Monthly Archives: February 2014

THE ‘SON OF GOD’ MOVIE

THE SON OF GOD MOVIE

JESUSMM

This is almost the year of American biblical/religious movie and Feb 28th marks the premiere of the much hyped Son of God  film,  an enlargement and adaptation  of the made for TV Bible Series. Hollywood is offering a film on a child’s alleged trip to heaven for Easter, a film on the Rapture  in June, and even a disaster movie type film on Noah at I’m not sure what date – I’ve seen more than one.

I would like to recommend  Son of God more than I feel able. From clips I’ve seen it looks to have some good elements, good settings  and  even a quite effective Jesus actor in the Portuguese Diogo Morgado who is getting called variously ‘the Latin Jesus’ and ‘Hot Jesus’   – for my article on Jesus images and actors and the Easter’s Heaven is for Real film see http://wp.me/p2v96G-lH  – but I still find the task of appreciation a hard one.

I never managed to get through the TV series for sheer annoyance at the silly, unnecessary, incongruous distortions, the weird Asian angels of Sodom, the difficult young Moses and much more, oddities upon which this film seems unlikely to improve notably. (Son of God will even lack the fairly crucial element of Jesus’ temptation prior to the ministry because the actor taking the role of the devil is felt to look too like Obama to be comfortably included! That a black actor was even  chosen to play the devil  – a figure biblically said to be able to appear as an angel of light –  is part of the  eccentricity of the production that alienated me from the original Bible series whose purpose was never clear). Morgado has been telling TV audiences  he is getting strong reactions from atheists who feel impelled to look at life more closely, doubtless a good thing but not quite the same as pursuing religious belief. Morgado himself speaks of the gospels as showing us “the greatest love story”, one that helps to make us kinder;  we needn’t argue with that idea provided we recall the gospels were specifically written to encourage belief that Jesus “is the Messiah, the Son of God” (Joh 20:31).

The official trailer is problematic from the distortion of its first scenes. In these Jesus wades out towards the boat of a Peter whom he asks does he want help which Peter  doesn’t. Jesus intends to give assistance anyway (though he’s helpless enough to need pulling into a boat in another clip) a boat which he is in effect impounding to do what he intends, which is  to go fishing.  Peter insists there are not fish to obtain, but Jesus casts for fish anyway and a huge haul is made. Peter blankly and almost rudely asks Jesus, “how did this happen?”. He also almost sullenly asks Jesus what they are “to do”.  Jesus’ discipleship call to Peter is then not as per the gospels to fish for men/souls but “to change the world”. The gruff Peter apparently warms to this.

This sequence appears to place the miracle of the fish attributed to the post resurrection Jesus in which Jesus tells the disciples, not just Peter, to cast for fish and which they, not Jesus bring up (Joh 21: 4-8),  to the call of Peter by the lake at the beginning of the ministry where no such miracle is involved (Matt 4:18-20). There is in any case nothing authentic about even the feel of things in the portrayal.  From the first Jesus was, and inevitably so, respected by the disciples  as at least Master and Rabbi. There would therefore be nothing like a near modern rudeness towards Jesus, nor would Jesus be likely to be merely casual, lolling quizzically at the back of a boat. Anything miraculous he might do wouldn’t be queried like so many conjuring tricks. Either his miracles came for God or the devil. Jesus’ miracles meant to the disciples he was the Promised One but so did his teachings which it was said had authority not like those of the disputing rabbis. It is however the miracles rather than the teachings which get emphasized, ten of them the length of the movie.

What the script is presenting is  a species of modern, democratized paraphrase of the text with re-adjustments to the story. The treatment is so oblivious to the kind of respect in which Jesus was held by his followers as at least a rabbi and son of David and then to the likely ‘presence’ Jesus himself would have conveyed, that in the late scenes it still shows Jesus dressed in peasant garb as opposed to the precious purple robe with its regal implications for which the centurions dice at the crucifixion. Throughout the film, I gather, Mary Magdalene is presented as though an additional disciple to the twelve which, despite her undoubted importance, she was not and could not have been given existing customs.

