I see our beloved PM has been preaching again about opposing extremism and strengthening British values. In particular he seems agitated about “extremist narratives” by which he means any historical narrative about the UK which doesn’t sound like one of Uncle David’s bedtime stories, in which the UK is always Mr. Wonderful, bringing peace and sanity to a troubled world.
My guess is that almost all imperial powers have told this story about themselves, including the Romans, which has led me to the discovery of an alternative and more accurate account of Jesus’ conversation with Pilate.
Pilate: You can leave us, soldier, I don’t think the Son of God will attack me.
Pilate: You may be seated.
Jesus: Thank you.
Pilate. Of course we know a deal about you from our spies, but Jesus of…Nazareth? Where is it exactly? I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of passing through it
J: It’s in Galilee, near the Lake, not far from Capernaum. My family has a builder’s business there. For most of my life I worked in it.
P: Before your eh, radicalisation?
J: I learned a great deal from the Prophet John, called the Dipper.
P: A good and harmless man put to death by your corrupt King.
J: Just so.
P: Perhaps your dislike of Herod sparked your ambition to be a king?
J: I’ve been advocating God’s Rule which doesn’t depend on worldly power.
P: The sort of power on which Rome depends, you mean?
P: And that’s what leads you to hold secret gatherings of vast crowds in desert places, many of whom think you are the anointed one, the true king of Israel as opposed to filthy Gentiles like us?
J: I have never encouraged that sort of talk…
P: But clearly you haven’t discouraged it much, as we got it from several of your followers…one of whom,a certain Shimon, we know as a member of the so-called Zealots….
J: Ex- member.
P: Of course you would say that. We don’t object to religion however daft it may be, but when religion gets mixed up with anti- Roman propaganda and a doubtful narrative which depicts the Jews as victims and the Romans as oppressors, we know we’re half – way to another Messianic rebellion!
J: Violent words and actions are foreign to God’s way.,
P : Yet one of our men heard you say that you had not come to bring peace, but a sword!
J: I was using a metaphor to describe the effect of God’s rule on family life.
P: But you did say it knowing that your words would be reported….and how people might understand them. Come on Jesus, you have become a powerful man, with influence over the lives of many people. And you have no respect for Roman values.
Jesus: I haven’t come across any Roman values, but I’m sure if I did I would give them the respect they’re due…
P: It’s that kind of disrespect which has landed you here in my power.
J: I recognise your office, Pontius, but I am not in your power. Do tell me about these Roman values.
P: Your use of my name is impertinent. I am due your respect as the representative of the Roman values of order, law, peace, communication, commerce, art and philosophy. In our short rule of your country we have improved the whole level of civilisation, especially the infrastructure, like roads. Many of them are now safe for all travellers. We have helped people live a more rational life.
J: As long as they agree that you should be in charge. Don’t you see how this contributes to the common story in these parts that you are a young arrogant power incapable of recognising any civilisation except your own?
P: That’s just the sort of extreme narrative we have to defeat, because angry young men are radicalised by it and turned into the sort of extremist thugs that have made suicidal attacks on our off- duty soldiers. I’m sure you don’t approve of that any more than I do, and I hope that you’ll denounce it along with me.
J: You denounce the petty violence of local people, while you ignore the seven hills of violence on which Rome is built. I, on the other hand have denounced all forms of violence…..
P: How I wish I was back home on one of these hills rather than stuck here dealing with irrational assasins and sons of God!
J: This son of God wishes you well, Pontius, but can’t you see that every time you execute a Zealot or even a son of God, you add another chapter to the story of Rome as an empire of blood?
P: But will you still wish me well, Jesus of Nazareth, when I put you on one of our stakes,as you know I must, for the price of order is unflinching severity.
J: Yes, even then, for the price of justice is unflinching love.
P: Maybe you are more dangerous to Rome than the most violent assasins. I can imagine how your followers will tell your story…..and mine.
J: It’s not fixed in advance, Pontius, you get to write your own part.
P: But I must hold to my duty and my Roman values. Farewell, son of God. Guards!