One day, while I was still attending Seminary, one of my professors came in and admitted to doing something heretical.
I remember it well, even fifteen years later. Just as class was getting started, we in class were making small talk about what we had all been doing the night before and, in the course of the conversation, we asked the prof what he had done. What he said shocked all of us:
“Last night, I watched The Last Temptation of Christ. And you know what? It was actually pretty good!”
Do you remember The Last Temptation of Christ? Twenty-five years ago, it was the center of a major controversy. Christians all across America were offended by Martin Scorsese’s movie. Even though it hadn’t been released yet, people heard what happened in the movie: Jesus slept with Mary Magdalene and did all sorts of other stuff that weren’t Biblical. I can remember the calls for boycotts, demonstrations, all sorts of negative press at the time. The way some Christians were carrying on, you’d think that if someone actually watched this cinematic abomination, they’d automatically wind up with 666 tattooed on their forehead or something equally sinister.
So you can imagine our shock that our straight-laced, conservative professor would watch that movie, admit to it in class, and above all else, think that it was okay! One of us expressed our surprise at his viewing choice and his opinion of the movie.
Then he said something like this, “It wasn’t that bad because all of the controversial content, such as Jesus sleeping with Mary Magdalene, happened in a vision while Jesus was hanging on the cross. It literally was part of the last temptation of Christ, where Satan was tempting Jesus to come down and live a normal life. But in the end, Jesus rejected it. So what’s wrong with that?”
We reminded him of the controversy, and he had an interesting observation: most of the controversy took place before the film was released. In other words, all the calls for boycotts and protests and denunciations came from people who had never seen the movie. He wondered if they had, would they have been so offended?
I couldn’t help but think of that due to the little brouhaha that’s been stirred up over a recently published book on the fringe of the CBA. Or, should I say, the Hinterlands?
I know that Speculative Faith has done a lot on Vox Day’s latest book, A Throne of Bones. Publisher Jeff Gerke wrote a recent article about his journey to publishing this very massive tome. And then, a few days later, Vox Day was interviewed by E. Stephen Burnett for this blog. And in the comments of both posts, there was a lot of hand-wringing and worry about the novel’s content. There was sex, violence, coarse language! Could this book actually be considered Christian when it depicted such behavior in its pages? The way some people have presented this situation, you’d think that some sort of literary Armageddon was about to descend on us all to destroy us.
I was already planning on reading it anyway, but I have to admit that the controversy only made it more attractive. So, in mid-December, I fired up my Kindle and started reading. And it took me a while to get through, partially because I learned the hard way that my Kindle is not a fan of Minnesota winters. And now that I’ve finished, I’m left with one question:
What’s the big deal?
Was there violence in there? Yes, there was, but it never seemed gratuitous. Coarse language? A ton of it, but never blasphemy or swearing (and yes, there is a difference). Sex? Well, yeah, there is that scene. Between a married man and wife. And, from what I remember, while there was no question about what they were doing and whether or not they enjoyed it, I wasn’t titillated or tempted to go and do . . . well, anything. And when I clicked the “forward” button for the last time, I couldn’t help but wonder. Have the people who are so up-in-arms about this book actually read it? Or is this another case of people reacting to something that they haven’t actually seen?
Now by saying that, I’m not suggesting that we should open the floodgates to potentially offensive material. If there had been more details included in the aforementioned sex scene, I would have questioned its purpose as well. As it is, though, I thought that A Throne of Bones was a good story, a decent read, and really, nothing to get worked up over. Is it going to be for everyone? No, and I understand that. I just wonder if it’s worth getting offended over.