Monday, December 19, 2011

Testament Week: Salvation terminator

Posted By on 12.19.11 at 08:00 AM

As Hannukah arrives and Christmas and Kwanzaa approach, the prospect of doing "Gift Week" here on the Bleader has proved too revolting for common consent. So instead we're going to go all Linus Van Pelt this week and break up the party with our favorite religious texts. When people ask about my beliefs, I always say I'm religious but not spiritual. After all, an excess of feeling can be a real impediment to forcing one's views on others.

My text comes from the Book of Luke, chapter six, when Jesus comes down from praying all night in the hills to deliver his Sermon on the Plain. "But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak do not withhold your coat as well."

In all the New Testament, this is the edict that most separates the men from the boys. Who can find the moxie to love an enemy? The urge to get even is just too great. Grudges I thought I'd long forgotten well up again without the least warning. Plus there's the necessity of defeating one's enemies, at least in the political realm, before the planet dies. And the matter of survival: if Chase takes my cloak, I may actually hang on to my coat.

This is a particularly touchy issue for me as editor of the Film section, because without the motive of revenge, 96 percent of Hollywood movies would never get made. There is an upside, though: 96 percent of Hollywood movies would never get made. Imagine Christian Bale stripped to the waist, his long black hair in a ponytail, blood pearling on his mighty pecs, a missile launcher slung over his back, dropping to his knees to bellow like a lion: "I will avenge thee! I will . . . oh fuck it, who cares? Let's just let it slide. I mean, life's too short. Am I right or am I right?"

"Forgive but don't forget" has become commonplace wisdom, but the power of spite can be so great that I sometimes wonder if memory slipping away is such a bad thing: forgetfulness is a lot easier than forgiveness. As Christmas draws near, I pray for more will or less space in my neocortex to store grudges. Revenge is sweet, but so is caramel corn and that stuff will kill you.


Read more from Testament Week:

"The Woman's Bible," by Sam Worley

"Testament Week: the Book of Jim & Artie," by Ben Sachs

"Testament in Rogers Park," by Kate Schmidt

"In the beginning, God created smug teenage boys," by Tal Rosenberg

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