The Kingdom of Heaven

Not really recommended. Ridley Scott is one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood. He is really quite brilliant with the look of all his films from Alien on up to Gladiator. But this movie turns out to be another Troy, a humanistic dismissal of religion. It deals with the Crusade of 1184 and focuses on a young Blacksmith, Balian, who becomes a knight and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to insure his dead wife’s forgiveness for committing suicide, a decidedly non-Christian motive. His estranged father, encourages him to go to Jerusalem because all can be forgiven there in the Holy City, “a better world, a kingdom of conscience,” now presided over by a good Christian king who allows Christians, Jews and Muslims to live together in peace. Balian’s theme is pretty much spelled out in the plaque he has over his blacksmith shop: “What man is a man who does not make the world better.” (by the end of this movie, this saying ends up meaning, “be good without God, cause being good matters more than religion”) Okay, there are some good qualities in this movie that I have to give credit to: It does show good knights and bad knights. At least they are not all marauding pillagers of infidels, which is the typical mischaracterization. Yes, there was much that was wrong in the Crusades. The Roman Catholic Church here was diabolical in its treatments at times of non-christians. But not all of it was evil. There were a lot of stories from the Crusades, and the one that is picked by the storytellers is the one that reflects their particular viewpoint. For instance, they did not show the Muslims raping and pillaging the Holy Land and stealing Jerusalem in the first place that started the whole mess. No, that would be politically incorrect. So, this is not the first Crusade. Along the lines of this, it is important to note the things that are chosen to be shown and those that are chosen to be left out. For instance, there is a strange lack of the word and concept of jihad in this movie, yet plenty of “crusade” language – Hmmmm. It is interesting that they show some kooky Catholic Priests or Christian “fanatics” preaching on street corners, “To kill an infidel is not murder, it is the path to heaven,” But they do not show the fact that MOST ALL Muslims believed and preached this very “kill the infidel” idea at the time. They show a city controlled by Christians who allow Muslims to pray to Allah if they pay a tax. Yet, they do not show the fact that it is Islam that is famous for this very notion of dhimmitude, that is, of allowing Christians to live if they pay a tax. Bat Ye’Or has written extensively on the slavery of Christians under dhimmitude in books like “The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam” and “Islam and Dhimmitude.” In these books she catalogs the cruelty experienced by Jews and Christians under Islamic rule. But the movie also shows a good side to both the Christian king Baldwin, and the Muslim leader Saladin, by showing Baldwin hanging Templar knights for murdering Muslims and showing Saladin put a fallen crucifix back up in its place after it had fallen in battle. Even though this movie is balanced in showing good and bad knights, good kings and bad kings, it is not so balanced when it comes to Islam. There are no real fanatics shown on the Islamic side, something that is painfully foolishly fallacious. This is especially grievous in the light of modern day fanaticism that is almost exclusively engaged in by Muslims. Saladin was famous for his evenhandedness in dealing with his enemies sometimes, but come on, there were just as many fanatical Muslims to match the ridiculous warmongering of Catholic Guy de Lusignan and his General, Reynald portrayed in the picture as cartoon villains who loved to kill. But no, the Muslims are portrayed as mere enemies, not as the fanatics that they were, even under Saladin. I guess Ridley Scott just doesn’t want to have a fatwah on his head, (that is, to be killed by Muslim fanatics) so he plays it safe by avoiding the full truth and makes the Muslims look less fanatical. One good side is that the filmmakers DO show both sides claiming that “God wills it” of their actions. That is, both sides claim God’s favor or direction. So who is right? In this story, it is neither, it is Humanistic peace and brotherhood that is preached. A perspective that completely misses the truth. This is basically the story of a humanist, Balian, who experiences the ravages of religion, and decides it is all destructive. Here is how it is done. Every religious claim, is countered by our hero with an individualistic self-righteous appeal to “goodness” without God as the source of that goodness. A chess game illustrates that “none of us choose our ends,” to which our hero replies, “the king may move a man, but the soul of a man belongs to the man.” Balian demands that the kingdom of heaven is a “kingdom of conscience or nothing.” That is, the individual and his own conscience against the mean cruel “institutionalized religion.” The ultimacy of the individual as opposed to the collective in this movie is pure humanism. As if evil comes from the collective, but not the individual. And whay, pray tell is the collective, save a group of individuals who agree on their individual consciences? Humanism leads the terror of collective oppression, but it does so under the guise of no absolutes. At least religions can be wrong in their understanding of absolutes and CHANGE. But with humanism, there is no absolute, just the Will to Power in the name of some undefinable unjustifiable “good” (a “good” they have already denied by denying absolutes). There is a great saying by one of the heroic knights. He spurns “religion,” “Religion is full of fanatics. Holiness is right action. Goodness is what God desires in the mind and in the heart.” There is a sense in which this is true, but in the context of the film it basically means, “All that matters is being good, which of course, can be done individually without God.” (The storytellers seem to have missed Jesus’ enforcement of the Old Testament Law, that the most important commands are TO LOVE GOD with all your heart and mind and love your neighbor. So loving God rightly IS THE FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GOD, loving people according to HIS dictates is second, but an important second – Matthew 22:35-40.) Balian, the man without God, who claims throughout the film that God is not with him, cause he cannot feel him and cannot feel forgiveness even on the place of Christ’s crucifixion, this humanistic man is portrayed as having the highest ethic of all those religious believers around him. “God’s will” is always used as an obvious rationalization for personal gain throughout the movie. Balian is told that Jerusalem is great because once you are there, people “are not what they were born into, but what they have inside themselves to be.” This of course, is the humanistic FALSE supposition that all these religious believers are only their religion