Tuesday, April 06, 2004

ABC's "Jesus and Paul"

Well, I wasn't going to watch Peter Jennings' ABC special "Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness". When I saw the lineup of scholars included Paula Fredriksen, John Dominic Crossan, Elaine Pagels, and Bishop John Shelby Spong, I figured that the show would be a waste of time. Going to John Dominic Crossan or Bishop Spong to learn about Jesus and/or Paul would be like going to Robert Sungenis to learn about astrophysics.

But I found myself turning it on anyway, about an hour into the show. My expectations were low, and those low expectations were fulfilled. Perhaps I missed the riveting content of the first hour, but I rather doubt it. While I suppose watching the show was a better use of time than, say, committing sin, it was not as good a use of time as, perhaps, clipping my toenails or sleeping.

Firstly, I found the show's format and style extremely annoying. The music-video style montages and "bumpers" between segments or scenes, complete with irritating music, wasted a lot of time and added nothing. How does seeing a street scene of people shopping in present day Damascus advance my understanding of Jesus, Paul, and their times?

The content? The best I can say for it is thin. Paper thin. Practically transparent. There was lots of moving around from place to place, and lots of looking at old churches and other old stuff, but precious little time actually explaining what any of it actually meant. I was especially annoyed by the repeated shots of Eastern Orthodox liturgies, with no effort made whatsoever to explain them, and considering the glaring absence of any Orthodox scholars on their panel.

And then, of course, were the outright errors and howling idiocies spouted by those so-called scholars. My personal favorite was Karen Armstrong's assertion that St. Paul wasn't "interested in doctrine." Has this woman ever read the Letter to the Romans? Practically the whole thing is about "doctrine". Read, for example, the 6th chapter. The "runner up" has to be Dr. Calvin Butts III, who blithely agreed with Peter Jennings that "of course" Paul distorted and exaggerated Jesus' teaching. So much for revelation, divine inspiration, and Christ's promise to his Church.

I won't be getting the video to show to RCIA or Adult Ed. classes...