Tag Archives: Jesus

Cosmic Christmas service

Sound:

http://yourlisten.com/BetweenTheStools/cosmic-christmas-music-art-words-for-different-celebration

HEADPHONES RECOMMENDED

OVERTURE

One of my pictures – painted especially – for you to reflect on during my piece, which is my systematic theology in music

Introducing Elspeth and Between The Stools, and a prayer

Music to meditate to with pictures – all pictures and music are my own (c)

Comet
Melancholia
Sirius, the Morning Star
Solar System with Betelgeuse
Death as an Act of Creation (from the film The Fountain)

THE SERMON: 1

I planned this service for last year, inspired by the repeating images of planets in the BBC’s Nativity. I wanted to do a different kind of service – so there’s no traditional carols or readings here. A service away from the obvious and into the epic. I had no idea then how cosmic this Christmas of 2020 would be…

I was brought up with contradictory feelings about outer space. As a child, it was fine to have such an interest – in fact my first music was Holst’s The Planets suite. But I became aware of astrology – to be carefully marked from astronomy – and this was a devilish, sinful, erroneous pseudo science to be avoided. Yet, I have to say, for all those about to quote the Bible at me, that the Star of Bethlehem is literally star of the show – after Jesus of course, and perhaps Mary and Joseph – in this story. We only hear of it in one gospel, Matthew, but it’s captured our imaginations. Secular trees are often topped with stars. Carol sheets are adorned with them. This bright, bright star has a particular shape, a kind of cross-like four axis – is that any accident? The Magi were prescient with their gifts, including myrrh…but the Magi will get their day on epiphany. What I’m trying to set up here, before we go into a musical reflection, is that heavenly bodies are very much part of this heavenly story. Some of you will already be comfortable with that and you’ll be celebrating the Solstice tomorrow as much as Christmas. Some of you may actually be celebrating something other than Christmas – I’m aware that it’s Yule and Hanukkah too. But despite my faith’s broad apron, I make no apologies for this being a service about Christmas, the Christian festival; but I also have no qualms about celebrating Solstice, and about talking about the planets in this service.

This year, I discovered solfeggio and healing sounds. Sounds for otherworldly, epic. I have these on my instrument. I even have sound called Jupiter – sad Jupiter, although he’s meant to be bringer of jollity. I think that this year, the by-passing of Jupiter is about joy. I’m going to play some sounds for us to reflect on whilst we look at pictures of planets I made and think of the epic nature of the Christological Christmas event. [Note: I don’t claim that these are healing or tuned to solfeggio frequencies – I hope that other pieces will be]

In my upbringing, the main attraction was always the sermon, and I make no apologies for mine being evangelical length. I’d also have time for discussion in many of my services, but those parts won’t ever be recorded, and nor will anyone who comes, unless they volunteer to lead and choose to be. There will possibly be more music – the shape of the services is fluid, although they will be unlike established ones, and I won’t be using liturgy. So the services will actually be a little longer and there’ll be a chance to mingle and get to know each other.

It’s horrific that worship has been so restricted and interrupted this year; that Easter didn’t really happen, and that carol services are being held far apart with masks, and you’re expected to leave straight away without socialising. No mulled wine and minced pies! And no singing! I must say that I’m disgusted at this, and at churches for complying without seeming to challenge. If you want to hear more about why I feel that, please read my open letter to Christians which is on the top of my blog, underneath this service. I have much to say about the events of this year and also the systems to be broken down – for they’re crumbling – and what we should do instead. Note that I don’t say ‘replace them’.

[And if you’re interested in why I left the C of E, read here… there are follow up posts]

When we meet next year – and I do hope we’ll meet again – the world will be very different. In a good way. Many of the familiar structures, including church, will not be recognisable.

I’m inviting you to get settled for Cosmic Christmas – the sermon.

It’ll be epic in its scope and snaky in its logic. Prepare yourself….

Karl Barth, the German theologian of the last century, was another who spoke out against the established churches of his land during the Nazi years. For that alone, he feels relevant; but for the rest of tonight, I wish to focus on cosmology, although it will necessarily involve some demonology. Barth changed his theology quite drastically throughout his life, ending up in neo-orthodoxy. As an undergraduate – I am now an overgraduate! – I came across Karl often, so that I feel I want to be on first name terms.

All this surname business links to deeper imbalances I’ll bring up another time, so I’m resisting it here. In his tertiary theological period, he wrote a huge multi-volume Church Dogmatics. Interestingly, Karl did not start his systematic theology with creation, as is standard; he began with Jesus. Although Christians divide their Bible into two testaments, for the two covenants God made with his people, for Karl, Jesus is the only covenant that God made with humans.

I now don’t agree with Karl Barth on many things, but I am interested in his unconventional starting point, which makes sense to me. Like many, I see Jesus as being queued up from that Garden moment – hence we sometimes have a Genesis reading in carol services. Here began the Matrix, and here the seed of our Neo was born. That movie of 20 years ago starring Keanu Reeves feels very apt this year, and the phrase ‘taking the red pill’ has entered popular culture, often standing for those groups who are awake to the Matrix and the need to break free of it. When I saw it at the cinema, one of my companions was less impressed by this dark, stylised action thriller: “Why didn’t he take the blue pill, and we could all have gone hum [Norfolk for ‘home’]”. Indeed, comedian JP Sears has made a sketch this year about Blue Pill people – those who choose to carry on doing what they always did, believing the illusion, even though it is clearly harmful, and trying to pretend that there is no illusion. For them, the blue pill is the safe option.

I used to think that Jesus was actually present in the Garden of Eden, and his first line was ‘hath God said?’ It was on the premise that snake – who is never named as anything but… Snake, is also translatable as The Shining One, the Wise One; and Jesus likened himself to the story of the Children of Israel receiving their first homeopathic healing from snake bite by gazing upon a serpent lifted up. That word for shining was used again. Was he not therefore catalyst and cure? Whereas no lightning struck when I published that blog post, I am revising my view a little.

But I did see that moment as the invitation to stop walking in the park, or garden, and begin an adventure. Humans could drift around in a state of unknowing, or experience it all – the dramas of the human experience. So yes, I believed – unlike Barth – in an upward Fall, to gain more than was lost after Jesus’ act of salvation, not a mere restitution.

But then I felt: look at all that suffering we’ve all been through. Look at the horrors that some have endured. Call this an invitation? What was so bad about the blue pill? And was the Matrix already there, or didn’t that moment create it? Is God playing with us, like in the book of Job, seeing if we can be tempted out of relationship with him, and to find out just what our breaking point is? I felt like CS Lewis said of God after he lost his wife, Joy. Are we rats in your celestial laboratory, Lord? Do you enjoy ‘teaching’ us through pain? A state you invented, along with the frailty of our bodies, the intensity of our emotions, the delicate balance of our natural world…which makes our demise so easy.

