The London Times and the Life of Brian

Fans of Monty Python and people following all of the recent geopolitical trends will appreciate this
article in today’s London Times. Not to beat a dead horse on the Middle East situation, but it’s good to see U.S. policy being vindicated.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

13 thoughts on “The London Times and the Life of Brian

  1. [email protected] [Visitor] on said:

    I grew up watching “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and as a youth loved the cerebral and dry humor the Oxford trained comedy troupe delved into, but when the “Life of Brian” came out, I was outraged that they made light of the most holy of all events in human history, namely the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the elect.

    The Life of Brian is a very blasphemous movie that makes a mockery of many sacred aspects of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and is utterly shameful.

  2. In contrast to Ed, I happen to feel that Life of Brian is not only Monty Python’s greatest achievement–and moreover, very simply, one of the funniest, wickest, most outrageous and silly and sly stories ever told on film–but is also chock full of useful philosophical insights. It is not, I think, a blasphemous movie, though it is clearly a heretical one (the position taken by John Cleese in a televised argument with Terry Jones, who did in fact think it blasphemous). But even if it is blasphemous, I praise it as a landmark in film comedy. Those who disagree, of course, have the right to do so. I also have the right to call such people giant doo-doo heads, which I just did.

    By the way, only Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, and Cleese attended Oxford; Michael Palin and Jones attended Cambridge, and Terry Gilliam is American. The tension in their styles is part of what made them so funny.

  3. As an American who was (and still is) opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I am at least grateful that it is having some ripple effects (foremost among them the pending Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon). Perhaps it is a little early to celebrate, but I am hopeful things will continue … and possibly even spread to the dictatorships we consider to be our allies (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan chief among them). And there still is the worry that our presence in Iraq is fueling al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts.

    My concern about the war isn’t so much the ends as the means. Despite what revisionist neocons are trying to tell us now, the war was sold as one of defense against Saddam’s WMDs. (Read the final third of the 2003 State of the Union address for yourself.) If it had been sold honestly as a war of liberation, I would have disagreed with the President, but at least I would have respected his position. But it sold as a preemptive strike — one that we only later found out wasn’t necessary.

  4. “Do not love the world or the things of the world.”
    (1 John 2)

    “Do you not know that friendship with the world makes one an enemy of God?” (James 4)

    I think what really matters is what God feels about something so obviously “heretical” and blashpemous as Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”.

    These distinctions, heretical, blasphemy, etc, all denote something that is a personal affront to the majesty and holy grandeur of Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ, who says, “If anyone desires to follow after Me, let Him deny Himself, take up the cross and follow Me, he who desires to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will gain it for life eternal” (Luke 14).

    What really matters in these entertainment choices is what God’s Holy Word has to say about it, not the desires of mortal men. A true follower of Jesus Christ and His Gospel can ill afford to subject Himself to the blasphemy or what you admit is a heretical film. I would rather die than blaspheme the name of Almighty God.

    Your own Gordon B. Hinckley, at one of the General Conference meetings I went to in that large stadium in SLC, said in his address that you LDS members have to watch out for partaking in the worldly entertainment choices that are destroying peoples minds and lives.

    There is no question in my mind that Mr. Hinckley and his apostles would abhore the Life of Brian…

  5. Regardless of whether Ed Enochs likes the movie “The Life of Brian” or not, I think the linked article makes its point very effectively. Amen to the article’s point of view, which is still cautious enough to recognize that there are serious problems ahead in Iraq while recognizing the signs of hope that are arising in many parts of the Middle East.

    Thanks for linking to this Geoff.

  6. Oh, and let me add that I think Kaimi would agree with the statement “blessed are the cheesemakers.”

  7. I am also opposed to the war in Iraq but cannot help but feel some of Geoff B’s optimism. Though I think Geoff has been overly optimistic at times (and I have said as much here before) who can blame him. So much is happening in the ME to give us reason to hope for some major positive changes. Of course, the nature of the region is that all such hope could be dashed by the time I wake up tomorrow–as has happened before. But until then I say enjoy the fact that people in the ME seem to finally be asking (as Friedman put it) why not democracy here?

  8. Dear Ed,

    When it comes to Life of Brian, the phrase that comes to mind is
    All things are lawful for me,
    but all things are not expedient;
    All things are lawful for me,
    But all things edify not.

    Like you, I cannot sit through _Life of Brian_. The scenes about Romans and rebellion are great, the Latin lesson repays years of noun declension, but the scenes about Brian as the expected Messiah made me squirm. Then I met a guy who loves _Life of Brian_ for the very scenes I hated–because they showed the public mania and laziness that makes people unable to discern between the true and false Christ. “Don’t follow me, you’re all different!” _Life of Brian_ is like _Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead_. The movie is very open to the interpretation that the storyline of Jesus Christ is playing off-screen at about the same time–and invites (some in) the audience to consider the difference between Christ and Theudas, between Christ and Judas of Galilee, between Christ and any popular idol mania of the day.

