Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Needle in a Haystack

Matthew 19:23-30
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I say it again – it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!" 25 The disciples were astounded. "Then who in the world can be saved?" they asked. 26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible."

A decade before Mel Gibson turned the movie industry (and religion) on its ear with "The Passion of the Christ," a guy named James Barden wrote, produced, and scored a film entitled "The Judas Project," which turned the movie industry (and the 11 people who paid good American money to see it) on its funny bone. The idea was to show what it might look like if Jesus first came to Earth today instead of 2,000 years ago. Instead, it showed what it might look like if a bunch of previously out-of-work actors read a really bad script on camera. The movie grossed roughly half a billion dollars less than Gibson's flick and became to Christian film what "Plan 9 From Outer Space" was to sci-fi cinema. (I can't decide which is funnier: the website panning "The Judas Project" or the one ripping "Plan 9.")

While I was too busy laughing at "The Judas Project" to seriously explore the idea it endeavored to posit, the above passage from Matthew 19 has me wondering how Jesus would tailor that text to fit '04. Best we can tell, wealth and holiness were first-century synonyms. That more fully explains the dumbstruck disciples when Jesus said a camel could navigate a needle's eye more easily than rich people could earn eternal life.

If wealth indeed equaled righteousness circa century one, then help me fill in the following blank: "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a __________ to enter the Kingdom of God."

(To bring it completely into present-day patois, maybe we should change the beginning of the equation, too: "It's easier for the Red Sox to win a World Series than for a __________ to enter the Kingdom of God.")

Would Jesus target political conservatives, who say they're Right while virtually ignoring those Left behind or at the very least attaching quids pro quo in their benevolence to the very "least of these."

Would he finger liberals, who blow the trumpet of tolerance to drown out their promotion of permissive behavior; and who'll defend the defenseless all the way, just as soon as you're all the way out of a mother's womb?

Each of those two types carry too much baggage to be considered the modern-day equivalent to the first-century wealthy. It would have to be someone who, though certainly not perfect, would be rendered reverent, even by those who didn't share his or her parochial perspective. People whose pictures of piety are taken not with zoom lenses but wide-angle. I'm talking the surface saved, the brazenly holy, the...uh oh...

"It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a church-goer to enter the Kingdom of God."

Now that would make a great movie.

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