"Christian theology teaches that Jesus Christ was fully human as well as fully divine; and certainly there is nothing objectionable about trying to evoke or express in art the humanity of Christ. A work of art, a film or novel or painting, that evokes the truth of Christ’s humanity is a good and noble thing, even if it doesn’t directly address the subject of his divinity. A recognizably human portrait of Jesus — for example, one that envisions him being capable of suffering weakness, loneliness, fear, exhaustion; of becoming exasperated with his disciples, or of having a good time at a wedding party — all of this can be quite valid and worthwhile.
We must not be too quick to judge any particular portrait of Christ merely because it challenges our expectations or makes us uncomfortable, or because it doesn’t immediately evoke his divinity. After all, Jesus himself often confounded the expectations of his contemporaries, and didn’t necessarily impress most of them as being divine. Indeed, if any believer today were somehow able to see and hear him as his contemporaries did, the experience might not immediately confirm his faith — indeed, it might even give him a moment’s pause.
Does a dramatic portrayal of Christ’s humanity have to be perfectly compatible with every article of faith about him in order to have any value? No, not necessarily. Even an imperfect vision of Christ — one that doesn’t entirely correspond to known truths of faith, that contains elements that are clearly erroneous — could still be worthwhile and valuable, if it remains, on the whole, generally evocative of important truths about Christ.
That doesn’t seem like too much to ask or expect: That a work of art be, on the whole, generally evocative of the truth about its subject; that it be reasonably true to that subject, that it not turn the subject into something antithetical to itself. A movie about the man Jesus may have value if it shows Jesus to be recognizably and authentically human, while at least minimally leaving room for his divine nature, remaining at least compatible with Christian belief in his deity — in a word, while not turning him into a fallible, fallen man, one who could not be God.
A Jesus who commits sins — who even thinks he commits sins, who talks a great deal about needing "forgiveness" and paying with his life for his own sins; a Jesus who himself speaks blasphemy and idolatry, calling fear his "god" and talking about being motivated more by fear than by love; who has an ambivalent at best relationship with the Father, even trying to merit divine hatred so that God will leave him alone — all of this is utterly antithetical to Christian belief and sentiment. This is not merely focusing on Jesus’ humanity, this is effectively contradicting his divinity.
But the Jesus of Last Temptation does all of the above things, and more. The film gives us a human Jesus, but a Jesus of fallible, fallen humanity — a Jesus who could not be God. This is evident, not just in the sequences containing obvious blasphemy, such as the scene where Jesus the carpenter explains that he makes crosses for the Romans and helps crucify his fellow Jews so that God will hate him and leave him alone; or even in the scenes depicting Jesus’ persistent doubts and confusion about the nature of his identity and mission, or whether he is the Messiah at all; but everywhere you turn in the film. The fact is, Willem Dafoe’s Jesus has hardly a scene — hardly two lines of dialogue put together — in which the falseness of the character is not the dominant fact about him.
One scene that had religious critics up in arms depicts Jesus sitting all afternoon in a room outside the bedroom of a prostitute (Mary Magdalene), where he can both see and hear her servicing a long queue of customers. The movie’s defenders pointed out that nothing in the scene indicates Jesus is supposed to be moved to lust by what he sees and hears, so why couldn’t a perfect man do what Jesus is represented as doing? Yet even putting aside the question of lust (and of Jesus’ general state throughout the film of apparent obsession with Mary Magdalene), there is still the matter of ordinary modesty; not to mention the obligation to avoid situations that would reasonably give scandal (since Jesus appears to be simply waiting his turn like Mary’s customers).
Again, in the gospels there is an episode in which a crowd of listeners report to Jesus that his mother and brothers have come to see him, and Jesus responds to the crowd, "Who are my mother and brothers? Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and brother" (cf. Mk 3:31-35). The version of this episode in Last Temptation has Jesus saying to his mother "I have no family," and turning his back on her as she breaks down in tears. Is this compatible with basic honor for father and mother — a virtue that Jesus himself emphasized was neglected in his own culture (cf. Mk 7:10-13)?
Admittedly, these are small things compared to the sweeping falsifications of Jesus’ perpetual loving union with the Father; yet emotionally these "small things" may have a greater impact on the viewer because they strike at things that are closer to home: sexual purity, honor for parents. None of us really knows what Jesus’ relationship with his Father was really like; but we all understand that we ought to refrain from things like denying our filial responsibilities to our parents, or witnessing other people’s carnal activities. The falsity of the characterization of Jesus extends to such details as these, not just the big things. Throw out the objectionable parts, and there’s virtually nothing left."