    No one loves the British for the benefits of colonialization either. Probably why the Times of London is pointing out the ingratitude of those suffering under America’s special patronage.

  9. One of the reasons I linked the article is that even benevolent empire-building always carries with it the risk of ingratitude. The Roman empire was probably the most benevolent in history until then, but that wasn’t much consolation to the conquered Gauls or Woads or especially the Jewish rebels. British with a good understanding of history can appreciate the bit about ingratitude — their colonies were much better run and humane than the Spanish or Portuguese, for example, but tell that to the average Nigerian or Zimbabwean (although some of them are coming around to understand it now). Of course, the primary difference is that the United States is not interested in empire building and is the first country in history to be so powerful and really care about foreign public opinion. I once had an interesting conversation with some anti-American Europeans at work and asked them, “besides Iraq and Afghanistan, name for me one country where the United States is an occupying force and would not leave if asked.” And of course they could not. We would be out of Korea and Japan and Germany in a NY minute if the populations of those countries insisted on it (witness Panama and the Philippines for examples). What other empire has built its empire based on freedom and democracy and majority public opinion? There is no other example.

    Having said that, and having lived overseas and actually listened to the opinions of others, I can tell you that many anti-Americans have legitimate concerns about our past behavior. We have a long history of supporting brutal dictators when it was convenient. And of course in the Middle East we still do support some of the worst characters around — the Saudis and Pakistanis are two good example, but think about the billions we have given to support corrupt and brutal leadership in Egypt, for example. All of this support had its reasons, but it does bother me that the people to whom we are giving money and support turn around and kill political dissidents. But what is exciting about the most recent events is that we are finally moving away from the “realpolitik” policies that have caused me such moral angst in the past. How can anyone not be supportive of a change that allows self-determination for some of the most oppressed people in the world?

  10. Geoff,

    Just a few weeks ago I listened to Martin Indyk speak at the University of Utah about “public diplomacy.” One of the things he talked about was “exceptionalism” … that is … the special treatment we give to some authoritarian regimes or monarchies in the Middle East. Of course he’s speaking particularly of countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

    I hope that eventually Iraq will become the stable democratic country it needs to be. If so, perhaps we can start to be more of a support and friend to Iraq and less of a friend to regimes like those of Hosni Mubarak, the Sauds, etc. Iraq (I believe) has the potential to be a real democratic ally or at least a business partner with an interest in maintaining a healthy relationship with us.

  11. It has been dawning on me that Mr. Bush really believes in liberty for all and that his purpose for pursuing the war is to let freedom ring. Are we seeing something happen, which is just as counter-intuitive as what Ronald Reagan did to the Eastern Bloc? I know it is ultimately galling to liberal and sophisticated people that this misunderestimated president would be the one to bring about results in the Middle East through the rough and dirty instrument of war, results that foreign policy geniuses have been dreaming about for decades. Obviously we don’t know the outcome. Obviously Pres. Bush can’t direct all the consequences. But a new wind is blowing, and it will be fascinating to see the developments both for freedom and for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Arab world.

  12. Harry Turtledove once wrote a very interesting alternate history story about Germany conquering Britain and India during WWII and reaching an impasse with America.

    The crux of the story was that Ghandi’s “passive resistance” movement failed miserable because Germany didn’t care what the rest of the world though of them when they opened fire on a crowd of unarmed civilians.

    The reason why Ghandi’s strategy worked in the real world was because Britain cared about how they appeared to the rest of the world. And despite (inaccurate) charges of “unilateralism” on the part of the USA, the USA does care about international opinion somewhat.

    But peaceful methods don’t always work when you’re dealing with madmen and mad socities.

    Just something I thought might be relevant to the discussion.

    Overall, I think the left needs to get over its gut instinct opposition to everything Bush does (in the same way I was disgusted with the right’s gut instinct hatred of all things Clinton). Even a broken (analog) clock is right twice a day.

  13. Geoff B (#9) wrote:

    We have a long history of supporting brutal dictators when it was convenient. And of course in the Middle East we still do support some of the worst characters around — the Saudis and Pakistanis are two good example, but think about the billions we have given to support corrupt and brutal leadership in Egypt, for example. All of this support had its reasons, but it does bother me that the people to whom we are giving money and support turn around and kill political dissidents.

    Sadly, this sort of behavior is not all in America’s past Geoff. Recent news reports indicate that the CIA has been sending suspected terrorists abroad to be “questioned” by foreign intelligence operatives. A convenient way to get around those meddlesome U.S. courts and their insistence on applying silly due process and anti-torture laws.

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