Monday, May 09, 2005

The Cross versus the Crescent

To follow up my last post, here's a link to Steven D. Greydanus of who gives an excellent review of Kingdom of Heaven where he considers many of the issues of brought up in my previous post.

One of my biggest gripes about the media, academia, and pop culture in general is the way it views the past. Rather than viewing history in its context, we take a presentist point of view. That is, we view the past through the lens of the present. In doing so, we press the past into the service of the present for the purpose of justifying our points of view. For hollywood, this means applying modern ideas or notions to past events, judging by those standards, and making conclusions.
In the case of this movie, we use our standard of right and wrong, apply it to a time and place whose concerns were so completely different than our own as to make it virtually unrecognizable. While I can understand the need to find a connection to a modern audience and appeal to as many people as possible by not suggesting anything that would advocate one theology over another, I cannot stomach the main character preaching like an ACLU spokesman; not because it is right or wrong, but because its so contrived and disparate from reality. Worse, the filmakers don't trust their ability to tell a story, so they have to tell us what to think rather than leave the conclusion up their audience.
Kingdom of Heaven does a better job than most of getting right the names, places, and events. But the movie suffers from 21st century ideas applied to the 12th century. In other words, if we want to look to the past to understand the current struggle between Christians and Muslims (which was clearly a goal of the movie), then we must view the past in its own context, not as we would like to see it.

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