Friday, September 4, 2009

Life of Brian and The Passion of the Christ: Objections and Concerns

It has been a very long time since I have done any film reviewing or any blogging at all. I have been semi consistently working on this blog while not actually publishing anything for the last few months. But I recently managed to land a full time job at night, which is turning out to be quite a stressful job on top of the fact that it takes place during the darkness. This makes blogging and other things just that much more difficult. But when things get difficult we must learn to deal with the difficulty and persist in God's will for our lives. Not just morally but also what he seems to have revealed to us. One of those things seems to me to be film. Last year it was very strongly communicated to me (rightly or wrongly) that God wanted me to deal with film. I don't want to make a big deal out of this here, it's just part of the reason why I haven't given up on this blog yet.

In any case a project I want to deal with right now is this: I want to answer two questions that may seem dated but I think are still very relevant to the Christian and Film communities, regardless of whether or not much is still being said about either of these two films.

The two films in question are Monty Python's Life of Brian and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. And there are several questions I want to try to answer concerning both of them.

For the Pythons I am posing at least two questions: 1) is the film truly blasphemous and 2) does that matter or how does that effect its value.

For Mr. Gibson I am also posing at least two questions: 1) is the film truly anti-semitic and 2) does that matter or how does that effect is value.

My thoughts so far are concerning LOB 1)no and 2) unsure, and concerning TPOTC 1) no and 2) yes but unsure of how much it matters.

Now that I have offended literally everyone let me say this: I just want to try and think these issues through. But now I am getting to the main purpose of this post. I want to hear problems, questions, thoughts, objections or insights from anyone who has taken the time to read this post. I am quite isolated socially right now and don't have many people to share my thoughts with and was hoping to get some good and interesting feed back before I began writing on these topics. So please, share!


  1. Unfortunately I haven't seen LOB yet, so I can't really make any comments on it. I definitely agree, though, that TPOTC was not anti-semitic. It does exactly what the Bible does, it portrays both good and bad Jews, good and bad Romans, both parties being shown responsible for the crucifixion, and also "converts" from both groups.

    From what little of heard of LOB it seems like it would be pretty blasphemous to me. Why don't you think so?

  2. I'm not trying to be rude but we can't really discuss it intelligently until you've seen it. But to try to assuage some of your concerns most people who you've spoken to about the film have probably said something like this: its about a regular guy named Brian who is confused with Jesus through his entire life and then finally crucified. Honestly even that synopsis, being painfully inaccurate, shouldn't lead you to think that the film is in any way blasphemous. Irreverent certainly and obviously one could see the clear potential for blasphemy. But the Pythons did not make a film about Jesus. They made a comedy which scathingly satirizes religious fundamentalism. The most disturbing part of the film is the crucifixion scene, mostly because they clearly have no grasp of the true meaning of the crucifixion. But if their view of it was correct then their satirizing was correct as well. But it is hard to explain if you haven't seen the movie. It has next to nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with the religious climate of 1st century Palestine and religion in general. You have to understand that the Pythons became humanists and atheists mostly because of the general malaise of the Anglican communion when they were growing up. Watch Meaning of Life and you'll see a little bit more of this sort of backlash. When you've been improperly educated in the Gospel then your responses to it will be "awkward". Maybe it was wrong of them to make light of crucifixion, that's sort of like making holocaust jokes, but making holocaust jokes isn't blasphemous. Wrong? Oh yes, but not blasphemous. But you'd be hard pressed to find anything else in the film besides that scene which would be very offensive to our religious sensibilities. But my point is that they are not making fun of The Crucifixion, but the seeming Christian "obsession" with Death as they see it. You should watch it. I think you'll be surprised.

    I actually have more concerns about TPOTC being anti semitic then LOB being blasphemous. My concerns are not that I think Gibson was intentionally anti semitic but the casting of Judas with as Dr. Reynolds puts it "characteristically Shylock" features and "grubbing for money" on the floor is very insensitive. I mean the story of Christ's final hours is offensive, its not PC, its gross and dark and very powerful. Gibson should have been more careful with the casting, especially since we don't really know what 1st century jews looked like he had even more artistic license available to him then he already took. The film was going to be controversial and high profile anyway. But that's one of the things I'm wrestling with right now. Is exactly how offensive the casting is and to what degree it matters.

    Thanks for your input. It'll be a little while before I put my official opinions on these subjects in writing because I'm really trying to think this stuff through.

  3. I'll have to watch the film again to try to distinguish is Judas was "characteristically Shylock". Is Dr. Reynolds saying, that the other Jewish characters, Mary, Peter, John, Jesus, were less Jewish looking that Judas and that if the people who played these parts had played Judas' part, then his character would not have been as offensive? Are Italians offended by the way the flogger was portrayed in the movie? Who should play these characters who chose to violate their conscience? Only rosy cheeked, blue-eyed males?

  4. About the Pythons. What I have seen of Monty Python is irreverent and borders on blasphemy. Although their work can be largely funny, "a killer rabbit" for example, I would not be inclined to watch or champion a movie by them mocking the crucifixion. It comes dangerously close to the unpardonable sin, in my opinion. Next time you watch, ask Jesus what he thinks about it and then tell me if it is worth my time.