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Praying for religious temperance and peace

Gary Caruso | Friday, March 2, 2007

“For those who hate, that they may learn to love.” What a perfect prayer that should be said not only at every Catholic Mass but also at every prayer service throughout the world. It judges not by how much a sinner may hate – from outright jihad rage to the soft bigotry of low expectations – but rather demands a dialogue from all humanity through the purest unconditional tolerance embodied by an even temperament. It simply instructs all of us to allow our Karma to run over dogma.

Temperament walks hand-in-hand with tolerance and humor. Only the wisest can step back to listen to outlandish or even personally insulting propositions without automatically dismissing them. Recognizing our innate human imperfections, the wisest among us massage dogma to expose reality. What a wonderful discovery the newly found Gospel of Judas can become. Turning our stagnant doctrine of the most historically known traitor into the most beloved loyalist is an exciting possibility that this writer, for one, is eager to embrace.

Religion rests not on the infallibility of prophets or leaders with roman numerals after their names who over the millennia chose their personal interpretations, but on the tenets of truth, charity, acceptance and love. A Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Kenneth Tilton restrict us through their narrow interpretations of the word. Those who believe the verbatim interpretation of the written word rather than living the spirit of the word cheat themselves by restricting themselves through the literal word.

Nowhere was a more classic example of intemperance on display than at Notre Dame last week. The throng of irate Letters to the Editor of this newspaper expressed offense at the religious levity of a cartoon in the Feb. 23 edition of The Observer. The cartoon, “Black Dog,” shows Jesus at the last supper instructing his disciples to eat his body and drink his blood. Peter mutters, “That’s really gross” – exactly the sentiment any child or uneducated fisherman of 2,000 years ago would most likely utter. Jesus replies, “Listen, which one of us is God here?”

The silly outrage expressed supposedly over the sanctity of the Eucharist belies credulity. Protesters take the literal word (preciously what Peter does of Christ’s words in the cartoon) as offense. Such accusations of blasphemy by this newspaper over this light hearted tongue-in-cheek cartoon ranks a notch below the fervor Muslims exhibit over perceived verbal blasphemies throughout the past few years. The sad fact remains that such forms of overreaction can become as indistinguishable as acts of evil.

This Sunday evening, at the height of Lent, the next Christian outrage will begin. The Discovery Channel presents a controversial documentary entitled, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” It purports to examine a tomb, originally found 27 years ago but dismissed by close-minded traditionalists, that contains the remains of several people thought to be an extended family. Saundra Scham, archeologist at the Catholic University of America, admitted recently that mainstream archeologists discounted the tomb’s relationship to Jesus almost immediately after it was found decades ago.

Produced by Titanic filmmaker James Cameron and Simcha Jocobivici, the documentary examines one of nearly 900 tomb sites in the Talpiyot district of Jerusalem. In 1980, children playing in construction debris of their basement, found an opening and wiggled down into the space beneath where they found 10 ossuaries with bones in them. Six had inscriptions on them.

In 1st century Palestine it was customary to bury people of means in wrapped linen and spices, let the flesh decay, and eventually place the bones in a stone ossuary, which literally means “bone-box.” When archeologists examined these 10 boxes, the debate began about the meaning of the find. The bones were subsequently buried, but today remaining fragments of the bones in the unwashed boxes have been reexamined using DNA testing.

The producers of the documentary present the totality of the artifacts and inscriptions in a compelling way. Their theory rests on statistics to argue the likelihood that this exact set of names compared with the New Testament would only match Jesus – beginning with 50,000 possibilities and eliminating name combinations until only one remains.

It ties names like Jesus son of Joseph, Mary, Yose, Yehuda bar Yeshua and Mariamne e mara – “Miriamne the master” whom some say was Mary of Magdala’s real name (Miriamne, the same term as Maranatha “Come, oh Lord [mara]” in 1 Corinthians 16:22).

Lent certainly resurrects personal lessons for Catholics. Does it matter if Jesus was married if we can step past that and live the spirit of his teachings? Does it matter if this tomb still contains the remains of Jesus of Nazareth if Christians loved rather than hated others? This writer would gladly tuck dogma in a back pocket to achieve that goal. How far are you willing to go? Now that is a Lenten meditation for the ages.

Gary Caruso, Notre Dame ’73, is a political strategist who served as a

legislative and public affairs director in President Clinton’s administration. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.