First of all, if you Google “Vampire Jesus”, you’ll see that I’m not exactly breaking new ground here. The vampiric nature of the Jesus myth has been obvious to me since I first learned about vampires as a kid. A lot of vampire mythology treats vampirism as a kind of communicable disease, spread by ingesting the vampires blood. The whole “Eat of my body, Drink of my blood” ceremony that makes up the Eucharist ritual certainly sound vampiric, as well as a little cannibalistic. But that’s not where my Vampire Jesus story starts at all. My Vampire Jesus was born in rebellion against empire. My story starts with Jesus Christ, Freedom Fighter.
I’ve always been a fascinated with differing interpretations of the Jesus story. The dominant meme in America today is the very mystical story of personal salvation that is at the center of most Evangelical or mainline Protestant denominations, followed closely by the more ritualistic forms of salvation offered by the Catholic church. To hear modern Christians tell it, the whole Jesus story is about them. It’s about how Jesus suffered and died on the cross to redeem us, and by doing so getting us all backstage passes into the big harp concert at the end of time.
I actually think that the above story is all nonsense of course… (actually I don’t even believe in a historical Jesus, but that’s another blog post entirely.) Instead I like to imagine a more temporal Jesus, a character more rooted in the concerns of his time, rather than ours. A political Jesus, scion of the House of David, heir to the Kingdom of Israel, claiming the mantle of King of the Jews, the Messiah who will lift the Lord’s chosen people from the bondage of Roman rule. Now the Jesus we meet in the Gospels certainly doesn’t look the part of a revolutionary, but that’s because he’s not the kind of rabble rouser we expect. He’s also a mystic, a healer of the sick, and an Ascetic who preaches in support the poor and downtrodden. The Jesus character in the Gospels isn’t a military leader, he’s a religious leader, akin to the Prophets of ancient Israel. He fully expects Yahweh to overthrow the Romans with a miracle from on high. When the awaited for miracle fails to follow his ride into Jerusalem on the back of an ass, the whole enterprise unravels and the Romans do what Romans do, they nail the troublemaker to a tree, and then years later they coopt the cult that develops around his story and turn it into the Christianity we know today.
So whence the Vampire? Well then now you have to indulge my gamer side for a minute or two. Back in the 90’s White Wolf published “Vampire: The Masquerade”, a tabletop RPG that capitalized on the romantic Vampire mythos best thrust into the mainstream by Anne Rice’s “Interview With a Vampire”. There was a fairly dreadful television series about it… Vampire was a really compelling product for a couple of reasons. For one, the production values were great, each sourcebook was dripping with lovely art and chock full of excellent prose. As opposed to more traditional RPG’s, VampireTM had a richly detailed backstory detailing a world where different lineages of Vampires struggled behind the scenes of history for world domination. This story eventually coalesced into one grand mystical “World of Darkness”
Anyways, it was the kind of game that was often a lot easier to read than it was to play because I always felt the ruleset was a bit clunky. That’s besides the point however. One of the campaigns we tried was a Dark Ages game, and I immediately decided that I wanted to play an actual historical person as a Vampire. I did a little research… bounced a few ideas about… may have been a little stoned at the time (maybe not, who’s to say, where you there?) and eventually decided to create Joshua Bar Josef of Nazareth, a wandering carpenter, a healer, a bit of a brooding rebel, and a Vampire of the Brujah clan.
Without going into too much detail (read the wiki, that’s what links are for yah lazy bum). The Brujah are kind of the punk rockers and anarchists of the World of Darkness. Always struggling against the man. On the other hand there are the stodgy and authoritarian Ventrue , kind of like Vampire Republicans, and obviously the secret power behind Rome. So I imagined a scenario wherein a coterie of Brujah rebels follow this charismatic young rebel around Galilee and become quite taken with his potential. And maybe it’s a big bag of Ventrue silver that Judas Iscariot takes to turn his man in. Once he’s nailed to the tree, it’s child’s play for one of the Brujah to slip in and give him the magic hickey that imparts eternal life (and oddly enough damnation). Three days later you have a conveniently empty tomb and a ready made cult of followers to manipulate against the Romans. Plus all sorts of cool Vampire powers! Sure, you have to feast on the blood of the living to survive, and you need spf infinity if you want to go sunbathing, but all power comes with a price. I even wrote in a tragic past for our new Savior. He’s the secret instigator of the failed Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-136 CE. After that rather embarrassing failure (not Simon Bar Kokba, in real life he was bad ass), Jesus is left to wander the earth, searching in vain for the justice he has been denied and grumbling about the autocratic religion the fucking Romans built in his name.
The game petered out pretty quickly, as a lot of RPG campaigns do, but Joshua remains one of my favorite creations. His signature quote “Fuck that Son of God bullshit, my father was a carpenter.”