The real miracle about the Son of God movie is just how taken in by it evangelicals and fundamentalists are  though otherwise and normally they are insistent upon the authority of a literal, inerrant word of God in the Bible. As indicated, there is some serious infidelity to the given facts, words and general feeling of the gospels in this  film; but those ever strange evangelicals (who leave one reeling with what they have just encouraged and approved in Uganda), seeing an opportunity to have religion in the news and reach the masses with the Word suddenly lack critical sense in relation  to what they are promoting. But evangelicals are now also being joined by Catholic bishops who feel that seeing the film will help bring the gospels to life for people.  Maybe it will, but I suggest the priests  haven’t been doing too good a job at any bringing to life and teaching basic facts where Christianity is concerned if they need this film’s errors to assist them!

In the final analysis Americans are people of the trend and as this film is associated with  sufficiently successful and known “names” in especially Hollywood  it can pass even if the producers who call themselves Christians are effectively New Agers one of whom, Roma Downey admits to get far and high on the teachings  EckartToller, an anything but Christian, indeed almost an anti-Christian guru. I am allowed to feel rather disgusted by all this effectively Rick Warrenesque  religion as someone who from outside America and unknown, though qualified, either can’t reckon to get a theologian or  religious journalist to reply to me – unless perhaps to get insulted because I offer some alternative, original reading of a scriptural verse. There is something  repulsive about the way modern American Christianity works. It has been contaminated by the values and methods of big business even if and when it isn’t doing big business and the attitudes are often those of what St Paul condemns as “menpleasers” in the old King James language that  American churches would do as well to ditch for good.

As to the timing of all this, interestingly enough Son of God appears within days of exactly 10 years from the premiere of The Passion of the Christ. Late February is a good or at least suitable time to issue anything on Jesus as in relation to his natus  – which can be known, but the menpleasers are too conventional, too careful of their reputations or tenures to even look at it –  the sun is near or on Jesus’ Uranus in Pisces and fortunately, helpfully trine his Neptune/Venus. And Neptune as any astrologer knows is at one octave about any films. What however may be more significant this time is that Mars is transiting in late Libra and due soon to make an apparent retrograde in the sign. This means that there are and will be aspects made to the asteroids for Jesus and Christ and the other Jesus names/titles which fall in super conjunction in late Libra.  Mars here can be aggressive promotion and/or controversy,  and these we have already.

Truth to tell, these days when society is being increasingly subject to Islamization and inter-faith concerns, it is controversial to place the stress on the story of Jesus as Son of God, the status the Koran denies he has and which is cited on the Al-Aqsa mosque built over or near the  historic Temple area (that modern Islam increasingly denies ever  existed). The title “Son of God” needs explaining today, but I don’t see the film or its advocates as helping to do this.  It is not to deny the doctrine of sonship as either present in the Bible and true in itself to point out that for early Christians the title did not have the same degree of privilege it has obtained for moderns and Americans.

For the first Christians Jesus the Son was also the Logos (the Word), the Sophia (the Wisdom), “the Angel of the Lord” finally manifested in flesh, the Messiah, the King of Kings, and to the extent he was the Sophia he was at least by implication a kind of Daughter as well a Son of God. Today “the Offspring” or “Face” of God” might better summarize the meaning and feeling of original formulations.  The main point is that Jesus is the representative of God and the principle of mediation with the God whom no one might see and live. Prior to Jesus Judaism reached God through priests, or, if more personally and directly as in the Psalms, (many  of these accorded prophetic status) it was in light of the coming Messiah who would be a kind of chief priest for contacting God.

If advocates of the film keep trumpeting around the Son of God title without taking it as the opportunity it could be today for describing its real meanings, it will only seem like the film and its promotion constitute more blind insensitivity, even a kind of anti-feminist move against the spiritual possibilities of women.  Understanding the role and need for mediation with God does not affect just theology but psychology as I will stress in some material I will be putting out in a few weeks on McCleary’s Alternatives in relation to the poet Rilke.

