JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.
REFLECTIONS ON THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
By Jack Random
The role of religion in the 2004 presidential election is well chronicled. Much has been written regarding the exploitation of religious issues by the Karl Rove machine, less so about the role of Hollywood in the convergence of politics and religion.
The right wing of the Republican Party (is there a another wing?) was so incensed by Michael Moore’s straightforward political documentary Fahrenheit 911, they condemned him on the floor of the national convention. The media played ball by challenging the objectivity of Moore’s work and largely dismissing it as leftist propaganda.
By contrast, the controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ evolved around its historical accuracy and its inflammatory treatment of the Jews. The greater truth that it was made to order for the Republican political strategy was never broached by media analysts or political pundits.
There is in fact a potent argument that The Passion is largely if not wholly responsible for the reelection of the president and the White House is therefore beholden to Gibson’s Opus Dei, an extremist Catholic sect dedicated to 12th century morality, self-flagellation, and the fulfillment of the Biblical end of days.
It is a shame that Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven was not released concurrent with The Passion of Christ. It might have brought the real issue to the fore and set the stage for a meaningful exchange of ideas. The central issue is not the depth of devotion as measured by one’s empathy for the suffering of Jesus; rather, it pits the gospel of the crusaders against the enlightened testament of Christ himself. It is the preaching of those who wish to deliver their interpretation of the word of God to all, at any cost, by all means, including the sword, against those who preach tolerance, forbearance and peace.
Opus Dei and its appointed Hollywood Holy Warrior are the embodiment of the new crusade. Like their adversaries at another extreme, they believe in Holy War. They believe that the war in Iraq is a battle for ancient Mesopotamia. They believe that the conflict in the Middle East is centered over the Temple Mound. They believe that strategic nuclear weapons may be employed to the greater good and for the Glory of God.
There is a particularly poignant moment in the Kingdom of Heaven. It occurs at the Port of Messina where the crusaders await boarding for the last leg of their journey to Jerusalem. Virtually unnoticed and pointedly unobstructed, a crier repeats the slogan “Killing a Muslim is not a sin” as the followers of Mohammed pray to a dying sun on the rocky shore below.
The Kingdom of Heaven is about true history. Its purpose is to set the record straight. In contrast to the popular historical novel, The DaVinci Code, it depicts the Knights Templar as vicious, bloodthirsty killers fomenting hatred and war. It is the story of the Islamic Holy Warrior Saladin’s reconquest of the city of Jerusalem in 1187. It portrays a divide within the occupying forces, one favoring moderation, tolerance and coexistence and the other obsessed with a vision of eternal war. It observes that when the crusaders conquered Jerusalem they killed every man, woman and Muslim child for the Glory of God. It bears witness that when Saladin took Jerusalem back, he granted all its inhabitants safe passage out of the region.
The underlying question inevitably arises in the mind of the observer: On which side of the crusades would Jesus walk? Indeed, if Jesus were alive today, would he be an advocate for tolerance and diplomacy or a crusader for war?
Sometime in the coming months, we will be treated to the Hollywood version of The DaVinci Code. Like The Last Temptation of Christ, the book has already brought to the public mind the question of the role of Mary Magdalene among the apostles of Christ. It is an intriguing question with profound implications and ones that would alter the Christian universe. (As the flat earth society will attest, it is a universe that has undergone revision before and surely will again.)
Another question that is rarely if ever asked is this: Where is the Gospel of Christ?
I offer it now as a proper subject for inquisitive minds with a penchant for the spiritual. If you believe, as I do, that Jesus was among the most enlightened and educated beings on the planet, it is inconceivable that Christ was illiterate. If we conclude that he possessed the facility of writing, how can any reasonable person believe that the man who integrated eastern and western thought and earned a sacred place in three of the world’s great religions, could not find the time or did not appreciate the importance of setting his words in written form? How is it that he chose not to write the gospel upon which all others would be based and against which all would be measured?
Allow me to suggest an alternative hypothesis: Either the written works of Christ exist as a closely guarded secret or they were destroyed by men with an ulterior motive. If they existed, his true followers would have taken every measure to protect them. If they were destroyed, it was a determined act with a deliberate purpose.
If the words of Christ exist, it is time for them to be revealed. If they were destroyed, it is time for the truth.
In any case, the universe of religious belief must always yield to acquired knowledge.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). HIS CHRONICLES APPEAR ON BUZZLE.COM, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE & OTHER SITES.