This all started because of Mel Gibson.
No doubt you remember the release of "The Passion of the Christ" -- Gibson's blood-soaked valentine to his personal savior. Like everyone else, I was intrigued (if not slightly enraged) to see about Jesus' last excruiating hours on earth spoken in a dead language and using White actors. Unlike most folks, I was a film critic at the time so it was actually part of my job to see "Passion." Despite the spectacular cinematography (note to Mel: cut the slow-mo by half and you are golden), the film left me underwhelmed. Not to mention, Mel could go through the trouble of making a film in fucking Aramaic but not hire someone from at least the same continent as the J-man? Talk about holy shit. But I digress.
My real issue with the film is that in telling the story of perhaps the most well-known man on earth (next to David Beckham -- which is sad, by the way), Mel made no attempt to make the audience invest in Jesus as a man or character. Instead he was literally a whipping boy, an avatar for religious fervor, guilt or whatever. Quick insight into my movie review method: I tried to come into each film as if I was an alien with no pre-judgments. In that respect, Mel failed to make me care about this Jewish carpetner who literally got the shaft.
My initial review was met by my editor with its usual amount of redline edits and an unusual amount of hair pulling. "Black people will kill us if we publish," she said. I'm no idiot, I know how touchy religion is -- you can't live in a society that considers the phrase "Happy Holidays" an attack on religious freedom without knowing that even a lukewarm review might be met with a few letters to the editor. But fuck it, the beauty of writing reviews (or blogs) is you get to legitimize all your navel gazing, right?But, as it was impressed upon me, EVERYONE knows the story of Jesus and that our sympathy is assumed. Hmm, really? If Mel had directed the "Passion of the Allah" would American audiences be expected to bone up the Koran before plunking down $20 at the multiplex or would we lambast Mel "I Love Jews" Gibson for not giving enough background? Since that's a rhetorical question, the answer is B. But that's not acceptable when writing for Black folks, who we assume are all card-carrying Baptists (or should be).
That's where I and this blog come in. I'm not a Baptist or a Christian for that matter. I'm not religious at all. And not in that I-grew-up-in-the-church-but-am-currently-disenchanted-enough-to-restate-myself-as-"spiritual" kind of way, either. No, I was raised without any real concept of God, the devil or hell. Jesus, as it were, was something for other folks like garden gnomes or velvet paintings. My parents, in all their early-70's free thinking decided (no shit -- this is a quote from my father) "we would raise you like the French philosophs." Basically, instead of indoctrinating me at birth with a religion I would have no real chance of analyzing objectively, they raised me with no religion and left the choice to me. I imagine they had lofty dreams of weekend trips to mosques, synagouges, temples and whatever buildings buddhists praise in as I soaked up the good and bad like a sponge. But, you know, life gets in the way and you never really get around to it. Besides, I was a pretty good kid so they figured, what they hell.
Anyway, figuring I should find out what is it about Jesus everyone already knows, I ended up reading the bible ("reading" is defined as half of the old testament and all of the new testament -- with a highlighter no less), something that I found incredibly enlightening and, to a large degree, self-affirming. But more on that later.
As for now, sit back and enjoy as I bring you regular dispatches from the Third Kingdom (that's the lower-income heaven that Black Mormons go to -- at least until 1970-something when they got all "equal rights"). You'll meet lovable characters like my Deacon-in-the-making mother-in-law, my God-fearing boss, my religiously-ambigous wife, my death-obsessed daughter and my overwhelming fear/desire of exposing my heathenistic ways to all that would be offended.
Remember you can't spell blasphemy without "me."