PS  Re THE ALLEGED “EROTIC”  QUALITY  of the ‘SON OF GOD’ MOVIE

I see that here in Australia the ABC has been debating whether Morgado’s Son of God  Jesus doesn’t seem a bit too “sexy” and in a way that even gives a different tone to a statement like the Last Supper’s  “this is my body”. (One could well debate whether the almost immediate popular impact of the film doesn’t owe something to the audience feeling attracted to this Jesus figure no matter what he says or does according to this film’s rather trendy rendition of the gospels!).  I have already expressed opinions about images of Jesus in art and film in the article at http://wp.me/p2v96G-lH  not mentioning any possible erotic dimensions as I shall now briefly do.  I have been critical of Son of God  as a movie, but if an element of unfamiliar ‘erotic’ appeal is associated with  it, this might be my least complaint against it.

Certainly the film seems to offer almost the opposite to the most ethereal and ‘divine’ Jesus performance which was given by Robert Powell  in Zefirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth.If however I were to judge from the data I regularly use for Jesus, I feel it would be almost impossible Christ would not convey some kind of erotic power  (albeit not in any merely blatant fashion).  Born with Venus in the sex sign Scorpio conjunct dreamy, glamorous and today films-associated Neptune itself in turn conjunct asteroid Eros, it would be impossible not to exude some kind of  probably mysterious(Scorpio)  charm or lure. Also the natal Mars, again in Scorpio, and strong is also conjunct Jupiter. (At one of the first lectures I ever gave on my data for Jesus someone observed the pattern looked like someone who might seem quite sexually charged).

The mentioned article on imagery explains what was almost certainly culturally understood and intended by the biblical prophetic statement regarding the Messiah “he has no beauty that we should desire him” and it certainly does not imply ugliness or mere plainness. I have also theorized on good grounds in my Solomon’s Tantric Song http://bit.ly/12t7gEHv  how and why Jesus could even be thought of as among other things the Eros of God. As to the statement “this is my body”, while obviously it does not by itself prove any theories regarding a gay Jesus, I have always suggested it could well belong with such speculations because such extreme statements must be uttered, even just humanly, with appropriate conviction, and it is the gay rather than the heterosexual male who is more inclined to display or somehow affirm the body as the self itself.

It is possible to get into a lot of trivial, silly talk on this subject, but I still think it’s not inappropriate to think of Jesus as somehow conveying an erotic energy though I wouldn’t perceive it as quite like Morgado’s Capricornian spontaneous expression of that. Handsome Capricorns like the hetero Elvis Presley and the gay Ricky Martin do convey sex, or even a kind crowd seduction, rather strongly in the mode of the Pan archetype which is not exactly the kind of energy mode one associates with Jesus even given an erotic input. So again there’s right and wrong in the signals given by the film, though  I still think Morgado overall does a good job presenting a quite good  and roundedJesus image within a film which supplies plenty of scope to criticism otherwise. Any Jesus role is a tour de force  for casting and acting alike. One needs something transcendent and suggestive of the divine, but also sufficiently human to be, let’s say, even if not positively erotic, still embraceable.

FREE SPEECH: THE AUSTRALIAN REALITY and the ‘COME HECKLE CHRIST’ CONTROVERSY

FREE SPEECH:THE AUSTRALIAN REALITY

CHC

Below and for the record is copy of an opinion piece from a published author (myself) that didn’t get  acknowledged or accepted by the Adelaide Advertiser. 

The  Advertiser is Adelaide’s main paper and it  has covered an ongoing controversy round the city’s  Fringe Festival comedy act, Come Heckle Christ, to which the op-ed is relevant in an original, ‘inconvenient truth’ way.  Despite protests and appeals to organizers of the Festival (which runs from Feb 14th to March 16th) and to the  South Australian government, the show has not been cancelled …on the basis of “free speech”. Even  Adelaide’s Anglican bishop, despite condemning the show as blasphemous, has opined it should probably still go ahead in the interests of free speech. But should it?

Within the limits of the required 500 words, the burden of the apparently too hot to handle op-ed is that “free speech” is very limited as regards the arts and still more religion in Australia and beyond today. It is so in such a way that it becomes illegitimate, even hypocritical in existing conditions to be admitted to any rights based argument. The free speech principle is simply being exploited and manipulated by some artists and media to suit their undeclared agendas while they pull wool over the public’s eyes.

