Fellow Christians, we just missed an opportunity to be counter-culture (and I mean in a good way). I'll explain.
In the wake of the newest offering of “Jesus movies,” the Good Lord is depicted as an unsavoury, crime-committing, stand-for-nothing individual (who is also portrayed as gay, his "first temptation" I presume). Adding insult to injury, Mary is a weed-smoking junkie and the three wise men are jokers trying to pass off ham as "free-range soy." I haven’t seen the film, but from the trailer, it’s a slapstick comedy designed to poke fun at the Story of Jesus, akin to the Monty Python movies (only switching out King Arthur for King Jesus). Apparently no one is claiming this as an accurate depiction of Jesus' life. It’s a "comedy" on par with Eddy Murphy getting up on stage and saying, “your momma’s so fat, when she got on the scale it said, 'I need your weight, not your phone number.’"
However you look at it, Christians the world over are very upset because of this sacrilegious and disrespectful flick.
And they have a right to be.
I too am p.o.'d. When a dear friend is ridiculed before the world, you feel like punching someone in the face, right? I get that. Jesus was one of the most remarkable people to ever walk the earth (easily on par with all of the cherished figures of history like Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr., or Billy Graham), and he doesn’t deserve to be bashed and smashed like this. Additionally, to billions of Christians like me, he’s a living Being who not only gave his life for us, but comforts us, leads us, speaks to us, and moves in our lives intimately and powerfully on a daily basis.
And I'm sure you'd feel the same way if you were in my shoes. You're a Jew, and a favourite Rabbi is smeared as a petty, selfish criminal. Or you’re a Muslim, and Hollywood drops a T.V. series about how Muhammad was an illusionist and pulled the wool over everyone's eyes (by the way, this happened to Christians in the movie DaVinci Code). You'd be barking mad, and no one would blame you for being so.
But it would never be a good idea to call for offending voices to be silenced just because you didn’t like them.
No one gets a free pass in a free society. Jesus is fair play for mockery and criticism. So is every government official and person in authority. So are you and I and Muhammad and Pastor So-and-So.
You want control over what gets said and what doesn't, wanna burn books that disagree with your beliefs, and prohibit movies that are shown on Netflix? Well then, you want socialism, or maybe fascism (or rather, you think you want it - it never goes well).
For those that are in the dark about freedom of speech, it means this:
the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.
And you don’t want to lose this indelible Canadian right (I hope you're aware that it's currently on the line).
Here’s the really ironic thing: Christians are fighting for the right to say and teach things that others find incredibly offensive, like...
- marriage is ordained by God to be between one man and one woman
- there are only two genders - male and female
- disciplining your children is an excellent thing to do
- sex is immoral outside of marriage...period
- a person should be required to work in order to eat (a very Biblical idea, just saying)
- Christianity is the true religion (a claim Jesus himself made)
- and the list goes on
We want the freedom of expression and religion to be preserved so that we can be free to live out some of these core Biblical values (and I might add, share them with others, in a respectful way of course).
You take these rights away from other people, and you risk forfeiting them for yourself, showing the profound wisdom of Jesus' words once again, "Do unto others as you'd have them do for you." That's found three times in the Bible!
And here’s another ironic thing: Christians do a much more efficient job of making Jesus look like a total schmuck than anyone else out there. I feel like I’m always telling people: Jesus isn’t like that…dear brother or sister. He’s nice. He’s not a turd. He’s friendly. He loves people who mess up or are different than him. He's not indifferent and preoccupied and too busy. He's got time for the most troubled and the most impoverished of humanity. He's compassionate and he’s patient. He’s honest. Etc. Etc. The Jesus-of-the-stained-glass-window has done more damage to the real Jesus than any Hollywood movie. The Jesus represented to the world through the lives of Christians (definition of Christian: little christs) has done more damage to the real Jesus than anything produced by the most ardent atheist. Much more.
For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:24
Anyway. I needed to get that off my chest.
So, we have this excellent opportunity to take a little flack (freedom of speech gives plenty of room for that), and we fail the test by sending out fervent cries of “foul play,” starting petitions to have the offensive thing removed from public consumption.
All I can say is, “what the?!!” Think Christian, just think!!! We pull out the gun of free speech and shoot ourselves in the head. We’re really no different (in principle) than the people who pushed for the removal of the Lord’s Prayer from schools and the eradication of the Ten Commandments from walls of court buildings. Go ahead and sign petitions that remove freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech - but avoid all the others!
Here’s what we could have done and should have done with this movie (it's not too late):
"We don’t like it. It isn’t very respectful. Even repulsive. But Gregorio Duvivier and Fábio Porchat are free to present stuff like “The First Temptation of Christ” in a culture of freedom, and we’ll actually fight for their right to do so. They can go ahead and slam Jesus and invent ridiculous stuff about him too. He was called a drunkard and party-animal in the 1st Century (Luke 7:34), so I’m sure he can weather being called a pot-smoking, criminal-tolerating gay in the 21st Century. And in the celebration of freedom of speech, we will continue to be loud and proud of who we believe Jesus really was, spreading the Gospel claim that he was and IS the only Way, Truth, and Life. We’ll speak the truth as he revealed it to us, without shame and without malice. Lastly, in the end, we believe your portrayal of Jesus will only hurt your pocketbook, your “ratings” (to quote Trump), and your sense of joy and happiness. Have fun with that.”
Then carry on.