And then, you supposedly gave us free will, but that means that we have the capacity for the greatest horrors, of greed, violence, control… and its ultimate expression: enslavement.

I am starting to see how much we are enslaved, and that some familiar Bible verses about our state are not, as ancient too influential teachers have said, about human’s intrinsic sinful nature, but about the way the world operates.

Was this operating system already present in the Garden? Is the Garden literal, you’re wondering, and do I believe it is? Yes and no, I say. There is certainly rich allegory here – I did a whole course over 2 terms on just these chapters. There is much more, especially if one starts to explore Jewish mystical interpretations, and be aware that there are not dissimilar stories in other ancient cultures, including that tree – or rather, the pair of them.

Did God not want us to know the difference between good and evil? Were we innocent, and therefore good, or just ignorant? Isn’t this God who walked with us – for we are encouraged to see ourselves in that first pair – somewhat of a controlling nanny of a God, like our rulers are being to us now? Moral complexities are not something that we are to get involved in. We are told ‘don’t share, not true’ and expected not to need a discussion or evidence – just compliance.

Usually, this story is seen as ‘we couldn’t even keep God’s first commandment’ and thus that our disobedience, our rebellion, required God to send his own Son into this world that so drastically fell in that one act – the eating of the apple, and then lying and hiding – that cosmology was changed in that one moment.

I want to think about that: how precarious our environment, our relationship of walking with the Lord in the cool of the day. All this trouble to create a world, to especially make us in His own image – Their own image – note the plural – and then, it seems five minutes of not yet being recorded time later, and we’re sinning, being cursed and expelled.

And says the apostle but not very saintly Paul, we all died in Adam in that moment: all of us since became sinners, unfit for that perfect garden and walking with the Lord in such intimacy and also plain sight. Just as Adam and Eve felt the need to hide their bodies, now so did God, from us; when he later appeared to Moses, the patriarch law receiver had to turn so that he may not look on God; and traditional Jews will not even name Him.

It’s often seen as brilliant original theology for that early church planter and letter writer to have seen Jesus as a second Adam, the inverse image of the fallen first; the refraction of those squash your painting together and make a two sided butterfly picture. The dark, abysmally human Adam, as prototype to us all, is now mirrored by the perfect Spotless Lamb of God, taking our sins like a scape goat, ending the need for animal sacrifice to appease an angry God, so holy that it’s OK for him to get that angry about our sin and demand that others of his creation are slain to make it alright again.

But I am going to challenge Paul. I am aware that the Bible is a collection edited at a meeting that had we chaired, we might have decided differently. Typically of the ruling class, a few got to speak for the many, and that council of Nicea chose but excluded certain texts to make up the ‘true’ canon of scripture, which even the established church argues over, for some books they left out – the Apocrypha – appear in some Bibles, and the myriad of translations leaves even greater queries.

I am a strong advocate of discernment, of using my intuition and letting my God speak to me: Lord, is this really you? Was this just how a new, word spreading believer entrenched in Jewish and judicial ways understood you, or is this what you would like us to know of you for all time? Was your will really done in Nicea for once and for all, or are other forces at work in keeping us from your true message? Could it really have got so distorted? And why question now?

Forces are at work, absolutely, in keeping us from truth on so many levels. Yes, God’s message could – and has – got badly twisted along its 2000 years journey since Jesus – and the thousands before that, to the Jewish people. And there’s a reason that so much is being questioned, so much coming up for release at this extraordinary watershed. It’s why Mary Magdalene is being rediscovered so powerfully, and why others are speaking of the need for the reclamation of the divine feminine.

On a course I’m taking about Mary’s gospel, one of our group said that Christianity was ultimately unappealing to her because half of God seemed missing, at least in the mainstream telling. We are told that our world is made up of male and female and that these opposite complementary energies are needed to create life: but that God our Creator is only male. He’s 3-in-1, sounding like modern advertising and convenience devices than a godhead, but none of the Trinity are women.

Of course, there’s plenty of Mother in God. She’s Mamma Chook to her chicks, the Shekinah Glory pillar of leading and protection is female, Wisdom is a Woman, and so is the Holy Spirit. In this city, a woman 647 years ago saw that God is indeed our Mother – we call Julian ‘mother’ too. But some of us don’t realise this, in either sense of ‘realise’, and if we do, it’s a buried side note. No wonder that some find more succour and connection in faiths where there are multiple gods. I’ve been wondering about the personas of the Old Testament, and the uneven and ungodly behaviour of God and the different names – as I discussed in June. I’m not alone in this enquiry.

Yes, Jesus, who we think about each December, was a male child – I’ve not heard that disputed. He did have a human MOTHER – note that it was the father’s role that was done angelically, and he had a close companion in the other Mary – Magdalene, the tower of enlightenment. And he had other women friends and followers, as well as a band of brothers. I like to think that Jesus had a developed divine feminine side as well as being divinely masculine – and we’ve seen some of the worst distortions of both those this year.

And I believe that Jesus was planned at the start. Who was he? The pre-existence of Christ was an essay question that I chose not to answer, but it’s a common conundrum. Was Jesus present in any way at the garden (or was that Lucifer and just who is – and isn’t – this Devil character? I’ll be asking that in the New Year). Surely he [Jesus] is the serpentine head crusher of Genesis 3; is he Melchizedek, mentioned in Hebrews 7, the great High Priest? Was he Enoch, who ascended to be with God without dying? And when will he be back?

Lots of us are turning our eyes to the skies and to the Book of Revelation at this time, and I think rightly so. Is the Lamb going to appear imminently? What is this Great Conjunction of tomorrow, when our two largest planets move as close as they’ve been in 800 years? Was there a strange conjunction in Adam and Eve’s time? We’re aware of a great astrological event – or a miraculous sign – when Jesus was born. Out of the attempts to answer what that Star might have been, I like the observation that if it was another Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter (and possibly Mars too) that it rose in the time of Leo, the sign of Israel and kings, or at the time (my truth telling Sunday) that the end of the Flood was celebrated by Jews. [see 1996 article by Craig Chester]

This was another covenant that God had, and yes, it’s the first rainbow – a symbol stolen this year, not just from the LGBT community, but as one NHS worker too afraid to name themselves said, stolen because it’s been used to create fear and hide what’s really happening. I will let you read that testimony in the Off Guardian yourself, but I have heard others like it. My applause is for those whistleblowers and those who refused to be swept into that flood of fear and sweep others into it.

