Augustine: Son of Her Tears – A Few Reflections

Yesterday I was finally able to watch the last film about Augustine, directed by Samir Seif, and produced originally in Arabic.

My friends know that I am not a fan of Augustine, as a person and as a theologian, even if I admire his genius and certain of his contributions as a Father of the Church.

My main theological reservation has to do with his psychologising views on the Trinity. Also, in a typically Western fashion, he roots divine unity in a common ousia, rather than in the person of the Father, as fons divinitatis.

However, and more importantly, I view Augustine as the father of Church misogyny. His disdain of women, a pathological reaction to his life of debauchery before his conversion to Christianity, together with his (and others of his contemporaries) Neoplatonist disdain of the body and physicality, paved the way for the marginalisation of women in the cultus and the demonisation of sexuality which still dominates the mindset of most Christians until today.

Yet, Augustine was one of the greatest minds in the history of the church and nobody in their right mind should ignore him or underestimate his influence, for better or for worse.

I am not a specialist in cinematography, so my considerations here are those of a mere spectator, with an interest in the subject matter.

The fact that the movie is set in North African context and played by Arab actors is a plus, giving more authenticity to the story and to its contextualisation. This, however, has a downside, it seems to me. The life of Augustine before his conversion is highly ‘sanitised’ and reflects very little the scandalous sexual immorality in which the young Augustine lived his life before conversion.

One the other side, the ambiguity of Augustine’s relationship to power is illustrated quite well in the movie. His daylight dream of being received in triumph in Tagaste, after his initial failure in the school of rhetoric is emblematic in this sense. As is his cowardice, pointedly underline by his other, which prompted him to disappear from Bishop Ambrose’s palace when the hierarch was supposed to be arrested. No surprise then to see, years later, Bishop Augustine’s utterly unjust attitude towards his theological opponent, Pelagius.

Monica, the great hero of the story in Christian chronicles, appears to me, besides her undeniable commitment to the Christian faith, as she understood it, as a pale character and a confused woman. She buys completely into the patriarchal mindset of the time, and not only gladly accepts, but appears to justify the abusive attitude of her husband, almost finding justification for it as a divine right. Furthermore, she has no hesitation in accepting the injustice of the social rules of the time that forbid Augustine’s marriage with his concubine, Tanit, (played brilliantly by Sandra Chihaoui), with whom he had a son, Adeodatus. Even more, Monica does not hesitate to suggest to Augustine another woman for marriage, in total insensitivity to the mother of his child.

Tanit (Sandra Chihaoui)

For me, the great hero of this movie was Tanit, the Christian slave who was Augustine’s concubine. She is in this story the best illustration of Christian love, during her entire relationship with Augustine, as proven, in the end, by her supreme sacrifice, in leaving her son in Monica’s care and disappearing forever from Augustine’s life, in order not to be an obstacle in his ecclesiastic career. Similarly, in the contemporary parallel story of the documentary on Augustine, Kenza is the luminous loving figure, in comparison with Hedi, the confused French-Algerian journalist.

The historical part of the movie ends with Augustine’s decision of celibacy being presented as an act of Christian heroism. For me, the true heroism would have been for Augustine to look for the estranged Tanit, and to establish with her a legitimate family, in spite of social convenience. But, of course, that would have been to much to expect even from a genius hero like ‘Saith’/Blessed Augustine.

Sorry! Not my cup of tea. Or coffee if you wish.

The movie could be watched, probably for a limited time, on youtube

Christus Victor – A Celtic Look at the Death of Christ

Most of the Western Christians – Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelicals, look at the cross of Christ through the lens of a legal metaphor. According to it, God created humans and gave them his commands. At the devil’s temptation, they disobeyed God, whose honour, as head of the universe, was utterly offended. Because of human rebellion, called sin, God cursed the entire creation. And thus, death entered our world. At the peak of history, God sent his son into the world, to die for us, so that the guilt for Adam’s fall and our sinfulness could be atoned for. Through Christ’s terrible death, justice was done for the breaking of God’s law, and God’s wrath was appeased. The penalty for our sins was paid (let us not ask ‘to whom exactly’, as this may lead us into all sorts of strange theories). If humans believed that Christ died for their sins (what is usually called the ‘penal substitution theory’) they would be saved, and when Christ comes back, at the end of history, he will take them with him to heaven, while this world will perish in flames. As to those who did not believe, God, in his wrath, has prepared for them the eternal fire of hell.

