Thursday, May 18, 2006

Art and the Life of Christ

Danny recently wrote an interesting post about the upcoming release of Ron Howards' "The Da Vinci Code." It is a hot topic this summer and there are strong opinions on both sides. My history with this subject is very limited. When the book first came out, my sister read it and enjoyed it. Her email about it convinced me to get on the waiting list at my local library. I tried to read it, but I just couldn't get past the early chapter where the albino assassin was flogging himself. "Okay," I thought, "I get that this ultra-right wing Roman Catholic monk is evil or, best case scenario, severely messed up. So what? I don't have to flogged so hard with your prose for me to get the picture. And by the way, I might have enjoyed figuring that out for myself." I returned the book to the library the next day. When it comes to literature, the hard sell just doesn't work for me.

If you're going to use art to explore the life of Jesus in a non-traditional way, why not be subtle? "The Last Temptation of Christ" was an intriguing look at what might have been. You know from reading the Gospels that Jesus was tempted by Satan. You can only imagine that it was constant. It's what makes him human. Exactly how he was tempted, we'll never know. But we can imagine. I remember the film ending and being awestruck by the idea that Jesus could have chosen to live a [hopefully] happy, domestic life. Instead, he chose to die for my sins. Whether Jesus ever was tempted by images of himself with a wife and children is irrelevant. The realization that His torment went beyond the purely physical was an awakening for me. In no way am I trying to diminish the physical sacrifices Jesus made in His last days. "The Passion of the Christ" drove that home ferociously well. Still, human beings are more than just flesh, bone and blood. Our spirit truly gives us life. Without that, we are beautiful - albeit mere - animals. You need to consider the spiritual suffering of Christ to get a picture of His complete sacrifice.

I've never finished Dan Brown's book and I have read very little of the debate that surrounds it. My gathering is that "proof" is discovered in this book, against all odds and an evil albino monk, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and one or more children resulted from their union. This is not unlike the portrayal of the tempations Christ may have suffered on the cross in Martin Scorsese's film. What remains to be seen is if there is a true difference between "exploring possibilities" and "declaring truths" within fiction or film. Is one a heresy? Are both? Does it matter?

1 comment:

DD said...

I can only add that one does not know what is a temptation unless they have been tempted. For myself personally, I would like to believe that Jesus was tempted and even succumbed to the temptation. Knowing that he then chose to die on the cross makes his choice to leave the his mortal shell so much more powerful.