Poetic Licence and Religious Tolerance


Poetic License and Religious Tolerance

Among all religions, the tolerance displayed by the Christian Church regarding the poetic license used by writers, artists and film makers about the Gospels and Jesus Christ stands out as an example to all other religious institutions. More research has been done, more books have been written about the life and times of Jesus, than about any other being on earth. "Re-writing the Gospels has become a literary genre in its own right", as mentioned in a review of Philip Pullman's new novel in The Independent.

One of the most recent such books is 'The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ', published in 2010. Pullman narrates the story of two brothers, the moral and godly Jesus and his brother Christ who tries to establish a powerful church on the foundation that Jesus builds. ABC news said of the book, "a far more direct exploration of the foundations of Christianity and the church as well as an examination of the fascination and power of storytelling". The archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Rown Williams had said that the Jesus character "a voice of genuine spiritual authority"

D. H. Lawrence wrote the short novel 'The Escaped Cock' in two parts in 1927 and 1928, but it was published as 'The man Who Died'. It is about a man who returns from the dead.

Lawrence describes, "Strength came from somewhere, from revulsion; there was a crash and a wave of light, and the dead man was crouching in his lair, facing the animal onrush of light. Yet it was hardly dawn. And the strange, piercing keenness of daybreak's sharp breath was on him. It meant full awakening." and then, "He was alone; and having died, was even beyond loneliness." Then to the peasant "'Don't be afraid,' said the man in the shroud. 'I am not dead. They took me down too soon. So I have risen up. Yet if they discover me, they will do it all over again...'", and again, "my mission is over, and my teaching is finished, and death has saved me from my own salvation. Oh, Madeleine, I want to take my single way in life, which is my portion. My public life is over, the life of my self-importance. Now I can wait on life, and say nothing, and have no one betray me."

Lawrence the poet was at his best when he writes, "Plum blossom blew from the trees, the time of the narcissus was past, anemones lit up the ground and were gone, the perfume of bean-field was in the air. All changed, the blossom of the universe changed its petals and swung round to look another way. The spring was fulfilled, a contact was established, the man and the woman were fulfilled of one another, and departure was in the air."

Dan Brown shot into the limelight with his bestseller 'Da Vinci Code' in 2003, which was probably influenced by the tales of the Merovingian clan of France, who are said to be the descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, and by Laurence Gardner's 1996 book 'Bloodline of the Holy Grail', which was an outcome of 'Holy Blood and Holy Grail' by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln in 1982. From 2004 to 2009, 'Da Vinci Code' had sold 80 million copies, even though it had been severely criticized by many. Salman Rushdie called it "a novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name", Aaron Sorkin in New York Times, "Dan Brown's best selling primer on how not to write an English Sentence"

Alex Burns has called 'Holy Blood and Holy Grail' a powerful example of investigative journalism, meme-spliced with religious conspiracy theory. They investigated the mystery of the small church in Rennes-le-Chateau and the parchments found there with reference to 'Dagobert II king' who was a Merovingian king, and who was traced back to the heirs of Magdalene who had married into the family of Visigoths.

'The Last Temptation of Christ' was published by the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis in 1953, and developed into a film by Martin Scorsese in 1988. Though it was banned in several countries, it too became immensely popular.

'The Shack' by William P. Young in 2007 narrates the story of a Trinity of a young child, an African-American woman and a Middle-Eastern labourer named Jesus.

Aziz Kashmiri,wrote 'Christ in Kashmir' in 1973 to claim that Christ survived the crucifixion and lived till he was 120 years in Kashmir, where he was buried in the Rozabal shrine in Srinagar believed to be of the Sufi saint, Yuz Asaf. Then Suzanne Olson, an American writer, who claimed to be the 59th descendant of Jesus, wanted to exhume the tomb to get a DNA test done, to prove her ancestry.

There are so many novels, historical research publications, religious studies, about Christianity and Jesus Christ, and here is mentioned only the tip of the iceberg.

Such writings always would draw criticism and even threats from a few religious zealots, but in reality most of these literary creations would encourage readers to go back to the Gospels, to re-think about what is written, and to learn and understand their religion and their faith.

The founders of all world religions are far above the ordinary human beings, and they are beyond the reach of any criticism, ridicule or even slander. Other mortals should not take umbrage of any stories or paintings or films as insults, as heretic creations influenced by other religions or anti-religious movements or by the devil himself.

Truth always prevails, and cannot be distorted or destroyed, and during this season let us all learn to be tolerant of all frailties of the poor, misguided and gullible human beings.

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