Sunday, February 17, 2008

the Jesus story through others' eyes

The online ABC News website is currently hosting an article about an Iranian film that tackles the Jesus story from a Muslim angle. By now, most people who follow the issues are aware that Islam does in fact revere Jesus (the Koran calls him "Isa"; he is mentioned more frequently in the Muslim scripture than Muhammad) as one of the greatest prophets, but it denies that Jesus is fully divine-- the Second Person of the Trinity-- and it further denies that Jesus was crucified. According to Muslim tradition, Jesus ascended into heaven and will indeed come again.

The ABC article, which is essentially an interview between ABC's Lara Setrakian and filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, notes that the movie, titled "The Messiah," is a good jumping-off point for interreligious dialogue. I agree, and I'd very much like to see this film, which includes two endings-- a Christian one and a Muslim one (play the video that accompanies the article). Were I to stay at Smoo instead of leaving in April, one course I'd push to teach is Religion in Film. I have a long list of religion-themed films I'd love to tackle, and this film-- despite my not having seen it-- would definitely go on that list.

The director, Talebzadeh, notes that the Christian reaction to his film has been quite positive. While the interviewer did ask a pointed question about whether the director had any plans to make a movie furthering Muslim-Jewish dialogue, she failed to ask the question I wanted to hear: "How might Muslims react to a Christian depiction of Muhammad, especially one at odds with the Koranic view of him?" Allowing oneself to be re-understood by the Other is an important test of one's willingness to engage in dialogue. Parity is equally important.

EXTRA READING: For those with a hankering for non-Christian views of Jesus, another source I'd recommend is a book by M. Thomas Thangaraj called The Crucified Guru which, as you can guess from the title, views Jesus through an Indian prism. A thoughtful (if somewhat typo-laced) review of Thangaraj's book can be found here.


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