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Mel Gibson's "passion Of The Christ"

Joshua Nunn

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I think Gibson was well-meaning, but a big problem with his movie and book is that he presents misguided interpretation, speculation and opinion as truth.


But a MUCH bigger problem is that it's based on the doctrine and dogma of the Nicene Creed, fabricated in the 4th Century to elevate the status of the Christ and Christianity for the then-new "Holy Roman Empire." And, by the way, that doctrine was used to justify many centuries of theocratic imperialism, oppression and cruelty we now call the Dark Ages.


The biggest problem is that the same doctrine is used now to justify the bigotry of the Religious Right, which claims that "only by accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior can you receive salvation," because "Jesus died for the sins of humanity." Even worse, the Religious Right uses it to claim that everyone must agree and march in lock step with them or else be damned to eternal hell. And by making this movie and book Mel Gibson has now aligned himself with the Religious Right.


The thing is, it's really a question of why Jesus did what he did, and it WAS NOT to justify religious bigots and hypocrites who claim only they know The Way and anyone who disagrees is in league with Satan. And it WAS NOT to create a religion for imperialists who seek worldly wealth and power and live by the sword (gun and bomb).


The real truth is that Jesus allowed himself to be arrested knowing he would face death to show us a perfect example of the loving and forgiving pacifist and martyr, who would rather judge not, resist not evil, love his enemies, and turn the other cheek. THAT is real Christian doctrine.


In contrast with that, the doctrine about Jesus "dying for our sins" and being "the only source of salvation" makes little sense, if you really think about it. After all, our sins are certainly our own, and we certainly live with the consequences of our sins. And our salvation is in asking for forgiveness from God, and achieving the feeling of being forgiven by God.


Granted, most Christians hold the Nicene Creed as true to the gospels. But it now raises many questions: Are the gospels as we now know them true to the actual teachings of Jesus? Were they embellished and redesigned by the writers of the gospels when the oral tradition was finally written down between 40 and 70 years after Jesus died? Were certain things added to the gospels in the 4th Century to justify and suit the purposes of the "Christian" emperor Constantine who lived by the sword and ruled the then-new "Holy Roman Empire?" Is it not in fact a man-made doctrine designed to justify the building of a theocratic empire that holds all other religions as false?


I believe in the Golden Rule of Jesus, which is the true core principle of Christianity. I do not believe he ever said or implied in any way that "unless you believe in me you will suffer eternal damnation in hell." I think that is the doctrine of hypocritical men that Jesus warned us about. And the idea that only by professing belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior can you receive salvation is a big part of that false doctrine. I learned that from the messenger for the Spirit of truth that Jesus said would come, in the message entitled Real Prophecy Unveiled, and in my heart I know it is true.

Edited by Joshua Nunn
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Many of you know that I am theologically educated and that this informs much of my political ideology. Politics aside, I just saw the movie and here are my thoughts:


1. The film was less anti-semitic than I was led to believe based upon reading certain other reviews. Indeed, I didn't see it as anti-semitic at all. It did show how the Jewish religious leaders of that day were out to get Jesus in response to their perception that He was a threat to them. But this Jesus was clearly Jewish Himself and hence, if anything, the film is pro-semitic in that regard as this is the race and nationality of individual which God elected to reveal Himself "in the flesh" to the world. (That's more of a comment on the incarnation generally than on this particular movie, but this film clearly showed Jesus as being an active Jew - racially and religiously).


2. The movie was just as violent as I was led to beleive based upon the reviews of others; i.e. no more and no less. Before I saw the film, I had read about the fake flesh that was pasted on to the actor's body during the whipping scenes and I think that really helped me to not be so shocked or awed by the simulated violence. I found myself wondering about how they made that skin and was trying to figure out what it was made out of during the whipping scene, so that scene didn't really cause any nausea in my gut. I think that most youth over 13 years of age can handle watching that scene without the need of counseling afterwards. - Frankly, the brutal beating displayed in this movie goes along way toward explaining why Jesus died so much more quickly on the cross than was normally the case; i.e. they nearly beat Him to death before He was even put up there!


3. The amount of artistic license was much higher than I'd expected. Based upon other reviews, I was led to believe that this movie was highly faithful to the Biblical texts but I was disappointed to see how much of the dialogue and visual effects were blatantly promoting a particular theological agenda: i.e. the substitutionary theory of the atonement (that it was literally Jesus' blood which saved us and nothing else), a literal devil, and a literal physical resurrection.


Granted, many (if not most) Christians believe these things, but they are not the only faithful interpretations of the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus Christ). Indeed, there are several other orthodox theories of the atonement (exemplary, Christus Victor, etc.) that have NOT been deemed heretical and most Churches and scholars consider people's beliefs about the exact nature and concept of Satan/Devil and even about the resurrection as being "non-essentials" of the faith.


Some examples of problematic (to me) non-Biblical events in the film include:

* a visible devil who pesters and tempts Jesus in the Garden at the start of the film;

* this Devil asking Jesus if He really believed "that what He as one person was about to go through could really provide for the salvation of all humanity" etc.;

* Jesus stomping on a snake (I suppose this symbolizes how Jesus withstood the Devil's tempation and foreshadowed His ulitimate victory over the Devil) - heck the snake didn't even bite Him, it was just slithering by minding its own business!;

* Jesus saying that "I am the Son of God and Messiah" when He was being interrorgated by the priestly Council;

* and Jesus looking exactly like He did before He was killed (with no lash marks on His face or body, but still having holes in His hands) physically arising from the tomb. (The Bible does mention Mary M. meeting the post-resurrection Christ in the Garden but she didn't recognize Him as His appearence had changed).