I’ve long had an issue with the Flood – not the possibility of it actually happening, for I am aware of those who say it’s scientifically supported, the prevalence of a similar story in all ancient cultures, and the oddness of alternative reasons for why the dinosaurs died so suddenly and fossils created. My issue is: why did God do that to his own creation? Five chapters after creating us, he’s planning on destroying us all – animals too. Not only has he flushed us out of the garden hardly ere he put us there, but now, he’s intent on not just letting us become perishable, but making us perish.

And what was this crime, what were these people doing that was so awful? Why was God grieved he’d made us all, save Noah and his family? We’re not told. And yet so many crimes of and against humanity have been committed since – and are being done now – but isn’t this one, perpetrated by God? Who will hold him to account?!

Why didn’t God send Jesus then, to Noah’s world? Why wait perhaps 4000 years – late in time, Hark the Herald writer Wesley thought. Why destroy it instead? Especially if you believe that Jesus was planned all along. And why not destroy us? Has God changed since the Flood days? How did Jesus coming to Earth and dying sort this problem out, and just what is this problem of evil?

There are many sermons worth of material in these questions, and yes, I’ll be preaching them, and yes the material will overlap.

But I believe that Flood is very relevant to now.

I’m going to take a wee break and I’ll tell you why that boat is part of a Cosmic Christmas service, and why it matters.

—————-

MUSIC

Note the pink light and single band and the shape made by the overlapping planets (thanks to Louisa for the idea for the latter)

Sermon Part 2

So: why am I weaving in Creation and the Flood to the Atonement at Christmas? Because we need to understand why Jesus came, and also about his coming again.

And I’ve had some very surprising news to assimilate this year. You’ll hear more in the next sermon, and others. One is something that may make the more Christian among you seek refuge in the hills. It’s not mainstream theology or anthropology, but it isn’t just me either. When I first read this notion six years ago, I wanted to dismiss it. Too weird, too ridiculous, too uncomfortable. It was the last that got to me. I was already a believer in some kind of matrix, but this….? If that’s fully taking the red pill, I’ll hold out just now.

But this year especially, some things have begun converging – things that I was already cognizant of. I had come to believe in the presence of an unseen controlling group, for though I have not knowingly encountered one, like the missing source Q in biblical criticism’s synoptic problem (what problem?. Moving on…) I had come to posit their existence by the shape of the evidence around it. Something, someone, a group of someones, was doing something very evil to this world. Was I to resurrect my belief in Satan and his band of banshees, prowling like a roaring lion – or was he a snake after all? Seems like snakes are not far out…

I oddly retained just one superhero artefact from my youth: a Superman annual of 1982.

Yes, the second movie released at that time was very much hinting at a Father sends his only Son to show us the way… we have a great capacity for love…. but need some help…

But I’m not doing a Superman comparison this sermon. I love to mix in popular culture – often much more than I have here. I said that I’d stick to Jesus this time. I didn’t say that what I said would satisfy the Westminster Catechism, or Confession of Faith.

This annual had a story by Joe Pasko “Race to the End of Time” where Superman and The Flash meet aliens who have been warring across the universe for so many centuries, that they’ve forgotten the cause of the war. They’re semi human, more like mean gnomes, and they’ve got scales. I hated this tale as a child, where Superman is told that these races impregnated our world with the exhaust from their living spacecraft.

God is my Father, I thought passionately. And I still do. And my Mother. Not these tight costumed big eared things, technologically advanced but capable of much cruelty and chaos – and seeming little concerned about what their pursuits do the earth. Battle and power is glory in itself for them.

That God made me ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ and deliberately – is essential. That the God who made me came into his own creation incognito, born as we are, feeling as we do, teaching, and then giving his life for us before returning to Glory – this it what makes the Christmas message, the Christian message, good and wondrous news.

I recalled this Superman story recently and read it again. No, it doesn’t bear the names I was expecting, but this ridiculous and unbiblical story – or so I thought – is born out in other sources. I don’t mean historical ones – not that science and history, especially as we do them, are necessarily more true. But others were saying similar things about the way our world came to be, what the Flood really was, who is ruling – or trying to rule us.

And I’ve started to see Jesus differently, not buying us back, not atoning for our sins through sacrifice, not even as I put it on my website, saving us from our own anger, not God’s. But what was this problem that God dealt with so drastically at the Flood?

And why did God need to intervene in human history with his own son?

And – why is He going to do it again?

I was directed to read the start of Genesis 6, the beginning of the Flood story. The Nephilim, the giants, the sons of God who mated with the daughters of men. This, I am told, is They. The real THEY – The Hierachy Enslaving You. Here are your real baddies. These powerful people were so great and so troublesome that God had to think how to get rid of them – quick. So no sending Jonahs to preach to these Ninevites; no haggling with God a la Abraham to spare more people. Although in the Quran, Noah does preach and his large scale vessel brings attention – mostly negative – these beings aren’t given an opportunity for mercy. God clearly wanted the extant other creatures to survive, hence his 2 by 2 (or 7 – for sacrifices had already begun) policy. We’re also not told what the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are – certainly not homosexuality, as we’d understand it, but something truly dark.

I’m starting to get a picture of what both might be – for they happen still.

I’ve also heard that the Flood might be caused by one of the alternative, lesser gods; or that rather than a divine punishment, it was caused by planets coming near, or atomic explosions; and that the world created in Genesis 1 was in fact a remodelling of a burnt out globe destroyed by the greedy overreaching of a careless people. This how many see the story of Atlantis – not as myth, but history, and that we are heading in a similar way…

Speaking of advanced civilizations which burned out, I’m noting that Babylon appears in the Bible a few times; Babel, the first story after the Flood, is based on its name, which means ‘confusion’. We read that Lucifer, king of Babylon, fell from heaven. This is often seen as Satan’s backstory. Some argue that no, it’s a real king; now I think: this really connects to the essence of evil. The Babylonian empire was a time of slavery for the children of Israel, a time which inspired the famous Psalm 137, ‘by the rivers of Babylon’, where slaves yearn about their homeland and singing the Lord’s song in a strange land. (here the divine mmms and steel drums of Boney M’s 1978 hit).

Babylon is like Rome in that way – the oppression that Jews hoped that their Messiah would end. And Jesus did come whilst Judea was under Roman rule, and he predicted the fall of their great temple (note it was the Jewish temple, not Rome itself) although both came and he precipitated neither.

