Friday, May 26, 2006

In Defense of JC Superstar

I checked out the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar" from the library the other day. I had heard constant comparisions between it and Duh Vinci Code recenly so I had to remind myself of its content. And, while I can understand the relationship with Mary Magdalene being highlighted to the detriment of other, more important, relationships (ex. Peter's only role in the movie is to deny Jesus), I disagree in a strict one-for-one citique.

First of all, there is no evidence in JC Superstar that Jesus struggles with his feelings for Mary Magdalene. She does in her feelings for him, which, I imagine, would be true of any prostitute turned disciple. I'll leave aside the fact that Mary is not a prostitute in the Bible and that later tradition conflagrated her with a nameless anointing woman. If Mary was a prostitute, her understanding of love would be warped. A man who had no intention of using her for a sexual object would be very unusual.

Plus, she is just as confused as everyone else about his trial and conviction. This is not a woman who knows full well that this is a ruse in order for him to exit the spotlight and marry her.

Lastly, she is the one who is singing "could we start again, please" with the disciples. She misunderstands his ministry and is just as lost at the crucifixion as the others are.

So, even though I'm not advising people to watch it, I don't think it's fair to equate these two movies. At very least, I think it's safe to say that JC Superstar is not as evil as Duh Vinci Code.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


I'm sure you all think that I've had a minor meltdown because of the "success" of the Duh Vinci Code and that's why I haven't posted. No, I've actually had a reasonably atypical week. I've been driving all over the place and haven't had a chance to post. Sorry. I have to admit that I've been out of the loop on a lot of stuff because I haven't been able to read stuff. I'll work to catch up tonight and have more of a profound post tomorrow. But, for now, I feel really relaxed because of the last few days. These are the times when I'm convinced I should have been a semi-truck driver.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Evangelization as experiencing the love of God

If you’ve ever spent in a foreign country, you know that one of the more interesting experiences deal with cultural differences. When I was in Israel, I remember seeing two older gentlemen walking down the street holding hands and talking very close, so close in fact that my German sensibilities wanted to move them apart. I thought to myself, “Gosh, you don’t see that very often in the US.” I thought that maybe they were just old Palestinians that had difficulties keeping balance. Then, a few moments later, I saw two young boys in the same posture and proximity and I realized this is a cultural phenomenon. This is the way that middle easterners show love for one another. Do you think we would call that expressing love for one another?

I ask that questions because, as some of you may remember, a similar situation played out in this country with different consequences. A few months ago, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia visited President Bush on his ranch in Crawford. Reporters caught them strolling around the ranch holding hands with one another in the way that I described above. What I found fascinating was the reaction the media had to this scene. The most juvenile was one news commentator who put inappropriate music behind the scene and seemed to indicate that there was a romantic relationship going on. What makes us automatically assume that, in that situation, there must be an erotic component?

Part of the problem deals with our language. As some of you know, the English language has one word that many other languages had several for. If we look to ancient Greek, we hear of something called filios, or the love of siblings for one another. That’s the love that families strive to offer each other. This is the love that soldiers have for one another in battle. This is the love the roommates have for one another. Filial love is a moment of trust that is, usually, built over years.

A different love and one that, in many ways, our culture is obsessed with, is called eros, or erotic love. Now, it deserves to be said that there is nothing wrong with eros between husband and wife. In fact, it is a noble love in that context. In the old Testament, this type of love is used to describe God’s love for his people Israel. This shows the dignity that we, as church, should have for the love of husband and wife: that it is an image of the love that God has for us. Yet, my fear is that, in our contemporary American culture, we are fixated on eros and don’t put it in it’s appropriate context. This is, I believe, what is driving movies like Da Vinci Code. Our culture needs to believe that Jesus experienced eros in order to believe that he’s human. This is why I think there is an unhealthy understanding of love that permeates American culture.

The New Testament abandons the image of eros for a more inclusive form of love called agape. This is the love that John was talking about in the second reading when he said, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” We have been loved by God and we are called, in turn, to love one another. This is the type of love the philosopher will spent countless hours writing tracts about. This is the love that popes write encyclicals on. This is the love that a parent has for a newborn child. That child can, in no way, give thanks to her or his mother or father. You don’t expect a two day old to take out the garbage, wash the floor, and clean the sink by the time that you get home from work. You expect that you are going to have to give up a lot of things that you used to hold dear in order to love for this child. This is agape love.

In the gospel, we are reminded that, when we show this love to one another, we are not merely being kind, nor are we fulfilling our Christian duty. We are showing to this world the love that is God. When we love one another with that selfless love, we are offering more proof for the existence of God than any piece of writing ever could. So, this is what God wants of us: to love and not count the cost, to be his love in this world and, in the process, to show the world how much God loves it.