To my mind, what's essential for Christians is that they believe that there is a God, that they aren't God, that God is love and seeks a mutually loving relationship with God's people, that there are forces at work in the world that work to try and frustrate that relationshp, and that Jesus of Nazareth was a person Who lived His life in such a way that He led people to knowing more fully Who God is, who they are, and how to be in right relationship with God and each other (via following Jesus and His ways) and that if people accept that "Way" (which God graciously provided) then we can experience salvation and abundant life here and now (as well as after we die). I'll even go so far as to say that Christians need to believe in the resurrection, but I don't even think the Apostle Paul necessarily believed that Jesus' resurrection was a literal/phyiscal one - and this doesn't mean it wasn't any less "real"! Indeed, Paul (and countless other believers over the years) have had profound experiences of the Risen Christ in their lives bringing them chances at a new life.


But, I will say this: Mel Gibson did single-handidly keep the fake-blood industry from falling victim to the downturn in our global economy!

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I don't necessarily agree with the content of the following articles, but I offer them as more food for thought from another perspective:


Tikkun Mail. [Note that this is from a Jewish source sympathetic to Christians and to Palestinians.]

In This Issue: Possible Leaflet to distribute at Gibson's Passion Movie Help Us Reach Students


[My - (** David Smith not "BrotherRog's"**) comments are inserted // within square brackets. My comments are based on having seen the film Saturday afternoon. The film makes a lot more sense if you already know the story- David Smith.]



Some of the Members of the Tikkun Community requested a possible leaflet to distribute at the Gibson movie-now that the media is telling us that Evangelicals are distributing millions of leaflets of their own at these showings. Other Members think we should simply ignore the whole spectacle and not contribute to the public attention it is getting. Still others are devising their own leaflets or distributing some of the reviews which talk about the extreme near pornagraphic quality of the violence. Still others are setting up public forums to discuss the issues (If you live in the Bay Area, come to a Public Forum on the Gibson movie at University of San Francisco (a Jesuit university) on March 14 3:00-6:00 p.m. at the McLaren Hall-speakers include Rabbi Yair Silverman, an orthodox rabbi, Matthew Fox, Rev. Ama Zenya Lewis , Rabbi Michael Lerner and more).


side one:


If Jesus was about love, why focus on the violence and cruelty?


[because in the world as it exists, an effective message causing people to love national and group enemies will provoke a violent counter-reaction.]

The Right-Wing Politics of the Gibson Passion Movie


Jesus was a great Jewish teacher whose message of love, kindness, gentleness and compassion are a side-light in the Mel Gibson movie, a prop to the main focus which is on pain, cruelty and suffering. [i think the main focus is on Jesus' response to pain, cruelty, and suffering.] Why not focus on the Resurrection with its message of hope overcoming despair? [That would require a film on the Acts of the Apostles-which also would contain a fair amount of violence.] Why not focus on Jesus' message that the rich will have a hard time getting into heaven, [i think the portrayal suggests that.


The "rich" we see in the film are members of the Sanhedrin probably seeking to maintain their own privilege. Although even there the trial scene indicates that some members of the Sanhedrin protested.] or that the real way you are treating God can be measured by how much caring you show for taking care of the poor? [some of the flashbacks show that.] Or that the truly blessed are the peacemakers?


The answer is that the choice of focus of this film was a highly political choice-and that is why it has become so popular with right-wing Christians who have twisted the message of Christianity to allow it to become a defense of their willingness to support budget cuts for the needy, to spend hundreds of billions on a bloated military, to support the U.S. economic and military expansion to the rest of the world. [if so, they missed most of the point of the film.]


There are two contending worldviews: [Neither of these worldviews as stated is supported by what happened to Jesus and the way he responded to it.] one claims that the world is fundamentally scary, filled with hurtful people, [the Gospels do claim that there are selfish and violent pepole in the world, especially in positions of power] and that our primary task is to defend ourselves from others by being "realistic" and learning how to dominate and control them before they do the same to us. [this is anti-Gospel: the Gospels say we should remain vulnerable despite evil people, trusting in God and the resurrection. Not "do unto others before they can do unto you," but rather "take up your cross and follow me."


Christians are not to put other people on crosses, but to refuse to resist those who are putting them on crosses-although they do refuse to "shut up"-to stop prophesying and speaking of good, justice, etc.-when threatened with death. See Hebrews 2:14-15 "Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 2:15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death."


If most people acted as Jesus did even when threatened, evil would have no power for lack of cooperators. It is because the main mass of good people act cowardly out of fear (as most of the characters in the film do) that evil can dominate. Domination and control are part of "the world," or, as Walter Wink would say, the "domination system" following the "myth of redemptive violence."] The other sees the world composed of humans who have been created in the image of God and who desire loving connection, gentleness and kindness-and hence the way to get security is to build cooperative relationships. [There are also people like this in the world. But to trust that this is the only kind of people in the world leads to the kind of false optimism that preceded World War I: the kind that theologians like Barth and Bultmann railed against.]


The first worldview leads to a conservative politics and to a justification for militarism and narrow self-interest.

It is the politics of George Bush [probably] and of Mel Gibson [not so clear. Mel's interest in this subject is reported to have come from a vision of God that he had. And in the film he repeatedly highlights forgiveness of enemies, in particular those who are scourging, mocking, and crucifying Jesus.]. That is why this film focuses our attention on violence and cruelty. [violence and cruelty are real in our world. Middle-class Americans are rather shielded from them, often at the expense of violence to others.] The second worldview leads to a politics of sharing our resources with the poor of the planet, tithing what we have, and beating our swords into plowshares. [it might. But in its selfish form (without a deep sense of what "image of God" means) it can just lead to passivity-so long as someone else (like the U.S. military) can keep us in our safe bubble.] It is the politics of Jesus [someone needs to read the Gospel more carefully. The crucifixion was real, and Jesus told us to expect to share in it.], Martin Luther King, Jr. [He was assassinated.], and the great teachers of every religious and spiritual tradition [Many of them were assassinated, too.].


