Gareth Higgins, author of the new book How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films (Relevant Books) writes about one of his favorite silver screen experiences, The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, 1988).
I find it strange that the portrayals of Jesus in visual art and literature that meet with the broader church's approval are the ones that have him wearing the cleanest robes. The Jesus in Nikos Kazantzakis' novel and Scorsese's film flies in the face of such fluffy-cloud imagery. This is a Jesus who sucks the marrow out of life, eating and drinking and dancing and crying and hurting and being broken apart by giving himself to the higher calling. He is not a Jesus who manipulates, wrongly intimidates, or elicits guilt from his followers. He is a Jesus who reveals himself to be the Quintessential Man and shows the path to truth by giving himself up. It is not unusual for me to find spiritual nourishment in film, but it is unusual to find a portrayal of Jesus that teaches me more than a dozen unenlightened readings of the gospels. I can think of no higher praise for The Last Temptation of Christ than to assert that, in short, this is a Jesus I could believe in.
Gareth Higgins is a free-lance writer, research consultant, and co-chair of the zero28 project, a post-sectarian peace building initiative in Northern Ireland.