because that is what they were born into. Humanism presents itself as the great individualizer that allows people to be what THEY want to be. Of course, being born into religions or atheism or humanism IS OFTEN influential on a person’s beliefs, but the problem is that the world is full of hundreds of millions of converts that became NOT what they were raised to be. So it is simply a fallacy to suggest that we only believe what we were taught to believe. The question is NOT why we believe something, the question is whether what we believe is TRUE OR NOT. Truth is not determined by genetic origin within our psychologies, another humanistic ignorance. When Balian must gather his forces in Jerusalem to fight Saladin in an impossible battle, he says to them, “Your Muslim places of worship lie over Christian places of worship that lie over Jewish places of worship that were taken over by the Romans. Which is more holy? Who has claim? No one has claim. All have claim. We will defend Jerusalem for the people within its walls.” This typical contradictory proposition that all have claim and none have claim may sound wise in a pithy way, but it actually means nothing. If no one has claim, then “all” cannot have claim. What it really means is that the storytellers are telling us, your religious beliefs are irrelevant, my humanism is superior because I care about the people, not some religious claims, which are unprovable. This is the arrogance of humanism. It considers itself so superior to religions that it is above it all and better – as if it is its own god. But there is a problem here. Without the living transcendent God, people have no value, only the arbitrary value that those in power give them. So, ironically, if you take away Christianity, YOU DO NOT HAVE the love of people, you have the tyranny and manipulation of people. The fact of the matter is that the Roman Catholic Crusaders WERE NOT ACTING IN ACCORD WITH THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS. They were wrong NOT because they were religious, but because they did not follow their religion consistently or biblically. But the French Revolution and Communist Russia, now that is what you get of so-called, “liberty, equality, fraternity” the brotherhood of man without God. Humanists just want to get rid of religion and keep the ethics of religion, but the problem is that when they get rid of Christianity, they get rid of the ONLY THING that can give true and absolute value to the dignity and life of human beings. And they get rid of the absolutes that are the only foundation of ethics. They want to have Christian ethics without Christianity. This is patently absurd. Without an absolute Christian foundation of ethics, you are left with arbitrary rule of power. This will always end in tyranny and despotism, whether of the majority, the elite or of a dictator. May I remind the reader once again that yes, several million were killed in the name of religion over the 20 centuries, but HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS were murdered in but ONE CENTURY, the century of modernism without God. So, misguided religion is bad, but consistent humanism is one hundred times worse. The 20th century proved that modernism/humanism is more evil than all the worst of religions added together. So stop your belly aching. When Balian must burn the dead soldiers in the walls to keep from spreading disease, he is chastised by a priest for desecration, to which he replies, “God will understand. And if he does not, then he is not God, and it doesn’t matter.” Another pithy line that shows the arrogance of humanistic (and I might add, Thomistic Classical apologetics) that if God does not meet MY understanding of logic, then he is just not God. In other words, if God bows down and fits into MY (faulty) logical understanding, then I will allow him to be God, Which obviously means he wouldn’t be God if he had to do that. The real problem here was not that Christianity was absurd, but that the priests were prohibiting something (desecration) THAT WAS NOT PROHIBITED BY GOD (Matthew 15:2-9). Big difference, folks. Too much of Romanism was simply NOT BIBLICAL. So it is not Christianity that is absurd, it is Romanism, with it’s humanistic traditions that violated Scripture. At the end, Balian looks upon Jerusalem and says, “If this is the Kingdom of Heaven, let God do with it what he wills.” In other words, Balian is done with religion. He goes back to his home town to be a blacksmith again and have a wife. And when King Richard the Lionheart comes to town looking for Balian, the hero, Balian denies he is the man, and simply says he is a blacksmith. In other words, “I have had enough of religion and Christianity, I believe in just living my good life as a husband and worker, rather than the useless squabbles of religion.” So in this film, religion is tried and found wanting in favor of humanism. Unfortunately, it is humanism that ACTUALLY takes away the value and dignity of life, so the filmmakers are engaging in the classical Van Tillian parable of sitting on their Father’s knees in order to be able to slap the Father that gave them life. They deny the only warranted foundation of ethics, Christianity, and then try to have Christian morality without Christianity. But if there is no foundation of the Triune God, then THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “GOOD” OR “FAIR” OR EVEN “EVIL.” There is simply opposing wills in conflict, without moral value attached to any act whatsoever.. How dare any humanist claim THEY know what is right or good, when there are millions who disagree with them. These humanists would impose their religion (and that is what it ultimately is, is religion) upon the rest of the world, all in the name of their definition of the “absolute good,” as they see it, a good, that they have already denied exists. And if there is no absolute good as defined by God, then who are they to impose their version of right or good on everybody else? There is no higher transcendence in this movie, just the disparagement of transcendence, which makes this movie an unsatisfying weak story without soul.

One comment on “The Kingdom of Heaven

  • The opinion expressed in this review sounds exactly like the review itself. You choose to notice that the Muslims are not portrayed badly enough yet not notice that the movie is more or less from Baelin’s point of view and he did not spend time with Muslims. To say that christians at that time were bad is not to say that Muslims were not. This is a basic problem with the day and age we live in. People are always thinking that their opinion is right and everyone else’s is wrong.

    As for the “non-christian” idea of Baelin trying to save his wife’s soul, isn’t that what christianity is? Most christians I have ever met try to be good because they think that it will earn them a place in heaven. I am an agnostic and I try to be good because we all live in this world together and it is the right thing to do.

    Reply

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