Mark, The Embarrassing Gospel

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by Neil Godfrey

The criterion of embarrassment is a “rule” commonly appealed to by scholars to argue that certain events must be historical because they were so well-known and undeniable that, although gospel authors were clearly embarrassed by them, they nevertheless could not avoid addressing them. One example is the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Why would gospel authors say that Jesus was baptized by his inferior unless it really happened? Surely it was not in the interests of presenting Jesus as the superior to John the Baptist to publicize such an event. The only explanation could be that the event was so well known that the authors had no choice but to report it and put the best spin on it that they could muster.

(This reasoning sounds so “self-evident” that it deserves to be kept in mind when reading the scholarly explanations for why Paul does NOT mention so much about Jesus for the reason that it was “so well known that there was no need to address it” — even if to do so would (a) support his position, or (b) require spin to get around how Jesus embarrassed Paul’s position.)

But there is a problem. One of those canonical gospels demonstrates not a single ounce or gram of embarrassment over Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist, nor any of the other episodes to which spin has to be plied by the other gospels to get around various “embarrassing but unavoidable historical facts.” The Gospel of Mark simply waltzes in and unashamedly offers us a point by point account of how John the Baptist baptized Jesus (his superior)! Continue reading “Mark, The Embarrassing Gospel”

Spiderman 3 — an amateur social and political critique

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Even when I do get out to see the odd movie I still see politics on the screen. For the hell of it I decided to see Spiderman 3 for total escape but even with this one I could not escape the political. What an updated commentary on “The Current Political State of America” this movie is! — well at least in my eyes.

It went out of its way to show how the good guy in red, (a little) white and blue could become bad and like his enemies, and needed to keep himself in check (with church redemption of course) — and how even the worst enemies have human motivations and hearts and need forgiveness. What else could have echoed more loudly so much of the liberal anti-neocon popular mood against the warmongering of the Bush admin since 9/11.

But it was still oh so puerile in its manichaean view of evil. It was still showing “evil” as some alien cosmic force that is antithetical to people, something abstract and absolute out there that people “choose” bla blah bs bs bs.

Near the dramatic end Spiderman flashed across a huge screen-size American flag that came out of nowhere — a clip that sort of helped me think I was thinking on the right track about it with all my political perspective after all.

America is singular in being an advanced industrial nation that still collectively projects a medieval sense of morality. There appears to be no grasp of evil as something possibly complex and human. If they think you’re evil you have to die, simple as that! Except Spiderman was showing them a better way — damn liberals. But too many cars rolling around and getting smashed, too much metal clashing, too much animation for my taste after 3 minutes. I’m old fashioned and like my actors to do more than spend most of their time swinging against a blue screen — I want my politics undiluted, maybe.

Back to the movie. It was a sort of “every individual can make a difference” type of fantasy. Identify with the nerdy hopeless Spiderman who is just like those old western heroes, a Jimmy Stewart type, looks completely hopeless till pushed too far then goes in and suddenly puts an end to their mockery and shoots them all dead. Except Spiderman is still knocked as a nerd when he returns to his “out of uniform” normal self (except when he becomes bad — the only real antidote to nerdiness?) . An interesting mutation on the old westerns.

I really know squat about movies. I’m making all this up of course. But the girl in the movie? She’s jsut a symbol of freedom and democracy, the frail beauty who is under threat. No superhero can just go out and fight evil for the hell of it. He has to be fighting the monster men to rescue her. And of course he rescues her and wins her love.

But talking of the girl, oh how very puritanically American this movie was! The only time there is any sexual attraction and desire expressed is when Spiderman was consumed by cosmic evil for a while. And that tinge of sexuality was coupled with bad-man violence. Interesting association, I thought. As a friend commented, “So cosmic evil equates with lust?” Yup, guess so, just like in the Bible. One is never quite sure if sexual sin is ranked way higher than any form of violence there too.

Almost forgot. How tediously unimaginative that the moment of Spiderman’s redemption from the power of evil had to happen in a damned church! I guess it can’t be any other way if one sees “good” and “bad” as cosmic or alien forces that people have to struggle over, and not as something more basically inherent in our socio-biological and psychological makeup.

Well, we must be grateful for small steps, and I can’t deny it was nice to see a violent movie showing its hero demonstrating some meaure of understanding and forgiveness for his, … ‘alter ego’?