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Sat Sep 15, 2012, 11:44 AM

The Last Temptation of Christ and the Christians' capacity to freak out too.

Since the Islamic world is being seen as far removed from anything we understand in terms of reaction to a film that disturbs the image of the holiest figure in a religion, I went back to see what happened around the release of The Last Temptation of Christ. This is a blatant Wikipedia cut-and-paste, but it's interesting. I don't think it's mentioned but the author of the book was excommunicated.

Now, I am not here to slam all religion. I've talked to enough people about what makes their lives worthwhile to have a great deal of awe toward the need for meaning making. But I also think that religion hits an equivalent nerve in all faiths. The difference lies in poverty, lack of education, manipulation by extremists of all types, fear of others, and myriad non-religious influences. These are real issues we sorely need to figure out how to deal with before someone with enough power tries to use religious rage to kill us all.

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The Last Temptation of Christ's eponymous final sequence depicts the crucified Jesus—tempted by what turns out to be Satan in the form of a beautiful, androgynous child—experiencing a dream or alternative reality where he comes down from the cross, marries Mary Magdalene (and later Mary and Martha), and lives out his life as a full mortal man. He learns on his deathbed that he was deceived by Satan and begs God to let him "be [God's] son," at which point he finds himself once again on the cross. At other points in the film, Jesus is depicted as building crosses for the Romans, kissing other men on the lips, being tormented by the voice of God, and lamenting the many sins he believes he has committed.

Because of these radical departures from the gospel narratives—and especially a brief scene wherein Jesus and Mary Magdalene consummate their marriage—several Christian fundamentalist groups organized vocal protests and boycotts of the film prior to and upon its release. One protest, organized by a religious Californian radio station, gathered 600 protesters to picket the headquarters of Universal Studios' parent company MCA;[5] one of the protestors dressed as MCA's Jewish Chairman Lew Wasserman and pretended to drive nails through Jesus' hands into a wooden cross.[4] Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ offered to buy the film's negative from Universal in order to destroy it.[5] The protests were effective in convincing several theater chains not to screen the film;[5] one of those chains, General Cinemas, later apologized to Scorsese for doing so.[4]

[edit] Banning

In some countries, including Turkey, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina, the film was banned or censored for several years. As of July 2010, the movie continues to be banned in the Philippines and Singapore.[6]

[edit] Protests

In 1989, Albuquerque high school teacher Joyce Briscoe showed the film to history students at La Cueva High School, raising a storm of controversy by parents and local Christian broadcaster KLYT.[7]

[edit] Attack on Saint Michel theater, Paris

On October 22, 1988, a French Christian fundamentalist group launched Molotov cocktails inside the Parisian Saint Michel movie theater while it was showing the film. This attack injured thirteen people, four of whom were severely burned.[8][9] The Saint Michel theater was heavily damaged,[9] and reopened 3 years later after restoration. Following the attack, a representative of the film's distributor, United International Pictures, said, "The opponents of the film have largely won. They have massacred the film's success, and they have scared the public." Jack Lang, France's Minister of Culture, went to the St.-Michel theater after the fire, and said, "Freedom of speech is threatened, and we must not be intimidated by such acts."[9] The Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, said "One doesn't have the right to shock the sensibilities of millions of people for whom Jesus is more important than their father or mother."[9] After the fire he condemned the attack, saying, "You don't behave as Christians but as enemies of Christ. From the Christian point of view, one doesn't defend Christ with arms. Christ himself forbade it."[9] The leader of Christian Solidarity, a Roman Catholic group that had promised to stop the film from being shown, said, "We will not hesitate to go to prison if it is necessary."[9]

The attack was subsequently blamed on a Christian fundamentalist group linked to Bernard Antony, a representative of the far-right National Front to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and the excommunicated followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.[8] Lefebvre had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church on July 2, 1988. Similar attacks against theatres included graffiti, setting off tear-gas canisters and stink bombs, and assaulting filmgoers.[8] At least nine people believed to be members of the Catholic fundamentalist group were arrested.[8] Rene Remond, a historian, said of the Catholic far-right, "It is the toughest component of the National Front and it is motivated more by religion than by politics. It has a coherent political philosophy that has not changed for 200 years: it is the rejection of the revolution, of the republic and of modernism."[8]

