The Last Temptation of Christ

Nikos Kazantzakis' 1960 work of fiction, The Last Temptation of Christ, has been condemned by religious leaders throughout the United States.

book cover

The Last Temptation of Christ is the story of Jesus' struggle to come to terms with who he really is. Is he the Messiah? Is he destined to become the savior of mankind?

Sometimes he rebelled. Why couldn't he simply be an ordinary man? Live out his life doing his work as a carpenter? Have a wife and children?

 But God would not leave him alone. So he finally gave up his idea of a normal and comfortable life and began what God had called him to do.

It was never easy. Right up to the end, Jesus had many dreams and visions of a very different life for himself.

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Since The Last Temptation of Christ is fiction and never claimed to be based on the gospels, I don't understand the outrage about this book -- or the movie. Especially since Jesus ends up gladly doing God's will. Yet, the author was excommunicated from the Greek Orthodox Church.

Catholics banned the book. And when the movie opened in 1988, the Vatican publicly criticized it.

Evangelicals considered it blasphemy to suggest Jesus might have dreamed of being married or questioned his mission.

Christians picketed the offices at Universal Pictures. Religious leaders across the country organized protests. Fundamentalist Christians picketed theaters. The film was banned in several southern cities, including the one where I live.

A friend and I did manage to get the film from the only video store in town brave enough to carry it.

When I watched the movie, I discovered that at least one church in town had told a blatant lie about it. They had warned the congregation against watching it. One reason they gave was that the movie portrayed Jesus as a homosexual.

Now that I've read the book cover to cover and seen the movie, I can't imagine how -- or where -- they got that idea. I suspect they neither read the book nor watched the movie. Either way, they lied.

Of all Jesus' thoughts, dreams, and visions in the book, he never imagined himself with another man. But even if he had, doesn't the Bible tell us that Jesus was tempted in all ways? Wouldn't being attracted to a man be included in all ways?

In Hebrews 4:15, the King James Version of the Bible puts it this way: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."

That the human part of Jesus would sometimes doubt he was the Messiah, or to imagine a more ordinary life for himself, seems reasonable to me.

Maybe those religious folks don't really believe that Jesus was tempted in all ways. Or maybe they just don't want to think about some of the things that would include.

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