You Can’t Condemn What You Haven’t Seen

“The Information Age.”  The more you hear that famous, modern phrase the more ironic it sounds.  Despite the ascendence of 24-hour-a-day news channels, a plethora of print publications and the rise of Internet blogging, it’s getting more and more difficult to learn the truth.  Also standing in our way of increased knowledge and brain power are a particular group of people who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  They are “The Overreactors”, people who have impossibly thin skins and the remarkable ability to vent publicly in manners that make the rest of us shudder.  How they stay in business remains a mystery.
James Cameron is learning first-hand just how unreasonable these people really are.  He recently announced the completion of a new TV documentary called “The Lost Tomb Of Jesus”.  (The 2-hour special airs on the American Discovery Channel this coming Sunday, March 4th at 9 p.m.  It won’t be airing in Canada that night.)  The Oscar-winning director of Titanic executive produced the project which was a two-year endeavour.  It was produced by Felix Golubev & Ric Esther Bienstock, and directed by Simcha Jacobovici.
What has gotten The Overreactors so upset?  Cameron and company claim that there’s a 600 to 1 chance that they have found the final resting places of Jesus and members of his family.  (They also contend that Jesus had a son.)  Pay very close attention to that.  They are not suggesting 100% that this is the real deal (there’s always a chance of a major, unintentional screw-up) but they believe after much time excavating Jerusalem, where similiar tombs have been discovered since the 1970s, and conferring with numerous experts, they made an important, historical discovery.
Have they?  I don’t know since I haven’t watched “The Lost Tomb Of Jesus”.   (I reserve judgment on programs I haven’t seen.)  So, why do people like William Donohue, the crackpot leader of The Catholic League who is best known for making racist and anti-Semitic remarks, think all of this is bullshit without actually having seen the documentary?
Furthermore, I’m very disappointed that Warren Kinsella, the usually sensible National Post columnist, criticized both Cameron for his claims and the media for not being more skeptical about them in his column today.  Without citing any evidence, he noted, “Clerics, scientists and scholars deplored what Cameron had done, calling it a despicable outrage and a fraud, which it certainly was.”  But how would he know if Cameron is lying?  Has he seen the documentary?  Does he have impenetrable proof that something is amiss?  If he does, he didn’t mention it in the column.
If you ask me, the outrage over the unseen special has more to do with paranoia and stubbornness than anything else.  Whenever someone tries to challenge conventional wisdom, especially with regards to religion, people feel threatened.  Religious belief is a safety net for a lot of people, especially those who fear death.  Believing in a higher power who will take care of you when you die is very reassuring.  Too bad there isn’t any concrete evidence to back up that wonderful belief.  Few can truly accept that death really is final.  There’s no coming back and there’s no afterlife, which would defeat the whole purpose of death.  Why bother living a good life if you never really die?  What’s there to risk?
As retired Bishop John Shelby Spong will tell you, Jesus wasn’t resurrected from the dead, nor was he born from a virgin’s womb.  Both are scientifically impossible.  It’s also very likely he had a wife and at least one child.  Spong has noted that Jesus was a short, dark-skinned Jew and it would’ve been very odd for someone in his time to go it alone without raising a family.  It just wasn’t done.
But pointing this out gets you into trouble.  Fundamentalists, in particular, don’t want to believe that the earliest drafts of The Bible were written between 80 and 100 years after Christ’s death and that there weren’t any references to “virgin births”, “miracles” or “resurrections”.  Those unsubstantiated events were added in later.  Remember, there were no reporters covering his short life.  There were only tales passed on through the generations.  By the time these stories were written down it was virtually impossible to have every possible detail authenticated by reliable, trustworthy authorities.  And remember, it was a very superstitious time.  People were easier to fool back then, although one could successfully argue that that hasn’t changed in modern times.
It’s nothing new to hear people condemn a piece of entertainment without actually seeing it.  Remember the outrages over American Psycho, Karla, Brokeback Mountain and The Last Temptation Of Christ, to name but four examples?  There were a number of people who were against the making of all those movies.  There were protests, calls for boycotts.  It was all ridiculous.  At the end of the day, you look really foolish criticizing a movie or a TV show that you can’t be bothered to watch yourself.  Besides, having your intelligence constantly insulted is the only truly offensive thing about entertainment, which happens far too often.
When I was a kid I remember the whole controversy about Temptation Of Christ, in particular.  I was a still a faithful churchgoer at the time and was particularly upset about something I saw on Entertainment Tonight.  There was a report that mentioned this particular line of dialogue:  “God sleeps between your legs,” or something like that.  You get the basic idea.  As a result, I was greatly offended and misguidedly rooted on the protestors hoping they would be successful in making the movie a failure.
In 2001, I finally screened the movie, 5 years after I became an atheist.  That “offensive” line was never mentioned in the movie.  Even if it was, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that this is one of Martin Scorsese’s most compelling films.  I found it endlessly entertaining and thought provoking even though it erroneously believes Jesus was a miracle man, yet another scientific impossibility.  The bottom line is I was wrong to condemn Temptation without screening it.  That’s why I have no opinion on The Lost Tomb Of Jesus.  You can’t criticize what you haven’t seen.
So, the next time Warren Kinsella or William Donohue or somebody from Fox News raises hell over another TV special like The Lost Tomb Of Jesus, be skeptical of their outrage.  Chances are they haven’t seen it, either.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 1, 2007
5:30 p.m.
UPDATE:  Good news for Canadian viewers.  Marianne Meed Ward, a Toronto Sun columnist, mentioned in her Sunday column that The Lost Tomb Of Jesus will be airing in the Great White North on Vision TV Tuesday, March 6 at 8 p.m.  So, the 2-hour special will be seen up here after all.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, March 4, 2007
12:52 p.m.
Published in: on March 1, 2007 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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