My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Movies Depicting the Life of Jesus



Dear Blog Visitors:


I am often asked what movies I would recommend during the Easter season that give us a fairly accurate account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Making a motion picture about Jesus has always proven to be a daunting task when one considers that we actually know very little about what occurred during most of his life. In Mark, the first Gospel, the focus is on the public ministry of J...esus, which lasted around three years, followed by his death and resurrection. The next two Gospels (Matthew and Luke) added a birth narrative, and John (fourth Gospel) expanded on the public ministry of Jesus, in addition to giving us theological explanations as to the meaning of events in the life of Jesus.

Concerning the movies that have been made over the years, I liked some better than others. I would highly recommend KING OF KINGS, JESUS OF NAZARETH (TV miniseries), and SON OF GOD (edited from TV series, THE BIBLE). I would not recommend THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (Mel Gibson's film), and I found some flaws in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (John Wayne as the Centurion was somewhat problematic).

Outside of films that portray the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as the primary focus, I would also highly recommend BEN HUR. It tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur in such a way that the insertion of Jesus provides a powerful influence on events that occur in the film.

The biggest challenge to producers who have attempted to tell the story of Jesus on film is the missing twenty years of his life in the Gospel accounts. Theologians continue to try to find the missing pieces. We do know he grew up in a Jewish environment, which takes into account his circumcision as an infant and his Bar Mitzvah at age 13. However, he disappears from sight at age 13 and doesn't reappear until his early 30's, which is where his public ministry, death and resurrection are reported in four varying accounts in the Gospels. I felt that JESUS OF NAZARETH did a respectable job in an attempt to speculate on what occurred during his entire life (drew upon geographic and historical sources).

It is interesting to note that the husband and wife producers of SON OF GOD, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, are receiving an award this month from the Anti-Defamation League for their work in bringing people of various religious beliefs together in constructive dialogue. They are also being honored for their work on THE BIBLE (TV miniseries) and their movie currently in theaters, SON OF GOD, which gives a balanced account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in such a way that is respectful of the Jewish life he was raised in.

This was a long answer to the question of what movies I recommend. However, when dealing with such a complex subject, there is no easy response.

Peace to all,
Ray

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Intersection of Passover and Easter



Dear Blog Visitors:


As Passover and Easter intersect this week, we are also reminded of the sad reality that anti-Semitism still exists to some degree in America and throughout the world.

Having two theological graduate degrees, I pride myself on the fact that I studied Jewish and Christian texts thoroughly. Sadly, the incorrect interpretation of the four Gospels has often fueled anti-Semitism throughout the centur...ies.

The Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were never intended to be interpreted as historical documents. Each Gospel was written for a particular audience, with conversion as a primary motive. Mark was written primarily for Jews living in Rome. Matthew was primarily written for Jews living in the area of Palestine. Luke was written in an attempt to reach beyond the borders of religious and pagan communities. John can best be described as a theological reflection on events reported in the prior three Gospels. I raise the issue of audience intent for the purpose of bringing clarity to the topic of the crucifixion of Jesus.

In one of my graduate courses, we spent nearly the entire semester focusing on the process and history of crucifixion. What is most important is the fact that Jews did not use crucifixion and would not participate in a conspiracy with Romans to sentence one of their own to this cruel punishment. Passages taken out of context in the Gospels of Matthew and John have fueled many centuries of anti-Semitism. I stand by recent scholarship that takes the position that it was Pontius Pilate who sentenced Jesus to crucifixion. It would be unthinkable for Jewish crowds to shout in unison, "Crucify Him!" as depicted in Gospel accounts.

I am delighted to live in Rochester, New York, where we have a Jewish-Christian dialogue group started by the late Father Joseph Brennan, who was a good friend. The late Rabbi Judea Miller was also a founder and participant. As we celebrate both Passover and Easter this week, I pray it will be an opportunity for further understanding and compassion.


Peace to all,
Ray