In the end book of the Bible, popularly thought to be about end times, Babylon appears again… and this is significant. Babylon is a dinosaur-like beast, like the encounters that Job has that modern scholars – even the evangelicals who compiled the NIV – mocked, for humans did not share with dinosaurs. Thus the behemoth and leviathan must be elephants and crocodiles, says the study notes.

But could much of what we think we know be wrong?

How do dragons and behemoths relate to Jesus? What am I really trying to say here?

That I believe that other species may have had a hand in human history and may live among us? That although I’m not sure I still believe in a literal Devil, that there are dark forces who God and the angels and we must battle, and we’re soon facing the ultimate cosmic crusade, here in our skies, even on our earth? Might I be one of those people who believes in reptile aliens who have been enslaving us since the Babylonian era, and that the Bible makes hints about this, and that this year’s events will reveal and ruin this forever? Am I saying that I not only think that Christ’s coming was written in the stars, but that the stars again are converging to show…a second coming? The second coming? That Jesus was born at the start of the Piscean era, and now it’s the Age of Aquarius? And you bet I believe those mysterious monoliths appearing are the work of extra terrestrials. Look at the picture in the poster. Yes, it’s the Earth being bombarded with long straight bits of light, and I had those in mind. I think we’ll start seeing what they do tomorrow…

Aren’t I going to feel stupid if I’m wrong? Didn’t those who said the world would end eight years ago feel like muppets? Well, something did happen in 2012, and New Agers tell me that that was the beginning of the Era of Change, Light, Peace. This is its culmination. People laughed at Noah, who was making something conspicuous. I also like that film “Evan Almighty” where God asks a newsreader – not even a believer – to build another ark. When there appears to be no rain, his wife says: Maybe it’s a flood of consciousness. [She actually says awareness and knowledge – still relevant].

And this will be – in the first instance. Remember what happens next in that movie?

But there will be other levels of flooding: light and love.

And doors will burst open, dams will burst, and we’ll see what’s been hiding under the surface for so long. It and they will have nowhere to hide.

Will Jesus return? Is this angel train time? I hope it’s something tangible, but this is an exciting time. And Jesus is definitely at the heart of it. He’s not working alone. I think he is calling on his angels from the realms of glory, but he’s also calling on us to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, the opening of eyes, the release of prisoners (including from mass house arrest and from under masks). I think there’ll be some new captives instead… and God will be doing some judging, but I’ll leave that part of His work for another time.

I’m nearly done now. Thank you for being with me, and listening, especially if this has been very far from your own beliefs, and there’s been a lot to take in.

I want to send you out in joy, in hope, in confidence. Whatever you’re being told your Christmas, your 2021 and beyond will be like, I want to proclaim that something profoundly different, profoundly new is here. This is its eve. Can you feel it? A friend once said that this – Christmas – is the time that God intervened and changed history.

I think he’s going to do it again. And we are witnesses and co-workers.

I’m not going to wish you a happy Christmas, and certainly not a merry one. I will issue you a brave one, a surprising, and extraordinary one… and I think there will be joy. I pray for you all, especially if you think that joy is impossible for you. Our God specialises in overturning ‘impossible’ prognoses and diagnoses. He also specialises in healing and making all things new. He is not only being birthed – he is birthing.

Jesus didn’t come to make us good, he came to make us free – and we are free!

I pray that you will experience Jesus this Christmas. I think you may have a job not to…

OUTRO: ‘Behold I am making all things new’

Vortex: Lauri Ann Lumby says that black holes suck in matter and then create something new out of it

I’ll be back on 10th January, same time, same place, for Epiphany

Between The Stools now has a video channel set up on Brighteon – a trailer is coming soon

https://betweenthestools.webs.com

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Hail, Caesar – he is Risen

This week I saw two new films, each featuring a Fiennes brother, about a Roman tribune (senior soldier) who encounters Jesus at the end of his life.

I bet I’m one of few to have seen both, because Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes, hardly got any theatrical release. In my city, only one cinema had it, for one week, only twice a day at awkward times, pulling it before the Easter weekend it is all about. Thus its low audience numbers were self fulfilled. And it’s gone before, like the disciples at the tomb, I could go and tell anyone else to come and see it.

I am also one of the few drawing a comparison between these films, because the subtitle of the film within film, Hail Caesar, is not mentioned in any cinema brochure I’ve read. Along with other inaccuracies, it is called “a sword and sandal” epic. But there’s no sword fights and no George Clooney is not Caesar – he encounters a more paradoxical alien leader. There’s a scene where the religious leaders whom the studio is trying to placate discuss the nature of the incarnation (interesting for Jewish film makers), a beautiful closing speech at the foot of the cross (for which scene the crucified actors received “hardship pay”) and confusingly, a section featuring Saul of Tarsus with a title card “Divine Intervention to Be Inserted”.

Risen also consulted with Christians to avoid upsets, and likewise, found them happy – though I was not at the depiction of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. This is not in the Bible and even Catholics – who pretended she was – have officially un-tarted her now. Hasn’t the writers heard of even the Di Vinci Code and who Mary is believed to be by many? She’s Jesus’ no 2, covered up by Peter ‘I want the Keys just for Me’ and friends.

Both films had powerful and profound moments, but the tones were very different. Hail Caesar was often funny, though most of my laughs were at the points described above; the studio debacles often did little for me. I am not a proponent of the multiple storyline and so I wished we spent more time with Rome and Jerusalem, and less (or none) in aquariums, deserts, drawing rooms and bars filled with sailors who sang about the lack of dames at sea, but by their antics (some dance moves were suggestive of a number just before 70) they were not sorry. Not all the characters really fitted together, and were by some rather conspicuous sewing.

Risen had no humour and was for the first part often brutal, opening as a high budget and adrenaline thriller, just incase you thought this was for church halls. I think it is a film for church halls, though not for families or sensitive people of any age. The usually doe eyed, gentle and sensitive Joseph Fiennes is harsh, interrogative and even murderous as Tribune Clavius. I found it hard to watch him being so unjust and bullying. He is one of a few well known actors in the film, such as Peter Firth from Spooks as Pilate, who pushes Clavius to find Jesus’ missing body because Pilate fears the next tier of the chain – his emperor.

The brutality in the Coen’s film – some of which was verbal threat – was from film studio producer Eddie Mannix, fixer of any legal and publicity embarrassments. I hated Eddie (Josh Brolin) for hitting Baird (that’s Clooney) and silencing his communist sympathies. Eddie becomes the tribune, the old kind of God – telling people what to do, what to think, and what they can know; judging by narrow standards, being non-negotiable and using perceived virtue to guide those in his care; and of course, money.