Some claim for the United States that it is a "Christian" nation; certainly the fundamentalist Christian sects, which dominate the airways with talk radio and television savior shows, claim it is so. So why didn't the "Christians" rampage in the streets, destroying things, killing people willy nilly, on the ground they could not contain their passion because a film was in the movie theaters all across America, depicting Christ as a womanizer, and a sinner? Despite their "fundamentalism" the Christians complained about the film's depiction of their imagined friend, Jesus, in a civilized way, conforming their conduct to the ordinary channel of protest―using the power of the First Amendment to voice their attitude. What makes them different from the Muslims? They live in a nation controlled not by "God," but by the Constitution.
A Review of Innocence of Muslims.
(The title changed to "Innocence of Muslims?)
The Movie House That Screened The Film.
"One of the ways that you can tell how much someone knows about Islam is if they mention Mohammed or not. Sometimes you run into people who want to explain Islam on the basis of the Koran. When this happens, you can be sure you have run into a person who does not really understand Islam. Again, the Koran is not remotely enough to explain Islam. Mohammed defines all the ethics and customs of Islam.
Let's take a very small item. Have you ever been watching a news broadcast and there's some Islamic leader from the Middle East and he's talking and he's angry, perhaps he's shouting. Why do they do this? One simple reason: Mohammed was easily angered. This is recorded in both the Sira and the Hadith, so when you see a Muslim who is quick to anger, he is simply imitating Mohammed.
Mohammed was the perfect father, the perfect husband, religious leader, military leader, and political leader. There is no aspect of life, including business, where a Muslim does not turn to the example of Mohammed. He is the perfect Muslim. There is not a Muslim alive who does not know the life of Mohammed. What is odd is that there are so few kafirs who know anything about the life of Mohammed. When you study Mohammed it is rather confusing, because he seems to be two very different people.
Let's quickly review his life. He was an orphan as a child, and later became a businessman. He went on caravan trading trips to Syria. He was prosperous and well thought of in his community. He was seen as a person who could settle arguments and heal disputes. He was a very religious man, and then, in his 40s, he began to go on religious retreats, leaving the city of Mecca and praying by himself. Then he started to hear a voice, and he saw a vision. Now, this was a voice that no one else ever heard, and a vision that no one else ever saw, but it was very important to Mohammed and it completely changed his life and, indeed, his entire character. (What happened to Moses on the Mount? Just another man who imagines he converses with "God.")
After seeing this vision and hearing the voice, he went back to Mecca and began to tell people-first his friends and family-that he had been chosen as the messenger of the only God of the Universe. Later this God was named and was called Allah."
So what explains the bizarre uproar among the Muslims of the Middle East, when word filtered into their mud hut villages and medevial towns, in Afganistan and Pakistan, that a film depicting Mohamed as a womanizer had premiered in a seedy theater on Hollywood Blvd? And what explains the bizarre reaction of our Federal Government, with our national political leaders talking out of both sides of their mouths at once? And what explains the courtroom closed to the press and public, and the courthouse surrounded by "Homeland Security" when the Government hauled the film's screenwriter before a magistrate, who has not much brains?
If it were Mr. Scorsese instead of Mr. Nakoula, does anyone suppose this scene would exist?
What is this doing in front of a Federal Courthouse?
And these cowboys manhandling the "bad guy" in?
We should be ashamed of ourselves, allowing our Government to push this guy around; how is this behavior different from the police states we claim to abhor? Too much "Union" and too little Constitution? Michael McConnell, a former justice of the !0th Circuit Court of Appeals put the issue in its political context correctly when he said: "Certainly the sequence of events looks every much like Mr. Nakoula has been arrested and held on account of his producing the film. It sends exactly the wrong message to the world of Islam, because when people are becoming violent to try to pressure us to violate Mr. Nakoula's constitutional rights, we ought to make it clear that we will not knuckle under to that kind of pressure."
And this silliness about no right to "cry fire." Like we must tip toe through the tulips for fear of sending the Muslims on yet another public ramage through their streets, destroying property and murdering strangers they meet in the mad rush. The free expression of points of view, whatever the view, is at the heart of the First Amendment to the Constitution—that's the Constitution as in the slogan the politicians, Romney and Obama, invoked in their first debate, The Union and the Constitution forever!