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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Fantasy or Fact
Jonathan Pait
October 6, 2003

One of the purposes of my columns is to attempt to present a balanced view of Christian Fundamentalism.  It is not to win people to my point of view as much as it is to have them look beyond the stereotypes when considering this little understood group. It has been a rather frustrating endeavor at times.  Reason seems to be trumped by prejudice.  Not that I mind people having prejudice – it would just be nice if they admitted it.

Take a recent comment made in regard to my last column, “Luther, The Passion and civil discourse.”  My first response was, “Here we go.  He missed the whole point of the column.”  My second response was “Hey, I think I have the answer why I never seem to break through!”  So, I say thanks to Ron from York for giving me the catalyst to my revelation.

"The Passion" is merely another tired example of art projecting myth...of fiction imitating fiction. Any honest dramatization of this particular religious fantasy would of course include carnage and archaic prejudices, and so I don't understand the controversy.

      -- Ron from York

People such as Ron view The Passion (not just the movie, but the account in scripture) as somehow anti-Semitic because they operate from the premise that the account is a fantasy and not an actual event.  Therefore, the author must have had an agenda to push against the Jews and made up the story of the Jewish rulers inciting the mob to demand a Roman crucifixion of Jesus.  It then follows that adherence to this story means a shared agenda with the supposedly anti-Semitic author.

However, if the account is a historical record then it is not possible that the actions of the Jewish rulers were included solely for the purpose of putting down an entire family of people. The events are merely the cold hard facts.  There is no thinly veiled agenda.

This is why Christians look at people like Ron as though they have fallen out of a tree.  "The Passion is anti-Semitic?  What are you talking about?"  At the same time the Rons of the world look at Christians and say, "You guys just use these stories to buttress your own prejudices."

The reason why it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion on the matter is that we operate from two opposing premises.  It is impossible to debate two diverging lines of logic.  Still, I would make the point that the Rons should be willing to see that by operating from our premise (however wrong that premise may seem to them) it is possible that our intents are not malicious.  Specifically, that someone such as Mel Gibson is not anti-Semitic just because he produces an accurate portrayal of Jesus’ death.

It is the same as trying to accuse people who recognize the historical fact of the Holocaust of having some archaic prejudice against Germans.  The accuser says, “You wouldn’t write stories and make movies about the Holocaust if you didn’t have an agenda against Germans.  You make the descriptions of what took place there so horrific because that supports your fantasy.”

“Hold it,” you say.  “It isn’t a fair comparison because the Holocaust is a historical fact.  You can’t judge all Germans because of what some did sixty years ago.  Just because you recognize the historical fact of the Holocaust does not make you anti-German.”  Exactly. 

Christians maintain that Christ’s Passion is historical fact.  There are corroborating historical accounts and there is no opposing historical record to discount the event.  Yes, it does ultimately come down to belief.  However, the focus of the belief is not in the events, but the person of Christ.  The events are incidental to purpose.

The Christian who has been transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ does not focus on the Roman soldiers who gambled for his garment.  They do not see the Jewish leaders playing the politics of their day.  They see Christ dying on the cross for their own sins – dying for the sins of the soldier who will soon cast a spear through his side and dying for those same leaders who desired his death.

Here is where we get to the crux of the matter.  For people such as Ron, The Passion must be a fantasy.  If it isn’t, then they are held accountable for their response to this story.  If the story is true, then Christ died on that cross for them as well.  It means that they too are sinners in need of a Savior.

For the Christian Fundamentalist, The Passion is a reality.  Because it is, they must tell others about that truth.  This puts the two groups in conflict.

It is much easier to proclaim the Bible a myth.  It soothes the conscience to proclaim its writers charlatans who sought their own promotion.  It relieves the mind to accuse those who believe the Bible to be true of being narrow-minded, hate-filled, religious bigots.

But, what if it is true?

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I don't think people are opposed to your believing that Christ died for all of our sins, as much as they are opposed to the religious fundamentalists who use the Jewish folks' historical refusal to "accept Christ as Savior" as a reason to either persecute them, or patronize them, or attempt to insistently convert them. . . .

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