Considering 'The Last Temptation Of Christ,' Three Decades Later
When Martin Scorsese’s film of ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ was released in 1988, it was met by a howling mob of protestors around the world. Fundamentalist Christians decried the “blasphemous” film. Filmgoers often had to cross picket lines to get into theaters. The Catholic Church officially condemned the film, labeling it “Morally Offensive.” In France, one theater was burned by arsonists.
What made people so upset? The film departs from the Gospels, and depicts Jesus as a man wracked with doubts about the direction he and his ministry should go in. On the cross, he is tempted by Satan to live the life of a normal man, marrying, fathering children, and growing old. It’s this fantasy sequence that had folks riled up in 1988.
Nearly three decades later, the rancor has died down, and following Texas Public Radio’s screening of the film on July 12, we invited two religious figures to take part in a panel discussion about the themes of the film. Among the questions asked are “Is the film blasphemous, and in what way?” and “What does the movie say about our own struggles, and relationship to God?” The panelists and audience also discuss the role of Saul/Paul, John the Baptist, and other characters in the film.
On the panel: