I recently watched a fascinating video of John Cleese and some Christian ministers arguing over a film he made in which he apparently mocks Christ. I have tremendous respect for Cleese as a creative person. He clearly thinks very carefully about what he believes and is troubled by those who fail to do the same. In all of that, I relate to him completely. I agree with much of what he says and even admire him for taking on important issues in his work.
The statement Cleese makes which I find most interesting is that the film is not intended to mock Christ but to attack systems of thought that are closed—systems that do not allow for new ideas. He clearly feels Christianity represents a form of closed-mindedness, and in many cases, he is correct. The men he debates do not really hear his points and so fail to respond with anything more substantive than defensive and insulting comments.
I find it fascinating to consider, however, that Christ is perhaps the best example in history of the very thing Cleese is attempting to do: open the minds of people who are bound up in centuries of tradition. Many modern Christians are indeed closed to new ideas, but Christ himself, the man Cleese allegedly mocks, was so radical and so overt in challenging the intellectual status quo that those in power put him to death in order to silence him.
Christ was so successful in attacking closed systems of thought that when Martin Luther King Jr., a Christian minister, likewise sought to open the minds of a people bound in tradition, he turned to Christ to understand how to do it. The principles he found in Christ’s teachings and example worked.
I am not bothered by Cleese’s alleged mockery of Christ or by the principles he espouses. In my opinion, they are correct principles. In fact, they are the principles I have learned through studying Christ himself. I would love to have a conversation with Cleese about that and think we could become great friends through the sharing of those common beliefs. In either case, I already feel a kinship to him for my part.