Monday, April 17, 2017
It was Easter Sunday yesterday. I wondered if on cable I could find the Jesus story. I did, watched part of it and as it became too late taped the rest. Since I was very young religious story telling films that came out of Hollywood held magnetic attraction for me with the modern exception of Mel Gibson's "The Passion" which I refused to watch to the end because of the anti-Semitic bent of the director and because I simply could not stand its sadism, bloody brutality and its indictment of the Jew. Easter historically has been a difficult time for the Jew world over. It has often been a time when Jewish heads were kept low fearing condemnation and reprisals for the death of Christ. This should not be so.
I have viewed at least two versions of "King of Kings" many numbers of times, "Ben Hur -- a Tale of the Christ" at least 10 times, "The Ten Commandments" which I viewed first at age 8 going in and out of the theater as many times as the film was shown in a day and then later every Passover. Yes, I knew the dialogue of many of these films. The question I have for myself is a larger one. What fascination did these films that are often considered by critics to be, well, rather junkie? They still hold an appeal for me and in view of their less-than stellar reviews why do I still continue to watch especially films of Christ?
Please do not get me wrong. I am still an atheist -- well, maybe an agnostic --, a cultural Jew and a liberal but I love what I deem is the essence of Christianity. What is there not to love if one extracts the core of thought irrespective of all the hatred generated over generations by human beings who say they follow him but reflect nothing of who he allegedly was. I say Jesus, as the story, iterates was a good man. I say he was a great man whose story offered hope to the hopeless, hope to the afflicted, hope to the poor, and hope to those who were persecuted and scorned.
If Jesus is the King of Kings is he my king? No, not in the divine sense but he is the king of my political and social thought, the king showing the example of what it means to be humane and the king showing us to how we should treat one another. Jewish sages like Rabbi Hillel did that too but no one has taken that thought to the mountainous heights that early Christian thought has taken us in its journey over centuries. And so I have always had a flirtation with Christianity without accepting man-made ritual. Jesus' thoughts should be all of our yardsticks for what it means to be good; to treat your neighbor as yourself; what it means to feel compassion and to help those who cannot help themselves. It should be instinctual to save man from himself but it is not. Man must be taught and the Jesus story, I believe, taught us this.
I watch these religiously glitzed up films because it is how I want life's tenets to be. I want it to be kind, I want it to be gentle, I want it to be humane, I want us to help one another as we would want to be helped ourselves if we needed it and I want a teacher to tell us we should. The thoughts Jesus was alleged to have conveyed appeal to me.
If I experienced him at that time I would like to think if he thirsted I would have given him drink; If he were hungry I would have given him food; I would like to have seen him help the lame to walk and the blind to see; I would like to think I would have cried at his Roman-inflicted barbaric death. I believe it is for us the living to carry out the true essence of his words. The thoughts of this king of kings are my thoughts too and I believe his life should breathe meaning into all of us that we should, as he is to have said, love one another; and as he is alleged to have said to Mary Magdalene go and sin no more.