Monday, December 10, 2012

"The God Who Wasn't There" is not a man



In the one-hour documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There” (2005, Beyond Belief Films), director Brian Flemming concludes by taking us back to the church where he was “born again” three times, and is now ready for a certain level of defiance, if not denial, of the demands of faith. Just before that, he has pointed out how our culture demands proof and evidence for most things, just not matters of faith.
  
The early part of the documentary draws a timeline on the Life of Christ (pre-Facebook), and then points out that the Gospels wouldn’t be written for a few decades. In between we had the apostle Paul, who was concerned with the passion, resurrection, and ascension, but none of the biographical details of Christ’s live. 
He talks about “glurges”, fictive stories that gradually become believed as historical truth, as for example the story of the “death of a spammer” choking on a can of Spam.  (The “urban legends reference is Snopes ).
   
He gradually introduces the way the media can exploit the nature of religious belief.  Mel Gibson’s huge success, “The Passion of the Christ” (2004, Newmarket Films), he points out, focused on the blood and suffering, as to other earlier presentations of Jesus (like as a singer).  I actually saw the 2004 film with my mother, one of the last theater films she saw.

Flemming spends a lot of time debating the source of faith with Dr. Ronald Sipus of Village Christian Schools (link).

He invites Sam Harris (“The End of Faith”) to help play devil’s advocate. Harris (website here)  looks handsome in the film.  He also talks to Bible geek Robert M. Price (mindvendor site here. )
   
He also covers the operation of “Rapture letters” where people who believe that they will be raptured can leave letters to their (non-believing) loved ones, link. (See my “cf” blog Sept. 3, 2012 for discussion of the 1991 movie “The Rapture”).  There is a rumor that airlines won’t put two believing Christians in the cockpit together out of fear of the Rapture.

Flemming mentions the vitriolic condemnation of homosexuals that some fundamentalists think is demanded by scripture, giving images an electric chair, and noting a belligerent attitude (from "God's Bullies") in the 1980s from the Christian Right that might predict what is going on in Uganda today. 
  .  
I am thankful that the film brings up the controversy over the “144,000”, a number which has several interpretations, usually the number of chosen devout Jews who stay for the tribulation and will join the Kingdom afterwards.  Here is an “answer” on Yahoo! (link) and a devoted site (link).  Could the 144000 capture other souls and give them “intermittent” immorality?  Maybe a bizarre virus could enable a “vanishing immortality” that way, if the galaxy runs out of space for its souls (in the black hole at the galactic center).
   
The website for the film is this

  
The film is available for instant play and DVD (with extra interviews) on Netflix.  

In the summer of 1979, after I had moved to Dallas and attended MCC Dallas, a young man, Skip, tried to pressure me into unquestioning faith, taking me to dinner once at Lucas B&B on Oak Lawn, and, on a camping trip near Abilene in the prairie (to Blue Forum's "El Rancho Vista"), embracing me just before a storm came and saying he thought I was disabled.  The thunderstorm that followed would change everyone's perspective.  I had something in my pocket.

Don't mix it up with the Coen Brother's black-and-white "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001).

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