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Exile and the Prophetic: Sharon Stone and the anti-occupation Jesus

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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.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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12 Responses

  1. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    June 21, 2013, 10:08 am

    All this rzzamatazz just proves that Prof. Hawking was absolutely, 100% correct to boycott this hasbara-fest. He has been completely vindicated. This is not the ‘prestigious conference’ we were told it was at the time Hawking’s announced his boycott. It is an exercise in schmaltzy propaganda, and no decent person should have anything to do with it. Sharon Stone once said that the 2008 Szechuan earthquake was ‘karma’ for Chinese occupation of Tibet. Would she ever DARE say anything remotely similar about Israel’s occupation? Of course she would not.

  2. Citizen
    June 21, 2013, 11:49 am

    Pilate was posted to the boonies. His chief job was to keep tax money flowing to Rome. He did what he did to appease the local Jewish Establishment. He was not afraid of Jesus, who said his kingdom was not of this world, and give to Rome what was Rome’s. He knew that the Jewish Establishment could make his job hard, rather than a nice friendly collaboration under Rome’s loose provencial policy. Without such local politics involved, Pilate was reported to be a man of very quick and unambiguous decision. In this case he left the decision to the local power, and literally washed his hands of his own implementation of that decision.

  3. Citizen
    June 21, 2013, 12:13 pm

    For those of you who have actually read Nietzsche on Jesus and Christianity as a slave religion, you might take a look at this:

    Nietzsche often rendered his thoughts in aporhisms and poetic verbiage. His will to power was mistranslated by the Nazis, and, it seems to me, the Zionists. I assume most readers here know that Neitzsche despised Bismarck’s Germany.

  4. W.Jones
    June 21, 2013, 12:17 pm

    ” It is very likely there were ‘wanted’ posters of him on the gates of Jerusalem.”
    Doesn’t that seem a bit anachronistic?

    Verhoeven claims that the Romans arrested Jesus for preaching the kingdom of heaven. However, he had been doing that for three years, and he is described as having several positive interactions with Romans, like the centurion, and few or no negative ones, in that time. Instead, it was only after “cleansing the Temple” that he got arrested. Besides, he differed with the nationalist revolutionaries by saying to pay taxes to Rome.

    It’s true that he was accused by the Romans of being a king and they crucified him. However, Herod was also a king- albeit a Roman one, and Jesus’ defense was that his kingdom was not a political one. This defense, according to Church tradition, worked when Dominition put on trial some of Jesus’ relatives as insurrectionists later on. Besides that, Jesus’ brother James was killed by the Sanhedrin when the Roman prelate Albius was away from Judea, and when the prelate returned, he dismissed the Sanhedrin leader from his post for doing this.

    But, all the information gives a picture closer to that of the gospels, where although Pilate killed Jesus, the driving forces behind it were not the Romans. One may be skeptical about Pilate’s wife sympathizing with Jesus or Pilate saying he found no problem with Jesus, or even proposing to release Jesus instead of Barrabas, but the overall contours of the forces remain the same.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      Stephen Shenfield
      June 22, 2013, 9:41 am

      Jesus advocated spiritual but not physical resistance. “Render unto Caesar” means: don’t contest the Romans’ worldly power but don’t submit in spirit. The Romans demanded that all their subjects worship the emperor as a god, and Jesus (like other Jews) refused to do that. The dilemma for the Romans was whether to be flexible and tolerate such limited resistance.

      Crucifixion was used throughout the empire. When Spartacus was defeated the Appian Way was lined with crosses on which the rebel slaves were hung.

  5. W.Jones
    June 21, 2013, 12:35 pm

    Of course, we know that Rome crucified thousands of Jews for anti-occupation activities. The idea of a singular cross is a myth.

    There are frequent depictions of Jesus with a cross on either side.

    At stake – Jerusalem and the land. Times haven’t changed much. Jesus was an anti-occupation insurrectionist within the land. Have you ever asked, with Christian evangelicals, what would Jesus do?

