The following column ran on August 7, 1988 in The Sunday Journal

of Wheaton, Illinois. Copyright 1988 by The Copley Press.


by Hiawatha Bray

I recall reading somewhere that Universal Studios has carefully

maintained the equipment director Carl Laemmle used to bring

Frankenstein's monster to life in the old film. I certainly believe

it now.

The studio that made Boris Karloff a star has now put Jerry

Falwell on the comeback trail. After months of silence on the moral

struggles of the day, Jerry has been moved by a movie to take a stand

once more. At a Friday press conference, Falwell announced that he

was backing the fundamentalist campaign against the film The Last

Temptation of Christ.

The new crusade offers a splendid opportunity for the armies of

the good, so recently in retreat, to regroup and counterattack.

Times have been hard for the Religious Right these last couple of

years. As the Reagan Revolution peters out, scarcely any of their

legislative goals have been accomplished. Pornographers and

abortionists still flourish, and the corridors of our public schools

echo with Iron Maiden ballads, rather than prayers.

Matters went from bad to worse in the last 18 months, with a

series of ludicrous scandals among TV evangelists that made

conservative Christianity seem not merely wrong-headed but ridiculous.

Oral Roberts, the Bakkers and Jimmy Swaggart weren't particularly

active in the political sphere, but their ill fame rubbed off. Even

the faithful began to lose heart.

What the movement needed was a great, galvanizing issue, a 220-

volt controversy that would zap the Christian Right back to twitchy

life. By making an unorthodox film about Jesus, Universal Studios has

thrown the switch.

Jerry Falwell didn't respond to the treatment at first. He's

been tied up in a campaign to raise money for the defense of well-

known Christian patriot Oliver North. It was Rev. Don Wildmon, best

known for catching Mighty Mouse snorting cocaine, who first detected

the blasphemy. He began his crusade against the movie a month ago,

and has rallied so many followers that Jerry felt compelled to run to

the front of the parade.

So just what is supposed to be so bad about The Last Temptation

of Christ? The movie, based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis,

allegedly depicts Jesus as confused, indecisive and sex-crazed, rather

like George Bush on steroids.

Note the word "allegedly." I don't know if the film is at all

like that, not having seen it. But its fiercest critics haven't seen

it either. What's more, they've refused to go see it. True, Jerry

Falwell has agreed to attend a screening on Wednesday. But he didn't

hold off on his denunciations. And Don Wildmon flatly refused to view

it. Perhaps he feared he'd go to Hell for knowing what he was talking


This willfully ignorant leader has successfully roused legions of

trusting followers. Dr. Frankenstein's creation didn't have a mind of

its own, either. Its transplanted brain, I recall, came from a jar

marked LUNATIC.

The monster in those movies would always have to contend with a

gang of villagers dressed in lederhosen and armed with flaming

torches. Even as they drove off the creature, you knew that these

would-be heroes were attacking something they didn't understand.

Enter People for the American Way, a group of liberals who seem

pretty much dedicated to branding whatever the Religious Right does as

somehow subversive of American values. The American Way folks have

lost no time in denouncing the planned boycott of the film as the act

of intolerant extremists.

Which it certainly looks to be. It's impossible to take the

boycott's leaders seriously, with their shameless ignorance of the

movie they're protesting. But People for the American Way has

attacked their folly in a manner which suggests a folly of their own.

If Universal made a blatantly racist film, I and almost every

other decent American would do our best to make the studio executives

wish their mothers had had miscarriages. And I bet the American Way

types wouldn't say a mumbling word against us. Some would probably

join in the fun.

Well, believe it or not, some people feel just that strongly

about their religious beliefs, and they have a perfect right to act on

their principles. If they conclude that The Last Temptation of Christ

is blasphemous, they're entitled to boycott the living daylights out

of the corporation that produced it. Contrary to the views of the

torch-bearers of liberalism, such actions are as American as apple


The real menace here is the same poison that has tainted the

Religious Right from its inception. On display once more is the

ignorance, arrogance and power-lust that has led most Americans to

despise the professional Bible-whackers. Nowhere to be seen is the

humility and charity that are supposed to be such cherished virtues

among believers.

God doesn't need the protection of Falwell and Wildmon. But the

two preachers needed The Last Temptation of Christ they way

Frankenstein longed for a thunderstorm. They're charged up again,

ready to lurch and bash their way across our cultural landscape. I

suspect that for them, this is what really matters.

Previous    Index of Articles    Next

Free from ,the complete Christian resource site with more than 40000webpages.
 Redistribute freely with this link intact! Let your light shine in the world!

Home | Bible versions | Bible Dictionary | Christian Classics | Christian Articles | Daily Devotions

Sister Projects: Wikichristian | WikiMD

BelieversCafe is a large collection of christian articles with over 40,000 pages

Our sponsors:   W8MD sleep and weight loss center