"I now know thee, thou clear spirit, and I now know that thy right worship is defiance. Of thy fire thou madest me, and like a true child of fire, I breathe it back to thee.” Captain Ahab

Can Muslims talk about Jesus? The Fox News Scandal and Reza Aslan’s new book Zealot

Posted on July 30th, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. 4 comments

Since it’s been a couple years since I put out my own book on historical-mythical Jesus Christ research I haven’t been paying much attention to what’s going on in the field. But I just caught a bit of Chris Hayes’ interview with Reza Aslan, the author of a new book on Jesus called “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”

On an interview with the author a couple days ago, Fox News interviewer Lauren Green gets straight to the point:

“I just want to be clear, you’re a MUSLIM, why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity.”

The interview turns awkward, and a little ugly. (Watch it below).

The issue at stake is, “Who is allowed to speak about Jesus?”

The majority of New Testament scholars are Christian: they are a tight knit group. Nobody else is allowed to comment on the historical Jesus unless they believe in him.

People with PhD’s in religion, literature, history, mythology, who are too outside the traditional and orthodox views of the historical Jesus are quickly criticized as quacks. If they’d have written about anything else, their book would go unnoticed. But the censors of Bible Scholarship are quick to protect their reputations and censor … Read More »

A little too much Christianity in 2013 Man of Steel Movie?

Posted on July 29th, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. No Comments

There’s always been a little bit of Jesus in Superman.

The story of a man from one world going to another and finding himself with supernatural powers with which to lead a revolution against evil is ancient, but in 1912 with John Carter of Mars, elements of mythology, science fiction and technology begin to blend in new ways, eventually becoming the modern comic superhero.

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children describes the process of how a historical spiritual guru can be based on a comic book and vice versa.

All of our stories are converging; Hollywood has discovered the “film-by-numbers” calculation resulting in the best, more emotionally triggering plot elements and they make sure to put them everywhere. Matt Damon’s new Elysium looks to be about the same story as John Carter, and very similar to Superman.

Except – although Superman has been around for a long time and keeps coming out with brand new revisions, 2013 Man of Steel seemed more Christian than the others. Possibly this is because there was no dramatic tension, clever dialogue or conversations longer than 1 or 2 blunt sentences. Each word carefully chosen for maximum impact, which felt like a choreographed Maoist propaganda campaign in which actors give lip service … Read More »

Odd Thomas, Christian fiction and Devil Worshippers

Posted on July 20th, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. No Comments

I’m watching the movie version of Odd Thomas, directed by Stephen Sommers, based on the novel by Dean Koontz.

Pretty exciting. Ghosts and demons, psychics and seers, Bodachs… evil spirits drawn to death and mayhem.

But who are the mass-murdering evil-doers? Why, devil worshipers, of course.

They have a tattoo that reads “POD” – Prince of Darkness.

Neat. They kill lots and lots of people because they believe in Satan, and Satan is evil, and without God’s righteous moral compass there’s no reason NOT to massacre a bunch of people, so… it’s just plain natural that that’s what they do.

They don’t need real motivation. They’re nuts. There’s no reason, they’re Satanic.

The entire backstory, given at the ending, is: “They started a Satanic cult as teenagers. One night they killed a man and found they enjoyed it. They met some other Satanists and decided to infiltrate a small town and slowly kill it.”

Devil worshipers can be ANYONE. Even cops. They seem totally normal, functional and social. They’re even handsome and young and well-dressed. But secretly they are plotting mass murder.

Satanists are everybody’s worst fear. And they don’t exist.

When in human history have these so-called devil-worshipers EVER killed ANYONE?

Somebody show me the data and research if … Read More »

Was DaVinci an Atheist? Retelling Church History on the Starz Channel

Posted on July 8th, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. 2 comments

I’m loving DaVinci’s Demons – a new TV series about the life of the young Leonardo Da Vinci. From the first episode they managed to throw in a ton of intrigue and character twists.

The only thing is, this brash and daring, charming and handsome, half-insane genius almost certainly didn’t exist.

It’s hard to know what DaVinci believed, because he had to be secretive his whole life (hence his language codes and secret notebooks, etc.) This was a period when blasphemers and heretics could be locked up, tortured or executed. It’s doubtful that DaVinci would ever openly defy the church.