Both tribunes alter at the experience of Jesus, yet Joseph’s conversion feels more like a Christian Union mission film. I am trying to work out why. Did the disciples seem too spacey and squeaky good? Was I angry that they never fought back? Was it the snippets of their sermons on the beach? But wouldn’t frightened, crushed followers feel exonerated and empowered and impervious to threat if they thought their leader was truly alive again?

The Coen brothers leave us, as so many Jesus films and plays, with him on the cross – yet for George’s tribune, even then, it is enough to change him. The makers of Risen (and Waterworld) let us see Jesus to the end of his earthly life (I was going to say, off the premises), but the ascension is more of a disappearance into the sunset – ET had a more memorable and convincing take off. They obviously didn’t have the budget to show us what the guards at the tomb saw either – shame as modern film is wonderful for bringing such stories to us visually.

The Coen’s Jesus is a back of a rather strawberry blond head and a pair of feet on a maximum comfort cross. Risen features Cliff Curtis – is this the first Maori Christ? – whose face has have the expected unnerving quality, but his less conventional Messiah looks and Tears For Fears hairstyle also slightly beguile and unsettle. However, he behaved like we like to think of Jesus – in the imaginary last miracle where he truly saw and loved the person he healed.

What was hardest for me was reconciling the kind of Jesus we want to believe in – like this – to the one who actually appears to be in the gospel. I’ve been at a study group where we heard that one writer thinks that Jesus snorts in fury at his healees; a Jesus whose first line in John’s gospel is a snap at would-be followers; a Jesus who is incredibly rude to that Gentile lady seeking healing for her son… Commentators let him off by saying, he must have meant…ah, but really he knew…   Is this disciples and early church fathers scribbling in, or…? I’ve written an article on this before. I nearly entitled it “Going off Jesus.” It doesn’t affect my relationship with God, but this is the central person who makes Christians distinct. So where does that take me…?

It’s a search I continue. Meanwhile, I found these films as worthwhile as any church service and yet not exclusive of those not seeking a spiritual message this Easter.

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The Gospel according to Sylvia Browne

A response to “The Two Marys”

Yes, the author is that Sylvia Browne, the psychic, who is also a Gnostic Christian and church founder. This leads to my first issue. The miracles in the Gospels are a bit far fetched, Sylvia says. Feeding of thousands? More like a few hundred or less. Rising from the dead? No, a faked faint with feeble as possible whippings and beatings and cleverly aimed nails so that the Lord could recover in the tomb and then sneak off to travel and minister and die happily in France with his family at the age of 84.

So – Jesus can’t rise from the dead or do miracles, but Sylvia can see the future and receive messages and pictures from her personal discarnate spirit. We’re asked to accept her beyond the rational gifts, but not those of someone somewhat more established and revered?

The tone of this piece matches the one that Sylvia often writes in. Occasionally, she’ll give interesting, more scholarly insights, such as when and how the cult of the Virgin Mary really gathered speed, with statements that sound like informed research. Then she’ll say: Jesus revealed himself to his French friends by “letting the cat out of the bag”. So much for the Messianic Secret! She makes oft use of the lazy “a lot” and calls many other psychics “nuts”. Worse still, these ‘nutters’ might become occultist, which she abhors – no reason.

Her view is that Jesus was crucified for preaching a loving, forgiving God…. interesting, but not expanded. We don’t get many quotes from the Gnostic gospels that her views depend on – least of all, discussions of their translations and authenticity.

Although badly told, she does rationalise her version of Easter. Everyone was in the trick – there’s no outcast, self murdering Judas; Joseph of Arimathea and of course his beloved Marys all knew. Even Pontius Pilate was malleable with a bribe. She explains this is why Jesus was crucified so close to the Sabbath, when no dead bodies were allowed left hanging so he could be on the cross for minimal time, not have his legs broken, and be snuck off to a powerful man’s tomb ready for revival and escape. The vinegar on a stick was opium to help him bear the pain and lose consciousness. The Noli Me Tangere moment on Easter Morn was – don’t touch, my wounds still hurt. Then Jesus shows his earthly wounds – for what spirit has them, she asks (hasn’t she heard of ghosts appearing with the last known body?). And then Jesus becomes master of disguise, does a bit of globe trotting, including America (how could he miss you out) and then retires to Languedoc as “David”.

For anyone of a non Gnostic bent, Jesus’ faked death is shocking on many levels. Traditional theology is that Jesus’ death is the telos of his mission; Christmas matters because of Easter, and those teachings are mere aperitif to the main course – his passion.

If it’s true that as Lynn Picknett gleefully states in her book on Magdalene, that there have been a spate of dying and rising gods, then Jesus needs to do something extraordinary – and that would mean a bodily resurrection after an actual, bodily death.

To me and many Christians, Jesus’ subversion of death and overcoming it on the cross is essential.

Many Christians see the unthinkable emotional as well as bodily suffering as a sign of Jesus’ love for them – that he wanted to bring us back to God so much that he would endure this for us. Julian of Norwich would not get along with Sylvia Browne!

My understanding of the Cross is different to mainstream Christianity, but this view is spreading: I believe not in penal substitution, appeasing an angry God’s thirst for blood to pay off an insurmountable debt of sin. The cross is about saying God is nothing to do with this world of violence, punishment, payback and worldly might. I love Hildegard of Bingen’s view of sin (as told by Ilia Delio) as being the exile of unrelatedness and the refusal to grow. I wonder if every personal block to God and each other, including what we would consider acts of evil, is covered by that definition. Sin is what stops us from living authentically.

But all Christians can agree that Jesus did something unique and essential for the human/God interface, and that he overcame death – our greatest fear and enemy. Sin in all its forms and definitions has been dealt with – that exile is over, that impediment is removed and light, not evil, now prevails. So a few pokes and a opium-fuelled doze with fictitious angels as alibis for the bribed tomb guards misses the whole point.

If Jesus preached a loving forgiving God, it would be more powerful to demonstrate him.

Sylvia says Jesus needed to get crucified to fulfil his Chart – but she obviously misses off most of the reading, for its not in minimal suffering and a ‘sham resurrection’ (her phrase) that his destiny is fulfilled. How could Jesus say “It is FINISHED”,  “It is accomplished”, or better still – “Consummatum”, all things brought together, if he did not complete his mission? And why would Jesus commend his Spirit to his Father and feel forsaken if he only had a half death? And dissembling is breaking one of the Decalogue.

I struggle to see why Sylvia refers to Jesus as Lord, although I am intrigued to look again at his sayings – the ones she upholds – and see if Jesus is Lord enough through just them.

