"...It was once denounced as blasphemous and an insult to Christians, but one of Britain’s most respected theologians insists that Monty Python’s Life of Brian, is in fact a “remarkable tribute to the life of Jesus”.
The Rev Prof Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College London, and a member of the Church of England's General Synod, said that those who called for the satire to be banned after its release in 1979 were “embarrassingly” ill-informed and missed a major opportunity to promote the Christian message.
Prof Burridge, whom Pope Francis recently presented with the Vatican’s top theological award, the first non-Roman Catholic to receive it, said that the film’s depiction of faction-ridden messianic movements in First Century Judea was probably a more accurate portrayal of the historical context than many Hollywood films about Jesus.
He was speaking as Michael Palin devoted a slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, which he was invited to guest edit, to reliving the controversy over the film.
Palin and John Cleese were publicly castigated by the then Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Mervyn Stockwood, and the Catholic journalist Malcolm Muggeridge in a high profile televised confrontation over the film. The bishop remarked that they would receive their "30 pieces of silver" for it....
.....[Prof Burridge] said: “What is interesting about what Cleese says is that when they sat down to read the gospels they were struck by Jesus, his teaching, and realised that you couldn’t actually make a joke of these things which is why the accusation from Mervyn Stockwood and Malcolm Muggeridge that they were trying to use Jesus was so patently false.Well .... maybe ..
“I think it is an extraordinary tribute to the life and work and teaching of Jesus – that they couldn’t actually blaspheme or make a joke out of it......."
Some parts of the film were very, very amusing (that could just be my schoolboy sense of humour) although I still have huge misgivings about the final scenes - not meant to be about Our Lord, perhaps, but shockingly trivialising nonetheless.
'The Meaning of Life' was far nastier in its undisguised attempt to satirise the Faith .... and, tellingly, nowhere near as funny.
Although, we have had much worse to contend with since - now almost on a daily basis and much of it subsidised by the BBC licence fee - in other words, you and me ...
There is an interesting article by Ian Markham in this month's First Things about Richard Burridge's work. You will have to subscribe to read it, but the subscription is worth every penny ....