St. Thomas the Martyr Anglican Church, in Newcastle upon Tyne recently held a screening of Monty Python's Life of Brian. When this movie was released all the way back in 1979, it was condemned by many members of the Church as blasphemous. The movie can still provoke some measure of condemnation; I certainly had to be careful with my praise of the film whenever I was serving on staff at a church.
What's especially great is that the church provided organ accompaniment and song sheets. It's one thing to show a movie; anyone can do that. But this congregation got to sing along - presumably they sang all the lyrics to the songs, the mere mention of which would have ended my tenure as youth pastor at both churches in which I held that position.
The thing is, Life of Brian doesn't criticize Jesus at all. Rather, the movie is a strikingly accurate assessment and parody of the Church. In fact, if the movie had actually been aimed at Jesus himself many in the Church wouldn't have been able to "get it." As a social commentary, Life of Brian has lessons for all of us about the ways we embellish history to lionize or demonize figures based upon what side they happened to be on. Consider the mythology that surrounds George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is a great example of this, for as the Dixiecrats became Republicans and subsequently vastly informed the character of the modern GOP, the sources of revulsion and praise toward Lincoln have completely reversed, so that the members of his own party are the ones most likely to point out his shortcomings and how politically calculating he was. The Democrats, who previously made a sacrament of hating Lincoln, now embrace not only that he freed the slaves, but that he was able to function as an American President while being a part of no particular church; for his day Lincoln was quite the secular humanist.
So on this Holy Saturday, the penultimate day of the most sacred week in Christianity, if you have the time, go find a copy of Life of Brian and watch it. Even if you don't believe in any god at all, especially if Christians tend to drive you nuts, watch the movie, and in the midst of your laughter you might find yourself feeling a bit more sympathetic to everyone who feels the need to either artificially lionize or demonize our shared historic figures.
The following is my favorite scene from the movie. Feel free to share your own favorite scenes or quotes in comments. Consider it our Holy Saturday devotional.