There’s also something wrong with the family narrative – that of the Marys and Jesus travelling, of Jesus being a husband and dad, of his favouritism for Mary Magdalene over the disciples, and his and both Marys’ royal lineage. No overshadowing from the Most High is needed in this conception, and there’s no assumption into heaven – just retirement to the Essene community with its celestial nickname and a boringly ordinary death of old age.

The childhood friend bride feels uncomfortable from a personal relationships view: so Jesus couldn’t meet someone later in his life, and she had to come from the right sort of background to be suitable. It felt like the sort of fairy tale I’d like to see die out.

Like Shakespeare, Jesus’ appeal comes from his ordinary, non conventionally educated background. I abhor the notion that neither Will of Stratford nor Jesus of Nazareth could possibly be who we think without blue blood and academic training. That says, only the aristocracy are worthy of admiration; only official learning is true knowledge, and worst – that class and feudalism rule: just what I thought God wasn’t about.

Jesus is meant to come from King David’s line but he was born to a carpenter, to people too poor to get lodgings, but had to sleep and deliver a baby in a stable.

Why would Mary his mother sing the magnificat about the powerful and poor being switched if she was royal and rich herself?

And to cast the harlot’s mantle off Magdalene, we have to give her ermine.

Sylvia argues that Jewish men, especially those called Rabbi, were always married. It would controvert the Genesis command to multiply if a man did not have children, she says. But how easy is it to generalise about beliefs and practices? We know people who break the mould. I love that Jesus does everything topsy turvy and unexpected. We value money and property – he doesn’t appear to have any. He lives in a commune and travels – we value rootedness and stability. We don’t read of his ordination in the established religion – he simply preaches, al fresco often (it avoids room hire and permissions). His teaching and his death and resurrection are revolutionary, in the literal sense of turning over, as he does to tables of those misusing money and places of worship. He breaks the Sabbath to heal. He talks to a Samaritan woman. He puts spit in a blind man’s eyes. He assumes temple authority. Jesus’ non conforming to the ‘go forth and multiply’ custom says that humans are not defined by procreation.

Sylvia’s argument that the wedding at Cana must be Jesus’ own initially has more credence. For, she says, how else could he be expected to worry about the shortage of wine and ask servants to do things? Why would his mother bring this concern to Jesus if he weren’t the groom?

In the previous chapter of John’s gospel (the only one to tell the story), Jesus is called Rabbi, before we have heard him speak or do anything. It is the next – ‘third’ – day that Jesus is ‘invited’ to the wedding, with his mother and disciples, implying them as equal guests. When his mother draws the wine shortage to Jesus’ attention, he says, ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time is not yet come’.  Jesus sounds surprised, as if this wedding isn’t his concern. The servants obey Jesus because Mary asked them to – why is not explained. The bridegroom is mentioned, but not named, and so is the master of the banquet, to whom the transformed water is presented. I don’t think therefore that the case for this being Jesus’ wedding, with Mary M, who we’ve not met yet, is very compelling.

Many people are comforted that their Lord is single. We don’t have a physical description of him (Sylvia does, via her spirit guide, Francine!). He was Robert Powell-esque (star of the TV series Jesus of Nazareth) and Mary his mother curvy and dark (at least one of the three had the right ethnicity for a Jew). Magdalene was red haired! More Anne of Avonlea than Mary of Magdala! (Avonlea… that’s a whole other thought….) People have appropriated Jesus to their circumstances – a black Christ so African people feel closer to him, and European depictions made Jesus brown or red haired and light eyed and skinned. It’s been suggested that Jesus might be gay with the disciple whom Jesus loved (and his mates Mary, Martha and Lazarus a ‘queer’ family). But we don’t know if Jesus was married. We don’t know his sexuality, if any. We don’t know if he had children. But it means that mystique allows us to feel close to him, whatever our skin colour or family situation.

If Jesus was single and not a father, that those of us without spouse or offspring can feel that the most special earth dweller was like us; if he could be complete without parenthood and partnering, that we can too.

There’s also a massive issue with the divine and their mortal creatures having an affair – it’s one of those off bounds parings like teacher/pupil, prison officers/inmate, and counsellors/clients and adults with minors. We’re not equal, there’s a power imbalance.

Unless you believe that Jesus isn’t divine or that we are. Many think that Mary Magdalene’s surname isn’t where she’s from but her title, like Mahatma Gandhi or Lord – she’s spiritually special. So maybe not such an odd coupling?

But then there’s the favouritism issue. I heard a sermon state that Jacob’s obvious preference for his technicoloured dreaming son was bad parenting. If Jesus behaved likewise, I can sympathise with the disciples who complained of Jesus’ constant petting and partiality, and can see why arguments arose after Jesus left them.

I’d like to think that the Son of Man, let alone God, had more maturity and sensitivity, and left a better example.

*

Sylvia’s arguments do not become more bolstered by evidence or reasoning. She often refers to scholars, but gives few names – save Karen L King and Elaine Pagels. She states her view of history as fact, supported by vague research – but this is a common complaint I have with nonfiction.

A later chapter has little to do with the Marys and more about tolerant beliefs. I do support Sylvia here, for in her crude offhand way, she says – let love and acceptance be the heart of living and let us not judge, let alone persecute or silence those with other beliefs. She sees the canonising of the Bible as a deliberate attempt at political control and mind steering, leaving out the best and truest parts of the Bible and editing the four chosen gospels to focus on Peter as leader and downgrade both Marys, and the message of love.

Sylvia mentions Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and its backlash with some admiration. Unsurprisingly, she also references the Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln book, which her view agrees with to some extent. She calls the 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ “somewhat weird” and offers a warning to viewers. She seems unaware that Scorsese’s film is based on Nikos Kazantzaki’s novel. And that its point is, that unlike her Jesus, coming down from the cross before living peacefully with his wife was a temptation to refuse. The film ends with Christ on the cross, choosing to continue his torment unto death to fulfil his mission. Hence this controversial story is more orthodox than Sylvia and books on the holy grail and bloodlines.

A brief word on that line: The offspring of Jesus would be at least demi gods, and that would be dangerous. And why is a bloodline so vital? Sounds like the feudal notion of purity of blood, of position by family not merit, and permanent exclusion for those not in the clan. But the whole message of Jesus is: God is widening the net (was it ever really so narrow?). Not by birth and heritage, but by belief are you included in God’s kingdom. I wonder if the Age of Aquarius is about moving beyond a particular set of beliefs to be seen as inheritor of God’s relationship – and beyond legalistic words about ownership.

