As 90 percent of Canadians live slavishly within a hundred miles of the US border, following the American presidential election is not only unavoidable, but something of a national sport, akin to watching the WWE, or cage wrestling. Since the election cycle in the US has become perpetual, beginning the day after the inauguration of the president, if not sooner, it’s a constant source of quasi-entertainment for Canucks. In typically loserish Canadian fashion, Canada’s conservative prime minister and Republican wannabe, Stephen Harper, has been emulating, since he gained a majority several years ago, none other than former US President George Bush—a big government right-winger, hawkish on useless and expensive Middle Eastern wars, environmental exploitation, dependency on fossil fuels, and the promotion of corporate welfare and tax cuts for the rich. Thankfully, however, despite its leader’s worst intentions, the one fundamental thing that continues to distinguish Canadian politics from American is the true separation of church and state. Even though the Godless Democrats may have godlessly removed God from their party platform (apparently they just added it back; I can’t keep up), there’s still been an awful lot of mention of God and of God blessing America at the Democrat National Convention, and the Republican Convention was positively swimming in Christian platitudes, or rather drowning in them, even as God sent a Biblical hurricane, named Isaac, no less, to dampen their voices. But you’ll never hear anyone saying God Bless Canada in a political context (thank God) because it’s essentially a secular state, and comparatively indifferent to religion. (A politician may be shot over language rights in Canada, but never over religion.) That’s probably one of the reasons Canada still teaches evolution in its schools, and doesn’t have museums of natural history that feature men hunting dinosaurs.
Many evangelical Christian Republicans, from Chuck Norris on down, would have you believe that Obama is the Anti-Christ. Other Americans, presumably Democrats, actually believe Obama is Christ. Listening to the speeches at the DNC, you’d almost think some of them really do believe he’s some sort of savior. A savior, that is, who has adopted the ultra-authoritarian policy of having the right to kill his own citizens without court order or review, and who routinely orders the bombing of citizens of an allied sovereign nation despite an alarming number of civilian deaths routinely dismissed as “collateral damage.” What would Jesus do, as Americans are fond of asking? Probably not that.
Or, then again, maybe he would. Jesus of Nazareth, a book I read recently by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven—perfect reading for the beach—suggests that Christ wasn’t quite as Christly as he’s been advertised. Before you dismiss Verhoeven, director of such Hollywood blockbusters as Robocop and Basic Instinct, as a dilettante, consider that he has post-graduate degrees in mathematics and physics. I had the pleasure of interviewing him once for index magazine, and he’s obviously a serious intellect and scholar, especially on the subject of the historical Jesus, whom he’s always wanted to make a film about. But no one seems to want to finance an atheistic take on the alleged son of God, so he wrote a very thoroughly researched and heavily annotated book instead. God unwilling, he will eventually be given the blessing to make the movie.
Republicans who insist on playing the Jesus card, take note. According to Verhoeven, Jesus was a complex and troubled character, a political renegade more along the lines of Che Guevera than, say, Caspar the Friendly Ghost. He likely enjoyed the social company of prostitutes, may have been gay, and was quite possibly the product of a “legitimate rape” (some historians have suggested that his mother was raped by a Roman soldier named Pantera). If not rape, he may have been the product of adultery (it’s suggested his mother was “an adulterous hairdresser”) or pre-marital sex, with the virgin birth scenario invented well after his death as a convenient cover-up.
The book suggests that Jesus was also an exorcist who rid people of demons while in a state of “hysterical ecstasy,” and in so doing imitated and upstaged John the Baptist, who regarded him as a rival and renegade. He was also a political rebel who was constantly on the run from his enemies. And did I mention he was Jewish?
Verhoeven’s admittedly speculative narrative goes on to suggest that Jesus may have made the leap from peace-loving prophet to militant who promoted the use of violence after the Romans tortured and ultimately murdered his gay lover, Lazarus, in an attempt to extract information about his hidden location. To be fair, the gay narrative may have come from an apocryphal document called “The Secret Gospel of Mark,” but I must admit I’m partial to the idea of Jesus as a magician who engaged in sex with the men he baptized. The disputed document, which has mysteriously gone missing, suggests that Lazarus was a young man who took part in a nocturnal baptismal rite that resulted in a “mystical union,” both spiritual and physical, with Jesus. It’s the ultimate fan fiction.
Finally, New Testament-thumping Republicans should consider that Jesus wasn’t exactly a supporter of family values. Like the Weathermen, he insisted that people give up their families and closest relationships in service of the revolution. He was a freedom fighter who was sympathetic to the liberation of Palestine from the Romans, and, like Che, was betrayed by an apostate and executed as an outlaw, along with a group of fellow revolutionaries.
Obama may be no Jesus—more like the lesser of two evils. But then again, it seems that Jesus was no Jesus. And the next time someone asks what Jesus would do, remember that he may well have been a gay, prostitute-loving, bastard revolutionary.