Brazilian programmer, I live in Champaign, IL. I write what I feel like writing, whenever I have a need to write.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
God to go!
Religion is a concept that this millennium is bound to destroy. Belief is a crutch for the non knowledgeable and the more we know, the less we believe.
Religious fanatics that wage war on countries are widely accepted as lunatics, when not more than 300 years ago they would be considered serious respectable believers. More people consider themselves believers in God but not in any particular belief than any specific religion have followers.
As a result, religions do what they can to stay alive. They try everything, from fanatic movies like the Passion, to multi-faith gatherings like the ecumenic rites performed by many reform religions, even including a jewish-orthodox BUS!
I'm ok with people believing in God. I have no problem whatsoever with the bus or anything like that. I have a problem with the evil Gibson's movie, but you probably read about it already.
I just want to know why don't religious institutions pay taxes. We know the religious leaders live on other people's work, which is fine as long as the money they receive is given willingly, but why is it that their product is not taxed? Is it because you are giving the money to God, not to the government? Well, you're not, you're giving the money to your church, not God. If God needs your money for salvation, then you seem to have a very materialist God.
The problem becomes more obvious if we go to extremes. Let's assume as an extreme in which 90% of the country joins a fanatic cult which defines that 90% of their income should be donated to the cult. Well, since everyone will claim their income as donation on their taxes, 90% of the country would not pay taxes, since the 10% would not break the first tax bracket. Noticing that, the other 10% would convert just so they wouldn't pay taxes. They would not contribute to the cult, but they would claim to do so. Moreover, the cult would not have to pay anything on the money they received and could therefore use the money as they see fit. It would be the end of any country, since without money the government would end and all control would become religion-based.
Back to reality, let's look at it from a capitalist point of view. I am a software developer, which means I create software for a price. However, regardless of how godly and beautiful my code might look, at the end of the year I have to send some money to the government to pay my taxes, because I use government things on my day-to-day living. Police, education, healthcare, even if
I had money enough and chose to recreate an entire governmental structure for myself, the fact that I live within a country dictates that I pay that countries taxes.
Not so for any religious institution. I could go on and on about this, but I'll just say one more thing...
Not taxing religious institutions is unfair and wrong. Somebody should wake up to that...
I saw this pungent piece of cinema on Friday, the 27th of February.
As a movie fan, I have to say that Mr. Gibson's film is a very powerful expression of his own particular view of the New Testament. He also can be quoted as saying that "if you have a problem with this film, you have a problem with the Bible". Well Mr. Gibson, as a Jew I have a problem with both of you.
The New Testament leads one to believe that the leaders of the Jews were the ones forcing the Romans to crucify Jesus. Well, first of all, this is a text that was written when the Christians were trying to depart from Judaism and court the Romans, the most powerful empire in the world. They were trying to get Romans to convert to Christianity, which would not happen if the Romans were shown as the bad guys. So as a political choice, as simple as that, the Jews were made escape goats, as many times before and later in history. With that historic perspective, it's easy to understand the New Testament's depiction of Jews as the villains. Understanding their reasons to depict Jews in a bad light does not automatically makes me like it, particularly when historically the image of Christ-killers given to the Jews put us in life-threatening situations. Just to cite a couple, the Spanish Inquisition and the Russian Pogroms. Still, the Catholic Church has been trying to erase that image by getting closer and closer to Jewish institutions during the last 50 or so years. This movie threatens that approximation.
It bothers me the depiction of Jews in such a bad light in a book that is shown to millions of people, on a daily basis, as the truth. I want to be clear here: I defend the right of everyone to believe in whatever they choose to believe. My problem is that when you present a document talking about things that happened 2000 years ago as the theological truth, people tend to assume that historically, that document is true as well. That is my problem with the New Testament.
My problem with Mr. Gibson is on a different level. I've been a fan of his movies and performances for years, but after watching this movie, his directorial choices make me feel directly attacked by it and I will respond the only way I can. I will not watch any of his movies anymore. He uses subtlety and subliminal messages to pass on something more than just the main message of the story, a message of repenting and redemption.
There is no doubt in my mind that the anti-Jewish sentiment that this movie provokes was not the main goal of this film, however it is obvious nonetheless. It is a lot more dangerous due to its dismissal in the press. In a simple comparison, Schindler's List is a movie about survival and companionship in the face of unsurpassable odds but it still instills a violent anti-Nazi sentiment in whoever watches it. The lack of human pity and empathy, the utter cruelty of the Nazis in that movie is such that it is impossible to walk out of it without a deep hate for the worst villains in that movie. Note that I wrote Nazis and not Germans. The same distinction is made in the movie. In fact, the Nazis talk and discuss between themselves, which explain their views to the public. Unfortunately, this sentiment of hate is directed towards the Jewish leaders and the entire Jewish people in Mr. Gibson's movie. There is no explanation of their reasons. No discussion. Events are shown in such light as to make the Jews look like irrational fanatics, which is probably the way Mr. Gibson sees those passages of the Bible.