It was a relief to get to the end of The Two Marys, but there’s an odd appendix – the tenets of the Novus Spiritus (why the Latin?), Sylvia’s own church. Twenty two statements in semi religious language – a few thous chucked in, not of the Buber variety; anti war, pro defence; the rejection of book of Revelation. I cannot see the appendix’s relevance to the book’s subject, unless it is another juxtaposition to suggest she too is a messenger of a new spiritual movement for this newly dawning age. Is she letting a cat out of the bag?

Sylvia seems to regularly hint of her own specialness – she compares Magdalene’s loss of her husband and mentor to the loss of her psychic grandmother. In the first chapter called Powerful Women (note Sylvia’s gender) she says, I’m not putting myself near our Lord, but I know how busy travelling and teaching can be and how it feels to be crucified by the press.

Despite the book’s title and my original intent to write this about Magdalene day, Sylvia’s focus is less on either Mary. Neither are divine for Sylvia, for whom, this is really Jesus’ story, bookended by a close maternal relationship. Mary Magdalene just propounded her husband’s ideas. This is not so empowering for women or Mary.

Sylvia’s shockingly unorthodox view of Christ isn’t compatible with her own world view. Gnostics have a more positive view of humans, yet Sylvia believes that humans are flawed and in need of enlightening. But even if we don’t need traditional salvation, death does need overcoming, I think, and Sylvia’s Jesus doesn’t do that – his exit strategy is somewhat tepid compared with the rising and ascension of the gospels. And for Jesus to half die is worse – for it doesn’t signify or accomplish anything. Sylvia doesn’t ‘bother’ with much of the Bible, especially the first part, though she does imply she understands that Jesus preached a new understanding of God, but on whose previous heritage we do not need to dwell.

Her chief source of knowledge is Francine, who isn’t introduced as her guide is familiar to her readers in previous books. Francine seems slipped in at will and at difficult parts of Sylvia’s depiction as her incontrovertible proof. Sylvia seems to just know – which as a modern Gnostic (not one of those ancient dualists with all the rules), would be entirely consistent. I too believe in inner knowing over empiricism, but I also know I need to be able to present an argument too. Intellectually, she’s not convincing, and her writing style is often flavourless and flippant and not focussed. Thus I’m not a follower.

It has given me ideas to follow: my disappointment with Jesus and the royal line of David, and to re-read the gospels to ask – how special are Jesus’ teachings and is he portrayed as God? And what of my original Mary Magdalene quest?

These are all likely to appear on my blog another time.

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First Knight – Disneyland, Man Love and 2 Marys

These are three of the main thoughts I have after reviewing this film 19 years after its release, when it quickly became and stayed a favourite film.

Criticisms slipped in, but then I realised that what I thought were faults were actually hints of a different reading.

It is easy to see how beautiful, wise, good Guinevere wins the hearts of two men. But I never felt either really deserved her or were right for her. I also had trouble seeing the love between her and Arthur. I note Guinevere lost her father within the year and has only older men as companions – such as Oswald who keeps calling her “child” (far more bearable in Cold Comfort Farm), in Jacob, and then Arthur. Her mum isn’t mentioned, and nor are siblings. Ladies in waiting are given non speaking roles, and are a minimal presence. I hate Freudian missing parent theories, but Guinevere’s love for Arthur does seem to be similar to the love she may’ve felt for her late Dad: a deferent and quiet passion, unafraid but not quite equal, and not a sexual love. When Arthur greets his bride on the hill over Camelot, he arranges a military show to make an entrance, though it is not a public event (a grand debut was in Connery’s contract, but it undermines the relationship). They do not rush to greet each other, even though she’s suffered an attack en route, but he debonairly takes her hand as one would a political ally or dance partner. When they speak about their marriage the next day, there’s no physical contact until Guinevere gets out his scratch on his hand. Even when she is rescued from Malagant’s lair, the embrace there could almost be converted to beloved child and father. We never see a love scene or any other passionate kiss. At his death bed, I fail to see the look of love that Arthur notes is missing; this is again a daughterly sorrow at yet another older man leaving her.

Note he speaks of the love of Guinevere as sweetness, not passion, not a soulmate.

I felt we needed more to believe in this marriage, supposedly a love match, but I wonder if it is meant to be a will (not heart) powered steady devotion – a paraphrase of what she says to Arthur when she is discovered with Lancelot.

Lancelot appeals to the physical, courageous side of otherwise intense and sensible Guinevere, who’s already having to run kingdoms on her own as Lady of Lyonnesse. Guinevere, who wishes to live and die there (so having a great sense of settling), has been born into duty, no doubt with finery – though she says he’s taught not to put faith in it. Here comes a man without home or finery, a man who speaks his desires – but doesn’t act until the lady asks – ie gives not only her permission but initiates. He is not the body man of Lehman and Hunt’s sex obsessed essay on Titanic – the contrast is less crude than a physical macho hunk, for Lancelot is polite (compared with Mr Turner in my next post) and unthreatening. He doesn’t care about hierarchy and I think that’s what shocks Guinevere at the first rescue as much as his implication that he’d like a sexual thank you: because for him, pretty women are no better if they’re dairy maids or ladies, and he doesn’t care about monetary rewards. He’s not suddenly deferential when he learns who she is – why should saving a lady be more gratifying for him? Once I stopped expecting Lancelot to be a particular kind of man, I accepted him better.

Guinevere, like Rose in Titanic, is an action heroine. When we first see her, she’s playing a vigorous football game – foreshadowing Jennifer Elhe’s Elizabeth Bennet which came out in the UK a few months later – who is also corporeal and enjoys physical exercise (particularly under Andrew Davies interpretation). Guinevere doesn’t wield an axe like Rose, but she does escape being hacked The Shining style by one into her carriage. Like an agile Western hero, she grips unseen to the running boards and throws her world be assassin off the careering carriage, before leaping and rolling from it, then lying low and making a well judged sprint. She kills a man with a crossbow at short range. Later, she rides a spirited horse considered unsuitable for a lady by the king’s horseman, without a lady saddle; she throws a kidnapper off the boat; she has the nous to put a scrap of her dress on a tree as a breadcrumb trail to her rescuers; she twirls on a bridge over an abyss, she leaps over a waterfall and swims in the rapids.

But in all those examples, Guinevere swaps from Grace Kelly in Rear Window – remaining feminine but active – to distressed damsel. I note a powerful man – not a generic enemy – is in her presence each time. When Lancelot first appears, she’s gasping and afraid as the Malagant minion holds her. In Malagant’s slate mine palace, she is silent and compliant, again shivering as he undresses her and pushes her across the bridge to the oubliette with the slightest arm touch. And when Malagant attacks at the end, she rushes to Arthur’s bedside and never takes up a sword. But in front of Arthur and the knights of the round table, she does stand up verbally to Malagant when he attends a council meeting.

