Kiss of Judas

In A Brutal Unity, Ephraim Radner poses an interesting question regarding Judas’s role as both betrayer and integral part of the the Church. Judas, according to Radner, “stands as the mirror of the Church, even if he is not of the Church’s exhaustive reality” (119). Ultimately, Judas “is ‘one of us,’ not some other” (120).

On the basis of Judas, Radner attempts to undo the clean distinction drawn between the Church “as such” and the sins of her members.

So the Church’s stories and histories are multiple: she lives with the rebels or with the disciples or with the indifferent, as Jesus her Lord comes to her and takes her as just one of them, “as such”; but in so doing, she learns to live with him in his giving, and her story becomes his … though his is given over to theirs ever and again in time. In a sense, then, the contrast between the “sins of the Church” and the “sins of the Church’s members” is not a helpful one to make because the center of the Church’s “nature” is the being given over and the being taken up as sinner by Christ, within the particular contours of the Church’s history and histories. The church is historical; hence, any sin from the past cannot be sloughed off but represents the very order of her life as she lives in the world. Obviously, then, the Church must know her past. Indeed, the Church can know herself only by looking backward and thereby judging the character of what she sees in the mirror. (And this, of course, tells us not only about the sin from the past but also about holiness from the past.) Still, we are who we have become; these are not just passing shadows but actual elements of our own being (155).

As the other is always within the Church, there is no point in which we can leapfrog the messy parts of ecclesial history. Like the question of Judas, the betrayals and many failures of the Church are integral to the Church as such. As Radner continues, “the ‘other’ is always within the Church, not simply without. The sinful Church knows this to be the very constitution of ecclesiality itself – the ‘otherness’ that Christ would take to himself” (157).