I wrote:

“While people continue to argue and protest the case of Come Heckle Christ at the Fringe Festival, at the risk of seeming a bit like Dylan Farrow speaking against  celebrity, as a published author I feel compelled to tell the ironic truth about “free speech” here and elsewhere that defenders of Josh Ladgrove imagine they’re supporting. The reality is there exists unacceptable levels of hidden pre-censorship which artists themselves often help operate. Some examples:

Nearly twenty five years ago I had a poetic drama performed on the ABC. In order also to broadcast some poems of mine the ABC needed them published and said to tell publishers they recommended that. No house in Australia would oblige, nor in England where Shakespeare actor Dorothy Tutin appealed for my work – critic and poet Kathleen Raine opined I had the gifts of a Coleridge. After a long history of refusal for poetry I finally stopped writing any for over twenty years when a leading Australian poet refused me for Penguin New Poets because, while speculating I must have studied the classics for years (I hadn’t) to achieve such musicality, they could not permit publication of such supposedly “archaic” words as ‘conduct’ and ‘bestow’. This was for secular work and loosely gay themed too. Who then protested? But if four letter words and profanities like Ladgrove’s You-Tube Jesus Christmas message were concerned, expect Australian artists would protest for them.

Last year I suddenly wrote some poetry again. One piece called The Hell Passage: Inferno Cantos for Today attempted some Dante update. It was actually commended by Howard Storm of My Descent into Death who claims an inferno experience. Storm felt the material was superior to what he considers the rubbish too often written about hell today and had memorable lines. However, being Irish and Australian, when I wrote to Poetry Ireland hoping to be read and possibly promoted, I received no reply. I hadn’t notably expected one. As a doctor of religious studies I know about the arts community and religion.

Today free speech about Christ is a huge problem. I wrote a book which an editor of a leading international house described as “ground breaking, fascinating and publishable”. Necessarily so as if true – the proof level for what’s claimed is overwhelming – I have the true birth data for Christ and more. The book was recommended to another major house deemed better suited to edit and promote such unique material, but they first lost the proposal then three months later just declared the material “wouldn’t fit our list”. Positive material on Christ rarely fits. I’ve known insulting reception from some houses and agents like “Oh, not that subject (i.e. Jesus) again”.  Australia’s Roy Williams of God Actually told me he went through about 30 houses to be accepted on religion. I no longer offer religion to Australian houses as I know the response.

So go ahead Adelaide. Support Ladgrove and kid Australia you’re serving the freedoms you’re in fact contributing to suppress.”

For reasons of space, this op-ed didn’t include facts like the way, not long after I emigrated to Australia I attended an Australian Society of Authors’ seminar in which one speaker warned us never even to write about Christ or we likely wouldn’t get published short of being some TV bishop, famous evangelist or noted professor of divinity since basically publishing is now pushing sceptical or gnostic treatments of Jesus.

Little has changed in the last two decades.  I am weary of the walls of censorship that rear up in every direction aided by the too often mean-minded, discriminatory arts community which is anything but open in the way people imagine because it’s the idea sold to them. The Good, the Beautiful and the True are not what those who influence  us especially deal in, and this must  now be admitted. It must be so even at the price some think we shouldn’t pay of drawing attention to shows like Ladgrove’s and increasing the attention drawn to them. If such persons want notoriety, let them have it. But the rights of Truth (with a modicum of respect for people’s views) must still be protested…..

And as regards Truth, I don’t happen to consider Ladgrove looks particularly Christ-like. What Jesus looked like is a subject in itself. I have recently written about it at the following address and the reflections and discoveries are worth pondering.

http://wp.me/p2v96G-lH

AN UNJUST JUDGE: THE CASE OF LINTON SIRAIT

AN UNJUST JUDGE: LINTON SIRAIT

Schapelle Corby “is not innocent” and he was right to sentence the convicted drug smuggler to 20 years jail declares testy judge, Linton Sirait, ahead of the prisoner’s release after serving more than nine years of her sentence.

