Archive for May, 2010

Son of Man (2006)

May 24, 2010
If Jesus were alive on Earth today, and if he had been born in an African slum, what kinds of things would he care about? How would the era and culture shape his ministry? Son of Man seeks to explore these questions.
Working with the South African theater group Dimpho di Kopane, director Mark Dornford-May crafts a retelling of the life of Jesus that manages to incorporate many of the most familiar elements of the story, while at the same injecting life into it because of care he takes in grounding the film in a vividly modern setting.
Son of Man begins with the timeless story of the temptation in the desert, then abruptly cuts to a BBC-like report about the fighting between Herode’s militia and the insurgents in the “Afrikan Kingdom of Judea.” This juxtaposition of spiritual and real-world drama becomes a key motif throughout the film, as Jesus is shown giving equal concern to spiritual healing and political action. If anything, Son of Man spends more time on Jesus’ social mission.
We get to know the Jesus in Son of Man first as a child, playing with angels and warning his mother of the Magi’s impending visit. As he grows up, he participates in his native coming-of-age ritual, tells Mary he is leaving, and begins recruiting his disciples, four of whom are women (Simone, Philippa, Thaddea, and Andie).
After the death of Herode, many of Jesus’ followers want to take up arms against the new interim government, but Jesus tells them they will not need weapons to fight this battle. “Unrest is due to poverty, overcrowding and lack of education. We must prove we’re committed to nonviolent change; then negotiations can begin.”
The first of several Biblical miracles in Son of Man occurs at the end of a discourse Jesus gives on social injustice, touching on everything from child slavery in Asia to drug companies’ patenting and selling medicine at prices the poor will never be able to afford. Just as he finishes speaking, a sick boy is lowered through the roof, and Jesus heals him on the spot.
As word of Jesus’ miracles spreads, people in the towns he visits paint street murals commemorating the miraculous events. His increasing popularity, though, also attracts the attention of the interim government leaders, who are eager for an excuse to silence the revolutionary man.
In addition to the strongly visual elements of the film, Son of Man is also a highly musical story, with Mary singing the Magnificat in an operatic voice, the angels breaking into song at the birth of Jesus, and Jesus’ followers letting loose a visceral dirge when they learn of his death.

Evangelical Man Cracks Predestination Code

May 18, 2010
OVERLAND PARK, KS–Ever since he became a Christian at a junior high summer camp, Fred Robertson has wanted to spread the gospel. His evangelism was largely ineffective, though, until after he graduated from college and started a job as an efficiency consultant. For his job, he travels to various factories and advises the managers on the best ways to get the most out of their employees.
“The man-hours wasted every day in the American workplace is staggering,” explains Aaron Dowell, Robertson’s boss.
Since he started working for Dowell, Fred Robertson has learned that while boosting morale and increasing accountability are pathways to increased efficiency, they are not a miracle cure-all. “The approach doesn’t work on everyone,” says Robertson. “Some people just aren’t good workers.”
Robertson is a single man who lives alone, so when he is not away on a project, he has a lot of time to sit at home and think. One afternoon, he had a revelation.
“I could count on one hand the number of people I’ve led to Christ. And I realized my problem was that I was witnessing to anyone and everyone. I was working under the mindset that everyone I met could potentially become a Christian, and I was wasting my time.”
The previous Sunday, Robertson’s pastor, Mike Lemmer, preached a sermon on the doctrine of predestination, the belief that God has “already chosen everyone who will ever be saved.” Lemmer exhorted his congregation to take comfort and humility from their position as God’s chosen people, but Robertson came away with a different epiphany.
“If God has chosen who’s going to get saved, then that mean he also knows who he hasn’t chosen. In other words, he knows who the good workers and the bad workers are,” explains Robertson.
In order to increase his evangelism efficiency, Robertson decided to take a break from “just witnessing” in order to figure out who the predestined people of God are, and then to target his message to them. The problem, Robertson recalls, was to find out who God loves.
“At first, it was hard to narrow down my target audience. I mean, of course the liberals in Hollywood and New England were out, but I live in Kansas, so I wasn’t exactly running into them every day anyway. But I kept at it. I had to crack the code.”
Robertson spent a day parked across the street from a Planned Parenthood clinic writing down the license plates of cars in the parking lot, but the work of matching up plates with people was slow going. Eventually, he decided to simply stay away from the clinic altogether.
Later, Robertson researched on the internet. “I kept hearing all these Christians saying how much God hates gays and Democrats, so I crossed them off my list. I also–accidentally, let me assure you–found out there’s a strip club down a few miles down the highway. That place is dead, too. Spiritually dead, I mean.”
In his reading, Robertson came across a number of sermons from the 1970s and 1980s condemning rock and roll musicians, as well as anyone who listened to that kind of music. He did not stop there, however.
“One of the most important things in preaching the gospel is contextualization. That means you think about what the message was back then and figure out what it means today. And today, rock music isn’t all that controversial. There are even Christian rock singers now. But around here, no one likes all that hip-hop rap stuff. Once I realized that, I knew all that Mexican hip-swinging dancing music had to go, too.”
Given the prevalence of “ethnic music” in the cultures in which it originates, Robertson decided to leave out every minority he could think of. “African Americans, Mexicans, Arabs, Chinese, Europeans, none of them are worth my time,” says Robertson.
The further along he got in his predestination study, Robertson made a startling discovery. “Everyone who could be saved, they already were saved. That was such a relief,” he recalls. “It made my job so much easier.”
When asked about his current evangelism activities, Robertson replies, “I don’t witness that much anymore. Now, I mostly just spend my time thanking God that I made the cut.”