Raised Catholic, Laura has exchanged religion for politics—yet she finds herself in a church contemplating the image of a saint. Moreover, her dream of the Judas tree and the deceased Eugenio illustrates the manner in which she still thinks religiously about Leftist politics. The question of how political faith coexists with religion is addressed throughout the story, even beyond Laura’s internal struggles, as in the case of the May Day parade where the Catholics are marching in honor of the Virgin Mary from one side of town, while the socialists march from the other side in honor of their fallen heroes. Ultimately, Porter suggests that politics and religion can coexist, if tenuously, and that politics is largely a disguised form of religion despite the seeming animosity between the two groups.
Braggioni and the rest of the left-wing revolutionaries that Laura associates with see religion and politics as inherently conflicted and incompatible. At one point in the story, Braggioni tells Laura of the May Day parades and pats his ammunition belt, as he anticipates what will happen when the two parades collide: violence. Clearly, Braggioni has no understanding of how both convictions, religious and political, can coexist, and thus assumes one must oust the other. Laura’s other comrades appear to feel the same way. When exiting a church, Laura is “fear[ful] that she might be seen by someone who might make a scandal of it,” emphasizing that her politically charged community won’t take kindly to Laura entertaining any thought of religion.
While Braggioni bristles at Catholicism, Laura comes to see her religious upbringing and adult political activities as proof that the one may be motivating the other. She has “encased herself in a set of principles derived from her early training, leaving no detail of gesture and personal taste untouched”—that is, strict Marxist beliefs. However, the way she “encase[s] herself” physically, through clothing, has both political religious undertones. Her “private heresy” is not wearing lace made by machines, instead opting for the handmade material. To her mind, the machine is “sacred and will be the salvation of the workers,” which reveals her fierce political convictions. However, as lace is traditionally the fabric that facsimiles of saints are dressed in, Laura’s penchant for handmade lace perhaps points back to her Catholic roots, forming yet another instance of how the two creeds co-exist in Laura despite the local socialists’ presumed disdain for religious thought.
Laura’s dream is a crescendo of religious and political allegory that illustrates her uneasy loyalty to both belief systems. Central to the dream is the figure of Eugenio, a prisoner to whom Laura brought a bottle of pills, which he impatiently devoured, dying soon afterward. Braggioni writes Eugenio off as a fool, but Laura regards him as a saint or martyr. In the dream, he is taking Laura to death, which in her guilt, she accepts. There is also a Judas blossom in the dream, which Laura devours because she feels she has betrayed Eugenio, along with her convictions, just as Braggioni predicted she would. Eugenio calls her a murderer and tells her the flowers are his body and blood in a reference to the Catholic Eucharist. In Laura’s dream, her Catholic beliefs and political convictions—and her fear of betraying both—finally become merged.
Another way to read the story’s religious implications is with Braggioni as a classic betrayer type, akin to Satan or Judas Iscariot, who hung himself from the Judas tree. That a political figure like Braggioni can be read through a religious lens suggests that politics is a kind of religion, and that the two have more in common than one might think. Though Laura spurns Braggioni’s sexual advances throughout the story, she feels herself succumbing to his cynicism and depends on him financially, causing her to feel as though she is entirely in the clutches of an evil power. She fights those who would lead her into temptation, including Braggioni, by saying, “No,” and it is only “from this one holy talismanic word which does not suffer her to be led into evil.” The story thus aligns Braggioni with temptation and corruption, suggesting that he is like the biblical serpent who tempted and corrupted Eve—only this time, Eve is equipped with the word “No.”
Braggioni also bears resemblance to Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus and set in motion the events leading up to Jesus’s Crucifixion. In the story, Braggioni expresses nothing but contempt for the peasants he gives gold coins to in order to ensure that he continues to be seen as a lover and benefactor of the people, which is perhaps a gesture to the way that Jesus was betrayed with thirty pieces of silver. A supposed man of the world, Braggioni “has the malice, the cleverness, the wickedness, […] stipulated for loving the world profitably. He will never die of it.” Like Judas, who was paid off by Jewish authorities to reveal Jesus’s whereabouts, Braggioni is motivated by money rather than love or justice. In painting Braggioni as a Satan or Judas figure, Porter suggests that the internalization of religion and politics have similar hallmarks and aren’t as incompatible as initially meets the eye.
“Flowering Judas” may not be optimistic about either Catholicism or revolutionary politics, as both can be betrayed or corrupted by a figure like Braggioni. What is certain is that they both inform Laura’s worldview and her work for the poor and imprisoned is an example of both Christian charity and revolutionary brotherhood, suggesting that one can hold dual loyalties to both religion and politics. The story works equally well as a religiously flavored parable and a socially perceptive view of Mexican politics. This is, after all, how Laura sees things, as her struggle with the town’s rebels come to seem intractable from her rich grasp, and belief in, the sacred.
Religion vs. Politics ThemeTracker
Religion vs. Politics Quotes in Flowering Judas
The gluttonous bulk-of Braggioni has become a symbol of her many disillusions, for a revolutionist should be lean, animated by heroic faith, a vessel of abstract virtues. This is nonsense, she knows it now and is ashamed of it. Revolution must have leaders, and leadership is a career for energetic men. She is, her comrades tell her, full of romantic error, for what she defines as cynicism in them is merely "a developed sense of reality.
She has encased herself in a set of principles derived from her early training, leaving no detail or gesture of personal taste untouched, and for this reason she will not wear lace made on machines. This is her private heresy, for in her special group the machine is sacred, and will be the salvation of the workers. She loves fine lace, and there is a tiny edge of fluted cobweb on this collar, which is one of twenty precisely alike, folded in blue tissue paper in the upper drawer of her clothes chest.
“If you will throw him one little flower, he will sing another song or two and go away.”
There will be two independent processions, starting from either end of town and they will march until they meet, and the rest depends…” He asks her to oil and load his pistols. Standing up, he unbuckles his ammunition belt, and spreads it laden across her knees. Laura sits with the shells slipping through the cleaning cloth dipped in oil, and he says again he cannot understand why she works so hard for the revolutionary idea unless she loves some man who is in it.
“Today, I found Eugenio going into a stupor. He refused to allow me to call the prison doctor. He had taken all the tablets I brought him yesterday. He said he took them because he was bored.”