1 Apr 2012

'We have a King who rides on a donkey'/ Saint Oscar

The biblical film that made the biggest impact on me, when I was at film school, was Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St Matthew...Up to that point, I had an idea to do a film on Jesus, in cinema-vérité style, in the Lower East Side of New Yorkwith everyone wearing suits, a modern-day interpretation of the story we know. So I was moved and crushed at the same time by the Pasolini film because in a sense it was what I wanted to do. Jesus was played by a Spanish law student, and it was shot in the south of Italy...Pasolini’s use of faces was marvelous. It reminds me of Renaissance art even though it’s in black and white, and I love the music – the Missa Luba and Bach. Just compare his Christ with Jeffrey Hunter. He doesn’t act walking, he is walking; it’s not self-conscious and yet it’s very determined...I like [Pasolini]’s Christ as a kind of conspirator. It was a revolutionary Jesus. In fact, at the time, people referred to him as a Marxist Christ. The strength of Matthew’s language comes out very clearly, and it’s purer because it doesn’t try to make it a straight story from beginning to end. There are no transitions between scenes, characters come and disappear, they reappear in no dramatic way. Yet the key to the whole picture is Jesus – how forceful He is and how He carries through. 'Do not think I have come to bring peace on this earth. I have come to bring a sword...He who loves his father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me.' This is not the stuff you usually hear on Sunday morning in church! He’s a very strong Christ, you’re either with him or against him, and some of the sermons do give you the sense of being yelled at and beaten down 

It's Palm Sunday so was reminded by my partner that her folks would be off to church to sing 'We have a King who rides on a donkey'.  And this reminded me of some of the albeit repressed magic of the gospels.

While I am a non believer, I do think there is a lot of good in religion and a lot of very nice stuff in the whole story of Jesus.

Religion can be about repression but remember Jesus went out of his way to challenge injustice and sought out those at the margins of society, stressing that those who were down trodden would rise.

Nicely expressed in the hymn title, imperialists don't come to town riding humble pack animals.

St Paul added some sexual repression and the religion of Jesus became the official Christian doctrine of the late Roman Empire, alas.

Much fundamentalist Christianity like fundamentalist Islam, forgets the message and seeks to assault those who are weaker and gets its collective knickers in a twist about sexuality.

Far from attacking those with a different sexuality Jesus asked that he or she without sin should throw the first stone.

Jesus turned over the money lenders tables he didn't go and shout at his local gay bar (I am sure there were a few in downtown Jerusalem in AD 30ish).  Both Mohammed and Jesus were notable for their compassion, a few of their supposed followers could listen to their message more closely in my view.

The donkey also expresses that Jesus was also of this world and celebrates its nature.  There is a strong vein of green creation centred theology.

Jesus as most clearly expressed in Oscar Wilde's essay The Soul of Man under Socialism was of the left, was green, was an advocate of liberation:

‘Know thyself’ was written over the portal of the antique world. Over the portal of the new world, ‘Be thyself’ shall be written. And the message of Christ to man was simply ‘Be thyself.’ That is the secret of Christ.
When Jesus talks about the poor he simply means personalities, just as when he talks about the rich he simply means people who have not developed their personalities. Jesus moved in a community that allowed the accumulation of private property just as ours does, and the gospel that he preached was not that in such a community it is an advantage for a man to live on scanty, unwholesome food, to wear ragged, unwholesome clothes, to sleep in horrid, unwholesome dwellings, and a disadvantage for a man to live under healthy, pleasant, and decent conditions. Such a view would have been wrong there and then, and would, of course, be still more wrong now and in England; for as man moves northward the material necessities of life become of more vital importance, and our society is infinitely more complex, and displays far greater extremes of luxury and pauperism than any society of the antique world. What Jesus meant, was this. He said to man, ‘You have a wonderful personality. Develop it. Be yourself. Don’t imagine that your perfection lies in accumulating or possessing external things. Your affection is inside of you. If only you could realise that, you would not want to be rich. Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury-house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things, that may not be taken from you. And so, try to so shape your life that external things will not harm you. And try also to get rid of personal property. It involves sordid preoccupation, endless industry, continual wrong. Personal property hinders Individualism at every step.’ It is to be noted that Jesus never says that impoverished people are necessarily good, or wealthy people necessarily bad. That would not have been true. Wealthy people are, as a class, better than impoverished people, more moral, more intellectual, more well-behaved. There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothing else. That is the misery of being poor. What Jesus does say is that man reaches his perfection, not through what he has, not even through what he does, but entirely through what he is. And so the wealthy young man who comes to Jesus is represented as a thoroughly good citizen, who has broken none of the laws of his state, none of the commandments of his religion. He is quite respectable, in the ordinary sense of that extraordinary word. Jesus says to him, ‘You should give up private property. It hinders you from realising your perfection. It is a drag upon you. It is a burden. Your personality does not need it. It is within you, and not outside of you, that you will find what you really are, and what you really want.’

1 comment:

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