Thursday, May 18, 2006

McKellen Lambastes Vatican; Critics Pan 'Code'

Leonardo in self portrait. Whose code is it anyway?

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Ian McKellen has a distinguished acting career, two Oscar nominations and the title Knight Commander of the British Empire. And the openly gay British actor also had some withering comments for the Vatican.

The DaVinci Code star said he was "happy to believe that Jesus was married," the Ottawa Citizen and other news outlets reported. McKellen describes himself as a religious skeptic.

"The Catholic Church has problems with gay people, and I thought this would be absolute proof that Jesus was not gay," McKellen said Thursday (May 18) at a news conference in Cannes, France.

Da Vinci Code star Tom Hanks, who identifies as a Greek Orthodox Christian, added: "Write that down."

Meanwhile, critics are writing down nothing but negative reviews about The Code. The movie has been called grim, bloated and oppressive -- among other things. Hanks has been dubbed dull and wooden. Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday described the two-time Academy Award winner as "startlingly pasty." Worse still, he sleepwalks through the film, Hornaday says.
Director Ron Howard -- another Oscar winner -- had an A list cast, a blockbuster book and plenty of publicity to work with. How do you make a clunker out of that? Some entertainment gurus are predicting the film will be a hit. Moviegoers will determine the verdict at the box office.

Write that down.

Read more about The DaVinci Code on the blog:
Putting 'DaVinci Code' Outrage in Context
'DaVinci Code' Looms on Film Horizon

Check out the press coverage:
Ottawa Citizen
Washington Post, Ann Hornaday review

McKellen's official Web site

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Putting ‘DaVinci’ Outrage in Context

Martin Scorsese, director of The Last Temptation of Christ

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

The DaVinci Code is not the first movie to offend Christians.

Whenever a religious group is depicted in the arts, there’s a controversy. Ron Howard’s The DaVinci Code is only the latest contender.

Remember The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988? Director Martin Scorsese took a beating for his controversial film, based on a 1951 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Last Temptation is a literary work, heavy on the philosophy and artistry. Only eggheads would see it as a page-turner. The novel explores big issues: What if Jesus didn’t start out as the Messiah? What if he overcame an intense internal struggle to become the Messiah?

The novel was considered blasphemous. The Orthodox Church excommunicated Kazantzakis; back in the Fifties, Temptation wound up on the Vatican’s list of banned books. And controversy (which is usually good for business) didn’t help Scorsese. His film grossed a puny $8.37 million in the U.S.

On the other hand, Dan Brown’s book is a mega-hit thriller -- big on the plot twists, word puzzles, and suspense. It’s also a manifesto intent on debunking Christianity. And the movie seems to have that same goal.

The alleged coverup outlined by Brown goes like this: Jesus was just a rabbi; he was married to Mary Magdalene; together, they had a child. To advance his own political ends, the Emperor Constantine made Jesus divine at the Council of Nicea. The Vatican has spent 2,000 years trying to hide these lies.

Just think of the trailers. Highly talented actor Ian McKellen (as gasbag Leigh Teabing) thunders: Witness the biggest coverup in human history.

Many experts in theology, art history, and the Gnostic Gospels say Brown’s conclusions are dead wrong. But little matter. Unless it is a cinematic trainwreck, Howard’s film version will be a smash.

In the meantime, Christian leaders are avoiding the pattern of the post-Muhammad cartoon riots. So far, they are fighting the The DaVinci Code's claims with words.

We'll have to wait to see what happens next.

Official DaVinci Code film site
Author Dan Brown's Web site
Wikipedia article on Nikos Kazantzakis

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Monday, May 15, 2006

'The Da Vinci Code' Looms on Film Horizon

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

The film version of The DaVinci Code will hit theater screens in the U.S. on May 19.

Here's my executive summary of the book -- it's fast-paced, compelling plot, riddled with errors and flat-out slanders about Christianity. If you like word puzzles and conspiracy theories, you'll love this book. If you're looking for an accurate description of Christian history, Scripture, and tradition, look elsewhere.

DaVinci Code author Dan Brown aims his most venomous attack at Opus Dei (OD), a controversial conservative lay Catholic group. OD has drawn criticism from the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN), among other groups. In a free-wheeling blog, Fr. Dan Wauck offers Opus Dei's side of the story.

Father Wauck's Opus Dei blog
Official DaVinci Code film site
Author Dan Brown's Web site

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Meeting the Master (A True Story)

By Irving Karchmar
(copyright 2006, Irving Karchmar; all rights reserved)

On the day before summer, I finally met the Master. And though I have thought of him often and dreamed of him and talked to him in my mind, even missed him as though we were separated family, I had never actually met him nor spoken to him.

Over the years I have read all his books and heard many stories about him. And for many of those years I had written a Sufi novel entitled Master of the Jinn, a project whose research led me to read many Sufi texts, and whose unfolding became almost like a zekr as I worked on it for hours each night. For much of that time I was fortunate enough to live in a khaniqah, whose library and energy and knowledgeable darvishes helped enormously.

Now, I thought, I had created something worthwhile enough so as to be worthy of meeting the Master and being in his company. How little I knew of the Master, or of his loving-kindness.
And so, after ten hours of travel, I arrived in England, and by chance met a fellow darvish who apparently was on the same plane. He saw my sleeping bag and guessed I was going to the same, very crowded khaniqah. There was to be a large gathering of darvishes from all over the world and many brought tents or sleeping bags. Together we traveled to the khaniqah by taxi.

Shortly after we arrived, the Master called us into his room, as he does all darvishes who come from a far distance. We went into the small bedroom of the main house, kissed the threshold, and entered. The Master was dressed in white and sat cross-legged, and we sat on our knees before him. He greeted us warmly, and as he looked at me his face lit up with wide-eyed surprise and joy, as if I were someone he was not expecting but happy to see. Perhaps it was my imagination, but my heart sang. I remembered well the tales of the Master’s glance and attention.

He asked how our trip had been.

“It was a good trip, one I want to make often, inshallah,” my companion said.

“Sufis are always inshallah (God willing),” the Master replied. “There is no need to say it.”

We nodded our heads, and after a few kind words, he smiled and said, “Welcome, then” and waved us out.

As soon as we were outside, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee, as if I had twisted it, though I could not for the life of me remember how. I limped upstairs to get some aspirin, and found a darvish there whom I knew well.

“Do you have another pair of pants with you?” he asked me.

“Only a pair of sweats. Why?”

“Because you have a large tear in yours, on the seat.”

I turned my head to look, and groaned. It was a wide tear.

“Get a needle and thread from someone and sew it,” he suggested.

“What the hell is going on?” I thought, taking the aspirin and changing into sweat pants for the time being.

Once outside, I met a Shaykh I knew walking on the grounds and greeted him happily, kissing his cheeks. He asked how I was doing.

“Well, I’ve been here for half an hour and I’ve already twisted my knee and torn my pants,” I said.

He chuckled, “Such things are common here.”

I borrowed needle and thread from one of the darvishes and walked to the sleeping area to mend the tear. As I limped along the path, I realized suddenly what a fool I had been. I had walked in with pride, and limped out in humility. I had come in arrogance and received torn pants for my folly.

“Thank you, Master!” I cried.

And the words of the great Junayd came to my heart.

“I will go a thousand leagues in falsehood, that one step of the journey may be true.”

Karchmar has been a darvish of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order since 1992.

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