Every religious tradition has elements of both worldviews inside them, because every religious tradition reflects the consciousness of the people who shaped it. We all have moments of fear and moments of hope. Our problem with this film is that it reinforces the belief that the world is truly about violence and cruelty, and it marginalizes hope. [The italics and bold that follow, except for the parts in square brackets, belong to the original article, not to my comments] In this deep way it is fundamentally untrue to the New Testament which is primarily a message of hope-and hope that we on this earth can build a world of love and generosity and kindness [but without the naivete that things we won't have to suffer as a result]. We are interfaith people from every religious and spiritual tradition. We seek to support the renewal of this message within every faith tradition-and to work together for a world of justice, peace, and love [even at the cost of our lives!]. We invite you to read the Core Vision of The Tikkun Community at

www.Tikkun.org <http://www.tikkun.org/> and to join us.


The Tikkun Community www.tikkun.org http://www.tikkun.org/> An interfaith project for a world of love.


Side two:


How Can a Gospel Based Story be Anti-Semitic?


Many Christians have trouble understanding why most Jews who have seen the movie feel that it is likely to stir up anti-Semitism. That's not surprising, because most Christians have never been taught how the Gospel stories were used throughout the past two thousand years to stir up anti-Jewish hatred.


But the fact is that after the Church came to power in Constantine's Rome, it passed anti-Jewish legislation and promulgated the idea of the Jews as "killers of Christ" and as evil people. For 1700 years Jews lived in fear of Easter season-because after Good Friday readings of the Book of John and Matthew, drunken crowds of Christians frequently attacked Jews, murdering, pillaging, raping and at times expelling all Jews altogether from their cities.

Luther, building Protestantism, wrote even more intense attacks on the Jews in his theological works. [Perhaps Sherry can respond to this.] The impact of all this was to created a culture of hatred for the Jews that was drawn upon by Hitler, Stalin and others to "blame the Jews" for whatever was wrong in their society. [Right. A key word here is "drawn upon." We need to learn how to resist being co-opted by leaders who want to distort our traditions for their own advancement.]


After the Holocaust, the Catholic Church in Vatican II forbade any more teachings of hatred against the Jews. Mel Gibson rejects Vatican II and seeks to go back to the earlier vision. [this seems to be true of his religious preferences in many ways. It's not so clear to me that he is doing so in this film.] And that is what he does in The Passion movie. [i don't think so.]



Please read these excerpts from James Carroll, a former Catholic priest who wrote a very important book on the topic of Christian hatred of Jews: Constantine's Sword.


An Obscene Portrayal of Christ's Passion

By James Carroll


"The Passion of The Christ" by Mel Gibson is an obscene movie. It will incite contempt for Jews. [i doubt it.] It is a blasphemous insult to the memory of Jesus Christ. [?} It is an icon of religious violence. [it certainly does not glorify religious violence.] Like many others, I anticipated the Gibson film warily, especially because an uncritical rendition of problematic Gospel texts which unfairly blame "the Jews" for the death of Jesus threatened to resuscitate the old "Christ-killer" myth. [so did I. But my viewing of the film relieved most of my fears.]


But seeing Gibson's film convinces me that it does far worse than that. His highly literal representation of the Passion narratives, [i found it more interpretive than literalist.] his visual presentation of material that, in the tradition, is meant to be read and heard, [because first century Christians didn't need any reminder of what crucifixion or Roman domination looked like. They could see it nearly every day.] together with his prejudiced selection of details and his invention of dialogue and incidents, [every reading is selective. I though that his selections were for the most part quite responsible and thought provoking.] cause one serious problem, very much at the expense of Jews. [The line between cruel people and compassionate people cuts straight across all groups here-even the Sanhedrin (in the trial scene).]


But the impact of his perverse imagination on a sacred story, coming at a time when the world is newly riven with primal violence in the name of God, threatens an even more grievous problem. The subject of this film, despite its title, is not the Passion of the Christ, but the sick love of physical abuse, engaged in for power. [it is the leaders in Palestine/Israel who have a "sick love of physical abuse engaged in for power," not Jesus, and not the bystanders (who are more sympathetic characters for us). This film is a confrontation of such sick love.]


Jews as presented in this movie are overwhelmingly negative. [i didn't think so.] Roman soldiers brutally execute Jesus, but Pontius Pilate is a good man, [Not in my view. He was a leader who despised those he led, cynical, not wanting to cooperate with the Jewish leaders, but not willing to take personal risks to do justice.] who stands in dramatic contrast to Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest. Going well beyond anything in the Gospels, Gibson's film emphasizes Roman virtue [?] and Jewish venality [Not Jewish: one character or a small group of characters. Even the crowd, rather small in a courtyard, appears split.] by inventions like these:


Pilate's wife Claudia is an actual heroine, who aligns herself with Mary. Mary, terrified for her son, appeals to benign Romans against the hostile Jewish crowd. Without a whole lot of success.]


Claudia is the woman behind the Romans. Her dramatic counterpart, the woman behind the Jews, is none other than a female Satan. [This is not the film's description, but James Carroll's. The Satan is not "behind the Jews" but behind the cruelty of those who condemn Jesus and those who execute him.


Some of these are Jews, some are Romans. The Satan is even behind the cowardice of those who let Jesus down to protect themselves-like Peter and, if he had yielded to the temptation, Jesus himself. Further, in order for the Satan to be designated in human form, it had to be either male or female. Since female characters are far and away the most sympathetic characters in the film (aside from Jesus himself), wouldn't a Satan trying to counterfeit good choose female form?]


Pilate kindly offers Jesus a cup of water. [i didn't see that as kindly. Pilate is suspicious that the Sanhedrin leaders are trying to put something over on him.] Pilate orders Jesus flogged, but only to satisfy the Jewish bloodthirst. [Rather, only to save his own hide-he's more afraid of a riot that might get him sacked than he is of acting unjustly.]


The Jews are expressly indicted by the Good Thief, who, after the crucified Jesus says, "Father, forgive them...," tells Caiaphas that "He prays for you." [Again, Carroll's prejudice. It isn't "The Jews" who are thus indicted, but Caiaphas and those leaders who delivered Jesus to Pilate.] Jews are indicted by Jesus, who consoles Pilate by telling him, "It is he who has delivered me to you who has the greater sin." [Not very reassuring under the circumstances to be taxed with a "lesser sin."]


