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the “Beast”

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 12, 2004

Funny.  I don’t understand how Google figures out what ads to place, but I discovered an ad on missionThink for a movie coming out called "the Beast." The Beast is coming out on 6-6-06–clever, huh? Check out the trailer.  Here is a synopsis of what is sure to be an instant classic:

When her father, a biblical scholar, mysteriously disappears, a Christian high-school student named Danielle investigates.  She discovers that he had stumbled across a cover-up of Christianity’s best-kept secret:

That Jesus Christ never existed.

Now that she possess proof of this dangerous fact, Danielle must confront two strong forces: A band of fundamentalist Christians who will stop at nothing to suppress the truth, and her own desire for Jesus Christ to be real.

Diving into factual territory well-explored by scholars but largely hidden from the view of the public, The Beast is an epic story of innocence lost, faith in crisis, and the astoning power of the truth to survive.

I dug up the following from their website:

FACTS


The Beast is currently in pre-production.

The cast and crew are legally sworn to secrecy.

The theory that Jesus Christ never existed, while largely unknown to most lay Christians, is gaining credibility among scholars. Historians do not consider the Gospels to be historically accurate accounts. The authors of the Gospels, writing 40 to 90 years after the supposed life of Christ, never intended for their works to be read as biographies. There are no credible non-Christian references to Christ during the period in which he is said to have lived.

BEHIND THE MOVIE

The Beast is directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Brian Flemming. Flemming’s work has been called "a parallel universe" by the BBC, "jaggedly imaginative" by the New York Times, and "immensely satisfying" by USA Today. The Fox News Channel dubbed him "a young Oliver Stone." Flemming won the New York Times Claiborne Pell Award for Original Vision for his groundbreaking feature film Nothing So Strange, which was released theatrically in 2003 and is currently distributed on DVD in more than 200 countries.

Flemming is a former fundamentalist Christian. An in-depth interview with him is available in the first issue of The Beast newsletter. For a more extensive biography, see the Internet Movie Database.

The fact that Brian Flemming was a fundamentalist seems to be driving his movie.  I don’t know what happened to him, but he seems bitter with an axe to grind.  I would expect the main character in his movie to be Brianna, not Danielle.  This movie tells me a few things:

  1. Many people want to dismantle the Christian power-machine. 
  2. The fact that Christianity became a power at all is quite sad…in some ways I am sympathetic to Mr. Flemming.  The Jesus he has in his mind and the Christianity he seeks to destroy are probably worth trashing.
  3. Flemming makes it sound as though the buden of evidence is that Jesus didn’t exist.  That isn’t even remotely the case.  Very few scholars–including secularist scholars–would claim that Jesus didn’t exist.  This is a perfect example of people finding evidence that reinforces the feelings in their hearts.  Doing apologetics with Mr. Flemming might be helpful, but if Christians were experts at loving people, then apologetics wouldn’t be such a popular discipline.
Mark Van Steenwyk is the general editor of Jesus Manifesto. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


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    This movie demonstrates a really interesting trend in recent entertainment that is based on biblical scholarship. The problem is that scholars don't have a voice in popular media. Partly this is because they don't really want one, and partly this is because scholars, especially biblical scholars, are so ensconced in their own academic world that speak almost a different dialect. This highly informed way of viewing the world doesn't translate to the world of entertainment, where the goal is simply to maintain interest to make money. So the movie industry is capable of denying the FACT that you raised that even the most die-hard atheist scholar will seriously hesitate before denying that Jesus Christ existed goes completely and utterly unchallenged, because through lack of interest and lack of voice, the scholars who are in a position to correct the situation are incapable of doing so.
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    Chris,
    I partially agree with you. I would say that the academy and the Hollywood machine don't overap very well. Call it "language games" or "non-overlaping magesteria" or whatever you like.

    I disagree with part of the analysis. I think that the Jesus Seminar has shown the power that the academy can have over secular media, even if their scholarship isn't all that great.

    All it might take is for some of the Biblical scholars to come together across the board and make a statement in the media, it could be a good thing. If NT scholars were willing to do things like go out into the media the way that other scholars do (especially political and legal scholars who cross-over as consultants on news programs) then they may be able to reverse the trend of being a pawn.

    This, however would require a lot of work. It may even require a special surgery to get their heads out of their posteriors.
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    I don't necessarily think scholars have their heads so inclined, I think they've just correctly assessed the media machine as uninterested in communicating facts. I think what Hollywood and E! find infinitely more interesting than the best attested theories are the most outlandish, controversial theories, which necessarily (usually) have a poverty of evidence to support them. The Jesus Seminar has been successful because it's made up of a group of scholars who value their own theories so much that submitting to the relatively impossible task of defending their ideas to credible scholars is discarded in favor of the almost unquestioning and wholesale acceptance of their ridiculous theories by the uninformed public. The only thing that the success of the Jesus Seminar in the media has proven is that thus far, the only discernable "power that the academy can have over secular media" is the power to unethically presents unfounded theories that happen to sound controversial.
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    Regarding "the Beast":

    --"A must see!"

    --Nero Caesar
 

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