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SATURDAY, MARCH 10, 2007
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James L. Evans

Putting God in a money-making box

Just when you thought it was safe to go out and enjoy a religious holiday again, two filmmakers come along claiming to have found the tomb of Jesus.

This latest effort at Christian-baiting may not rise to the level of the annual battle over saying "Merry Christmas," but that won't keep the moviemakers from making a lot of money.

Of course, that's what filmmakers do — make movies to make money. And one of the filmmakers involved with the Jesus tomb movie is particularly good at it. James Cameron's award-winning "Titanic" won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture for 1997. The movie holds the record for ticket sales at more than $1 billion.

The other filmmaker is less known, and certainly less paid, but still comes to the project with impressive credentials. Simcha Jacobovici, an Israeli-born Canadian, has won many prestigious awards for his documentary films.

Together these two moviemakers are making the fantastic claim that they have found the burial place of Jesus — but that's not all they are saying.

Using DNA reconstructions, Cameron and Jacobovici have stitched together the incredible claim that they have not only found Jesus but also his family — including Mary, his mother, his wife, Mary Magdalene and a son named Judah.

Did I mention that Cameron also wrote the movie "The Terminator?"

Meanwhile, back at the knee-jerk reaction ranch, Christian leaders and activist groups are going berserk. It's an attack on Christianity, claims Don Wildmon, director of the American Family Association. It's an attack on the Catholic Church, claims one California bishop. He believes it's a deliberate attempt to subvert the faith at a time when Christians are preparing for their most sacred of Holy days — Easter. For, clearly, if the bones of Jesus have been found, then bodily resurrection becomes a problem.

Not so, claim Cameron and Jacobvici. The stone coffins were found empty. This is probably an indication the tomb had been previously discovered during modern day construction and the bones reburied elsewhere, as is Jewish custom. Jesus could have been raised from the dead and his coffin been empty at the time it was found — well, except for the few bone fragments used for DNA testing.

When will Christians grow weary of the seasonal manipulations we are subjected to — by both friends and foes? What makes us so insecure as believers that with every slight and slander, no matter how large or small, we go scrambling for battle stations.

Jesus seemed to think we would eventually possess a certain confidence about our faith that would allow us to "Fear not." But the stance of many modern Christians seems to be, "Be afraid, be very afraid."

And what are we afraid of? We are afraid that if our message is sufficiently attacked by foes, or inadequately defended by our friends, that our influence will be diminished, and our message silenced.

By the way, is anybody bothering to go to church? Lent and Easter are best observed in a sanctuary somewhere with bread and communion wine. Encounters with the risen Christ are scheduled each week in Christian churches around the world. Faith is fed and strengthened in the presence of other worshipping believers and in the context of a shared liturgy.

Maybe we would fear less if we worshipped more.

James L. Evans, a syndicated columnist, also serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church. He can be reached at faithmatters@mindspring.com.

James L. Evans James L. Evans

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