one who will betray me!"), but so that the responsibility is put onto
I- the other. Is Judas not therefore the ultimate hero of the New Testa!
u tament, the one who was ready to lose his soul and accept eternal damnation so that the divine plan could be accomplished?6 ® In all other religions, God demands that His followers remain w faithful to Him—only Christ asked his followers to betray him in or® der to fulfill his mission. Here I am tempted to claim that the entire ® fate of Christianity, its innermost kernel, hinges on the possibility of interpreting this act in a nonperverse way.That is to say: the obvious reading that imposes itself is a perverse one—even as he lamented the forthcoming betrayal, Christ was, between the lines, giving the injunction to Judas to betray him, demanding of him the highest sacrifice—the sacrifice not only of his life, but also of his "second life," of his posthumous reputation. The problem, the dark ethical knot in this affair, is thus not Judas, but Christ himself: in order to fulfill his mission, was he obliged to have recourse to such obscure, arch-Stalinist manipulation? Or is it possible to read the relationship between Judas and Christ in a different way, outside this perverse economy?
In January 2002, a weird Freudian slip occurred in Lauderhill, Florida: a plaque, prepared to honor the actor James Earl Jones at a celebration of Martin Luther King, instead bore this inscription: "Thank you James Earl Ray for keeping the dream alive"—a reference to King's famous "I have a dream" speech. It is common knowledge that Ray was the man convicted of assassinating King in 1968. Of course, this was in all probability a rather elementary racist slip— however, there is a strange truth in it: Ray, in effect, contributed to keeping the King dream alive, on two different levels. First, part of the heroic larger-than-life image of Martin Luther King is his violent death: without this death, he would definitely not have become the symbol that he is now, with streets named after him and his birthday a national holiday. Even more concretely, one can argue that King died at exactly the right moment: in the weeks before his death, he moved toward a more radical anticapitalism, supporting strikes by black and white workers—had he moved further in this direction, he would definitely have become unacceptable as a member of the pantheon of American heroes.
Thus King's death follows the logic elaborated by Hegel apropos of Julius Caesar: Caesar-the-individual had to die in order for the universal notion to emerge. Nietzsche's notion of a "noble betrayal" modeled on Brutus remains the betrayal of the individual for the sake of the higher Idea (Caesar has to go in order to save the Republic), and, as such, it can be taken into account by the historical "cunning of reason" (the Caesar-name returned with a vengeance as a universal title, "caesar"). It seems that the same holds for Christ: betrayal was part of the plan, Christ ordered Judas to betray him in order to fulfill the divine plan; that is, Judas' act of betrayal was the highest sacrifice, the ultimate fidelity. However, the contrast between the death of Christ and that of Caesar is crucial: Caesar was first a name, and he had to die as a name (the contingent singular individual) in order to emerge as a universal concept-title (caesar); Christ was first, before his death, a universal concept ("Jesus the Christ-Messiah"), and, through his death, he emerged as the unique singular, "Jesus Christ." Here universality is aufgehoben in singularity, not the other way round.
So what about a more Kierkegaardian betrayal—not of the individual for the sake of the universality, but of the universality itself for the sake of the singular point of exception (the "religious suspension of the ethical")? Furthermore, what about "pure" betrayal, betrayal out of love, betrayal as the ultimate proof of love? And what about self-betrayal: since I am what I am through my others, the betrayal of the beloved other is the betrayal of myself. Is not such a betrayal part of every difficult ethical act of decision? One has to betray one's innermost core; as Freud did in Moses and Monotheism, where he deprives the Jews of their founding figure.
Judas is the "vanishing mediator" between the original circle of the Twelve Apostles and Saint Paul, founder of the universal Church: Paul literally replaces Judas, taking his absent place among the Twelve in a kind of metaphoric substitution. And it is crucial to bear in mind the necessity of this substitution: only through Judas'
£ "betrayal" and Christ's death could the universal Church establish ^ itself—that is to say, the path to universality goes through the mur-0 der of the particularity. Or, to put it in a slightly different way: in order for Paul to ground Christianity from the outside, as the one who was not a member of Christ's inner circle, this circle had to be broken from within by means of an act of terrifying betrayal. And this does not apply only to Christ—a hero as such has to be betrayed to attain universal status: as Lacan put it in Seminar VII, the hero is the one who can be betrayed without any damage being done to him.
John Le Carre's formula from The Perfect Spy, "love is whatever you can still betray," is much more apposite than it may appear: who among us has not experienced, when fascinated by a beloved person who puts all his trust in us, who relies on us totally and helplessly, a strange, properly perverse urge to betray this trust, to hurt him badly, to shatter his entire existence? This "betrayal as the ultimate form of fidelity" cannot be explained away by a reference to the split between the empirical person and what this person stands for, so that we betray (let fall) the person out of our very fidelity to what he or she stands for. (A further version of this split is betrayal at the precise moment when one's impotence would have been publicly displayed: in this way, the illusion is sustained that, had one survived, things would have turned out all right. The only true fidelity to Alexander the Great, for example, would have been to kill him when he actually died—had he lived a long life, he would have been reduced to an impotent observer of the decline of his empire.) There is a higher Kierkegaardian necessity at work here: to betray (ethical) universality itself. Beyond "aesthetic" betrayal (betrayal of the universal for the sake of "pathological" interests—profit, pleasure, pride, desire to hurt and humiliate: pure vileness) and "ethical" betrayal (the betrayal of the person for the sake of universality—like Aristotle's famous "I am a friend of Plato, but I am an even greater friend of truth"), there is "religious" betrayal, betrayal out of love—I respect you for your universal features, but I love you for an X beyond these features, and the only way to discern this X is betrayal. I betray you, and then, when you are down, destroyed by my betrayal, we ex change glances—if you understand my act of betrayal, and only if you do, you are a true hero. Every true leader, religious, political, or intellectual, has to provoke such a betrayal among the closest of his disciples. Is this not how one should read the address of Lacan's late public proclamations:"A ceux qui m'aiment . . . ,"to those who love me—that is to say, who love me enough to betray me. The temporary betrayal is the only way to eternity—or, as Kierkegaard put it apropos of Abraham, when he is ordered to slaughter Isaac, his predicament "is an ordeal such that, please note, the ethical is the temptation."7
In what precise sense, then, was Christ not playing with Judas a perverse game of manipulating his closest disciple into the betrayal that was necessary for the accomplishment of his mission? Perhaps a detour through the best (or worst) of Hollywood melodrama can be of some help here.The basic lesson of KingVidor's Rhapsody is that the man, in order to gain the beloved woman's love, has to prove that he is able to survive without her, that he puts his mission or profession before her.There are two immediate choices: (1) my professional career is what matters most to me; the woman in my life is just an amusement, a distracting affair; (2) she is everything to me; I am ready to humiliate myself, to sacrifice all my public and professional dignity for her. Both are false; they lead to the man being rejected by the woman. The message of true love is thus: even if you are everything to me, I can survive without you, I am ready to forsake you for my mission or profession.The proper way for the woman to test the man's love is thus to "betray" him at a crucial moment in his career (the first public concert, as in Rhapsody; in the key exam; the business negotiation which will decide his future)—only if he can survive the ordeal, and accomplish his task successfully, although he is deeply traumatized by her desertion, will he deserve her, and she will return to him. The underlying paradox is that love, precisely as the Absolute, should not be posited as a direct goal—it should retain the status of a byproduct, of something we get as an undeserved grace. Perhaps there is no greater love than that of a revolutionary couple, where each of the two lovers is ready to abandon the other at any moment if revolution demands it. It is along these lines that
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