Now I’m coming to explain one of my themes. I see two Marys in Guinevere – Magdalene and The Virgin. Guinevere’s virginity is never mentioned but is prized, and there’s care for her never to even kiss Lancelot while she’s engaged (meaning that Arthur has the first experience with her) and for only a kiss to happen at Lancelot’s leaving – novel tie-in author Elizabeth Chadwick points out that such a kiss was only stopped becoming an act of love by Arthur’s interruption. Arthur, like Jesus, sees adultery of the heart as an equal sin. I see two readings of this story as allegory – one of the future, the other, the past.

As a wise spiritual ruler with a specially picked band of men, Arthur can feel Christlike. Guinevere could be his Mary Magdalene, but his relationship with her is more like mother son (or father and daughter) – linking to the other Mary of the gospels. Mary Magdalene is the naughty Mary, but some understand her to be the Kingdom’s co-creator, the enlightened one, not just the reformed demoniac/prostitute of tradition. Mary Magdalene might be the other side of Guinevere, the side who is drawn to the nomad (which Jesus was) who unlike foxes and eagles, does not have anywhere to lay his head.

But she’s also the one the villagers turn to for succour after two attacks from evil – firstly on bended knee, calling her Lady; and secondly for physical comfort after the forces of good save them – thus her Mary the Mother analogy is heightened.

Malagant is a Lucifer – once the highest of the elect, who left after a quarrel about supremacy and now seeks to terrify all Arthur’s people – a row, like in the Bible, which is never explained. I would like to have seen the “tyrant” speech of Malagant developed. In a way calm, kind Arthur is a tyrant, as is the portrayal of many monotheist’s God. Love me, and I’ll love you – cross me and there’s public judgement and death. You can only come into my kingdom by invitation, as Lancelot finds out (a bit like Calvinist theology). Arthurian god has a tempter, and both he and Malagant speak of the Law as the ultimate justice; Malagant claims he is the law, while Arthur points to something greater than himself, which is also potentially manipulative. Serving God, a country, a family or band of brothers raises the stakes and makes heavier the responsibility. The brotherhood/leadership dichotomy is a topic for another time, but I note these politically leading knights are not elected, they’re all military, and there’s no ladies – and despite having no head or foot, the round table does accommodate not only a king but a first knight.

And Camelot is the Kingdom, the heavenly city, built from his father’s legacy, a place, says director Jerry Zucker that we all want to live. Thus this neo Jerusalem is a place to aspire to, and not get cast out of for bad behaviour, or else you’re in the subterranean has-been of Malagant’s world. But it’s not just Jesus who is building a kingdom – there’s a currently earthly realm, like Camelot, which is built on ideals and ideas. Like a church, it’s not the stones themselves, but the people and dream that lives on – good job, for this fortress proves to be as robust as the cheese stall in its likeness that we see on the run the gauntlet day. That place is America. So the Disney castle look of Camelot makes sense – if it is intended: the American romanticisation of a medieval mythological ideal, the appropriation of a history they don’t have. Note the French renaissance windows: this is a new birth.

And Arthur’s existence is unproven, and so imaginations can set to work, inventing architectural details and costumes (is it coincidence that Arthur’s knights wear Star Trek like garb?). Saxons didn’t build cities so the only walls and gates around would be ex Roman – again, a great empire imposing itself, sophisticated on one hand, brutal and rash on another. Much like Arthur. His trial of Guinevere and Lancelot says – my personal hurts are a matter of state. I humiliate these people and call it an act against the realm, and I’m telling you – mess with mine or be unfaithful, and you’ll die.

Who the faithful are is my final point: the triangle is not the shape I’d assumed. Arthur is in love, but not with Guinevere. He has fallen for Arthur in a courtly ideal of unconsummated deep love that I call man love – not exactly gay (it’s so feeble that Hollywood is still not good at dealing with that in its mainstream films – yes Brokeback Mountain but think of Troy!). They couldn’t have been lovers or it alters the offence of Arthur’s discovery the love of Guinevere and Lancelot, whose “innocence” (ie lack of physical love) is important.

Arthur waits patiently for his wife to answer him and to formally marry him, but he rushes Lancelot onto his council with wedding like vows, preceded by a night of prayer and purification. This is man marriage. The scene when Arthur slips into Lancelot’s chamber and touches his bare back holds back from homoeroticism but I think the point is implied. Why, when Arthur discovers the near affair, is Arthur aggressive to Lancelot but composed with Guinevere? Because his love for Lancelot is the greater. He twice speaks of loving Lancelot to his face – “I don’t love people in slices” and “I loved you, I trusted you!”

Note Lancelot’s lack of aggression or even justification; he defers to his love, offering to die for him. In another Jesus paraphrase, Arthur brings up the theme that to die for another is the highest love (which can also be manipulative, it’s how any leader has got men to go to war) – and now Lancelot will give his life to serve his master and the kingdom.

And in Arthur’s last scene, he needs to make up to his two loves as much as they need to placate his rent heart over the discovery that the triangle does indeed have three sides. To prove the third one is most powerful, contrast Arthur’s goodbye to Guinevere to his send off to Lancelot. Arthur asks for his sword – not a phallic symbol, but as a shiny almost magical object throughout the film, to bestow a highest honour on a beloved friend. They hold hands and Arthur not only implies his blessing on Lancelot and Guinevere, he gives Lancelot the greatest privileges he can – being First Knight isn’t just political and military (I hope he doesn’t reign Camelot with only sword skill, and not state craft), it’s saying, You are my main man, I love you.

Mark Adam’s synopsis in Movie Locations of Britain started me on this road when he describes the film as Guinevere coming between Arthur and Lancelot (p151). I think he’s correct as both US and UK film covers have the two men as large and Guinevere in the background in the middle; and on the British cover, the picture of Guinevere is inside the sword, dividing them. So the courtly love here is Arthur’s for his knight; the nation state with universally applicable ideas is America, and this is the tale of taming the wanderer to become part of society rewarded by romantic love, brotherhood and knighthood – but does Lancelot lose something in becoming part of Camelot?

I look forward to getting the region 1 DVD and seeing if the extras support this, or whether this is my reading; but I enjoyed the film far more since seeing all this in it.

 

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Good Friday

As we’re close to the Easter season, I’d like to share what I wrote last year on my new take on this day

http://relijournal.com/christianity/good-friday-2/

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