keep the rudder like this. Hold it tight Sarah.

Sarah and Joseph jointly hold the rudder and when Joseph thinks she’s got the hang of it he gradually lets go.

Joseph and Mary look at the child, then each other and smile. After a silence Sarah looks at her mother

Sarah: Why were those soldiers still looking for us?

Mary looks at Joseph.

Joseph: Your going to have to tell her Mary – sooner or later. The Child deserves to know.

Mary looks back from Joseph to Sarah.

Mary: Come over here Sarah and sit with me.

The child gets up and runs to be with her mum. Joseph resumes steering the boat.

Mary: If I am going to explain this to you Sarah, then you have got to promise you will listen attentively. No interruptions. Promise?

Sarah: (coyly) I promise.

Scene 3 AD 6 Galilee.

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