Thursday, August 25, 2005

From the makers of Left Behind...

The American Film Renaissance organization is sponsoring a Screenwriting Contest (and I don't know that they have anything at all to do with the Left Behind series).

Here they are in their own words :

We believe Hollywood has lost touch with mainstream America...

The AFR is sponsoring a screenwriting contest to discover scripts that won't appeal only to cynical cultural elites. We're looking for stories that promote such timeless American themes as freedom, family, faith, and love of country.

So if like us you're tired of movies that wallow in victimhood and self-pity, or that portray America, business and religion as the roots of all evil -- then this contest is for you.


The AFR says they want movies that depict:

• Freedom vs. Tyranny
• The Individual vs. the Collective
• Free Speech vs. Political Correctness
• The Spread of Democracy
• Free Enterprise
• Freedom of Religion
• Good vs. Evil
• The War on Terror
• Faith and Family
• The American Spirit

Some of the AFR's faves include, The Passion of Christ, Patton, Braveheart, The Quiet Man (John Wayne dragging Maureen O'Hara for a mile or two by her wrist to show her why she should love him!) and Napoleon Dynamite (!?).

Here's my thought: If they like The Passion of Christ so well, why doesn't someone write a screenplay depicting Jesus' life and ministry? Give 'em what they want, or at least what they think they want.

You know what Jesus said in his first sermon, right?

God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” Not exactly standard conservative doctrine, that.

They made a fuss about Gibson using only the Aramaic language in the film for realism sake, how would they like if we used only Jesus' words in this film?

Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Love your good to those who hate you.”

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.”

You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

But woe unto you that are rich! for you have received your comfort. Woe unto you that are full! for you shall hunger.”

Woe unto you, religious hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore you shall receive the greater damnation.”

And maybe throw in a quote or two from his mother, Mary:

The Lord has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. God has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

Or his brother, James:

But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?...Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?... Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you...Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.”

Of course, this story of Jesus would never be made in to a movie by these people. Still, perhaps it would make 'em squirm a bit to have to turn it down.


olympiada said...

I love this post! I like your fire. You give me hope...It is easy to get downtrodden and downcast especially when the conservatives are waging war on you. It is good to know there are others out there who are fighting back!

Constantine said...

Hey DT. I understand, even empathize in some measure, with the sentiment of your post, but I'm curious why you didn't care for "The Passion." I know you didn't say this explicitly, but it is inferred I think.

Dan Trabue said...

Haven't seen it so, in that sense, I don't have much of an opinion one way or t'other.

But based on understanding what the movie is about (the last hours of Jesus' life on earth), I haven't been that wild about seeing it. It'd be like going to see only the last twenty minutes of the final Harry Potter movie - there'd be a lotta missing context.

Well, WHY was he killed? What'd he do? What led up to this?

These are the questions that often go unanswered and, quite frankly, unasked in Christianity and is one of the larger failings of the modern church.

I'm assuming from your question that you saw it and liked it? That's okay with me, too.

Thanks for asking.

Wasp Jerky said...

It is interesting that they picked Team America as their third favourite film of the year. Obviously they think it's poking fun of the left. I haven't seen it, but given that it's by the creators of South Park, somehow I have the feeling that they've missed the point.

Dan Trabue said...

Haven't seen it, but that'd be my guess, as well. I remember hearing that they skewered many lefties in the movie, maybe that pleased them enough that they missed their own skewering.

Or maybe not. Like I said, haven't seen it.

Martyfriedrich said...

Hi Dan, I found you through Outside the Camp which I found through Mainstream Baptist. I like what I see here very much. I will be reading.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks for stopping by. You're welcome here anytime.

Eleutheros said...


Then there is a question that begs itself. Everyone who uses the Bible as the basis for their action (or inaction) says that they are following what the Bible *really* says, especially if it is taken as a whole. The pacifist, the conservative, Mel Gibson ... even the KKK all say that what they practice is firmly rooted in Christianity.

To the outsider (or infidel) it appears that each of you (pacifist, Mel Gibson, KKK) comes up with his own personal philosophy and then scours the Bible to find socially acceptable justification for that philosophy. To wit: if you wanted to base a film on just the ministry of Jesus and you choose just the right quotes and intances, Christianity can be make to look like a call for a sort of Jesus-Jihad to rid the world of the ungodly. Curse the fig tree, drive the money changers from the temple, leave your mother and father, let the dead bury their dead, buy a sword, I will spew thee out of my mouth, why encumbereth it the ground, thou wicked and unfaithful servant, and I could go on for some time ... as many conservative exegetes indeed do.

