The Last Temptation of Christ, And Other “Blasphemies”

by Oletta Branstiter

I haven’t attended church for many years. Either I leave them or they leave me.

Cases in point:

One church banished me because I was living with my fiancé. We had planned to get married there, but they kicked us out. Ironic. We’ve been married since 1982, wed by a pastor who welcomed us to his church as fellow sinners. 

I left another church because it was obviously under God’s judgment and I didn’t want to go up in flames with it. This was a literal fear after the building in which I taught Sunday School was firebombed. I had begged the elders to make a corporate call to repentance, committed in my Spirit to be the first woman to come forward, but I was told that they didn’t consider it to be something they would ever deem necessary. 

I challenged the pastor of a church who wanted to preach against the 1988 movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, by Martin Scorsese, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Ministers all across the country were being told to advise their congregations to shun the movie because of its blasphemy.

When I heard this, I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper, lamenting the censure based on misconceptions. Pastors had received a short clip from the movie, depicting Jesus falling asleep with his head on the chest of Peter, after they had engaged in an emotional argument.

By reading the book, or watching the entire movie, or having a passing familiarity with Nikos Kazantzakis – an earthy Greek author – anyone would understand that the purpose of this scene was to describe the forgiveness and restoration between Christ as his passionate disciple.

I had read all books published by Kazantzakis and had read The Last Temptation of Christ several times and it had enhanced my faith. It was a gift from my mother when I was 16. She liked to browse a small bookstore in our hometown found a copy, recognizing the author of another book I had read: The Saviors of God.  

The pastor of the church I attended saw my letter to the editor and invited me into his office to discuss the issue. I lent him my copy so he could make an informed judgment. Imagine my disappointment during the special evening service in which he told us that no Christian should watch this movie because it contained blasphemy. That was the last time I attended. I felt sorry for a congregation purposely cheated out of the exquisite brilliance of Nikos Kazantzakis, who wrote this book after becoming a believer. His body of work is a testament to God’s work in the life of a seeker. I recommend this book highly, for Christians and philosophers to contemplate a truly original proposition of faith. 

Excommunication Continues

Years later, in 2004, I had just finished writing a thesis about how the quantum mechanics of the electromagnetic spectrum proves the existence of God and the power of prayer. Science proves Scripture, and vice-versa, including Colossians 1:16, 17: For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Theoretical physicists might think of Yeshua as the original gluon. Scientists have proven that Light is the source of all perceived creation: You are the source of all life, and because of your light we see the light. (Psalm 36:9)

Just as I finished my manuscript, which included study questions, I was contacted by a representative from my church. She had heard of my study and practice of prayer and suggested that I replace the Women’s Prayer Study leader who could not continue in that role. The opportunity seemed providential! 

After describing my lessons to the Women’s Ministry Director, she became skeptical, so I sent her my manuscript. Upon our face to face meeting, she withdrew the offer for me to lead the prayer class and condemned the connection between science and faith.

I replied with my own admonition: “If I can’t find Christ in everything I study, then he’s a liar. And if this church can’t find God in Science, then your God is too small for me.”

I continue to worship in spirit and truth, according to John 4:24, as I grow in grace.




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