Friday, May 06, 2005

Kingdom of Warring Kingdoms

I'm not going to see the movie anytime soon. I'm not the hugest R. Scott fan, but I did enjoy Matchstick Men and his Alien movie (although Aliens was my favorite). It's been a while since I saw Blade Runner. I'm not averse to that film, I just don't really have an opinion on it. Gladiator was enjoyable, though not for the reason that John "Christian men all desire to be adventurous rescuers" Eldredge seems to say that I'm supposed to. I just thought it was a good story and decently told. And I love that line, "Are you not entertained?" Who doesn't?

But the reason I would hesitate to see Kingdom of Heaven is for the associations I make with that bold statement of a title. However, by the very nature of its subject matter, this work of historical fiction does shed light on a very uncomfortable part of the Christian past, the Crusades, pogroms, etc. However, this reprinted article by medieval scholar Thomas F. Madden uses contemporary research to put a light on what the Crusades were really about. I was flipping astonished. I really, really was. Here's an excerpt:

[The Crusades] were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Madden then continues to abolish every old stereotype that I had about the Church's role in murdering, pillaging, and especially conquering and imperialising Muslims and Jews. Not that atrocities didn't happen, (they did and still continue to do so within the so-called "Christian" world).

I don't know or suspect that Scott's work will clarify this issue, or bring it to light. It's a movie and should be experienced as a movie - with all the Romantic trappings of a Hollywood feature in the post-PC era America. It's just that I'm in the midst of studying the life of Jesus and seeing that phrase manipulated so poorly to strike the phrase from Jesus' revolutionary views of the Kingdom of Heaven and land it firmly in line with the Kingdom of Heaven anticipated by Jesus' audience (people who praised Jesus in his ironic Triumphant Entry and later scowled at him for not meeting their expectations) saddens me. The Kingdom of Heaven is upon us and the violent bear it away.

Speaking of the Middle East, I was trying to find an article from the Reader (our very own independent weekly here in Chicago) about Al Jazeera, but it's not online. At least not where I could find it. You may have to settle for watching The Control Room, a great documentary - one of my favorites. Then maybe you can balance it out by watching some Fox News. I don't know. Just watch the movie, it's more realistic and revelatory than whatever other "documentaries" it's looped with (Outfoxed? Please!).

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