Gospel of Vic. Intro/Interview

Introduction to Gospel of Vic

The “Gospel of Vic” has aged sufficiently to warrant a brief introduction. The version you have here (albeit laid out by a rank amateur and distributed by informal, underground networks) does not look at all like the original. The first version, which Marcus Curnow presented to his friends Greg and Elvira, was bound in a loose leaf folder, stuffed with newspaper clippings and cartoons to illustrate the context in which it was written. T he Gospel of Vic was always intended to bring out the narrative as a story of its time: that time has passed.

The Gospel of Vic was written in an intense week that Marcus spent by himself. It is hard to convey how exciting it was to read in the months after its writing. Marcus himself doubts the relevancy of this tale now that a few years have passed. Consider this as a capturing of a time that is now past. Please sit down yourself and rewrite your most sacred text reset in your time and situation. Please don’t consider this an important and lofty work. Enjoy it as one man’s wrestling with a narrative that changed his life.

We have included below an interview I did with Marcus for POD when we first made the Gospel of Vic available to a wider audience.

Paul Minty, POD Magazine, July 2001

POD Interview

A couple of millenniums after it was written, Mark ́s gospel inspired Marcus Curnow to rant against global capitalism and Jeff Kennett ́s Victoria in a rewriting of Mark ́s gospel which Marcus calls “The Gospel of Vic.” I asked Marcus why he did it.

I wrote this for Greg and Elvira ́s first wedding anniversary. T o encourage them ‘cause they were living at Collins St church and working there in lots of hard situations. T hey were feeling pretty de- pressed. It’s a very culturally contested space, between the front door and the back door of Collins St; between the Heroin trade at the back door and the designer products at the front door and, you’re caught in a bit of a war zone in some ways and I suppose they were pretty disillusioned with where they wanted to be. So I really had them in mind for an anniversary present. I think Mark wrote his story to try and encourage some people in their faith and stuff at a certain time in a particular war-zone and lots of those things seemed to ring true. I suppose the other reason why I wrote it was just the spiritual discipline for myself out of my ongoing love and commitment to Mark ́s gospel and trying to keep that story alive for me today as an Australian bloke.

I love Mark ́s story of Jesus! It’s sort of grabbed me since I’ve been a kid and as I’ve developed in my life and thinking my understanding and appreciation of it has been parallel. I’ve questioned my beliefs as I’ve grown and thrown out or modified lots of stuff but Mark ́s story has always seemed tough enough to always stand up to my questions and pretty much fire a whole lot of questions back at me at a deeper, scarier, further life defining or enriching level.

Mark ́s Story was treasured specially by some people and communities that I really respect: Athol Gill and the House of the Gentle Bunyip; Ched Myers and Bartimaues Community in the states – classic 70 ́s radicals. I suppose this love and respect for the story has rubbed off on me to the point that I see it as a definitional document, my rule for life and practice if you will.

If you love a story you want to keep it alive, keep telling it and retelling I suppose; you feel like you become a bit of a custodian of it. T his is pretty much why I wrote this. I was pretty influenced by Clarence Jordan ́s Cotton patch Version of the gospels written on Kononia Farm in the Deep South of America…

How did it affect you?

I wrote it in a week. I got wrapped up in it. It became easy; I was surprised at how easy it became once you’ve made a few decisions about who characters and stuff were. It was just logical and it flowed and comes from your guts, you know. You know the political landscape, you know your feelings about it, so there are your own feelings but you’re trying to read the gospel and, wow, bring it to life. It’s very challenging in the end, isn’t it? Was it just an epiphany of political consciousness or was there a spiritual element to it? It affected the way I saw Jeff ́s Victoria, I didn’t go to University and read other books or articles about that; although I have, and I do a lot, [laughs] so that’s not true but because I thought the gospel most clearly named our reality.

Bizarre claim…

Yeah, bizarre claim, bizarre and out there claim, yeah.

Is it blasphemy?

Is it blasphemy?

Is it treading on the toes of the theological establishment?

It is an important spiritual discipline for the people to keep the stories alive in whatever way they can. So to the extent where theological and church people or circles have worked to decontextualize the story, the story becomes something that is put on a pedestal and is kept ancient and old and sacred but apolitical and not powerful within this context then, you know, yeah that’s just bullshit isn’t it? T he extent where they’ve done that, yeah, I’m treading on toes or pushing. T he same way Mark did, the same way Jesus did, same way
[laughs] yep, I’m there [laughs] I ́m a true radical, you know Jesus, Mark, Marcus [laughs]. No, any true storyteller treads on toes.

