Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Passion of Douglas White

A well-known and respected holy man begins to develop a great following among the people. Enthusiastic accounts of his healing powers, miracles, and spiritual authority begin to reach neighboring communities and the people of other nations. He is fearless in the face of opposition and the political and religious authorities, answering only to his spiritual calling. He is arrested - on false charges - and betrayed by his own people who give false witness about him. Later, they regret their actions and feel great remorse for their roles in his arrest. He is sent to prison where he is humiliated, cut off from his supporters, and subject to mistreatment by the authorities. He is given a death sentence and shown no mercy. 

Sound familiar? This is the story of Douglas White, a Lakota Sioux holy man.
douglas smile
I met Douglas in 1992, at the height of his spiritual powers and prestige. He was a renowned healer, a fearless leader, and highly regarded as a "prophet" who could predict the future through his spiritual powers. Non-Indians would call him a shaman. Others would use the term "medicine man." To his own people, he was a wicasa wakan, a holy man, an interpreter for the spirit world. He dedicated his life in service to his people, and was constantly involved in ceremonial activities restoring people to their health, their faith, their families, and their communities.  
It's not clear when the federal government first learned about Douglas. I know that he was involved with the American Indian Movement in the 1980s. This might have been enough. The reasons for his indictment have never been disclosed. He was accused of one of the worst crimes imaginable - sexually molesting his own grandchildren. In western culture, even the accusation is enough to soil a man's reputation. For Douglas, this would have caused irreparable damage to his standing among his people. That is, if it was true.
It is not. There is no evidence of Douglas' guilt. The only evidence there ever was - the coerced testimony of two young boys - was invalidated when both boys (now young men) recanted these false charges under oath and polygraph tests. Today, no member of his family believes that he committed these false crimes.
The similarities between the story of Douglas White and Jesus should not be over-exaggerated. Douglas was not a Jewish messianic figure who lived 2,000 years ago and died by crucifixion. And Jesus was not a Lakota Sioux holy man who led sweatlodges and sun dances. But the similarities in the basic story-line should give us pause. It is not as if Jesus' story needs to be read into Douglas' case. Jesus and Douglas both lived under oppressive regimes prejudiced against their people and both were spiritual leaders who resisted this oppression of imperialism and colonization. These similarities are striking as are their politically-motivated and authorized arrests, "trials," imprisonments, and death-sentences - by the "state."
Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White is a documentary film narrated by Martin Sheen that I wrote and co-produced to tell Douglas' story. 

Watch the Trailer for Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White here.
Buy the DVD here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Imaginary Visions of True Peace (review)

Andrew Marr, a Benedictine monk, has written a review of The Nonviolent Messiah on his blog, Imaginary Visions of True Peace:

"Simon Joseph’s book The Nonviolent Messiah is another helpful study on the question of whether or not Jesus truly preached peace . . . Joseph uses examination of the Q document and the Adamic model of the Messiah in Enochic literature to argue that the historical Jesus consistently preached peace . . . Joseph builds a case that Jesus preached nonviolence and a violent eschatology was added later by the Q community.
   The lesser known Enochic literature is examined for a lesser-known element: the Adamic model that emerged in some of this literature in contradistinction to the Davidic Messiah who would be a political and military figure. The Adamic model posits the hope of a renewed creation that would involve all people and would be achieved by totally peaceful means. The Animal Apocalypse, so-called because animals signify the figures, is a particularly strong example of this. We can easily see the influence of this model on Paul’s use of the New Adam in his epistles. Joseph provides much evidence to suggest that this Adamic model, which was very well-known at all levels of Jewish society in Jesus’ time, strongly influenced Jesus’ self-understanding of the kind of Messiah he was . . . 
   Although a meticulous examination, the book is readable and is an important contribution to the investigations on Jesus’ attitude to peace and violence."

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Interview on The Jesus Blog (Part 1)

Happy to announce that Anthony Le Donne just published an interview with me about my new book, The Nonviolent Messiah, on The Jesus Blog.

Friday, July 4, 2014

An "Essene Gospel of Peace?"

Is the Catholic Church hiding an ancient Essene "Gospel of Peace" in its dark vaults - an ancient Aramaic manuscript preserving the original teachings of Jesus - hidden away for 2,000 years? Yes, according to Edmund Bordeaux Szekely, its alleged "discoverer." In the late 1920s, Szekely made the bold claim to have discovered and translated this ancient manuscript while doing research in the “secret archives” of the Vatican. Unfortunately, Szekely’s ancient manuscript has never been seen. No photographs have ever been taken. There are no handwritten facsimiles, transcriptions, or original notes on the text. And there are no references to any Gospel of Peace in any ancient historical sources. 

What are we to make of all of this? Barring any sudden new discoveries, it seems clear that Szekely just made the whole thing up. He admits as much: "I myself wrote and published a number of books on the Essenes, most of them some twenty years before the discovery of the first scroll in 1947. Starting in 1927, these books were based on certain historical sources . . . and on manuscripts in the Archives of the Vatican." 

  Szekely wanted to expose Christianity as “one of the greatest deceptions in human history.” Dismissing biblical scholarship as “hopelessly sterile in substance as it is monotonous in form,” its methods “grounded upon falsehoods,” and its conclusions “either childish or obscure, or else so extravagant as to be almost laughable,” Szekely describes the Gospels as “literary fabrication” and Christianity “the product of innumerable forged documents.” Szekely failed to see the irony in accusing others of forgery.

   Szekely wrote a new "Gospel" for a "New Age" because he wanted Jesus to advocate peace, vegetarianism, organic food, reverence for the earth as our Mother, and regular colonic treatments. Szekely used this genuine photograph of the Copper Scroll from the Qumran caves in the inside book-jacket of a later re-addition of his "Essene Gospel" in order to lend mystique and credibility to his claims. The problem is that the Copper Scroll was not discovered until the 1950s, twenty years after Szekely’s "discovery."

   While "The Essene Gospel" is ignored by biblical scholars as historically useless, it illustrates the public milieu in which ideas about Jesus and the Essenes have developed. These writings may have also played an indirect role in the general public’s suspicion that the Church has “covered up” valuable information, a conspiracy theory revived during the delay in the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In fact, a small industry of New Age books about Jesus and the Essenes has emerged in recent years, many of which show signs of being influenced by this fictional Jesus, a "Gospel" that continues to be regarded as authentic by contemporary "Essene," "Essene-Nazarene," and “neo-Essene” communities.