I imagine many of my readers would be familiar with this perspective, maybe it is also their own, even if they might be disturbed here and there by the way I phrased things. This is the perspective behind Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of Christ, and of many of the western depictions – cinematic, literary or theological, of the events we rememorate at this time in the church calendar. For some, this is the only correct way of understanding the story of Christ. For them, this is the Gospel.

Yet, this is by no means the only way to look at it, and, dare I say, not the best way of accounting for Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension. The Eastern Church and the Celtic Church viewed the cross through a radically different lens, which we may call generically, the Christus victor motif. In what follows, I will talk more of the Celtic version of the story.

During this period of Lent, the first I ever spent in Scotland, I did two things which gave me a somewhat different perspective on Easter. First, I followed the daily readings from David Cole’s book Celtic Lent: 40 Days of Devotions to Easter. Second, I am watching at this time the Vikings series, which begins with the first incursion of the Norsemen on the Monastery of Lindisfarne on the Holy Island, the famous Celtic religious centre in Northumbria, which I had the privilege of visiting a number of times.

Cole talks often in this book about the Christus victor metaphor that informed the Celts’ understanding of Christ’s sacrifice, not as a ransom to appease God’s wrath, but as the culmination of a hero saga, in which the Dryhtnes (the Celtic word for Lord, which was originally the designation of a warlord in charge of a band of warriors) becomes victorious in his battle against the invisible forces of evil, in spite of his terrible death, precisely because death is followed by resurrection. And that not because God’s wrath has been appeased, but because death was the entry door for the hero to be received in triumph at his return in the angelic world (the Christian version of Valhalla, if you want).

Watching in the Vikings the painful and courageous death of Ragnar Lothbrok, helped me understand much better how this metaphor worked in the minds of Celtic Christians. To be fair, being a moderate pacifist, I am more attracted to the peaceful metaphors of the Gospel in the biblical text (grain of wheat, mustard seed, light, yeast, etc.) and I have an instinctive negative reaction to the aggressive metaphors favoured for instance by the American obsession with ‘cultural wars’. Though, this may have not been so much of a problem for the Celts, who were (and their hers still are) short tempered, very passionate people, constantly engaged in war between themselves and with others.

However, the Christian version of the Celtic cult of the hero has nothing to do  with physical fighting or waging ‘holy wars’, supposedly for the spreading the Gospel, which dominated so much of Medieval Christendom, booth in the East and the West, but it is about spiritual warfare against the demonic forces of evil, of which Paul the apostle speaks in Ephesians 6.

This reminds me of a very insightful observation made by Michael Green in his book Evangelism in the Early Church. He argues there that when Peter the apostle preached to the Jews, the recipients of the law of Moses, he spoke of sin as breach of God’s law and of salvation in terms of propitiation for their lawlessness. However, when Paul spoke to the Greeks, who had no law of God revealed to them (besides the testimony of God in nature and their own conscience, as Paul shows in the book of Romans), the apostle spoke of evil in terms of people being enslaved by fear of the primordial forces of evil, and he presented salvation in terms of liberation from under the oppression of these forces and the adoption of these Gentiles as daughters and sons of the God of love, who sacrificed his own son in order to liberate them and give them life in all its fulness, the resurrection of Christ being the guarantee of this promise, which was to be accepted by faith.