The centerpiece of the film is a long sequence constructed around the flogging of Jesus. It is the most brutal film episode I have ever seen, approaching the pornographic. Just when the viewer thinks the flaying of the skin of Jesus can get no crueler, it does. Blood, flesh, bone, teeth, eyes, eye sockets, ribs, limbs-the man is skinned alive, taken apart. [My viewing did not live up to these expectations. Perhaps in part because I was already aware of what a Roman flogging meant, but also because a fair amount of the scene uses indirection (a view of the flogger and the sound of impact without a closeup of the impact). Jesus' body is clearly shown as very bloody, but not (for example) hunks of flesh torn out, which would probably have been the case.] In these endless moments, with the torturers escalating instruments and vehemence both, the film puts Gibson's decadent "Braveheart" imagination on full display.


On screen and in the theater, there is nothing to do but look away. Long after the filmgoer has had enough, even the Romans stop. And here is the anti-Semitic use to which this grotesque scene is put: Then Jesus is returned to the crowd of "the Jews," [Jesus is returned to the crowd in the courtyard] and then, as if they are indifferent to what the filmgoer has just been physically revolted by, "the Jews" [the crowd in the courtyard, egged on by some leaders of (presumably) the Sanhedrin] demand the crucifixion of Jesus.


Not even the most savage carnage a filmgoer has ever seen is enough for these monsters. [Note that Jesus does not relate to them as to "monsters."] The scene, with the Jewish crowd overriding tender-hearted Pilate, is the most lethal in the Scriptures, but in Gibson's twist, "The Jews" are made to seem more evil than ever. [i didn't see Pilate as "tender-hearted," but just as puzzled by the persistence of the crowd and, especially, its leaders whom he loathed. But he loathed them because he loathed his assignment to what he considered a backwater part of the empire with stubborn locals, not particularly because they were "Jews." And so he wasn't interested in helping those leaders out, but he wasn't willing to cross them, either, if they were likely to put his tenure at risk.]


There is no resurrection in this film. A stone is rolled back, a zombie-Jesus is seen in profile for a second or two, and that's it. [Didn't look like a "zombie" to me. Also, Carroll may have missed the view of his shroud "deflating" as it ceased to enclose his body. But it is true that the scene is brief.] But there is a reason for this. In Gibson's theology, the resurrection has been rendered unnecessary by the infinite capacity of Jesus to withstand pain. Not the Risen Jesus, but the Survivor Jesus.


Gibson's violence fantasies, as ingenious as perverse, are, at bottom, a fantasy of infinite male toughness. [What is the evidence for this assertion?]


The inflicting of suffering is the action of the film, and the dramatic question is: How much pain can Jesus take? The religious miracle of this Passion is that he can take it all. Jesus Christ Superstoic. His wondrous capacity to suffer is what converts bystander soldiers, and it is what saves the world. [i would say, rather, it is his wondrous capacity to forgive his torturers.]


In an act of perverse editing, Gibson has Jesus say, "I make all things new" as his torment approaches climax, as if cruel mayhem brings renewal. When Jesus cries out near the end, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" the film conveys not his despair, but his numb gratification. [What is the evidence for this assertion?] There's the film's inadvertent reversal, the crucifixion as a triumph of sadomasochistic exploitation. That triumph seems to be what Gibson's Jesus salutes when he says finally, "It is accomplished." [i would say rather, the worst that evil can do is unable to intimidate Jesus (and those empowered with his Spirit) and keep him from speaking the truth while refusing to enter into the "cycle of violence" to protect himself.]


It is a lie. It is sick. Jews have every reason to be offended by "The Passion of The Christ." Even more so, if possible, do Christians.


James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe. Copyright 2004 Globe

Newspaper Company.


Help Us Reach Students


National Student Conference for Middle East Peace


at Brown University, Providence Rhode Island (an hour ride from Boston) March 5-7 Speakers include: Cornel West, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Medea Benjamin and Daniel Matt


The weekend is focused on building the Tikkun Campus Network-an interfaith based organization seeking a world of peace, ecological sanity, love, open-heartedness, spiritual and ethical sensitivity, and generosity.


Many students on campuses find themselves caught between an extreme anti-Israel view on the Left and a "defend Sharon" view from those who call themselves "pro-Israel." We are creating a progressive Middle Path-both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. We are inviting students and faculty to work with us to create this new understanding, articulated most fully in Rabbi Lerner's book Healing Israel/Palestine.


If you can't come to the conference, you could still help us create a Tikkun Campus Network chapter in your graduate school, professional school, undergraduate college or high-school.


Please contact us: campus@tikkun.org <mailto:campus@tikkun.org> for more information after looking at our information on the web- www.Tikkun.org/community/campusnet


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Posted on Thu, Feb. 19, 2004 Saint Paul Pioneer-Press


'The Passion' represents a teachable moment




We don't view the release of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" quite as apprehensively as others. On the contrary! As college teachers, it seems to us a valuable moment to raise some critical issues. One of these, well reported in the press, has to do with the question of Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus. Will this modern Passion Play provoke the same sort of reaction medieval ones did? Will the film trot out the charge of deicide against the Jewish people, thereby leading to havoc, as earlier re-enactments did?

Perhaps, but we doubt it. Our students rarely, if ever, rehash this charge. No doubt that's because of courageous church leaders who, over the past 40 years, have denounced that ancient accusation. So we are hopeful that as moviegoers digest this version of the Passion, they will hear re-emphasized these

modern proclamations exonerating theews as a people for the death of Christ.

Alongside the importance of that question is a larger issue we'll raise in our classes. It's one which emerges from but is by no means confined to the question of what theGospels say about the Jews and Jesus. It has to do with sacred text and its relationship to history.

Here's one way of getting at this issue. Several weeks ago, after the movie had been previewed at a private Vatican screening, a story circulated that Pope John Paul II allegedly said of the film's depictions: "It is as it was." Responsible Vatican voices have denied the pope spoke these words. Other sources insist the opposite.

Who knows? For our purposes, those words, whether authentic or not, speak to the heart of the problem.

