Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Plastic Jesus

Revelation 19:1-20 (King James Version)

1 “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:
2For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
3And again they said, Alleluia And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
4And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.
5And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
10And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
17And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
18That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
19And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

This is a pre-review of sorts. Some readers may not think it’s fair to review something before you’ve seen it, but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway.

Tonight NBC is going start broadcasting a six part miniseries titled “Revelations.” According to Entertainment Weekly it’s “unique and riveting.” Time says that it has the “the religious intrigue of the Da Vinci Code.” Oh, joy, oh joy, I can hardly wait.

In an interview with Christianity Today writer/producer David Seltzer described the project this way:

“As for the audience, I hope they'll get a wonderful ride on an adventurous, mysterious story. I hope they will feel in some way challenged to think in ways that they rarely do when they watch a television show. I think it's going to be provocative because we actually say the name Jesus Christ and we talk about the Bible and we talk about specific Scriptures and what they mean. I think an audience also will become aware of the fact that the world really is on the cusp of ending, and will look at their own faith and their own doubt and their own ability, perhaps, to affect the outcome of the very dangerous times that we live in.”

What provocateurs! NBC is actually going to mention the name “Jesus Christ” on the air. Now there’s risk taking at its best. Oh joy, oh joy, I can hardly wait.

I suppose I should reserve judgment, but I have to admit that I find that rather difficult to do. Neither Hollywood nor network television has been too kind over the years to God, Jesus, and the Bible, Biblical characters, and Christians.

When I was a kid I remember seeing Samson and Delilah, Cecille B DeMille’s biblical epic. The dialogue could only have come from Hollywood; it’s the only pit deep enough to dredge up stuff that dreadful. In one scene, for example, Samson and Delilah come upon a lion while out cavorting in a chariot together. Samson, in an attempt to impress his Philistine lovely, jumps out of their chariot, and engages the beast. “Oh, no, Samson,” Delilah pleads. Samson reassures her with this classic line – “It’s alright; it’s only a small lion.” Even as a kid, an atheist at that, I thought that some writer must have had a screw loose the day he or she wrote that into the script.

In 1988, Martin Scorsese, a Hollywood “genius,” gave us a unique look at Jesus. Not wanting to portray the Man of Galilee as a one dimensional robot, Mr. Scorsese showed us things on celluloid that few outside of Hollywood had ever known about the Prince of Peace. One reviewer I found absolutely loved it:

“Most cinematic depictions of Christ show a perfect being, a one-dimensional person who is overly self confident and almost egotistical. I can never relate to those films, so they aren't believable. The Last Temptation of Christ is totally different. It was banned by intolerant Christians who didn't even see it because they have conflicting viewpoints, which is one hell of a paradox. I used to say that Christ was described as a demi-god in the Bible because He is half-man and half-god, but I was told that He is really all-man and all-god. If the latter thesis is correct, than he most have all the perfections of god as well as all the faults of man. In the movie, Jesus is not perfect. He sins, or at least, He confesses sins. He is haunted by visions and sounds almost to where He goes on the brink of insanity. He is tempted by Satan over and over again into thinking that he is just a man. When He cures a person of blindness, He does not smile, he frowns in pain because for every man he cures, he knows it brings him closer to the cross. The characterization in this movie is excellent. This script is Schrader's best, although it was rewritten. The music is the best I've ever heard in any films. Scorsese's direction was absolutely superb.”

Well, to prove my intolerance, I never saw the “masterpiece.” I honestly didn’t see the need. I gave up my plastic dashboard Jesus a long time ago, and while I’m a Notre Dame fan at heart, I’ve come to realize that “Touchdown Jesus” never ran their single wing or their wing T. Why would I then go to see a Jesus who is on the brink of insanity, a Jesus who is haunted by visions, a Jesus who sins? To prove that I’m tolerant? I’d like to think I’m a bit smarter than that. I’d like to think that I’m a bit more balanced and sane than that.

I never watched “Hogan’s Heroes,” either. For some reason, life in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp never struck me as funny. It was just a bit too close to becoming a sitcom about Auschwitz as far as I was concerned. I can almost see the pilot reviews in my minds eye – “Tune in America, it’s a real gas!”

By not watching something like that, would it then have meant I’m humor-less? Fine, then, color me humorless.

Network television has also gotten into the act. Does anyone remember the hatchet job ABC News did on Jesus back in 2000? Using discredited scholarship (the Jesus Seminar), Peter Jennings did all he could to prove that Jesus was anything but who He claimed to be. So, an erudite news anchor and a group of pseudo-scholars put their heads together, cast a few beads, and that was that. The reasoning behind this scheme was very enlightening. In the words of the experts at the Jesus Seminar:

“Voting also makes it possible to make a report that is readily understood by a broad public; that public, after all, may not be interested in the arcane details and extended arguments that went into those votes.”

Translated, it means that the experts don’t want to bother us with the “arcane” details. I guess they must think we’re too stupid to want to know more about how they arrived at their scholarly consensus. For those who might have questions, their answer, in street language, would be, “Shut up and keep drinkin’ your Annie Green Springs like everyone else in this country. Just let us jam the “truth” into your empty heads.”

So, I’ve pre-reviewed “Revelations.” That means I can save myself the pain of watching it. I guess what I’ll do is just sit back and read from the real thing, all twenty-two chapters. I’ve read it before, from beginning to end, but reading it this week will be a really good reminder that it’s all about Jesus from the very beginning and, and contrary to Hollywood and the mass media, Jesus wins out in the end.

For the good folks at the networks and the world of celluloid I’ll leave you a few words from Bob Dylan, who must have also read the back of “the Book”:

“Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through,
He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that no one knew.
How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?
Can I cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride?
Will I ever learn that there’ll be no peace, that the war won’t cease
Until He returns?”

“Surrender your crown on this blood-stained ground, take off your mask,
He sees your deeds, He knows your needs even before you ask.
How long can you falsify and deny what is real?
How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?
Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned,
He’s got plans of His own to set up His throneWhen He returns.”


James Fletcher Baxter said...

"The hand of God ultimately will have its way for those who believe in it."
David Seltzer, in Christianity Today

And, the hand of God will not have its way for those who do not believe in it?

Humanistic control of God?

"And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:19

jesus4all said...

I know the media has not portrayed Jesus in a Biblical contest. But I think we should forgive them for their naivety; as they really don't know what they are doing.

Many a people think that they can get away with anything as there is no God. I am sorry for such kind of people as they have no future at all. As Mr. James Fletcher Baxter has so well quoted the bible

"And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:19”

God will bring all those people to judgement and condemnation, we can pray and wait upon God to act on this false message.

So the wrath of God stands for people misinterpreting God's word as it is well-said in Romans
Romans 12:19-21
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let us pray for people who do that instead of condemning them. So someday they will realize the true value of the Biblical words and repent.

God Bless You

Anonymous said...

Writing as Barnabas in The Partial Observer, I address this theme as well, in less detail but in total agreement. I called it "Anything Goes in Prose."

Everett Wilson

Jeremy Pierce said...

I know this is tangential, but POW camps even in Nazi Germany were bound by the Geneva Conventions, which concentration camps weren't. I can't think of them as even remotely close, morally speaking.