Call for laws to curb religious `frauds'


Judaea, AD30: - Reports that the preacher Jesus has disappeared have been greeted with consternation and derision in Palestine.

"Missing but not missed", read a front-page headline in the Moon tabloid.

It quoted an anonymous source in the religious leadership as saying: "Good riddance. But it is time the Governor introduced a law to stop these frauds from stirring up the people as this Jesus freak was doing."

The source also called for action against the baptist, John. "In no other civilised country would the things he has said about the king and the chief priests be tolerated," he said.

However, many people who had been following Jesus were devastated. They included a Roman centurion called Patrick. "I had hoped he might cure my favourite servant," he said.

But Jesus' close friends remained very casual about his disappearance. "Weird", said John. "What's weird about it?" said Peter. "You know he has done this before. Forty days in the desert once. Time out, to talk to his father. What's weird about that?"

"I don't mean that," said John. "It's the name - Patrick." Nathanael said it was very common among the Roman soldiers in Bethsaida, his home town. "It mean's `noble' in Latin, one of them told me," he said, "but he was probably joking."

"You won't hear any decent Jew with that name," said Bartholomew, "nor any friend of mine or of Jesus. Who wants to be called after an invader in an army of occupation?".

He told them graffiti near his home read "Patrick Go Home". "Mild enough," commented Nathanael.

"He talks to his father in the desert?" said James. "I thought his father was in Nazareth where he was born". "He wasn't born in Nazareth, and Joseph is not his real father," interjected his brother John. "You just don't get it, do you, James?"

James said he read in the Palestine Times that Jesus was born in Nazareth, "and it is always right," he said.

"It's no more weird than Zebedee," said Bartholomew, still talking about the name Patrick. "Leave our old man out of this", said James, referring to his and John's father, Zebedee. "Yeah, but its weird," said Bartholomew. James was angry. "Cool it", said John to him, which made James even more angry.

"You never stand up for Dad", said James. "And you were always `Daddy's boy'," said John. And they were fighting again. "You just never forgave him for being easy on me that time", said James to John, and he told the others the story of how, a couple of years before, he had squandered his inheritance on drink and women in Jerusalem. Soon he was so desperate "I took a job cleaning pigs and even ate what they were fed", he said.

"Here we go again," chimed in John, sick of the story. "He doesn't like to hear it because he comes out of it in his true colours", said James.

And he told them how he was in such despair he decided to risk his father's anger and go home.

"And as I came near our house in Capernaum I saw the old man in the distance and he saw me and he came running to me with his arms outstretched and I ran to him and we hugged each other there, both of us crying like babies." And he began to cry again at the memory. "There we go again", said John.

"And you . . . you!" interjected James. Turning to the others he said: "Do you know what he did when the old man ordered that a big feast be prepared and that the best calf we owned be killed and cooked to celebrate my return, do you know what he did?"

He answered his own question: "He sulked. He complained to Dad. `I have been here all the time slaving for you and you never had a feast for me, boo hoo'," he said, mimicing John.

"You always were Dad's favourite," said John. "You'd get away with murder where I'd be fleeced." Peter was annoyed at the two of them. "For the love of God will ye stop it. Two grown men going on like this. Sometimes I wonder about Jesus' judgment when I hear this sort of carry-on."

Then both brothers attacked Peter. "We worry about his judgment too when he calls you his `rock'," said John. " `Peter' indeed!" muttered James. "Rock my foot." And James and John were friends again.