Can any movie ever portray things "as they were"? For that matter, can our holy books ever claim to do so? Are our sacred books history — or theology? Were they ever intended to be the ancient version of today's newspaper reporting? Did the Exodus story in the Hebrew Bible unfold as written? Did the Trial of Jesus?

For well over a century, scholars have been wrestling with such questions. Through meticulous textual scrutiny, the discoveries of archeology, and comparative study of ancient documents, we are in a better position to appreciate how revered texts most likely came to be written, and why.

There is wide and learned consensus that the Bible is hardly an exact transcript of what happened, but a multi-layered document, evolving over time, the work of many human hands and multiple, sometimes fallible, often brilliant minds.

As such, the books of the Bible should be appreciated not as some ancient version of today's video camera or tape recorder. Rather, they were the repository for a faith community's most treasured stories and guidance. These revered teachings preserve the memories and hopes of the faithful, then, not the

history of events "as they were."

Scholars may and do disagree about the precise nature by which these texts assumed their final form. But they would agree, we think, why it is so vital to look at these writings in this light.

For too long, people of faith have insisted that their sacred text, and only theirs, told of things "as they were." The mischief, and even worse, the calamity, resulting from such competing claims litter our civilization. Not only in the past, either. Even today, our lives are plagued by those who insist that their sacred books alone are of divine origin, that only their holy words speak the truth, only their interpretation

is valid.

One of the great fruits of modern scholarship is that it allows us to see texts in a new way. What these teachers can show us is that our texts are hallowed not because they are of otherworldly origin, but because they speak of matters that transcend time and space.

It is time to come to terms with this insight. Our holiest writings are no less holy just because they were shaped by human imagination and interpretation. They are supremely creative efforts to preserve what matters most to our own communities of faith.

Once we make peace with that idea, we might actually be able to make peace with each other.


Roetzel is Arnold Lowe professor of religious studies at Macalester College.

Cytron directs the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning, a partnership of St. John's University and the University of St. Thomas.


© 2004 Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


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This movie was written for the literal believer.

It is sensationalism in the same tradition of Nightmare on ElmStreet Horror flicks.

It is ironic that the same people that would complain about sensationalism in film and television are probably the same people that applaud this movie.

If you believe that pain and suffering have a meaning, in particular, Jesus's pain and suffering has a meaning, this movie does not properly convey that meaning.

It focuses only on the sensational part of the story to the exclusion of what precedes or happens afterward and what precedes and happens after are the very parts of the story that give meaning to the suffering and pain.

If you don't "mentally" add those parts in, then you are going to miss the essence of what is being said. You just leave feeling numb from the violence. This sort of brutality has and still does happen on this Earth.

Sex and violence create very strong emotional responses but they often cloud critical thinking. The movie certainly does not make a strong case for "believing" in Jesus Christ.....it makes a strong case that Roman soldiers were brutal Sadists and that Jews (at least the Sanhedrin) are hard-hearted and materialistic.

It is a horror flick that is acceptable to Right-Wing Christians.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Thank you for referring me to the URL "BeliefNet" and it's dialog on "The Passion". Mel Gibson has really Shaken the Foundations and brought out the troops with his horror flik.


The corpus of the postings, and i read all 62 of them, seems to me to justify moving on from the Bible and the Churches it has spawned, to a new Christianity of more plausible dimensions.That is why I no longer belong to a Christian Church and consider myself in exile as a Church Alumnus and belong to the Church Alumni Assn.

As a seeker, I am currently studying "The Course in Miracles" published by the Foundation for Inner Peace. I am willing to suggest at this juncture that the common themes running through the dialogue noted above are faced in the course which claims its author to be the resurrected Jesus acting on behalf of God, interestingly enough in the years around 1960, to clarify these matters.

I will say no more because Brother Rog feels the course to be outside the bounds of consideration under the rubric Progressive Christianity.I have however a title under Book Reviews which I hope will engender some discussion of the common themes I feel are contained in the BeliefNet postings.



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Jeep, I didn't intend to squelch all discussion about The Course on Miracles - indeed, I am but one member of this august forum and I'm not even part of the administration of tcpc. If others wish to join in on a discussion on this topic, by all means go ahead. I was merely indicating that I personally don't perceive The Course on Miracles as being within the scope and realm of progressive Christianity as I understand it. I'm fully aware that others have broader notions about it and that they feel more comfortable assimilating other religious traditions including gnosticism, new age, hinduism, etc.


I'm glad to see that you've created a thread for folks to engage on that topic however. God bless. : )

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  • 5 weeks later...

I wrote this 2 weeks ago, after watching the movie (with a free ticket from a church going friend, of course). The intended audience were my "non Jesus worshipping" friends, that's why the use of casual words like "######", "this guy", etc.


I thought it will be good for you to know how others think of you and your religion, that's why I post this review here without any editing for the audience here.



This "Passion Of The Christ" movie is worth watching. BUT NOT with your own money. Get a free ticket from your friendly church goer.


The story line is simple and has a good moral behind it. BUT all those "believers" won't understand this moral. They are blinded by all the superstitious fictions and they think that the lesson to learn from this movie is the "he suffer for us" ######. Even the producers of this movie understand this story in this naive way.


This is a story of simple politics. The up-and-coming opposition leader, Jesus, who's action differs from the social norm, being oppress by the current dominant power. The dominant power find some silly reason to kill this opposition guy. Familiar story? That was not the first time such thing happen in history, nor the last time. You can still see such events happen everyday. And guess who were the most prominant oppresser for the past thousand years? Exactly those that worship this guy. Exactly those that keeps telling this story tirelessly over and over again, and fails to learn the correct lesson from it.


When you are watching, remember all the hundreds of thousands of "witches" that are killed in Europe from about year 1400-1600. All tortured and killed by this guy's worshippers, because the roles are reversed. The "witches" were the minority acting different from the social norm, this guy's worshippers were the dominant power. Did this guy suffer more than these "witches"? Every one of these "witches" are much more innocent than him (this guy instigate the people to go against the dominant power, the "witches" are killed by cold blooded intolerance just because they are different), and suffer more than him. But we won't have any movie in memorial of these "witches".