When asked to reconcile the pacifist parts to the Christian Jihadist, or to reconcile the wrathful parts to the pacifist, both employ the very same mechanism. If is doesn't fit my philosophy it must needs really mean something else. My favorite is when the devout family makes a show of praying over the meal in the public restaurant when Jesus clearly said, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door.." The explainations of why Jesus didn't really mean that are brilliant bits of splitting the strands of logic and reweaving them. I thought I had a fundamentalist friend of mine in an inescapable corner when he insisted that if you didn't say "For Jesus" it didn't count as a good deed. I reminded him of the part of the sermon which ends,"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." And by the powers if there wasn't this colorful and brilliant explaination that what it *really* says is that if you fed the hungry etc. but didn't say "for Jesus" is was the same as if you hadn't done it.

So long as one doesn't mind the logic being far fetched, any parts of the Bible we don't like can be explained away giving us something that oddly enough endorses our philosophy to the letter, no matter what that philosophy might be.

So here's my question: Suppose I landed in a spaceship from Pluto (which many have accused me of same) and I asked about your religion here on Earth and was given a Bible. I come with no biases or preformed philosophies about it. Before I even open the cover, explain to me how I am to tell what parts are literal and what parts are symbolic. Don't suggest to me what you think it says, rather give me a guide to go by BEFORE I even open the book.

What would that criterion be?

Constantine said...


I did like the film “The Passion of the Christ.” I also had some problems with it too. On an aesthetic level it was beautifully done. If you ever decide to see it and want to discuss it let me know. I’d be game for such a discussion/debate. You’d get a multiplicity of perspectives from me instead of a talking points memo. In other words, I’d be honest.


You make a good case for the Teaching Magisterium of the Ancient/Historic Church—i.e. Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. For good and ill what we call scripture comes from the Church, not vice versa. That's just plain common sense, not dogma. In essence, the Church is the "author" of our Holy Writ and as such would better know and understand what was intended by its words. They would add context to what often becomes a pretext in the examples you provided. Having a hermeneutic or interpretive grid by way of the consensus of the Patristic Fathers answers your question. Alas, they are often a mess too, though not nearly so bad as the Sola Scriptura adherents. But you know…the mess that is Christianity remains compelling for one reason. The person Jesus of Nazareth still captivates the imagination of believers of every conceivable ilk and unbelievers as well, even some 2000 years later. The very fact that the story or narrative of Jesus continues to haunt us in the very midst of our mess tells me something. I’m not sure what exactly, but I intuit that it speaks to the enduring presence of God in the world, in spite of everything to the contrary.

Jesus is akin to our shadow—always connected to us. Sometimes that connection is a spectre over our lives. At other times, it offers a comfort of sorts--a kind of...come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden... consoling presence.

Jumpin' on the Bandwagon said...

Jesus's brother James? Isn't that disputed? I am not arguing at all here...just asking the question to learn.

Also, Team America makes fun of both sides. The same as South Park. I find it humorous that the 'right' would embrace this film at all.

Great film though. If you don't feel insulted at some point, you're not paying attention...

Eleutheros said...


That's a good answer. For the more mystical bent among Christians it holds water (holy or otherwise). For the vast majority of the Protestant world, though, it is just the opposite. The Church is interplolated from the scriptures and not the scriptures from the Church (which in their case didn't exist then).

But in any case, I guess I'd have to say that my question remains still. The "Church" is still a bit amorphous. The clay is still malleable enough that one may fashion any sort of Jesus they like from it, a concerned pacifist or a firebrand enforcing the will of God with the sword.

Dan Trabue said...

Jumpin', yes, it IS disputed as to whether the book, James was written by his brother. No big D to me, just thought it a catchy way to frame my argument.

Eleutheros, as always, great questions (and I'd always pictured you being from Uranus, not Pluto...). What would the criteria be for reading and interpreting the Bible...?

I could answer by saying that I was raised in a conservative church and interpreted the Bible thusly for many years. But the more I read it, the more I got the sense that the overall book does not fitly neatly in to any boxes.

What I did read clearly was the teaching that the MOST IMPORTANT truths were, Love God and Love People. So, for me, I reckon I try to interpret the whole thing with that in mind. And I'd add to be open to revelation and logic.

That would be my short answer.

I'm sure it's not a very sound one and people are going to go off with that suggestion and find all manner of interpretations.

