Greenbelt | Dirty Theology | Judas v Jesus: Two Tricksters

Just back from Greenbelt, which, like Ben and Jonny, I think was one of the best ever. Personal highlights were the series of talks by Christopher Booker on the spiritual / psychological background to stories [available here and here], and Michael Franti’s gig closing the festival – not to mention hanging out with Greg and Jon from Ventura, as well as Gareth, Si and Shane who were at Soliton too.

I spoke on ‘Dirty Theology’, and you can get the MP3 for download here.

It was basically a trip through some of the dirt thoughts in the book, but I’ve been thinking recently about Judas and Jesus as two Tricksters. If we look at the classic trickster pattern, we can see Judas attempting to engage in a trickster act… So why did it fail? And what made Jesus’ trickster act so different? I think the key lies in some of the ideas Booker presented to do with the tension between the ego and the ‘other’ within us. Judas’ trickster act was perhaps centred on the ego, while Jesus’ on the other.

I also reflect on what importance this distinction might have for the artist as trickster, and how we might live the ‘trickster life’ in the light of this need to serve ‘the other’.

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9 responses to “Greenbelt | Dirty Theology | Judas v Jesus: Two Tricksters”

  1. kester
    good to see you, albeit briefly, last weekend
    have just downloaded your ‘dirty’ talk so am looking forward to finding some space to listen – also nearly finished your book – will ping you my thoughts
    have linked you to my blog – hope you don’t mind – i like to be stretched and your thoughts certainly do that
    beer is proof god loves us

  2. I’m gutted I missed Christopher Booker. I was working on Greenbelt FM and got too busy to do much.
    What did you think of Bill Drummond’s talk on Monday?

  3. I thought Drummond was his usual awkward, troubled genius self.
    He resisted the term ‘prankster’ – appearing to dislike its overly comic tones – but I really think he is one our finest ‘tricksters’, which is no trivial position. As I mentioned in my talk, the artist as trickster is only truly transformative when they work in the locus of ‘the other’ rather than the self. And I think Drummond does this. His recent work is very collaborative, not at all self promoting, and also… true. I really concured with his analysis of music, and found his exploration of a way forward beyond that very inspiring.
    Do get hold of Booker – it will link well I think.

  4. Hi Kester – enjoyed your tune selection (God’s iPod) and have been trying to remember the name of that fantastic dub reggae track (which you said you got from your brother) – can you remind me? cheers!

  5. I was the bloke at your “Dirty Theology” talk at Greenbelt, who asked about the serpent in the account of the fall. I guess he just seemed like an obvious trickster to me.
    One of the things in my head at the time was the varying role of “the Satan” in the Old Testament (e.g. he is a “counsellor” in Job).
    In fact the Genesis story doesn’t actually contain a reference to Satan, that is simply an interpretation of the word “serpent” in the light of later theology. So the thought occured whether originally this might not actually be a story about Satan at all, but a Hebraic variation on the classic “trickster story”. It’s possible (although highly speculative) that the punishments that follow on from the trickster act are a later addition to the story, and in the original gaining “the knowledge of good and evil” was a positive thing (I never really understood why it wasn’t, to be honest).
    Anyway, just a few ideas I thought I’d share with you. Thanks for your talk.
    Kind regards
    Matt Page

  6. damnflandrz

    “Art unites one another through scenes and ceremonies”
    “Art is a social process, not the production of objects”
    “Art is not a superfluity, a frivolity; it is an essential human function”
    Depends on yer view of Art as to how other/tricksterish it is.

  7. Kester,
    You may or may not remember meeting me in Gareth Higgins’ kitchen back in July, but I just wanted to say thank you for your dirty theology. Really appreciated your talk at gb… Haven’t read the book yet, so forgive me if what i am about to post seems out of kilter or has already been quoted.. but I had this quotation in my head throughout your talk so I thought I’d share it. An intestinal deity?…
    “When I was small and would leaf through the Old Testament retold for children and illustrated in engravings by Gustave Doré, I saw the Lord God standing on a cloud. He was an old man with eyes, nose, and a long beard, and I would say to myself that if He had a mouth, He had to eat. And if He ate, He had intestines. But that thought always gave me a fright, because even though I come from a family that was not particularly religious, I felt the idea of a divine intestine to be sacrilegious.
    Spontaneously, without any theological training, I, a child, grasped the incompatibility of God and shit and thus came to question the basic thesis of Christian anthropology, namely that man was created in God’s image. Either/or: either man was created in God’s image – and God has intestines! – or God lacks intestines and man is not like Him.
    The ancient Gnostics felt as I did at the age of five. In the second century, the great Gnostic master Valentinus resolved the damnable dilemma by claiming that Jesus ‘ate and drank, but did not defecate.’
    Shit is a more onerous theological problem than is evil. Since God gave man freedom, we can, if need be, accept that idea that He is not responsible for man’s crimes. The responsibility for shit, however, rests entirely with Him, the creator of Man.”
    Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. London: Faber and Faber, 1984. 243.
    There is a hint of the trickster in the way Kundera describes the cross:
    “…if the Son of God can undergo judgement for shit, then human existence loses its dimensions and becomes unbearably light.” 242
    anyway, enough talking dirty.

  8. Thanks for reminding me of that Gail – it’s one of my favourite books of all time, and, you’re right, Kundera is a wonderful Trickster. His writing was a terrific example of satire, that actually helped lead to the renewal of a nation.
    On the divine intestine… This is a really interesting point. If God incarnate did not shit, then what happened to the food and drink he took in? Just as an initial reflection, a ‘non shit’ world reflects a world-view where man is totally separate from the earth, and not involved in its natural cycles. It is such a separatist view – that we are sterile/holy/apart – that leads to a view of our shit as horrifically dirty.
    On the other hand, a holistic, connected, cyclical view sees our waste as fertilizing: still offering the potential for life.
    One might also reflect that no matter how much organic lettuce we eat, how many probiotic, healthy, kosher, halal or pure food we eat, our shit is still poisonous to us. Our bodies create things that are unhealthy for us. And that is healthy. Even the purest Gnostic would have to admit that. And it’s a release to do so.