We have spent the past two days in class wrapping up our discussion of The Last Temptation of Christ. Today we introduced students to the ins and outs of the controversy that developed as protests broke out throughout the US and in the UK. We showed a number of pictures from the protests and analyzed the sentiment expressed there. Not surprisingly, the protest signs we examined were more about proclamation (viz., “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” or “Lies about Jesus!”) than they were about persuasion. This led into a discussion about what it means to be reactionary vs. what it means to be reflective and careful in our analysis of such issues. One surprising element of our discussion, and something that escaped my notice in the past, was the rampant anti-Semitic sentiment that arose during the protests. (See picture to the right). The argument seemed to go: (1) Jews run Hollywood, and (2) Jews want to make Jesus look bad, therefore (3) Jesus-hating Jews are responsible for creating this film. Curious reasoning when you consider that the film was made by an avowed Catholic (Martin Scorsese) about a book written by a self-professed Orthodox Christian (Nikos Kazantzakis)–who, we should point out, was excommunicated because of this very book.
We also watched a brief clip from a much longer episode of the Oprah Winfrey show where Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox clergy were vociferously disagreeing with one another. The class was amazed at how so many people consciously, openly self-identifying as “Christian” could be so hostile toward one another in a context in which there was such wide disagreement about Jesus and about theology. We divided the students into smaller groups and had them answer questions about their takes on both the film and the controversy. We will continue this exercise on Monday. I look forward to sharing more of what comes up.
For now, here’s the full episode of Oprah, in case you’re interested (though please note, this version is comes from a site that exists to promote propaganda for an orthodox priest). Enjoy…..