Monty Python's Life of Brian

Every few years a piece of art or film comes around that deals with Christianity, or even just appears to, and Christians around the world have a guttural reaction trying to shut it down before they even understand it. Andres Serrano's 1987 photograph Piss Christ may be the pinnacle. Still attacked (even physically) today, the piece was really a devout Catholic's commentary on the commercialization of his beloved Jesus. In a couple of months we'll talk about Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, an exploration of a very human Jesus who overcame everything the world had to offer in every way -- that is, a very Biblical Jesus --  which garnered a more violent protest the year after Serrano's piece.

While perhaps not as vehemently, comedies such as Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, Terry Jones) garner the same visceral reaction for daring to mock the sacred. Except Life of Brian doesn't mock Jesus, it mocks organized religion and politics, particularly those who would hold so strongly to their particular interpretation of "truth" that they're willing to kill for it -- people not unlike the Protestants and Catholics who Jonathan Swift skewered two and a half centuries earlier when the Lilliputians and Blefuscudians go to war over which end of an egg to eat first. That the real Jesus advocated dying before killing is moot here (both to the Pythons and the zealots), because the zealots are the target, not the religion. Something the zealots usually miss during the protests, or maybe they just can't tell the difference. To that extent perhaps Life of Brian does mock what is "sacred" to the people who ended up protesting it. These are, after all, the sort of people who send death threats when they think that comedians are ideologically attacking a 2000 year-old pacifist. Blessed are the cheese-makers, indeed.