This is a very difficult question to answer in this context. I guess I'll leave it at that for now and be glad to try to discuss more if anyone is so inclined.

I guess I would add that I don't disagree with your point that the bible is liable to be interpreted in any number of ways, much like any other written document, only moreso.

I would add finally a comment about fitting the bible to one's pre-existing outlook. That is quite true often, but not always.

As I have pointed out, I was a conservative young man who was led by the Bible (and by God's revelation if you want to be mystical about it) in to believing that many conservative doctrine just aren't supported by the Bible as a whole.

That is, I was led by the Bible AWAY from my beliefs, as opposed to endorsing what I already believed. Whaddya make of that?

Marty said...

Dan, it was the same for me. The Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus, leading me away from my beliefs. I grew up in a conservative Baptist environment, but it was in no way fundamentalist. I find that as I become ever closer to 60 years of life, my beliefs are constantly growing and evolving. I pray they never become static.

Eleutheros said...

Marty and Dan:

I'm not sure I find that all so different, though. I know scores of people who were Catholic and became Baptist, Orthodox who became Pentecostal, Baptist who became Mormon, Buddhists who became Baptist and Baptists who became Buddhists. Conservatives who became liberals and liberals who became conservatives and both who became libertarian. And a great many of them would say, "Ah, it was when I really read the Bible that I changed."

But I wonder. I wonder that change doesn't happen anyway and just as we use the Bible as the basis (or excuse) for holding onto our philosophy, we likewise use it as the basis for our changes, although our changes are largely our own doing.

Here's a clue for me. If I felt that there was Divine instruction in the Bible, I might suspect that there are things in there I wouldn't necessarily like, but I'd see I needed to comply with them anyway. I certainly never liked ALL the instructions I got from authority in any other venue.

I doubt you'd find a conservative nor a klansman who would disagree with you that the theme of the Bible is love God and love people. But what does that mean? As has been pointed out, during the days of the slave trade, the slaves were viewed as heathen who were being saved from Paganism.

Did you know that the person who wrote "Amazing Grace" was a slave trader and years after leaving the trade he made a list of the sins that the British people were involved in, but slavery was not among them?!

And at any rate, I trust the mysticism more than I trust the exegesis.

Eleutheros said...

This got discussed around the table today and I ought to clarify my comment above:

More simply this: since really looking into the Bible leads in any direction, from any philosophy to any other philosophy, then it is apparent that it is not the Bible per se that is the source of that change or direction.

The Bible then is acting as a sort of Mirror of Erised, each person sees in it what they are predisoposed to see, each person makes the changes in their thoughts that they are predisposed to make.

Dan Trabue said...

Predisposed? By whom or what?

Are you suggesting I was predisposed by God to be progressive and eventually got around to reading the Bible in that way, just as others are predisposed by God to be conservatives? Predisposed by human nature? I'm not sure I follow.

I agree with your suggestion, I think, Eleutheros, that you'd expect to at least sometimes be pushed in ways not of your own inclination if there were a God.

On that point, I'd point out that, for instance, I was dragged kicking and screaming in to being supportive of my gay brothers and sisters, 'twasn't part of my plan or any desire I had.

The same is true for my pagan and new agey friends. I was not inclined by my upbringing to have a meeting of the minds with them and yet, here I am, here we are.

And thanks Marty for the comments. Amen to your prayer.

Marty said...

I was going to ask Eleutheros the same thing. Is predisposed the same thing as predestined? If I'm predisposed then why have I changed my mind a lot through the years? What about free will? Eleutheros you do make some interesting points to mull over. I like the dialog here. People actually thinking!

Eleutheros said...

Marty and Dan:

Ah, there I go again bespeaking from the point of view of the infidel. From said point of view, the only two flavors aren't just God's intervention and free will.

I meant - predisposed to do what we want rather than complying with instructions that do not coincide with what we want.

As far as things like gays and Pagans, (and infidels and mystics), although you might have been in the milieu of staunch conservatism, you were never (no one is) and empty vessel into which it had been poured. No one so deeply knows the illogic of any system of philosophy as those who are in it. Says I, you reasonably knew, could deduce, that hatred for homosexuals or new agers was completely illogical. It doesn't take God to point it out.

But once the penitent's logic and/or experince overcomes the philosophical soup in which he has been stewing, said penitent often finds solace in the notion that it was God who personally put His hand on his shoulder and pointed out the better way.

Whatever floats one's boat. But I'd think that God could be left out of it, it's not like He doesn't have plenty to do already.

Dan Trabue said...

She can handle it.