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Final 'Last Temptations'

August 28, 1988

In Christon's case for empathy with the fundamentalists' anguish over the assault on the symbol of their faith represented by the "Last Temptation of Christ," he displays a compassion we'd never get from them.

And he ignores a vital point. Their sense of violation issues from a concept of Jesus derived from a slavish devotion to the Bible, which they believe contains the ultimate word on everything from human behavior to details on the origin of the cosmos.

I find in this unblinking adherence to a single book a fanaticism no less frightening than that engendered by the solitary belief in "Mein Kampf," the dialectics or the medieval Church doctrines that brought us the Crusades and the fun guys of the Spanish Inquisition. It represents a world view unleavened by literature, science, music or philosophy.

To the fundamentalists, the illumination of humanity offered us by Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Freud and Kazantsakis (to name but four drops in the secular reservoir) count for nothing. Pardon me if I can't feel sorrow for these intellectual skinflints. They are robots who need oil, not empathy.

Kazantsakis' Jesus is a being with a divine and human nature who defeated the urgings of his flesh to become God, a triumph of sanctity over sin. Isn't that exactly what the televangelists have been preaching even as they fail to defeat their own temptations?

Jesus, yes! The Bible, no!


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