Easter is ranked as the most important date on the Christian calendar. Yet it is notably less cheerful than Christmas, when everybody is jolly and traders and hustlers make a killing.
I would suppose the dour mood surrounding Easter is connected with the violent events recorded about the Good Friday that precedes it, before the Christian celebration of the Resurrection. Mel Gibson’s movie of the Passion and the Crucifixion, The Passion of The Christ, is not for the squeamish. It is bloody and too literal.
The scenes of torture are exceedingly gory, though I once read somewhere that the movie was the late Pope John Paul’s favourite. People of faith find this film to be very moving.
For an obvious reason, Judas is painted worst in almost all the enactments of the Passion Week I have seen. Pilate, who actually ordered the execution, is let off rather easily and the mob blamed for goading him – no, actually blackmailing him – instead. So is Mrs Pilate who, in some writings, is depicted as the driving force behind her husband’s fateful decision to wash his hands of the death sentence.
A rendition which I still find quite fascinating is the ageless Jesus Christ Superstar. If I am not wrong the musical was first staged in America in 1970 and the film version released in 1973. Early on controversy dogged it at every step.
Apartheid South Africa did not find it ironic to ban it for being “irreligious” and “blasphemous.” Nowadays, hardly anybody finds it anything but good entertainment.
The Judas character is the most interesting – and reflective – of the cast, which is enough to scandalise devout Christians. The record goes to the Herod character who is portrayed as quite despicable. Even Jesus treats him with sublime contempt, not uttering a single word in his presence.
PAINTED STRAIGHT VILLAIN
Like Herod, the other Jewish figures with starring roles in the Passion Week were given short shrift by the Gospel writers. There is little humanity allowed for the High Priest Caiaphas, who is painted as a straight villain.
Superstar the musical is kinder, acknowledging that the Sanhedrin Council he chaired had a duty to look out for the larger Jewish interest amid the great danger posed by Jesus’s clash with the Romans.
Early Christian chroniclers were ready to concede redemption for Christ’s Roman executioners, and also to one of the supposed robbers crucified with him. Some Jews have in modern years railed against the “anti-Semitism” they read in certain Biblical interpretations, such as the negative portrayals of Herod, Caiaphas, Annas and especially the Jewish crowd baying for crucifixion.
The so-called “blood libel” against the Jews is contained in Matthew 27:25. “His blood be upon us and on our children,” the agitated crowd shouts at Pilate when he hedged over sentencing Jesus.
Faced with unprecedented Jewish pressure, Mel Gibson was forced to drop the line from his famous movie. It remains stuck in the Bible, though.
Prince William has a keen interest in wildlife and conservation. It is an interest shared by the expatriate community in this country, with the wildlife seeming to take preference over humans.
There is this overblown infatuation by members of the British monarchy with the African bush. William’s father, Prince Charles, has spoken highly of his own tours of the Aberdares and the Kalahari, where he would occasionally be accompanied by an eccentric friend called Lauren van der Post (who the British media sometimes dismisses as a charlatan and a fraud.)
I hold the very unpopular view that the African wildlife, ultimately, is doomed. Human encroachment in the animal habitats is relentless, and opportunistic poachers will do their bit. Even the conservancies like the one Prince William loves to visit in Kenya are no guarantee of wildlife survival. Not too far away in the future, some of the endangered animals like rhinos will only be seen in zoos, assuming they don’t get extinct.
The case of the Nairobi National Park is illustrative. Its main problem, I think, is not land shrinkage but in-breeding. The gene pool, especially of the big carnivores, must now be hopelessly mixed up for lack of a wider variety of mates.
I don’t see a great future for this park. Those busybodies and naturalists who were opposing the routing of the Standard Gauge Railway through the park for the sake of some miserable and underfed lions which like to jump on cars along Langata Road should look for a more worthy crusade.
Sorry to say, I don’t see much of a future for hereditary monarchies either.