The Passion of the Christ, Part Deux?

Wow. I would have expected this incredible story from LarkNews or The Onion, but not as actual news. According to GetReligion, from a story in the Hollywood Reporter, Sony Pictures is planning to produce a film about the days after the resurrection of Jesus and ending with his ascension into heaven. Mel Gibson is nowhere to be seen, but in his place? None other than Tim LaHaye.

"The Passion of the Christ" has its own problems, but artistic merit is not one of them. The film is beautifully shot, and replete with lush imagery and symbolism. But "Resurrection" is shaping up to become a fundamentalist disaster, on par with the "Left Behind" movies. No good can come of this. All of this depends upon a very narrow and literalistic rendering of the resurrection narratives as rational history, which fails to capture the intent of the New Testament narratives as "good news," as proclamations of the gospel. In other words, the resurrection narratives belong in the church, not in movie theaters.

Artistic problems aside, this entire project reveals a very sad reality: the evangelical-Religious Right demographic in America wants this kind of film in the theaters. Sony would never fund such a project if their sources did not confirm that people are interested in paying money for this kind of entertainment. What does this tell us? That the largest bloc of Christians in the United States are incapable of seeing the artistic and thematic value of truly good cinema—e.g., among recent films, "Transamerica," "Junebug," "The Squid & the Whale," and "Good Night, and Good Luck"—and instead want to turn off their brains and be able to watch a film that simply confirms all of their own ideas and beliefs.

Evangelicals do not want to be challenged; they want to be catered to. In other words, evangelicals want to be in power; they want control over art, media, politics, education, etc. I do not think I am reading too much into this story by saying that "Resurrection" is one more confirmation that evangelical Christianity longs for Christendom to be resurrected (pun intended).


timcoe said…
Humorously, I didn't much like 'Good Night and Good Luck' because I saw it as exactly what you decry: a film that allows its target audience to have all of its ideas and beliefs confirmed. George Clooney in recent years has become a sort of fundamentalist for the left.
That's interesting, but I don't think that's true. Edward R. Murrow is not a spokesperson for the left; he was an American prophet, in the sense that he was profoundly aware of the ills of our Western society. What makes "Good Night, and Good Luck" so good is that it is critical of the left as well, of anybody who identifies their own positions with the "American" way. People on either side of the political spectrum can be ideologues, and that film strikes at the heart of such thinking. Perhaps more importantly, "Good Night, and Good Luck" is really about the state of modern media--in which case, once again, it is nonpartisan. Both political sides are complicit in the corruption of media and journalism.

The only way to see anything else in "Good Night, and Good Luck" is to view it from the perspective of Clooney, as a kind of political battle with those on the right. But that just does not do justice to the film as a supreme work of art. I have no qualms about calling it the best movie of 2005, and one of the most important films of the decade.
I've always wanted to rant on a blog. I've never done it, and probably shouldn't. But the temptation was just too great. Keeping in mind that we should never be cynical towards God and his ability to move and speak to us through even the worst of Christian culture:

Unless LaHaye has read a good dose of, oh, I dunno, say "THEOLOGY" in the last few months, he's in over his head. One would think that having the Script already written would save him the headache of writing things like crisp lines of dialogue that people say with their mouths when they talk to one another back and forth. But I'm sure he, like Gibson, will import many a "vision" in order to augment film. And unfortunately, we can't expect him to cite a nun for this material. Why? Because, as every evangelical knows, Catholics don't know Jesus. Well, maybe that guy who writes First Things does. But everyone else will certainly be "Left Behind."

Here are some of the images that hit my brain when I thought "LaHaye" and "Jesus Christ: Ascerrections" or "Dude, Where's My Christ?"

A. Jesus looks "pretty fly for a white guy."
B. Jesus shoots off into heaven like bird, or a plane, or . . .
C. Rushing to Pentecost, where we get to see the World Christian Movement get into action. Who knows, he might even get to Revelation.

We owe the church a "Good Night and Good Luck" of sorts.
Perhaps this will be the first time self-confessing evangelicals like me actually picket my own art/culture-war footage. I do it at church all the time, so the movie theatres won't be such a stretch. Perhaps we should use Donald Miller's famous confessional booth outside the theatres in order to confess that as a Church we have poorly interpreted our Saviour's life and work for us, and that we're really sorry they paid $9.50 + popcorn to see it and the sure-to-inspire previews that will come with it.

Seriously though, many evangelicals (even those politically right) who have any distance from dispensationalism have had huge reservations against LaHaye's project. Expect to see a huge schism between the big-whigs of megachurches across the country. Many might enjoy the wave of the Passion, but they stop short of "Left-Behind." Perhaps we could start writing as many books on this as I saw in Barnes & Noble with titles like "Decoding the DaVinci Code." But we'd have to find our own nifty title. And, as everyone knows, if it doesn't alliterate, we evangelicals can't do it.
Shane said…
What so bad about Christendom?
Shane said…
Come to think of it, I would go see a religious parody movie with Leslie Nielsen and/or Charlie Sheen in it.

That's hilarious. Thanks for picking up on the "Part Deux" allusion.
Dave, those are what used to be called "fightin' words," and you just published them on-line for anyone to see. Accusations like "Evangelicals do not want to be challenged; they want to be catered to. In other words, evangelicals want to be in power; they want control over art, media, politics, education, etc." are dangerous. Sure, some of them want only these things, but some want 'also' these things in addition to being challenged. And, some want to be challenged. Once upon a time you and I were 'evangelicals' in this derrogatory sense. Furthermore, I think we both still hope to reach them.

In fine: be careful man. :-)