So your early experience as a nurse politicized you enough to rate Kennett ́s Victoria as analogous to Herod’s puppet regime?

Yeah, that was my early nurse experience, community health centers etc. Jeff ́s Victoria happened from my early twenties. But it’s also a reflection of global capitalism, a local expression of that, I suppose that’s a broader phenomenon which has really happened post cold war, that’s  ́89, that’s been the big political, economic, social movement of the nineties, and yeah, it’s an evaluation of that, not just based on Jeff and Jeff ́s Victoria but on a bigger thing. Jeff ́s Victoria was a very local, distinctive expression of that and that’s been acknowledged, I think, by other states in Australia and other people. People look to that: Jeff as an individual embodi- ment [laughs] – just as a bloke – of so much of what that world is on about and that worldview and that tradition. So I thought it was worthy of noting, as others have, other disciplines, but from my own discipline: theology, bible, storytelling.

Is this a moralistic call to traditional values?

I didn’t think it was moralistic, it’s probably moral by definition, I dunno. T raditional sort of implies conservative

But you don’t see Markan values as being conservative?

No, Mark picks up traditions, I think that “tradition- al” word is interesting, I have a high respect for traditions, as any good story teller or custodian of story would. Mark draws on strong ancient Hebrew traditions that have economics and politics that are quite radical over and against the dominant Roman and Egyptian paradigms in which they were born. T he traditions that I drew on in this context were strongly indigenous traditions and then other Aussie traditions of mateship, fair go. Football is probably the interesting tradition that runs right the way through it. T he “Gospel of Vic” actually picks up on football as being an aboriginal construct; kicking the possum skin that sort of stuff, settlers noticing this and that, adopting this game to the point of how global capital today is affecting football in Victoria, the heartland of football and what that says about the spirit of our community and what ́s under threat. Football got used as a large image. Now that’s a tradition, yeah I ́m appealing to traditional values in that sense, but I hope not in a conservative sense but in a radical sense: in the best sense of what indigenous and those best parts of our tradition tells us.

You were inspired as to who the bad guys were, that was critical to the process. If you can’t see any bad guys around you, I don’t think you can get the gospel for yourself.

It’s true, yep, its true. Like in Clarence Jordan ́s, the local police and local mayor and the guys from the local church were the bad guys. When you actually have to start naming bad guys in gospel sort of terms; it gets pretty black and white.

I think you realize your complicity in Jeff ́s Victoria. Just because you name bad guys doesn’t mean that you hate them or, I dunno. T he gospel has as much to say in how Jesus lives and dies about how we treat… Ok so I called this guy a bad guy, I called the guy down the street a bad guy; you know it’s in my context, how am I gonna deal with that,  how I ́m gonna do that? It probably does more naming of my own complicity in Jeff ́s Victoria, I think, and I hope, that it does just naming bad guys so that I can feel better about myself. And I think the gospel did that for Mark ́s hearers in his historical moment and that’s what makes it so damn good.

What was he calling for? Take up arms and fight the Romans?

No, he was calling for a radical third way [laughs]. Very similar to Ghandian nonviolence [laughs].

So they’re sitting up on the hill, behind the walls of Jerusalem and there are bloody Romans everywhere, and he’s calling for Tony Blair ́s third way?

(laughs) Yeah, it depends on whether you think Mark wrote it before or after the destruction of the temple. I prefer to think it’s just before, and the Romans coming and they know they’re coming, and you have the counter Jewish nationalist movement and basically you’re a follower of Jesus, Jewish bloke in between, you know, you’ve got the Romans coming down; thinking “come on join up with us or we’ll kill you”, which they were good at and they were winning and you could pretty fair think they were going to win in the end. You’d be thinking yeah, let’s cut our losses and do it, let’s face reality. You got the Jewish nationalist going, “fight to the death, do it for your country, it’s the only way to do it, really, you got to be true”. I reckon Mark was trying to encourage his community to not get sucked in to Roman Imperialism or the counter-reactionary Jewish nationalism, but adopt the best of ancient Hebrew traditions and try and, yeah, walk an apocalyptic nonviolent path. And think about some economics that weren’t based on violence: some alternatives for society that weren’t based on violence either way. So he was equally critical of Roman and Jewish nationalism. I don’t know if I got the same contrasts in my own, in some ways the One Nation is a bit of a reactionary counter to the global capitalism stuff; I ́m not sure if I picked that up as strongly. I had the economic rationalists as the radical reform people for my own specific reasons; maybe they should have been someone else, I don’t know…

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