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Reply The Last Temptation of Christ and the Christians' capacity to freak out too. (Original post)
nolabear Sep 2012 OP
uppityperson Sep 2012 #1
MineralMan Sep 2012 #2
Archae Sep 2012 #3
coalition_unwilling Sep 2012 #4
nolabear Sep 2012 #5
struggle4progress Sep 2012 #6
nolabear Sep 2012 #7
struggle4progress Sep 2012 #9
teenagebambam Sep 2012 #8
jimlup Sep 2012 #10
arely staircase Sep 2012 #12
arely staircase Sep 2012 #11
nolabear Sep 2012 #15
Igel Sep 2012 #13
nolabear Sep 2012 #16
Prism Sep 2012 #18
Blue_In_AK Sep 2012 #14
nolabear Sep 2012 #17

Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 11:49 AM

1. thank you.

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Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 11:53 AM

2. Thanks for another example!

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Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 11:58 AM

3. I still remember when fundys freaked out over "The Life Of Brian," also.

"Wahhh!!! The Monty Python people are picking on Jesus!"

Had they actually SAW the film, they'd know Jesus was on in "Life Of Brian" once, briefly, and was played straight, giving the Sermon On The Mount.

The rest of the movie was much more accurate than a lot of "Biblical" movies.
Israel was under foreign rule. (The Romans)

Jewish leaders, especially religious leaders, were obsessed with using God's name or who was ritually "clean" or "unclean."

Would-be "messiahs" were falling out of the woodwork.

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Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:01 PM

4. LTOC is a great Scorcese film and the soundtrack by Peter Gabriel is

 

positively other-worldly. (Try listening to it while driving through CA's Mojave Desert and you're almost sure to have a quasi-religious experience.

When I saw it in Madison, WI for the first time during its theatrical release, a lone Christian nut-job with a sign was vigiling outside the theater.

I've viewed it 3-4 times since, each time feeling my breath stolen away by the film's beauty and the story's utter poignance. An unusual case where the film adaptation is actually better than the novel that was its source, imho.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #4)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:16 PM

5. I'm pretty sure many who hated it never saw it. You're right; it's very good.

Funny thing is that the people who object seem to believe that Jesus is depicted as actually having done the things he's hallucinating in the film. It's roughly the equivalent of the temptation in the desert when he said "Get thee behind me Satan", but we're just shown what he declined. Personally, as a non Christian, I thought it was a touching portrayal of the seriousness of the man in knowing what he was giving up, longing for it, and choosing the path he was on. Very powerful in human terms.

And Peter Gabriel...well, if I did believe in God I expect he'd be a lot like that.

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Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:25 PM

6. Nikos Kazantzakis: The truth of an alleged excommunication

by Anna Oistros
2006-09-13 12:21:25

For over fifty years since his death, everybody believed that the Nobel Prize winning Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis had been excommunicated from the Greek Orthodox Church. This was not true

Athinagoras, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch at the time, never signed the ex-communication and he even had Nikos Kazantzakis books upon his private bookcase.

The article includes confirmation from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate that the excommunication of Nikos Kazantzakis was never approved.

The text is currently only in Greek, but we will add an English translation soon.

http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/777

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #6)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:36 PM

7. Thanks! I bought into the popular fiction. Good to be educated.

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Response to nolabear (Reply #7)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:42 PM

9. I have no idea whether what I posted is reliable

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Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 01:43 PM

10. "The Last Temptation of Christ" is one of my favorite films...

The theological/philosophical questions it poses resonate with me. Really enjoyed the film as it is very thought provoking for someone like me who was brought up in the Christian/Catholic tradition.

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Response to jimlup (Reply #10)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 01:50 PM

12. i agree

i thought it explored the duality of Christ in a very thought provoking way.

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Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 01:49 PM

11. i guess i missed the LToC riots

eom

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Response to arely staircase (Reply #11)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 03:41 PM

15. Check the OP. There were some, though not in the US.

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Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 03:30 PM

13. A good "compare and contrast" opportunity.

A. The film was shown widely.
B. The trailer was not shown widely, the film shown once months before and was an utter flop.

