Film Exam Questions: Week 5 (87654)

This assignment asked for a response to three questions regarding two films, embedded below.

Film 1: The Only Christian?

Question 1:

What is the underlying message to the movie the ONLY CHRISTIAN? What does it tell you about what Christians might have believed when Jesus was alive?

The film The Only Christian principally highlights a significant discrepancy between the ideology of most modern Christians and that of early Christians during and in the centuries following the time when Jesus lived. Most mainstream modern sects of Christianity hinge their entire theology on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, going so far as to say that were it untrue that Jesus literally resurrected from the dead, the entirety of their faith would lose its meaning. This view stands in stark contrast to the perspective held by Jesus' actual disciples during his lifetime as described in the Gospels. These disciples did not believe in Christ's resurrection during his life, nor after its purported occurrence. It was only when Jesus himself revealed himself as resurrected to his disciples that they believed.

An important point made in this film is the indication by one disciple in particular, Mary of Magdalene, that she would love Jesus unconditionally, even if he had not resurrected. As the film points out, according to the theology of most of modern Christianity, were Mary of Magdalene (or any of the other disciples of Jesus) to have died disbelieving in his resurrection (which none of his disciples did believe in until they saw it for themselves), she (and the others) would have been sent to hell.

From this, the film argues that Mary of Magdalene's version of Christianity, in which faith in and love for Jesus Christ was independent of his literal resurrection, was a more true reflection of the values taught by Christ than modern versions of Christianity which hang their faith and love on this one condition; thus, Mary of Magdalene may have been “the only Christian.”

Question 2:

How would Mary's version of Christianity be received in today's Churches?

As I stated in my answer to question 1, the version of Christianity espoused by Mary of Magdalene, in which faith in and love for Jesus Christ is independent of the truth or falsehood of his literal resurrection, would be rejected by most modern Christian churches. Because the literal resurrection of Christ became such a major selling point for Christianity in its marketing across the world, it has become common for Christians to assert their faith in its reality by claiming that it is the centerpiece of their entire ideology, and that without it, none of the rest would be true. Therefore modern Christians would respond to a Christianity like Mary of Magdalene's, which denies or even holds an agnostic position towards the literal resurrection of Christ, even while holding faith in all of his teachings, with vociferous rejection.

Film 2: Mysterium Tremendum

Question 3:

Why are science and religion at odds with each other? How can a better understanding of the word "matter" change that perspective?

The historical conflict between science and religion appears to stem ultimately from dogmatic adherence to particular metaphors, myths, symbols and systems thereof by the institutions that have risen up around each. The two seek to describe “reality” in different ways for different purposes, but both (in their institutional manifestations) tend to become hung up on their particular metaphors or terminologies and unwilling to understand any alternative framework. Thus religious people may tend to engage with scientific terminology in a way that voids it of any real meaning and relevance, or what they might call “soul,” while scientifically-minded people might be inclined to engage with religious symbolism on a wholly literalistic level which likewise undermines its deeper meanings.

This is because religious metaphors exist to give meaning to the individual and hir community as well as to accomplish certain goals related to hir psychological development and ability to cope with and respond to various aspects of life, while scientific metaphors (and they are metaphors-- ultimately an atom or a molecule is not an ontologically independent phenomenon but a construct of the human mind, a concept which serves to focus conscious attention and manipulative effort towards a specific subpattern within what is in fact a wholly-integrated, indivisible unitary system of energy flow patterns) serve to derive techniques for the manipulation of the physical world in accordance with human will. Ultimately the two may blur into each other in terms of their purposes, but largely each develops a unique symbol-system for the accomplishment of unique goals.

The short film Mysterium Tremendum seeks to bridge this gap in understanding by reframing the concept of “matter,” often seen as something dead, dry, boring, and flat, as something more neutral, or even positive in connotation. Matter is simply a word for the most basic “stuff” of existence, what everything is made out of. It need not have this dull connotation, as it might be understood as synonymous with more fanciful or religious terms for such, like light, God, or Brahma. If religiously-minded folks could learn to see scientific knowledge as compatible with religious knowledge, and scientifically-minded folks could likewise see religious knowledge as an alternate and often just as valid perspective on the same reality science describes, but informed by different purposes and priorities, humanity could be on its way to establishing a useful meta-model in which the models of all sorts of beliefs systems could be understood more deeply in relation to one another, and all of the wisdom of each could be grasped and integrated together.