4 Problems with New Son of God Movie

This time was supposed to be different.

son of god

Earlier this week I was invited to see the Chicago premier of the Son of God film, directed by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. They achieved great success with The Bible miniseries on the History Channel.

I was excited. As someone dedicated to building bridges between Jews and Christians, I hoped this film would help and educate. I was wrong. Here’s why:

  1. This time was supposed to be different: Different from Mel Gibson’s horrific violent film of a decade ago. Free of the anti-Semitism and Jewish caricatures of a decade ago: Did it succeed? NO. Even as the Anti-Defamation league signed off on the film, it persists in displaying anti-Jewish stereotypes.
  2. The Laughing Jewish High Priest at Jesus’ execution: Every movie and every story needs a villain. Filmmakers decided to make the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas the villain. That’s not how historians recount what happened: It was Pontius Pilate who was the true villain, and the film  does not show that.
  3. Jesus was Jewish, and this is not shown well in the film: In fact, even as the film tries to convey a Christian message, it does so sporadically and out of context; anyone who is not already a believer would have a hard time discerning any spiritual message.
  4. A big missed opportunity: Every filmmaker makes choice. I do not expect this film to be perfect or to be something I show in a class. Yet, Burnett and Downey constantly choose the outrageous over the plausible, the exclusive over the inclusive.

They could have done much better. Since many churches, especially here in Chicago, are sending big groups to the film, it is all the more disappointing to have missed a chance for deeper learning and repair of the religious divide in America.

Question: Have You Seen the Film? What Do You Think? 

Love Wins: 3 Spiritual Truths from Disney’s Frozen

I used to enjoy walking into a home of peace and quiet. Since the film Frozen premiered, I have lacked this simple pleasure. Its soundtrack seems to play on a continuous loop every day throughout our home.

hannah and tam

I guess that’s part of the price to pay for having two small children. As a glass half-full kind of guy, however, I’ve tried to find the positive message in my children’s obsession with this particular film. Aside from its beautiful music and cinematography, it does convey profound truths. 

How Jews Made America Laugh: In Memory of Sid Caeser

A recent study said 44 percent of American Jews believed having a good sense of humor is essential to being Jewish.

George-Burns-and-Sid-Caeser

This percentage is double the number of those who believing observing Jewish law is essential. In other words, most Jews think a good sense of humor is more significant to their identity than 2000 years of the Jewish legal tradition!

In the wake of the death of one of America’s earliest Jewish comedians, Sid Caeser, we can better appreciate why Jews have been drawn to comedy. We will illustrate each reason with a fitting joke, courtesy of the fabulous book by Joseph Telushkin Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews Here they are:

1. Outsiders can cast a critical eye on society: Jews have always been a minority people. We are only .2 percent of the world population, and about two percent of the American population. This perspective is a great source of humor.

This example shows the danger in being a minority, and the wits required to survive.

A medieval Jewish astrologer prophesied to a king that his favorite mistress will die soon. Sure enough, the woman died a short time later, the king was outraged at the astrologer, certain that his prophecy had brought about the woman’s death.

He summoned the astrologer and commanded him: prophesy to me when you will die. The astrologer realized that the king was planning to kill him immediately, no matter what answer he gave. I do not know when I will die, he answered finally. I only know that whenever I will die, the king will die three days later.

2. We can take God seriously without taking ourselves too seriously. 

Two Jews are dragged by anti-Semites before a firing squad. The first one cries out: Stop!  Stop! You’re murdering an innocent man. ”Sh… Sh…,” says the second. “Don’t make trouble.”

3. We value education, and parents can sometimes take this to an extreme. 

A Jewish mother is walking down the street with her two young sons. A passerby asks her how old the boys are. ”The doctor is three,” the woman answers. “And the lawyer is two.”

From Groucho Marx to Jerry Seinfeld, Jewish comedians have contributed so much to American culture.  We lost a giant yesterday, and millions of future laughs will serve as an eternal memory.

Why Do Jews Have Special Laws About Food?

The Jewish dietary laws are one of the more bewildering features of Jewish life. Certain foods like pork and shellfish are forbidden. Certain food combinations—like dairy and meat products—are also forbidden.

kosher

People who follow these laws are known to “keep kosher.” The word “kosher” has enter the popular lexicon as well, connoting something legitimate or fitting.

Is It About Health? 

What Happened to the Ten Lost Tribes?

In 1650 one of America’s earliest missionaries speculated on the identity of the native inhabitants. They might well, he said, be the remnants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

ten tribes

He was only one in a line of speculators who connected the Ten Lost Tribes with, among others, the British, the Japanese and the Pashtuns of Afghanistan.

A Mystery Begins

How a Sinner Became the Ancestor of King David

The most important Israelite tribe stems from line of Judah. Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. His name comes from the Hebrew root “yahdah,” which means “gratitude.”

King David came from the Tribe of Judah.

King David came from the Tribe of Judah.

The beginning of Judah’s life is marked by treachery and emotional indifference. He convinces his brothers to sell Joseph to traveling slave traders. Then he impregnates his daughter-in-law Tamar.

But then something happens. Judah awakens to a sense of right and wrong. He realizes he had hurt Tamar and acknowledges it saying, “She is more righteous than I.” (Genesis 38:26)

Power Corrupts: The Story and Glory of the Israelite Priests

The tribe of Levi is amongst the important and historically significant of the twelve. Only he and Judah have descendants among Jews today. 

Spock's hand sign is based on the way the priests held their hands while blessing the people

Spock’s hand sign is based on the way the priests held their hands while blessing the people

Levi is the third son of Jacob and Leah. His name, according to the text, is derived from the Hebrew leviah, which means “he will join with her.” This is another expression of Leah’s longing for her husband Jacob to join with and love her.

How the Priests Were Chosen

Date Night With God

A healthy marriage is sustained by consistency. It is not the big moments—the wedding day, the birth of a child, the new home. It is the acts of love and commitment expressed daily, weekly and year after year.

date night

Sustaining them is not always easy. One consistent practice I suggest to young parents is a date night. Too often their lives become consumed by their children’s. (I can attest to it.)