Print Edition: Feb. 22, 2015
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A couple of months ago, it was announced that Paul Verhoeven, a man guilty of creating Robocop, Showgirls and Starship Troopers, announced he was now going to grace us with a film about Jesus.
BY Mark Shea
A couple of months ago, it was announced that Paul
Verhoeven, a man guilty of creating Robocop, Showgirls and Starship Troopers, announced he was now going to grace us with a
film about Jesus. In an interview, Verhoeven confidently declared:
[portrayal of Jesus’] life will be much more realistic and much more
historical. I just want to go for what is historically, sociologically and
politically real, and is defendable. I mean we couldn’t have the scene of Jesus
praying in the Garden of Gethsemane when everyone else is sleeping. How could
we have a report of that when everyone’s sleeping? That’s a contradiction in
the text already; so all those will be eliminated.”
of course, it’s much more realistic to believe that after Jesus woke the
disciples and begged them to pray, they were capable of falling asleep in the
second and a half it took Jesus to pray the words the Gospels record. It
couldn’t possibly be that the disciples tried to stay awake but were weary with
fear. It couldn’t be that the Gospels offer a summary of Jesus’ prayer and not
an hour-long, word-for-word transcription of his pleas.
is astonishing how, when it comes to Bible characters, our media-soaked culture
finds it so easy to believe the preposterous “realism” of the media over the
word of Christ. Dorothy Sayers once remarked on this, noting that some ninny or
other had written of Jesus, “We are told that he wept, but never that he
smiled” and laughing at the ninny’s inference that Jesus never, therefore,
the same way, she noted, some people seem to find it hard to believe that Jesus
said “Please” or “Thank you” or “Pass the butter.” He was, after all, a Bible
character, not a real human being.
the apostles were Bible characters, not people. So when they say, “We saw the
risen Christ!” modern folk are ready to believe anything from mass epilepsy to
ball lightning as the more “realistic” explanation.
all, say the media, the apostles were 2,000 years stupider than us. If they
report they saw Lazarus raised from the dead, it’s because they (who lived in a
world where death was frequent and often highly public) knew less about death
than we, whose principal experience of death comes through watching “ER.”
were too stupid to know a sick man when they saw him. So they buried Lazarus
alive. Because, as all “realists” know, four nights in a freezing crypt without
food or water is just what the desperately ill need to bounce back.
say “realists,” if all four Evangelists all agree Jesus miraculously multiplied
loaves and fishes, that’s because the apostles (Jews all) were completely
unaware that in the ancient Near East, Semitic honor culture highly valued
hospitality and believed that the sharing of food was at the core of community.
when everybody in a crowd of 5,000 shared their lunch, say the “realists,” the
poor stupid apostles naturally thought that loaves and fishes were simply
appearing out of thin air by divine ex nihilo fiat. The only reason we don’t all make the same
mistake in lunchrooms and cafeterias across America every day is that, of
course, we are 2,000 years smarter than the apostles. We know that when people
share their lunches, it’s not a miracle. But Bible characters were too dumb to
“realism” abounds. For instance, many “realists” now know that Jesus either
didn’t really expect people to govern their passions or maybe, being 2,000
years dumber, he did. At any rate, we know better now, because we’ve seen
hundreds of realistic films like Showgirls. Jesus’ views on marriage and fidelity are
hopelessly unrealistic. The movies told us so.
those same people also know Paul wasn’t realistic when he said that those who
do evil so that good may come of it will get the condemnation they deserve. So
when the Church warns that war does not cancel the moral law and that torture
and abuse of prisoners is “intrinsically immoral,” that’s “unrealistic.” We
know that the “real world” is chockablock with ticking time bombs necessitating
torture of prisoners. That’s real life. We saw it on “24.”
of this oddly surreal variety has been with us for some time, as an ancient
“realist” named Caiaphas made clear. He rebuffed those exercised by the totally
unrealistic popularity of Jesus by declaring, “You know nothing at all; you do
not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the
people, and that the whole nation should not perish” (John 11:49-50).
turned out, however, that Reality is a lot bigger than he thought.
Mark Shea is senior content editor
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