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Mel Gibson’s new movie, Apocalypto, though released in December, is not exactly your holiday fare. Mark Marsden and I took some time this past Friday to review this gory, action filled historical fiction. Emphasis on the fiction.
While not seasonally appropriate, Apocalypto does provide some fodder in our search for a spiritual anthropology. We can avoid the criticisms of whether or not Mel is trying to demonstrate the horrific ugliness of non-christian cultures in comparison to the Roman Catholicism he espouses. Of course he is. But he also shows within the film both the potential ugliness and pristine humanity of non-christian cultures as compared to each other. Gibson’s film can lead to a fruitful discussion as to whether or not there is within human cultures –even Christian ones — a “heart of darkness”. [Allusion to Joseph Conrad’s work intended].
The peoples who practiced human sacrifice, or cannabalism in the Americas or in Europe, were after all people like us. What changed us? Or, have we really changed? After all, power, fear, superstition and greed still drive the human machine.
In relative terms, we might also discuss the merits of the expansion of western culture. Would people really have been better off in net terms without the gains in science and technology, law and culture that the western expansion provided? This is a movie sure to inspire conversation along the ideological chasm between left and right in western culture. And that’s a good thing because clarity is sometimes more important than agreement. What do you think?
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