Because of their cultural resemblance, I find the Celtic view of Easter much closer to the way in which Paul preached to the Greeks. Same was true, I guess, about Viking culture. As a result, the Norsemen may have been victorious against the Scots and the Anglo-Saxons, but, in the end, they themselves were conquered spiritually by the Christus victor, the Dryhtnes, the hero, whose glorious victory we remember and celebrate these days.

So, I invite you to look at the cross with new eyes and to get enriched with this new perspective, which will give new meaning to your song ‘Christ is risen’.

The Chosen Ones – The Trailer

A group of solitary elderly individuals from Armenia, who have been neglected by the society, unify in an amateur dance troupe and prove during each performance that they still can dream, fall in love, amaze and wonder.

Director: Arman Yeritsyan
Production studio: Bars Media documentary film studio

Thanks to my friend Liana Enli Manusajyan for the link.

24 April – 100 Years from the Armenian Genocide

In commemoration of the Armenian genocide, where about 1.5 million Armenians were killed to the Turks of Ataturk – a criminal act that was never admitted by the Turkish government, I invite you to watch (or watch again) the movie Ararat, directed by Atom Egoyan.

Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe trailer

For the first time, learn how one man’s vision kept the early Christian movement together. How one man defied the very followers of Jesus himself… and in the end left his homeland to conquer an Empire. This is the compelling story of Paul the Apostle, originally named Saul of Tarsus. He zealously persecuted the early followers of Jesus and violently tried to destroy the newly forming Christian church. Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus radically changed the course of his life. After his conversion, Paul began to preach that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age.

Larry Hurtado & Ben Witherington Discuss the Movie ‘Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe’

Scholars Larry Hurtado & Ben Witherington join Robert Orlando on stage for post screening discussion after watching Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe in San Diego during SBL conference. Continue reading “Larry Hurtado & Ben Witherington Discuss the Movie ‘Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe’”

The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies Official Teaser

Au nom du fils

Pe data de 7 mai a fost lansat in Franta filmul ‘Au nom du fils’ [In numele fiului]. Tema, abuzurile sexuale ale preotilor, este una foarte actuala si se poate sa vedem filmul si in Romania.

Iata o scurta descriere a naratiunii (in limba franceza):

Éprouvée par la mort accidentelle de son mari, Élisabeth, animatrice d’une tribune téléphonique sur les ondes d’une radio chrétienne, reçoit en ondes un coup de fil de son fils de 13 ans. Celui-ci lui annonce qu’il est amoureux du père Achille, un ancien collègue à elle, qui vient de partir pour l’Italie. Élizabeth réagit si mal à la nouvelle que l’adolescent se suicide. Apprenant dans la foulée que le garçon et son défunt mari participaient à des camps d’extrême-droite religieuse, Élizabeth sent monter la colère en elle. Indignée par le silence de l’Église face à l’abus sexuel dont a été victime son fils, elle assassine l’évêque qui refuse le salut de l’âme de l’adolescent. Ayant dérobé la liste des prêtres pédophiles que l’évêque protégeait, Élisabeth part en croisade. (Sursa, AICI) Continue reading “Au nom du fils”

Veil of Tears – Official Movie Trailer

Veil of Tears is the gripping new documentary film narrated by Natalie Grant that tells the untold story of millions of women in India who are culturally persecuted for no other reason than the fact that they are women. However, despite the centuries of oppression, there are those who are reaching out and trying to change the culture towards women, from the inside out. Continue reading “Veil of Tears – Official Movie Trailer”

Son of God on Film

Son of God on Film.

Martin Marty on the new mo vie The Son of God.

Leonard Cohen – Dance Me to the End of Love

Dance from Vincente Minnelli’s movie The Band Wagon (1953), with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.

The Red Chapel – A Powerful Documentary of North Korea

Release Date: December 29, 2010 (IFC Center)
Genre: Documentary | Comedy
Cast: Mads Brügger, Simon Jul Jørgensen and Jacob Nossell
Director: Mads Brügger
MPAA: N/A
Studio: Lorber Films

A journalist with no scruples, a spastic, and a comedian travel to North Korea with a mission – to challenge the conditions of the smile in one of the world’s most notorious regimes. The Red Chapel chronicles the amusing and often bizarre encounters between this Danish theatre troupe and their North Korean hosts in a one of a kind, East-meets-West-meets-East look at cultural exchange in the modern world’s last anti-globalist bastion.

Frozen

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen” comes to theaters in 3D November 27th!

Like Frozen on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DisneyFrozen

Follow Frozen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DisneyAnimation

Official Site: http://disney.com/Frozen Continue reading “Frozen”

On the Side of the Road – Official Trailer

When the government tries to silence a history, a light is shed on the nation’s biggest taboo. This is the story of those who fought to erase Palestine and created an Israeli landscape of denial. For more info: naretivproductions.com/
===================
SYNOPSIS
Having grown up in Ariel, Lia Tarachansky speaks about segregation as while situated deep in the West Bank, he settlement is completely isolated from its surroundings and the nearby Palestinian villages. “It was like living on an island suspended from the sky by strings”, she says in an upcoming ground-breaking documentary that looks at Israeli collective identity through the prism of its biggest taboo – what happened in 1948. It was this very history the government attempted to silence when in 2009 a new law proposal suggested a three-year jail term for anyone who looks at the events of that year critically.

Continue reading “On the Side of the Road – Official Trailer”

Madonna foreswears celebrity religion; converts to Methodism | NewsBiscuit

Madonna foreswears celebrity religion; converts to Methodism | NewsBiscuit.

I have to say I am a serious skeptic of all this VIP religious stuff. For their sake I hope it’s genuine, not just another PR stunt. We shall see. May God have mercy on their troubled souls.

//

Megan Fox, Devout Pentecostal, Tells Esquire She Speaks In Tongues

Megan Fox, Devout Pentecostal, Tells Esquire She Speaks In Tongues.

Megan a Pentecostal? That is quite a surprise.

Romero – The Movie (1989)

He started a revolution without guns, without an army, without fear. Because one man’s courage can be the most powerful weapon of all.
“If they kill me, I will rise in the Salvadoran people.”
Romero is a compelling and deeply moving look at the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who made the ultimate sacrifice in a passionate stand against social injustice and oppression in his country. Continue reading “Romero – The Movie (1989)”

The Christmas Story According to 80 Film Titles

We gather to hear once more the age old Christmas story, otherwise known as God’s LOVE STORY.

A GUY NAMED JOE was engaged to Mary, THE PASSION of his life. ‘IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE’  he was often heard to say. Mary was expecting a very special child according to the angel.

Gabriel had appeared to her ONE FINE DAY, nearly scaring THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of her, but telling her that she was to name her special child, Jesus which means ‘Saviour’.

“You must have a BRAVEHEART, Mary, for he will bring you both AGONY AND ECSTASY. DELIVERANCE is THE MISSION he will be entrusted with.” Continue reading “The Christmas Story According to 80 Film Titles”

Au-delà des collines, diable de film!

Au-dela-des-collines

Ziarul francez Le Figaro publica o cronica de film absolut elogioasa, dediata ultimului film al lui Cristian Mungiu, Dupa dealuri (fr. Au dela des collines) care valoreaza mai mult decit o mie de discursuri politice ristite de ziua Romaniei.

Redau mai jos inceputul acestei cronici, foarte bine scrise de Eric Neuhoff.

CRITIQUE – Le réalisateur Cristian Mungiu fait honneur à son art. Le cinéma semble avoir été inventé pour lui. Au-delà des collines est un miracle.

Il faut faire toutes sortes de choses dans la vie. Comme d’aller voir un film roumain qui dure deux heures et demie. Il y a un couvent. Il est perdu dans les collines. Alina vient y chercher Voichita pour la ramener en Allemagne. Problème: cette dernière a rencontré Dieu. Rude concurrence. ­Elles se connaissent depuis l’école maternelle. Elles sont amies, et même un peu plus. Alina ne se plie pas à la règle. Il en résulte mille tourments. Cela fait peur comme un ciel de tempête, produit des prières et des cris, sème le doute et la perturbation. De menues silhouettes noires trottinent dans la cour. Les nonnes portent de curieux petits chapeaux ronds.