A. The attacker attacked a place showing the film and hurt viewers. The film's success was massacred.
B. The attackers attacked a series of consulates and embassies belonging to the country in which the film was produced. Then proceeded to attack other embassies belonging to countries allied to the offending country. An ambassador and three others were massacred.
In the West, the film was just ignored as trivially bad and inconsequential. Only after it provoked a response was the producer condemned.

A. The attackers were widely condemned. Few dared even say they could understand why the attackers did as they did. There was no appeal to understand hurt sensibilities.
B. The attackers were condemned at once only by a few in Libya, and the first response from the Libyan government was that they couldn't be held responsible for their men running away. Condemnation of the attacks was fairly widespread, but in the West we also made a point of understanding and trying to make clear that we can understand how sensibilities could be hurt. Not by killing our ambassador, mind you, but by a film.

A. The movie set off a widespread cultural discussion, in which sides were taken. Many defended the right of the filmmaker to make the film. Widely discussed were gaps or alternatives in the NT record that might allow this reading. Condemnation of those raising the "storm of controversy" was widespread. They were ignorant.
B. The movie set off widespread condemnation. One side was taken. Nobody defended the right of the filmmaker to make the film. What might be taken as gaps or alternatives in the record were denounced as provocations. Condemnation of the origin of the controversy was widespread, and denounced even in the West. The only cultural discussion is to defend those offended and to condemn western libertinism (by other names, of course).

A. The guilty parties were the producer and distributer of the film. Viewers were also supporters. The offenders were those who made, distributed, and sponsored or showed the film.
B. The guilty parties were anybody associated with the US government, or allied governments. The offenders were anybody who shared nationality or religion with the producer, or who allowed it to exist. Guilt was communal.

A. The movie was banned in some countries, and the ban continued until at least 2010. Most of the countries were not bastions of free-thinking and democracy at the time.
B. The movie can't be easily banned in other countries because it's not distributed there; there are sufficient laws already on the books in dozens of countries that it could never be shown there without provoking immediate prosecution. The trailer was blocked in a number of countries. Calls were widespread to ban the film in the country of origin and for the country of origin to adopt others' cultural restrictions in order to try the producer. Some of the calls came from countries celebrated as new bastions of democracy.

A. The movie was intended to be provocative. To create art is to offend, to provoke to thought and change. Art that doesn't provoke is craft and kitsch. But if you're offended at art, then, well, you're wrong.
B. The movie was intended to sow doubt and proselytize. It was taken as offensive. If you offend, you're automatically wrong.

A. The attackers were responsible for their actions. There could be no justification for the attacks, therefore no grounds to deflect blame. To blame the movie for the protests was itself a provocation by the culturally and intellectually retrograde.
B. Whatever happens in court, there are widespread attempts, at home and abroad, to somehow say that "Bacile" (whether a collective like "Man of Action" or just a corruption of the Copt's last name) is responsible. Now, the actual deaths may have been planned and the riots a pretext, but we still have the riots and destruction that nobody's claiming was part of a conspiracy. Somehow we don't want to hold those doing the acts responsible for their own acts.

A. We defended freedom of speech. We derided those who insisted on abridging freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means the right to offend your compatriots.
B. We deride freedom of speech. We deride those who hold a rather absolutist view of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech cannot include the right to offend those in other countries.

Some might view these differences as showing that there's inconsistency or there's no common principle or underlying theme. Personally, I think that there's complete consistency and the inconsistency is superficial and underexplained in a simplistic comparison like this, but also believe nobody wants to hear the principle or underlying theme.

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Response to Igel (Reply #13)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 03:43 PM

16. Great post. In some ways it seems we've all gone backwards.

I understand Salman Rushdie will be on Bill Maher next week. I wonder what he'll have to say.

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Response to Igel (Reply #13)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 04:08 PM

18. This should be an OP n/t

 

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Response to nolabear (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 03:35 PM

14. I loved this movie

and the book on which it was based. Somehow I can identify with and appreciate a human Jesus much more than the supernatural one fabricated by Saul/Paul.

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Response to Blue_In_AK (Reply #14)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 03:45 PM

17. I felt that way too. This was one of those "Aha" moments for me

where I realized that people are in many cases actually opposed to intelligent thought. an, the folks who thought TLTofC was horrifying had better stay FAR away from Carl Jung. His "God's Answer to Job" would make their heads explode.

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