The Jews in this movie have absolutely no respect for Jesus' life or suffering, much as Nazis regarding Jews in just about any movie about the holocaust. Even though the devil is portrayed as tempting Jesus throughout the movie, there is no indication that perhaps the devil is controlling the Jews. Some Romans are shown in scenes where they have deep troubles in sentencing Jesus, not because they believe in Jesus but for sheer human compassion. No such luxury is afforded to any Jew.
As it turns out, the comparison with Schindler’s List is not accidental. Mr. Gibson has given a rare and prominent TV interview to try and calm spirits before the movie’s launch. When asked if he isn't afraid of inciting hatred against Jews, Gibson replied that seeing "Schindler's List" did not arouse in him any hatred of Germans. "Any movie," he said, “describing what one group of people did to another, is liable to arouse feelings of hatred".
What is he trying to do, with this comparison? He is putting the Holocaust at the same perception level as Jesus’ martyrdom. Therefore, if you blame the Nazis for the Holocaust, you must blame the Jews for the death of Jesus. The worst is the opposite, though. If you do not blame the Jews, you must acquit the Nazis from the Holocaust. Considering the fact that Mr. Gibson’s father is a revisionist that considers the Holocaust as non-existent and has declared that the Jews simply moved from Europe to the USA and Israel to extort money from the rest of the world, this is hardly a stretch of deduction.
The movie is about the suffering of Jesus prior to his death, which is an act of redemption for him and humanity. This suffering was sugar coated in many other movies made previously about the same subject, including the very controversial The Last Temptation of Christ. It was done that way before to avoid shocking the audience and with the understanding that showing violence does not promote violence-reduction. Mr. Gibson uses a very different approach. He chooses to show every possible suffering moment. In fact, he exaggerates things to look gorier than necessary or depicted in the original book, such as dislocating Jesus’ shoulder to fit the cross. His intention is to take the Christian viewer through a guilt trip. It’s as if he’s saying: “Look how much He suffered for you, you must believe Him now!”
The most unfortunate thing is that this last message has already come across. It came across to the churches that massively acquired almost every ticket to use this movie as a tool for evangelic missions, it came across to many people that cried through the movie, it came across to an old lady that had a heart attack during the crucifixion scene, it came across even to my friend, an intelligent, well-educated Christian who told me the message of the movie, for her, was “if that’s how it happened, we are not worthy.”
Note that these people are taken into this guilt-trip unwillingly. They believe they are simply watching a movie about a story they heard so many times before. I think that it is not only possible, but highly likely, that many people will interpret that all Jews are like the ones in the movie. They will probably not realize it either, but that message is burned in their subconscious. That is a message that cannot be answered with hate, for it that would prove Mr. Gibson’s view.
The only answers I can give, after all the questions that this movie raised, are:
I am a Jew. I am not heartless. I too felt sorry for Jesus in the scenes where he is beaten to a pulp. I did not manage to stay calm and observant, as the other Jews are depicted in the movie.
I take as an offense to my intelligence when people say “that is how it happened then, does not mean that’s how it would happen now”. First because nobody knows if that is how things really happened because the Bible is not historical truth, the message is what matters, not historical accuracy. Second, nobody can think clearly when they see their God being beaten to submission. They want a culprit and this movie gives them one.
I wish this movie focused in better aspects of Christianity, or at least that is showed the better aspects of Judaism.
One of Jesus’ lessons is to love even your enemy. For someone that has the power to put his views in front of so many people, Mr. Gibson sure holds a grudge.
Mr. Gibson owes me more than my $10 fee for entrance to watch that movie. He owes my people and me an apology.
Should you go see this movie, I ask that you please buy a ticket to a different movie and sneak in. This way you don’t give Mr. Gibson any money and the theatre doesn’t lose anything. If you get caught, it was an honest mistake and you can still see the other movie, which will probably be better anyway. Also, be prepared for two hours of senseless beating of a human being.
Mr. Gibson, if you read this, see the light and feel the need to apologize, don’t call me. Just make another movie about the life of Christ prior to these last 12 hours, show his rise within Judaism, his struggle to connect with the values of the Old Testament, his connection with the other prophets that were ubiquitous at the time.
A man’s life should be deemed more important than his death.
I was a young teenager in Brazil when I started reading Spider Man. I have always read books, in huge quantities. I used to pride myself on reading two to four books per week, but never saw a story told visually with something that was so close to me, being that I was a weak, shy boy who had a protuberant imagination and liked to dream of being stronger and less timid. Spider Man was the story of a weak, shy teenager who has this other side, a stronger and less timid alter-ego. I had my new favorite reading pastime.
