Posted 27 February 2017 - 03:00 PM
Ok, so this fucking movie. As I mentioned in the announcement thread, this was the first musical I ever saw live (organized through a school trip when I was 10) and my family subsequently rented the film on VHS. I greatly enjoyed both experiences, even though I had no affinity for musicals beforehand.
This movie is important to me because I was raised prrrrrretty damn Catholic, so Catholic that my grandfather (and my great uncle) was a Catholic priest. "How's that?" I hear you saying. "How can someone have grandchildren AND be a priest? That sounds... odd."
Well, FUNNY STORY, his wife, my father's mother, died of an aneurysm shortly after giving birth to twins when my dad was six. My grandfather subsequently became a deacon in the Catholic Church and, when all his children turned 18, meaning he was no longer legally bound by any earthly attachments, he was ordained into the priesthood. So the anniversary of my grandfather (who passed away several years ago) becoming a priest was also very close to the anniversary of his wife's death. This is a Category Five Catholic Guilt Tornado we got going here.
ANYWAY, I set this up because, obviously, religion and the Church had a profound influence on my Dad's Italian Catholic family. It helped provide a support structure for the emotional shared responsibility his family would have to take on in order to prosper after such a tragedy, one that really defined my family for a couple generations. As a kid, the concepts of Catholicism were really difficult to grasp for me... being a child. I mean, the Holy Trinity? What in the fuck is that? God is both the Father and the Son and then there is the Holy Spirit? Whatever the fuck that is. What do they mean when they say Jesus "died for our sins"? How does that work? How does his brutal execution help me now? Is that why I have to go to fucking catechism classes AND church. This shit is boring.
But it was not boring to my dad, nor the rest of his family. They love the Church, and while I believed in God in the way any 10 year old kid might when forced to go to church every week, it was really hard for me to comprehend what it was all about, especially on an emotional or spiritual level. This movie, as silly as it might sound, really helped codify Jesus the Man for me as a kid, what it must have been like for him to have lepers and the poorest of the poor, the most destitute and ill-treated souls, falling over him, begging for leadership and miracles.
Other things it helped me understand emotionally....
-Why the Israelites responded so negatively to Jesus' message of love, turning the other cheek, etc. They expected a military leader or a Moses-like figure of charisma and grand action for a messiah. They wanted to see to Romans crushed, not forgiven and embraced.
-Mary Magdalene's unique relationship to Jesus and how they loved each other intensely, but how there was a definite distance between them. The biblical basis for this relationship is... negligible, but how it's been interpreted over the centuries continues to fascinate me and I think this film captures that simultaneous intimacy and remoteness quite beautifully.
-Why Caiaphas, the Pharisees, and the other Sanhedrin were so dead-set against Jesus. He represented an upheaval in Judaism in a nation in which religion and statecraft were inextricably interwoven. If Jesus declared himself, or was declared by others, a king amongst them... it would represent a profound shakeup in the social hierarchy, one the Romans would not take kindly to. This was especially true when the Romans themselves had Caesar, who considered himself partially divine. You can't have these backwater cultists declaring THEMSELVES the One True God, and therefore above Caesar. The Sanhedrin only operates with the approval, and at the whim, of Rome, and were vulnerable to being crushed if Rome became too upset.
-The story of Judas and how he could have possibly betrayed Jesus, then felt so guilty about it (or terrified of reprisal) that he hanged himself shortly thereafter.
So whatever I believe now or believed then, Catholicism was and is paramount to my family. This movie helped me understand religion better, on a human and emotional level, and thus helped me understand my family's relationship to God. When I see people use Christianity as an excuse to persecute transgender teens in school, to kill Muslims with drones, or to ban Syrian children from refuge in America (AAHHHHH THIS ENRAGES ME SO MUCH), I do occasionally still think of this Singing Jesus and wonder what THAT GUY would think about such utter, unconscionable bullshit. Plus, those songs are pretty great.
"If you want my secrets, you'll eat my sandwich!" - Stephen Mills, My Stepmother Is an Alien
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