This is especially true, because he was employed by many churches to paint religious art.

Riaro, the agent of the Pope, confronts DaVinci and asks him to join the church’s cause.

“What’s NEXT?” (the desire for knowledge) is the question all men ask, says Riaro…

“Between the base animal and the enlightened man’s reach for God lies knowledge. You just want to know what’s next. I do to.”

“That’s not what you want,” says DaVinci, “You want to SUPPRESS knowledge.”

“No… I want to administer it. Someone has to. Why not an agent of God?”

“Well if God exists, surely he intends his knowledge to be shared by all.” … Read More »

Does Religious Freedom Protect Torture? SyFy’s new Series “Defiance”

Posted on April 23rd, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. 5 comments

I’m watching Defiance, Episode 2 – a new SyFy channel production about a post-apocalyptic earth city filled with mixed alien races. One of the aliens communities is torturing one of its own for cowardice in battle. The new sheriff, a typical blonde American cowboy, stops the ceremony at gunpoint.

The alien in question begs to let them finish his torture, which is necessarily to clean him of sins so that his soul will reach absolution, and also to redeem his family. It’s a not-so-foreign religious idealism which believes pain is purgative. But the cowboy won’t listen – until the mayor weighs in and allows them to continue their rite.

“Can you honestly tell me that what you think they are doing is RIGHT?” he whines.

“No, but it is NECESSARILY” she replies.

Which side are you on?

At first I was pissed at the sheriff for sticking his nose into the private affairs of a foreign culture and passing judgment on their religious traditions. What if, for example, a foreign lawmaker walked into your daughter’s first communion.

“You’re FORCING her to drink the blood of 2000 year old man! That’s barbaric!”

“But please sir, I need to do this, drinking the blood will wash away my sins!”

Do … Read More »

Was Jesus a Fraud? The Wizard of Oz, Easter 2013, and the power of Faith

Posted on April 1st, by Derek Murphy in Modern Culture. 3 comments

I’m watching the 2013 “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

I’ve been excited about the movie for a long time; what a rich theme to build a story into. Disappointingly it’s mostly a kid’s movie. Not the smart and mature kid’s movie that the original Wizard of Oz was, but the cheesy and silly kid’s movie that is aimed at the largely vapid youth of today.

But nearing the end of the movie, I’m recognizing the classic pieces of the Jesus myth: Oz (James Franco) appears to have fallen – run away and abandoned them first, then been struck down in his hot air balloon – everybody gives up hope, the land is controlled by darkness and evil.

The wicked witch yells, “Your prophecy is dead! Your wizard is dead!”

But then (surprise!) Oz is not really dead! He returns in light and power to defeat darkness!

“Wow, you fooled everybody,” says the flying monkey. “That was your greatest trick yet.”

Oz puts on a technological deception, with smoke and mirrors, to fool the witches into thinking he is REALLY the Wizard of Prophecy. “Thanks to you, I’ve shed my mortal form. I’m more powerful than ever. I’m invincible!”

“I defy you” says the ugly witch (stand-in for … Read More »

The link between Paradise Lost and YA post-apocalyptic fiction

Posted on March 6th, by Derek Murphy in Book Reviews, Books, Modern Culture. No Comments

I’m working on a paper for an Apocalypse conference in Romania the details are fuzzy, but I wanted to make some notes to come back to later.

In short, the majority of contemporary post-apocalyptic YA novels are about Revolution. Unlike classic dystopian fiction like 1984 or even the more modern Never Let Me Go show a reality that can’t be escaped from. Resistance is really futile, if not only because systems of bio-power have nullified any possibility of Real Freedom.

For decades theorists have been commenting on the total inability (and yet the desperate need) to seek out freedom in order to get to a real, true act – one not simply a chain of causal reaction from within the power structure/system.

Foucault concluded revolution is necessary – even if impossible – only in the act of resistance and rebellion is there the possibility of Truth. Deleuze and Guattari talk about “deterritorialization”; Badiou talks about “courage” and “fidelity to the Truth Event.”

Of course we could go back earlier, when theorists were actually still talking about real, political revolution. Camus’ The Rebel or Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and many more had the seeds of these theories already.

Things seem to come together in Slavoj Zizek, who’s … Read More »