For years I read the comics but couldn't do so when I moved here to the States, in part because there aren't many newsstands in South Florida, I'd have to go to a comic shop for that. Mainly though, I think it was my beef with the huge amount of slang used in the comics here and also because they actually write accents down. So, if a character is from the South, they'll probably use "Hi, y'all!" for a greeting, like my sister does now after a few years in Mississippi. As there is absolutely no way to translate this to portuguese, the translators used correct portuguese in the comics, which more or less elevated their status in my subconscious mind and allowed me to judge them as my biweekly personal movie theatre.
I never gave a moment's thought to the origins of comics, until 20 minutes ago. The web is funny, it will get you to interesting things from when you least expect it. I explain...
I wanted to tell a friend of mine to keep dreaming and to try her best in a project. So I decided to tell her to reach for the stars, as we say here, and went online to see if I could find the origin of this old saying. Instead, I found this website with "Gift of a Jew" as a headline. Being that I saw the anti-jewish "The Passion of Christ" last weekend, I thought this was another veiled attempt to attack Jews and went on reading. I could not be more wrong. I reproduce below what the site publishes at http://www.wizardacademy.com/showmemo.asp?ID=147. That site in itself is nothing special, but the text is very poignant and tells the story of the creation of comics as a business, which is mixed with the story of comics as an art form. With no further delay, here is Gift of a Jew, by Roy Williams:
1933: America is drowning in the depths of the Great Depression when Max Gaines loses his job as a novelties salesman and is forced to move into his mother's house with his wife and two small children. As he lays his battered suitcase on his boyhood bed, the radio informs Max that Adolph Hitler has just been named chancellor of Germany. It is a gray and dreary day. The only cheer Max can find is in some old Sunday funny papers he discovers stored in his mother's attic.
Smiling as he reads the panels, it occurs to him that maybe other people might smile a moment, too, so Max persuades Eastern Color Printing to take a chance on his idea and the "comic book" is born. An initial printing of thirty-five thousand copies quickly disappears from department store shelves. Within a year, comic books are being sold on newsstands all over America. Eastern Color Printing rewards Max Gaines by saying, "Thanks for the idea, Pal. Now get lost."
Hearing that the McClure Newspaper Syndicate has a pair of idle color presses, Gaines convinces them to let him print a new comic book in return for half the proceeds. McClure agrees and Popular Comics is born. Knowing that the success of recycled newspaper funnies will be short-lived, Max keeps his eyes open for something new. In 1937, McClure Newspaper employee Sheldon Mayer tells Max about a caped and muscled "super man" in red-and-blue tights who can lift an automobile over his head. Every newspaper in New York had rejected the strip, saying, "It's too unbelievable." But Max Gaines, feeling that he knows the hearts of the people, contacts the strip's creator.
Within 4 short years, 30 comic-book publishers are producing 150 different titles monthly. With combined sales of 15 million copies and a readership of 60 million people, the comic-book industry becomes a rare bright spot in America's Great Depression. Max Gaines has given the nation a beautiful gift. But now, staring into the cold eyes of Goliath - wartime Germany - America needs a patriot hero. And no one understands heroes better than Max. The exploits of Abraham, Moses, Elijah and David have sustained his people for centuries. It is time to create a David for America.
Under the direction of Max Gaines, cartoonists Joe Simon and Jack Kirby create Captain America to take on the Nazi agent Red Skull. "Two Jews created this weak little guy named Steve Rogers who gets a shot in the arm by scientist Dr. Reinstein, (a reference to Albert Einstein) and by way of a 'secret serum,' he becomes this super-strong hero who starts destroying Nazis," explains political cartoonist Peter Kuper. "What a distinctly empowering image."
On a gray afternoon in the dusty attic of his mother, Max Gaines caught himself smiling at some old funny papers and the American comic book industry was born. But the comic book wasn't the most precious gift that he would give. On a sunny afternoon, Gaines was boating on Lake Placid with his friend Sam Irwin when a speedboat was suddenly upon them. In that singular, reflexive moment when time stands still and men's hearts are revealed, Max could either jump out of the way or toss Sam's young child to safety; there wasn't time to do both. Gaines throws the boy into the back of the boat and absorbs the full impact of the crash.
Have you ever met someone in a bar and didn't want to give them your real phone number? Of course you did. Everyone goes through that one time or another.
What number do you give out? Well, if you don't have one, give out the Rejection Hotline number. These guys made a nationwide "public service" to take rejection to an impersonal entity. Even rejection has been automated! We live in Orwell's 1984, people!
Go to Presidentmatch.com and find out which of the american candidates from president has views similar to yours.
1) Kucinich - 100% (pitty he just has 1% on the polls...)
2) Kerry - 90% (90% is more than 2 out of 3, so that ain't bad)
3) Sharpton - 88% (that's because there was no setting for anti-semitism)
4) Edwards - 85% (I disagree in minor issues, so he would be an ok VP)
5) Dean - 85% (I disagree in his lack of intensity on important issues, which is quite a surprise to me)
6) Bush - 23% (this was a surprise. I expected less than 10% on this one)