I watched CNN’s segment on The Holy Shroud of Turin on my computer last night. According to the Hollywood Reporter it topped the ratings last Sunday evening. Over 1 million people watched the first part of Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery.
The narrator began the program: “Jesus Christ, he changed the course of world history yet the most famous man that ever lived left no physical trace, or did he?” For most of the program it looked like the answer was going to be “Yes, the shroud is an authentic witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus.” But in the final moments it was declared a medieval forgery.
But wait. Maybe not. All the evidence may not be in. Come back next year to see what CNN has uncovered. There was a hint as the program ended of more to come.
Like so many religious programs from the mainstream media, Finding Jesus. Faith.Fact.Forgery presumes we don’t know much about Jesus at all. Finding him means sifting through a jumble of faith, facts and forgeries. So far, there’s not much, but eventually we’ll learn more. We’ll get it right. Until then, suspend judgment till we have more facts.
If we follow CNN, finding Jesus is a long way off.
If the shroud is a medieval forgery I wondered why CNN spent so much time reconstructing the story of the Passion of Jesus from it as they did. Their reconstruction was along the lines that Mel Gibson used in his blockbuster The Passion of the Christ. Blood and violence are popular tools of the media these days.
The four gospels don’t use that approach in describing the Passion of Jesus, nor do they care to describe what Jesus looked like, another concern of the CNN special.
The claim of programs like Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery that we have no physical traces of Jesus can be disputed, of course. In his day, eyewitnesses, real people, saw Jesus, ate with him, accompanied him. Their recollections are found in the gospels and letters they left or inspired. True, they’re not like the historical documents we have today, but substantial evidence is there just the same.
For most believers these are facts enough. More might come to light, but will they change the basic story about him? I don’t think so.
So we don’t have to stay on page 1 with CNN, waiting for more facts. Certainly we need to ask questions about Jesus, but questions of a deeper kind. What does it mean to follow him? What can we learn from him? We need to hold on to the signs he left us and ask: what does it mean to have his kingdom come to our world? Those questions are all in our Creed.
I don’t think we need the Shroud of Turin or CNN for that.
One more thing. What Jesus looked like is another concern of the CNN special. In the recent issue of The Hollywood Reporter, there’s a piece entitled “Jesus in Film and TV: 13 Devilishly Handsome Actors Who’ve Played the Son of God.”
There were the pictures of all the devilishly handsome actors who played Jesus in the movies or on television. None looks like Jesus to me. I go with Paul who says in his Letter to the Philippians that Jesus took on the form of a slave. If we met him on the street, we wouldn’t recognize him at all. But Hollywood can’t believe that.