The trailer for Son of God, Christopher Spencer’s new Jesus Christ biopic, opens with a fairly recognizable light-skinned Jesus (Diogo Morgado) heading out to sea with a poor fisherman. The fisherman tells Jesus, “There’s no fish out there,” to which Jesus offers a smug, know-it-all smirk. A net is cast, Jesus does his magic-wavy-hands thing, and VOILA! Fish. Mystified, the fisherman asks, “How did this happen?” Jesus tells the man to come with him, and we hear some more clichéd movie trailer dialogue: “What are we going to do?” “Change the world…”
The fisherman, of course, is Peter, and this is the Hollywood retelling of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes from the Gospel of Luke. The trailer is full of Jesus’ Greatest Hits, from Makin’ a Lame Guy Walk to Baskets Full o’ Food to I’m Walkin’ on Water (And Don’t It Feel Good). We see Jesus’ rise to fame, and then hear the villain Pilate (Greg Hicks) ominously declare, “I will crush any rebellion!” Then there’s Judas’ betrayal, then the Last Supper, then (spoiler alert!) the Crucifixion. Everything we already know about Jesus, in one handy trailer.
At this point in time, the American populace does not need this movie. In fact, this film may be the exact opposite of what it needs. Not only is Son of God yet another Jesus flick, but it’s a Jesus flick for Jesus-crazed audiences who actually understand little about Jesus to begin with. If the movie trailer is any indication of what’s to come, then this film is nothing more than a retelling of events we already know: the miracles, the betrayal, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion. I can already see aunts nudging their nephews in Midwestern theaters, saying, “That’s right. You see? Jesus was a healer. That’s why we go to church every week.”
And therein lies the problem: worshipping Jesus for the sake of worshipping Jesus. Here we have an idol who can perform supernatural feats—much like Superman or Thor—and who is the only one to have such power to heal. Audience members can say, “Wasn’t this guy awesome?!” but are not necessarily privy to any Christian messages that Jesus would try to explain, like “Love your neighbor, dude” or “Don’t be a greedy douchebag.” In this version, only Jesus—not the audience—has the power to “change the world.”
Instead, what we need is a movie that shows Jesus interacting with today’s American self-proclaimed Christians and telling them outright that they’re doing it wrong. All wrong. He’ll visit the Westboro Baptist Church and shake his head in embarrassment. He’ll attend a meeting in the U.S. House of Representatives and bang his head against the wall. He’ll ask a random citizen what religion she practices, and she’ll say, “Christianity.” And Jesus will say, “Why is that?” And she’ll say, “Because Jesus.”
Jesus cannot be a Hollywood hero. Right now, the American public needs a non-glorified protagonist who is normal, cannot perform miracles, and is not idolized in any way. Maybe this character shouldn’t be Jesus at all, then. Maybe this person is just a normal, everyday guy or gal who treats people nicely on a regular basis—for no other reason than to just be a decent human being. This protagonist addresses the audience and says, “Here’s how you can be nice, just like me,” and spends two hours describing hypothetical acts of kindness and how easy it would be to make these acts a reality. Additionally, he/she thoroughly defines concepts of racism, homophobia, sexism, and xenophobia, as well as how to steer clear of them.
For those who still want a realistic Christ film, here’s a plot:
After 2,000 years, a dark-skinned Jesus returns and descends directly into the crossfire of the Middle East. Jesus asks, “Why is there so much fighting?” and a young, soon-to-be-disciple explains the complexity of the situation on all sides—a speech that lasts 45 minutes. Then, Jesus says, “Well, there’s no use talking to them right now. Where is a place that people know my name and worship me?” The young boy says, “America.”
Fast-forward to the next day, and Jesus (and his disciple) are in Kansas. Jesus lectures churchgoers at a random service: “You claim to be Christians, yet you abuse the poor and needy, you have deadly weapons in your possession, you shun others because they are different from you, and you practice gluttony, each and every one of you.” In a rage, the churchgoers shout, “MUSLIM!” and throw Jesus and his disciple out of church. Jesus shrugs, drops his disciple off in New York, and returns to Heaven. Roll credits.