Such "witch hunting" or religious intolerance by this guy's worshippers are still happening every second throughout the world. Sometimes the victims just got verbal insults, sometimes whole countries are destroyed. When the minority out-of-the-norm try to stop suffering in silence and revorted slightly, they are branded as "bad guys" and are crushed down even more violently.


When you are watching, remember how this guy's worshippers ill-treat and discriminate against the blacks, and how they shift their goal posts on this issue over the past 50 years, only after they are defeated by public opinion.


When you are watching, remember how this guy's worshippers are still ill-treating and discriminating against the homosexuals now. They are now slowly shifting their goal posts on this issue over the next 50 years, again also because they will be defeated by public opinion. The show is still on. Now they are quoting scriptures to support their belief of "god forbid homosexuals". Expect them to do a U turn and quote other scripture verses that support their (incoming) belief of "god also love homosexuals" in the near future. It is the black situation all over again.


There are still more such episodes coming. Issues on human cloning, issues on animal intelligence (When we can use genetic assistance + education to make monkeys to become as intelligent as human over maybe 50-100 generations, what will happen? And after that what about dogs? After that what about pigs?)....


History will repeat again and again, and again.


Don't dream that this guy's worshippers will learn this lesson from this movie. There is no scripture verse to teach them this. For more than a thousand years, they learn the opposite lesson ("we must crush those not with us") from the scriptures and this story. I will gladly act out (all the torture scenes of) this movie (including the die part) as lead actor FOR REAL if doing this can make them learn the lesson. I will even smile all the way, although no promise I will be able to sustain that smile physically, mentally the smile will be permanent. If they think 1 guy is not enough, tell me how many they need, and I'll get more volunteers (Don't worry, getting volunteers is very easy compared to "make them learn the lesson").


Even if you don't like to think about all these "deep" issues. Be part of the history by watching the first M18 movie in Singapore. Only a dominant powers' religious film can create a movie rating category in 1 day. It is a real miracle act.




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Thanks for providing this review of Hollywood's latest "Horror" flik!


A good friend of mine put it this way recently:


"The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God that must be dismissed."


Class dismissed!


By the way, what are they doing in Singapore these days? What is a M18 movie?



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At the Methodist School where I work the faculty raves about the movie. My mother thinks her life will never be the same again. I am contemplating hosting a BDSM party at a theatre <_<


Thank goodness my bishop is more cautious towards it, noting that it is theologically deficient in his Maundy Thursday homily.


It is no doubt anti-semitic, just as all the canonical gospels are anti-semitic. The problem lies with Christians who cannot accept that sacred writings are contextual to societies - warts and all, that the anti-semitism in the bible is bad.

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1. Egads! It seems we have a Calvinist in the house! lol

2. I would remind us that Joshua Nunn has previously posted a thread entitled "Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ" (currently on page 2 of this board) which has 203 views.

Perhaps this most recent round of posts ought to be moved to that thread.

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Hi Kiat,


Please note the show & the bible did not teach us to kill people. If you remember while watching the show, one of Jesus disciples cut off one of Judas's ears after his betrayal. But what did Jesus do, He healed Judas.


This is only one of the incidents that Jesus showed us his love & many incidents also indicates that He is telling us to love everyone, including our enemies. "Love everyone", certainly when you love someone you would not kill them, right?


The above also applies to the rest of your message. Please do not condem all Christians just because of what some of them do. If you really want to know what Jesus has taught us to follow, please read the Bible. That's the most accurate way of knowing what His teachings are.


Thank you. :)

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Most of you may have wondered why I post such thing here. The answer is: I saw an advertisment in Singapore Newspaper (Streats), on 12 Apr, about this tcpc forum, that invite all to join and discuss. I am not sure whether it was posted by the owner(s) of this board, or if it was a prank done by a forum member. But this is what you get if you advertise for an open discussion.


I had even sent it to the webmaster for vetting. The webmaster told me "You should absolutely post it on the message boards.", "People can handle it!". So I registered an account and post it.


I really like some of the ways the replies were written. Shows the comprehension skills of the members here (some good, some bad). We can't have meaningful discussions.


Class dismissed!


If the members here think this thread is an eye sore, I support the webmaster to delete the whole thread.

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Guest admin

Hi Kiat:


Thanks again for posting your thoughts. I think meaningful dialogue is absolutely possible here, and we have many examples of it all over the boards to prove it!


Seems like many of the responses people have written have been supportive of your viewpoint - there is certainly a wide variety of beliefs/theology among those who find meaning in aspects of the Christian tradition.


We rarely get posters who are disrespectful, and if we do, their posts are deleted, they are warned and then banned, so I hope you feel safe enough here to say or ask whatever you like.


Keep in touch ;)

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Watching The Passion of the Christ recently reopened a lot of unresolved issues about the credibility of the Christian thesis for me.


Why do I feel that Judas was the real victim in this drama? How guilty was he anyway? After all, since Jesus could foretell that he was going to be betrayed (and I think it is fair to assume that he also knew who was going to do it), the question is whether Judas had any choice in the matter. If an act can be foretold by divine foresight, can the actor choose not to carry it out? If the actor can choose not to do so, it would mean that God can be wrong! Did Destiny, as the instrument of God, impel Judas to act as he did? If so, then to what extent can Judas be blamed for what happened to Jesus?


Also, we might add, that since Jesus had foreknowledge of the betrayal, and yet made no attempt to evade capture, he must at least be guilty of complicity in his own fate! Doesn’t all this seem “staged”?


