This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
How could I overlook Sharon Stone on Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday bash? She sounded like a postcolonial studies grad student hooked on psychotropic drugs.
Sharon Stone makes Barbara Streisand look grounded and deep. How does she rate in relation to Bill Clinton and Simon Peres? If you have some time, a Peres marathon might be order. Just don’t take any of the rhetoric seriously.
Some years ago, I met Paul Verhoeven at a conference honoring the work of John Dominic Crossan, the controversial New Testament scholar. You might remember Verhoeven – he directed Stone’s epic performance in Basic Instinct. We chatted about his interest in making a movie about Crossan’s radical interpretation of Jesus. Verhoeven was grateful I hadn’t seen his movie and, though I knew of The Scene, he thanked me for not asking him about it.
Who was Jesus for Crossan? For Crossan, Jesus was a Mediterranean Jewish peasant practicing the “brokerless” Kingdom of God – at a time when Jerusalem and the Jewish population were occupied by the Roman Empire. Jesus didn’t think much of the Romans or the collaborationist Jewish leadership. He resisted both. Rome crucified him.
It turns out that Verhoeven is quite serious about Jesus and has authored a book about him - Jesus of Nazareth. As a contrast to New Age Sharon Stone’s presentation at Peres’s 90th, check out Verhoeven’s take on Jesus:
The Romans saw [Jesus] as an insurrectionist, what today is often called a terrorist. It is very likely there were ‘wanted’ posters of him on the gates of Jerusalem. He was dangerous because he was proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven, but this wasn’t the Kingdom of Heaven as we think of it now, some spectral thing in the future, up in the sky. For Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven was a very tangible thing. Something that was already present on Earth, in the same way that Che Guevara proclaimed Marxism as the advent of world change. If you were totalitarian rulers, running an occupation like the Romans, this was troubling talk, and that was why Jesus was killed.
There we are – back to occupation and Jerusalem, with wanted posters for a Jewish dissident. Of course, we know that Rome crucified thousands of Jews for anti-occupation activities. The idea of a singular cross is a myth.
Posters for Jews on the run from occupation – and Jewish – authorities. At stake – Jerusalem and the land. Times haven’t changed much.
Perhaps Verhoeven would have invoked Jews of Conscience rather than Che if he had spoken at Peres’s 90th. After all, Jesus was an anti-occupation insurrectionist within the land.
Have you ever asked, with Christian evangelicals, what would Jesus do?
Get your ‘wanted’ posters out.