    You asked a good question, Marc. In fact, we know the answer to some extent, don’t we? Aren’t the Zealots the Zionists of Jesus’ era, with the same “answer”? In both cases the goal is to create a Jewish State in the Holy Land. And Jesus’ response was that his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, while the Zealots and Zionists saw the prophesied kingdom as a political, earthly state.

    So you might as well ask how the Catholic Worker movement feels about the situation in the Holy Land. Like Jesus’ following, they do not operate as a national political system. So Jesus disagreed with the Zealots over their desire for an earthly political system, and he would have the same disagreement with the Zionists.

    The second question of course is how Jesus would want the Palestinians to be treated. Of course he would want them, like everyone to be respected. But he would arguably want them to be treated as full citizens, instead of expelled. He did not talk about expelling gentiles, but rather touched and healed.

  6. Sycamores
    June 21, 2013, 2:15 pm

    “Have you ever asked, with Christian evangelicals, what would Jesus do?”

    according to Christian evangelicals the Jesus of the second coming will be no peacenik
    eg: is a popular Christian evangelicals site:

    here’s what they have to say about the new improve model of the Messiah we will receive from the second coming:

    [Jesus’ second coming will be exceedingly violent. Revelation 19:11-21 describes the ultimate war with Christ, the conquering commander who judges and makes war “with justice” (v. 11). It’s going to be bloody (v. 13) and gory. The birds will eat the flesh of all those who oppose Him (v. 17-18). He has no compassion upon His enemies, whom He will conquer completely and consign to a “fiery lake of burning sulfur” (v. 20).
    It is an error to say that God never supports a war. Jesus is not a pacifist.]

    The birds will eat the flesh of all those who oppose Him (v. 17-18)

    so who are those that oppose him? well all non-Christians for starters, that would mean one hell of a lot of ‘wanted posters’.

    so what would Jesus do? well he will give us an option ‘convert or die’.

    which make you wonder what are the Christian zionists motives for the Holyland and its non-Christians?

    • W.Jones
      June 21, 2013, 11:46 pm


      Your point is correct regarding the CZs’ literalism.

      Regarding Revelations itself, it’s a tough book, and generally alot in it is not really meant to be literal. You can keep in mind that Christian interpretations of Old Testament passages, for example, is often more poetic than literal.

  7. Taxi
    June 21, 2013, 3:30 pm

    I haven’t seen any evidence that the character of jesus ever existed.
    But I do like the message behind the story.

    I’ve seen plenty evidence that Peres is a war criminal.
    And I don’t like the message behind his poxy pow-wow.

  8. Justpassingby
    June 21, 2013, 4:27 pm

    What does the Sharon stone message even mean? Babies? What?

    Besides why have a birthday party for this old man? What is he? 10 years old? Did they bring balloons? I mean seriously?

  9. Justpassingby
    June 21, 2013, 4:35 pm

    Robert De Niro too loves Israel, especially its “aggressive” nature.

    Lost my respect for this man.

  10. Sherri Munnerlyn
    Sherri Munnerlyn
    June 21, 2013, 11:52 pm

    As a Christian, I find myself thinking a lot about what would Jesus do, what would his response to the Occupation be. His life He lived I think answers many questions. He lived in Palestine as a Palestinian and He lived under Occupation. How did He respond? He spoke out against Injustice of Jewish leaders, see Matthew 23, but He always responded to Injustice using nonviolent methods. We see with the Zealots and what happened in 70 AD the consequences of choosing violence as a response to Injustice. So, I see many reasons I should support nonviolent resistance to the Occupation in Palestine today. I was reading the comment by the poster viewing Zionists as todays Zealots. I had not thought about them that way before, but I think anyone choosing violence on either side can be viewed as sharing many likenesses to each other. And I think there may he negative consequences in store for either sides choice of violence.

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