If we take a step back from all this, and reflect on Jesus mission on earth, which included his dying to "save" the world, we must conclude that someone had to end up being the "bad guy" in bringing about his death. All the other alternatives (of Jesus dying from natural causes, or by accident, or committing the unthinkable act of suicide) would not be "noble" enough or have the necessary dramatic effect of a "sacrifice", for inspiring the following that he had! So someone had to do the dirty work of betraying Jesus & taking the blame for his death! When was this specific, unfortunate individual (Judas) identified? When he was chosen as a disciple? When he was born? Eventually, it was Judas who made the ultimate sacrifice - of being condemned to eternity in hell (presumably, from the Christian standpoint, if anyone should deserve hell, he does) while Jesus now enjoys eternity in heaven (until his long-awaited second coming!) - all for an event that was divinely ordained and therefore unavoidable... surely an act of divine injustice on a cosmic scale!! Judas had the role of being the ultimate "fall guy" in this easter drama; the ultimate scapegoat!


The crucifixion had a critical historical role in Christianity. Notwithstanding all the other good that Jesus did, it is still the one thing that made him “worthy” of such adulation and worship. Nothing else in Jesus life was so emotionally inspiring as to motivate the early Christians to risk persecution or to face martyrdom with the fortitude that they did. The director of the Passion must have understood the audience appeal of portraying his suffering to the extent that the movie did. At first I thought there was some perversion on the part of so many Christians who would willingly sit through so many agonising minutes of Jesus’ torture and murder. And then it hit me – the more that he suffers, the more they love him for it; the more that it justifies their love for him! Was the crucifixion staged as a divine publicity stunt? Was it fabricated (or dressed up as such) by the early church fathers in order to win followers? Why was there a need for all the drama of crucifixion? Couldn’t Jesus simply have jumped off a cliff – wouldn’t this have satisfied the requirements of a sacrifice for the purpose of the Redemption? For that matter, couldn’t his parents simply have stayed put, and allowed the infant Jesus to have been captured & killed by Herod’s men?


Does the concept of Jesus' "sacrifice" make sense at all? A sacrifice is when you give up something that is precious to you. If Jesus is who the Christians say he is (ie, the son of God), then his "death" was simply a homecoming - a chance to be reunited with the "Father". If someone is “killed” but is then resurrected, did he even really die? Where is the sacrifice? A soldier who gives up his life in battle to save his comrades sacrifices much more!! - in giving up life for an uncertain fate in eternity. If I were a Christian, I would be more inclined to think that Jesus' "sacrifice" was in coming into the world (and enduring separation from the Father), rather than in his "dying".


And who is this "sacrifice" being made to anyway? God? So God sent his "only begotten son" into the world, to be ultimately sacrificed to Himself? Otherwise, he will not forgive mankind a transgression committed by the first man and woman? I can’t understand why anybody (never mind so many intelligent Christians that I know) would find this to be plausible! And in the first place, what loving (never mind responsible) creator would put two naive individuals within reach of a tree whose fruit could result in such dire consequences? It is as incongruous as a loving parent putting poison within reach of inquisitive children, and then telling them not to take it! This is so mind boggling that I can understand why the Church demands "faith" in its acceptance.


I don’t believe that Jesus actually intended to die on the cross. Otherwise, his cry of despair (“My God, why has thou forsaken me?”) would make no sense. This was a cry of despair directed not so much at his impending death, but at his uncompleted mission – one that is centred on teaching (rather than dying).


It seems to me that Christianity has missed the whole point of Jesus' coming - that so much attention has been placed on his death, when it should have been placed on his life and teachings instead. By insisting on the "acceptance of Christ as one's saviour" as the primary requirement for salvation, Christianity has succeeded in corrupting what Christ stood for into a personality cult, and reduced it to a sycophantic appeal to divine ego, so contrary to the selflessness that epitomised his life.


Jesus' real sacrifice was not in dying on the cross, but in living each day of his life for others rather than himself! He did not come to make Christians out of us, but to invite us to share Christhood with him; not so much for us to adulate but to emulate him; and not for us to call him “lord” but “brother”.


"Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)


"If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him". (John 14:23)

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Without accepting that Jesus has made the "Sacrifice" for us, you have not earned your ticket to heaven. A lot of Christians believe that is an absolute pre-condition for membership. You could have been a sinner of the worst kind and still qualified if you repent and accept that believe, or you can be the most virtue person on earth and still be turn away at the gate if you don’t accept it.


I think that believe is so important in Christianity is that the Jews were the "Chosen" people (The Jews had to distinct themselves from other people who worshipped other God). Somewhat to allow Gentiles (non-Jews) to be admitted to the Kingdom of God, the early promoters of Christianity to Gentiles (Paul) had to use that concept to convince the Gentiles that they were also entitled to apply for membership.


Also, if you read the Old Testament, there were plenty of "Sacrifices." The concept of Sacrifices (including animal and human) were very common in many religions. I also wondered that how can you please a God by killing something that he had created? It makes more sense in a poly-God religion. In that case, you kill some creature that is created by another God so to show your devotion to your own God.

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Here's an interesting email I received which looks at the linkage between The Passion movie and the Evangelical communty's beliefs about contemporary Israel:


TO: Churches for Middle East Peace Email Network

FROM: Corinne Whitlatch, CMEP Executive Director

RE: Wash Post on Evangelical-Israeli connection


This email alert is also posted on our website at: http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2004March31.htm


Written by the Post’s religion reporter, this article focuses not on the theology or politics of Christian Zionist support for Israel, but rather on the development of the relationship and fundraising in support of Israel. This piece of investigative journalism by Bill Broadway provides factual details about funding and other measures of support as well as offering a line-up of the most prominent players.



By Bill Broadway

Washington Post – www.washingtonpost.com March 27, 2004


The much-publicized controversy over Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" might give the impression that Jews and evangelical Christians have little in common, theologically or otherwise. Nothing could be further from the truth.


While some evangelical and Jewish leaders sparred publicly for months over the film's depiction of Jesus's last hours, especially its potential to incite anti-Semitism, thousands of evangelicals were donating millions of dollars to support the state of Israel and its people. And Jews, most notably the Israeli government, welcomed their contributions.


"We get 2,000 to 2,500 pieces of mail a day, most of them with checks," said Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, founded 21 years ago to foster better relations between the two religions. Since then, Eckstein, an Orthodox rabbi, has broadened the organization's mission and in the last decade has collected more than $100 million in financial support for Israel.


read the rest of this article here

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  • 4 weeks later...