Cititi AICI in intregime critica filmului.

(Multumesc frumos unui prieten al meu parizian pentru semnalarea acestui text. El ramine un roman onorific. In ciuda indepartarii lui geografice de Romania in acest moment,  o buna parte a sufletului sau odihneste aici, dincolo de Carpati, unde si-a facut studiile medicale,)

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini About the Crisis of the (Catholic) Church

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who died on 30 August 2012, made a series of daring statements in his last interview, published posthumously. Here are just a few quotes:

Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous.

The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation.

 The church is 200 years out of date. Why don’t we rouse ourselves? Are we afraid?

 

Hellbound?

This is the teaser trailer for “Hellbound?” (www.hellboundthemovie.com), a feature-length documentary that takes an in-depth look at today’s highly contentious debate over the Christian doctrine of eternal punishment. Does hell really exist, and if so, what factors determine who ends up there? Written and directed by Kevin Miller (“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” “Sex+Money,” “spOILed” and “With God On Our Side”), “Hellbound?” features interviews with an eclectic group of high profile authors, theologians, pastors, social commentators, musicians, exorcists and individuals who claim to have experienced the fires of hell firsthand. The film will hit theaters across North America in September 2012 through a combination of major metropolitan area theatrical runs and special event screenings.

Conflict – an illustration

Thanks to Vasile Ernu for the link.

House Without Limits

A superb short film.

Thanks to Violeta Moisa for this link.

Christianity Today Entertainment Blog: Film to Depict Lewis-Tolkien Friendship

Christianity Today Entertainment Blog: Film to Depict Lewis-Tolkien Friendship.

The Lion Awakes, a  new film, in the making, about the friendship between Tolkien and CS Lewis, that led to Lewis’s conversion.

Watch for it in 2013.

Friday Five: Meryl Streep’s greatest success?

Friday Five: Meryl Streep’s greatest success?

Meryl Streep is a major success by anyone’s standards. The versatile and gifted character actor has been nominated for a record number of Golden Globes and Academy Awards; she won her third Oscar on Sunday for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Continue reading “Friday Five: Meryl Streep’s greatest success?”

In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011) – A Movie by Angelina Jolie

This is not really suitable for viewers under 18.

 

A troubling film about the tragedy of the nationalist conflict in former Yugoslavia and especially the extensive and premeditated use of rape as a weapon of war.

Watch HERE (in French) a very positive evaluation of the authenticity of this this movie.

Invention of Love

This animated movie, by Andrey Shushkov, is a parable. I hope you get the point.

Thanks to the Spaniard for the link.

 

Now We Are Free

Now we are free. I will see you again. But not yet, not yet…

Music Composed By Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard
Copyright © 2000 DreamWorks & Universal Pictures

(Thank to my colleague Petros Florides for this link.)

Dirt

Continue reading “Dirt”

Mike Riddell and ‘The Insatiable Moon’

Back in the day, Mike Riddell was a regular speaker at Greenbelt. The behatted Mike, a one-time Baptist pastor, worked the crowds in 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2003. His book Godzone was something of a cult favourite in edgy circles. He was the back cover writer for Third Way magazine, and a regular visitor to the UK on speaking tours.

So whatever happened to him? Where is he now? While some might suspect he washed up on a park bench clutching a bottle of sherry and muttering about God, Mike reports that’s only partly true. The truth is much worse. He’s become a Catholic, and got mixed up in making films.

Those with tendencies to schadenfreude can see the depravity to which he’s sunk by attending the Greenbelt 2011 screening of feature film The Insatiable Moon. Mike wrote and helped to produce the adaptation of his novel that began his journey down the slippery slope of moral destitution. Continue reading “Mike Riddell and ‘The Insatiable Moon’”