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Monday, March 12, 2007
The tomb controversy rematches Christians with the town they love to hate.

IN THE MOVIES, IF YOU WANT TO HOOK AN AUDIENCE,you throw them a surprise while telling them a story they've heard before. James Cameron knows how to hook an audience. Appearing in New York City with a limestone coffin that he claimed had held the remains of Jesus, Cameron attacked a central Christian tenet - that Christ rose bodily from the dead. Yet he confirmed another article of faith: that Hollywood blaspemers are out to get Christians.

The furor over the documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus,which Cameron is producing, was caused by an unholy alliance of two Christian-right bugbears: science and Hollywood. (If only Hilary Clinton could have benn involved too - Pat Robertson's head might well have exploded.) But while critics picked apart the theory's science, it was clear which half of the alliance really irritated the faithful. "Over the years, Hollywood has attacked and mocked Christianity", said National Clergy Council president the Rev. Rob Schenck in a statement. Now, a "Hollywood filmaker is denying divinity of the Son of God".

Christianity normally reserve this vehemence for a different place name beginning with H. But this was war. Hollywood, no longer satisfied with trying to undermine Christianity, was taking a shovel, pickax and video camera and trying to physically destroy it. The man who showed us Kate Winslet's breasts in Titanic was boasting that he brought God to Manhattan in a box and DNA tested him like a dinosaur femur.

The dustup aggravated old, sometimes ugly, tensions between Christians and Hollywood - including, yes, that one. "It is an evident and clear truth that Jews control Hollywood productions", wrote a respondent to a post on the New York Times the Lede blog, while others made anti-Semitic insinuations about Israeli-born Tomb directorSimcha Jacobovici. Meanwhile, in a debate following the TIME.com blog post that reported first word of the documetary, some defenders of the film taunted Christians as "weak and defeated".

And yet Hollywood and Christianity may have more in common in this case than it seems. Certainly - without judging the vanlidity of the claim - there was a showbizzy. Al Capone's vault feel to the documentary's announcement and promotion. But it relies on itw own appeal to faith, basing a bold claim on disputed 2,000 year old evidence (the film is not called The Lost Tomb of Jesus or Some Guy with the Same Name). Some an ardor and will to believe that seem, dare I say it, religious.

Likewise - without judging the validity of religion - the great religious texts of history are compelling in part because they are, well. Hollywood: that is, great stories with conflict, pathos and magic. A man steals fire from the gods; a father is commanded to kill his son; gods disguise themselves as animals.

And Christianity relies on Hollywood - ar, at least, parts of Christianity thrive and define themselves in opposition to pop culture. There is a vast Christian entertainment industry, complete with wrestlers,comedians, noels, rock musice and movies. The trumped-up campaign to "defend" Christians has become a cottage industry for cultural commentators and Fox News personalities. And a narrative of cultural persecution among Christian political-activtivist groups-despite belongings to the U.S.'s majority religion and having a born-again President-keeps money and volunteers flowing to those groups.

Hollywood is agressively secular and materialistic, and it does stereotype Christians (and Muslims, single women, gay men, fat kids, and, for that matter, Hollywood celebrities). But it also needs Christianity, maybe more than Christianity needs it. No one thanks Carl Sagan at an Oscar podium. The rich imagey and mystery of Catholicism made The Da Vinci Code (and its burgeoning knockoffs) possible. And while Christmas movies and TV shows may not involve many mangers, they quietly-and profitably-ratify Christianity as the default U.S. religion, as any Jew or Hindy can attest in December.

This symbiosis will continue after the documentary airs, the blog wars die out and the godless TV networks air their Easter specials, which is probably just as well for everyone, including James Cameron. If he really managed to destry Christianity, his most enraged enemies would'nt be saying Mass at the Vatican. They've be doing lunch at the Ivy.

(Source: Abstracted from TIMEMAG CULTURECOMPLEX by: James Poniewozik)
posted by infraternam meam @ 7:36 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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