Whether Corby is truly guilty or innocent we may never know. There seems to be so much contrary evidence though  it also looks many facts have just been hidden and as much by Australia as Indonesia( see below). With so many perspectives more benefit of the doubt should have been given. But what is certain is that even if guilty….

•  Corby was only carrying 4 kilos of the soft drug marijuana, not heroin or cocaine. And like it or not, marijuana is legal in some places, most recently America’s Colorado while 20 years sentence is more like the sentence many nations put upon  murder rather than dealing in soft drugs.
• Bali however is hard drugs ridden and desperately corrupt with it as detailed in Kathryn Bonella’s Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World. If you have money you won’t be caught and prosecuted. Corby was a nobody and a visitor so she copped it.
• Corby has lived 9 years in the squalor of Kerobokan prison (Indonesia has no real care for its prisoners – you need to pay the guards for favours – and in many cases sentence to jail is a slow death sentence). The conditions have sent Corby psychotic in ways she may never quite recover from. It was right she should be released on medical grounds. If Australia weren’t so craven that it fails to challenge Indonesia more on human rights cases of this sort she would surely have been released long ago.

So what about Bali’s vindictive “Christian” judge Linton Sirait who has not one drop of Christian charity clearly evident in him….or humility? Why his accusations?…. Obviously and predictably for Asia because it hurts his pride. He loses face if Corby is out. Too often among Asians only “face” matters. It’s why so many evils go uncorrected across Asia. Don’t offend or criticize ME or else.

According to Wikipedia on Sirait:  “As of 2005, out of 500 defendants facing drugs charges before him, not one was acquitted”. (Serait has even boasted of his severity – this in a country  and within a justice system where Abu  Bakar Bashir, the mastermind of the Bali bombing,  received  only two-and-a-half  years for killing some 200 people?  Oh what a kindly, impartial soul of justice is Serait! It is reported he had even decided before the  trial he would find Corby guilt [1]

Bali where Serait struts  about and plays the bully is full of corruption, and Indonesia beyond it sullied with human rights abuses. Across the nation the rights of Christians are regularly denied, sometimes whole churches and their members physically attacked. While official Indonesia moralizes, such scandals are scarcely admitted, reported or protested, including because it’s politically inconvenient for Australia to rock the boat with a cantankerous, cynical neighbour whose trade it wants. But it should be the duty of the likes of Linton Serait to be protesting the abuses. However be assured this pharisee loves his job too much to protest either Bali’s corruptions or Christian rights. Just punish Corby and the small fry instead!

Let the churches of Indonesia close their doors to or even excommunicate this wretch who lacks charity  and any proper notion of justice and mercy such as should become someone calling themselves Christian. May we never hear of or from him again about Corby or Australia or drugs. Let Serait be silent, not to say repent of his meanness of soul.

Finally, and in support of the innocence of Corby, the following alarming report – alarming as much for what it tells us about Australian dealing as Indonesia and Sirait’s – ponder this report sent me by a concerned reader. It has only to be half true to be seriously damning.

http://www.expendable.tv/2012/11/twenty-five-hidden-truths.html

1]  The final breach of Corby's rights came from the Balinese   court itself, most notably Linton Sirait the chief judge  in her trial. Indonesian Courts work, or should on the basis of innocent until proven guilty and burden   of proof. Because the Balinese police destroyed any   fingerprint evidence / proof that Corby actually handled  the drugs, Corby's rights were clearly violated as the    burden of proof quite obviously had never been  satisfied  by the prosecution / police, as all they had was flawed / compromised evidence. But what made it much worse was a clear indication that the judge, Linton Sirait,  had decided Schapelle Corby should be found guilty even    before the trial as he told Corby's defense team that they had not done enough to prove her innocence. Indonesian   law states that a person is innocent until proven guilty,  but judge Linton Sirait's words indicate her fate was    pre-agreed. Unfortunately, you may be unaware of this,   but trials for such matters in Indonesia are not decided  by juries, but by the judges who have one of the worst reputations for corruption, incompetence and self-interest  anywhere in the world. (See: http://www.fugly-bali.org/schapelle-corby.html