The death of CHRIST is real and necessary to save mankind and the world. In the book of Genesis 3:15 the promise or hope was given by God Himself for the redemption of this world. Choice was given to Adam and Eve. To obey is life and disobey is death. God created the world for His glory and with purpose. And He created mankind in His image to manage this earth.He was put in charge to care for his family and other living creatures in a healthy and happy environment.Unfortunately he lost that position to the arch enemy (satan).So God took the responsible to mend this unhappy disaster of this planet earth.Life (blood) is to be replace or redeem by life (blood).Holy,justice,merciful and truth is the character of God.Mankind is not holy enough to meet that standard.Neither can he save himself. So God took the form of humankind (incarnation) to give human beings a second chance (eternal life).He came to live among people as a human and yet without sin to pay the price (life) for the redemption of this world.And also to give human beings the happy and healthy life which was lost in the garden of Eden. And this is the time when Satan can challenge with Christ. Who kill Jesus?Nobody kill HIM (Jesus).The moment Christ was born as a human baby Satan has plotted for His death.Christ gave His life as a ransom and He took it back.John 10:18.The death of Christ on the cross was a big blow to Satan's plan to rule this world as a god. JESUS was truly GOD and truly MAN. From the book of Genesis to Revelation JESUS has proved to be the saviour, One who cares for the creatures that He has created.

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  • 3 weeks later...
So God took the responsible to mend this unhappy disaster of this planet earth.Life (blood) is to be replace or redeem by life (blood).Holy,justice,merciful and truth is the character of God.Mankind is not holy enough to meet that standard.Neither can he save himself. So God took the form of humankind (incarnation) to give human beings a second chance (eternal life).


OK, but this is where I have a problem with what you're saying (the "traditional" explanation re substitutionary atonement):


First, human beings were made weak, fallible, and capable of evil. God created us this way. This does NOT mean that we don't struggle against our nature, just that I doubt it was a huge surprise to him that humans sinned. So when people say that our general sinfulness requires blood sacrifice because of God's sense of justice... I just don't see the justice part. (I'm not talking here about responsibility for individual sins but the overall "original sin" idea.)


Second, the argument seems endlessly circular: Why did God require placation and sacrifice? Because we sin/sinned and can't help ourselves. Why is that? Because we're human beings and can't not sin. But it's postcrucifixion and we still do sin. That hasn't changed; it doesn't automatically change when we accept to follow Christ either.


Third, do any of us really believe in this day and age that spilled blood "works" as a human purifier? Why on earth would an almighty God find it necessary to spill blood—the blood of an innocent, no less—as a means of placating himself? Or as a means of restoring or reconciling us to him?


Fourth, the idea makes God seem "small", out of control of his emotions, irrational, and unable to do what he asks of us, which is to forgive and reconcile in a spirit of love.


Fifth, Jesus never spoke of himself or his ministry in this way. I do believe that Jesus brought reconciliation, but more through his life and revelation of God's love, there for the embrace of it (through faith and action), than through a death required by an angry God. Surely if his death was THE thing to Christianity, it would have played more of a role in his teachings.



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I don't have time for a detailed response at the moment, but I'd like to highly commend an excellent book to you: The Nonviolent Atonement[/i], by J. Denny Weaver. The book critiques the popular/traditional substitutionary/vicarious/penal/satisfaction theories of atonement and advocates instead shifting to embrace the a revised "narrative Christus Victor" model of the atonement. Go to www.amazon.com and read the reviews (but buy it from a local independent bookstore or borrow it from a library! ; ) )

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I do believe that Jesus brought reconciliation, but more through his life and revelation of God's love, there for the embrace of it (through faith and action), than through a death required by an angry God.


I agree with you here. I don't think the passion is unimportant, but I wonder if its importance might be somewhat different or more subtle than is often suggested.


I think that the truth of Christ's suffering and his willingness to suffer, his understanding of the ignorance of those who caused him to suffer, and his ability to still profess his love through that suffering is profoundly significant.




The Nonviolent Atonement[/i], by J. Denny Weaver


I looked this up on Amazon. From the reviews, it looks pretty interesting and sounds like it might come close to my own interpretation of the Passion and its significance. Thanks for the recommendation.

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I think that the truth of Christ's suffering and his willingness to suffer, his understanding of the ignorance of those who caused him to suffer, and his ability to still profess his love through that suffering is profoundly significant. 

I agree with you. Good way of expressing it too. I didn't mean to suggest it was unimportant or irrelevant, by any means. For me it's more of a continuum to his life, perhaps a culmination, rather than a separate and different act. One minister in my church some years ago also highlighted its importance as an expression of "God with us, even unto this."


Thanks for the mention of the book, too, I'll check it out.


I am very relieved to find somewhere where people are openly talking about these issues from a liberal/progressive perspective. I've often chafed at ministers who I KNEW held liberal views but never brought them to the pulpit. I've felt alone for many years with my thoughts except for some notable books. I used to live in NYC and overseas, but I'm now in Texas, a major bastion of fundamentalism and worshippers at the shrine of Saint Dubya, and I need other liberals to talk to.



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I am very relieved to find somewhere where people are openly talking about these issues from a liberal/progressive perspective.


As am I. :D



I've often chafed at ministers who I KNEW held liberal views but never brought them to the pulpit.


As a new Christian who came begrudgingly to faith through the ministry of a fairly liberal church, I can't say I've ever had this experience, but I can imagine it would be frustrating.


I've felt alone for many years with my thoughts except for some notable books.


I have always felt this way. Still do, actually :)


Even in my "fairly liberal church" I suspect I am a bit of an oddball when it comes to views. I believe in a non-literal and symbolic interpretation of scripture. I strongly believe in the example of the life of Christ, and I believe that much of what he actually taught has been misinterpreted, lost or forgotten.


I still have much to learn about the church and about the teachings and life of Christ, but when I concentrate on his life and his example, I cannot deny that he was a great teacher and an extraordinary being.

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