All the Prophets are lights, they only differ in degree; they shine like brilliant heavenly bodies, each have their appointed place and time of ascension. Some are like lamps, some like the moon, some like distant stars, and a few are like the sun, shining from one end of the earth to the other. All have the same Light to give, yet they are different in degree. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 62-63.

On this Earth, our life-giving lamp has always been the fixed star we call the Sun. Another Sun also appears in the midst of creation: The Sun of Truth, or the prophet of God:

The spiritual cycles of the Sun of Truth, like the cycles of the physical sun: are in a state of perpetual motion and renewal. The Sun of Truth can be likened to the material sun, which rises from many different points. One day it rises from the sign of Cancer and another day from the sign of Libra… Yet the sun is but one sun and one single reality. The possessors of true knowledge are lovers of the sun and are not attached to its dawning points. Those who are endued with insight are seekers of the truth itself, not of its exponents and manifestations. Thus they bow in adoration before the sun, from whatever sign and above whatever horizon it may appear, and seek the truth from any sanctified soul who might reveal it…

Thus the Sun of Truth at one time shed its rays from the sign of Abraham; later it dawned above the sign of Moses and illumined the horizon; and later still it shone forth with the utmost power, heat and radiance from the sign of Christ. Those who were searching after truth worshipped it wherever they saw it, but those who were attached to Abraham, when once that Sun cast its rays upon Sinai and illumined the reality of Moses, were deprived thereof. And those who clung to Moses, when once the Sun of Truth shed its heavenly splendour in the fullness of its radiance from the point of Christ, were likewise veiled, and so forth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 86-87.

I’m on my way to our local movie theatre to see The Young Messiah, which some critics have panned as “dull.” It’s actually sharing billing with a more dramatic version of Christ’s life: Risen, Kevin Reynolds’ Resurrection-as-mystery flick. In all, there have been so many Christ-related movies since the first one in 1903, that I can’t count them all.

The films about Christ that I’ve seen, all the same story or variants about the Apostles and others, have pretty much stayed with me. For the life and behavior and words of Christ are spirit-thrilling and mysterious in the extreme. How could one personage have such a massive influence on the people of the world since his days as a messenger of God?

We associate Christ’s life and death with A.D. 33, the year he was crucified so unjustly. In fact, A.D., Anno Domini, means the Year of Our Lord and is the basis for the calendar we use today as modified by Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October of 1582. Even that calendar was a modification of the one instituted by the Romans, specifically by Julius Caesar, in 45 B.C.

Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in the King of Kings

Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in the King of Kings

Ah, but I digress. Back to religious movies. At the age of 11, I saw blue-eyed, long blond shiny-haired Jeffrey Hunter play Jesus on the big screen in Technicolor. Or was it widescreen Panavision? Either way it confirmed all I had been taught as a Catholic boy growing up in Sacred Heart Church and Elementary School. Catechism and bible stories every day, in one form or another, were drilled into my young memory. All sunk into my spirit, if not into my Christian behavior.

That “mysterious spirit” portrayed in the innumerable Christian movies and books I’ve seen and read, didn’t actually reveal itself to me until I was 19 years old. As I listened to Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones rockin’ in one ear, a young man I had just met, an artist and pure soul named Ted, mentioned the Baha’i Faith to me for the first time. He answered my rush of questions in my other ear.

That moment kick-started the next phase of my spiritual journey. I began to see the next movie series of faith, so to speak, or the sun rising from a new point on the horizon. I recognized the same light I’d followed and worshipped in Christianity, dawning from a new place and time.

And I had just begun my giant leap.

What religious movies affected you, and what leaps of faith have you made?

Next: Looking for the Lord—at the Cinema

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

4 Comments

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  • Apr 11, 2016
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depictions_of_Gautama_Buddha_in_film
    Wikipedia lists 22 films on the Buddha with links on films about
    Jesus and Muhammad as well. I have seen several. Despite being raised Christian and an American, I haven\'t seen any of the Biblical based movies so common here.
    Long story, but I was raised Protestant, but went to Catholic school. I eventually shopped around religion wise, studying the 99-108 religious groups in the book Savvy Conert\'s Guide to Choosing a Religion. Though in high school, I developed a love of all things east with ether cuisine, fashion, media, philsophy, or religion. This eventually led me ...in an Eastward direction. I was still shopping around from 2003-2013 or even 2015, it\'s hard to tell when exactly I fully made a decsion in retrospect.
    As a teenager, I went to a secular or unaffiliated phase looking at things like Agnosticism, Atheism, Humanism, and Ethical Culture movement. Then, spirituality became an option and I became an SBNR. Then new religious movements like Eckankar, Raëlism, Neo-Druidism, Wicca, Unitarian Universalism, etc became options. Then, I also studied various world religions with an interest in Islam, Sikhism, and the Baha\'i Faith. Then, I studied religion of South and East Asia like Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Taoism.
    Back to movies, since before the time period, I was an otaku, a lover of Japanese media whether anime, manga, J-music like J-pop J-rock, cosplay, Japanese food, etc. In the course of watching Japanese media, I stumbled across several of the movies listed as belong produced in Japan. I watched with English subtitles. I don\'t even remember if there was English dubs, but I don\'t use English dubs with my Japanese media. I\'m in the sub not dub camp. I love Asian media in general, but Japense media in particular, so I also saw the South Korean one as well because I like manwha and K-music like K-pop K-rock too. I haven\'t seen any of the films made in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, or Thailand or even any Western countries as of yet. They\'re on my to watch later list.
    I had watched lots of movies, but only in retrospect see the affect the movies on the Buddha had on my life. It eventually led to my long and winded affirmation as Buddhism (Mahayana/Nichiren/Soka Gakkai/Soka Gakkai International) as my religion, but I\'m also a Unitarian
    Universalist as there is a Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship in the Unitarian Universalist Assocation.
    Milestones
    2003 uncertainty in general about the meaning of life and my religious beliefs and sexual identity and life ambitions
    2007 graduation followed by thinking about life questions more
    2008 email correspondence with friends who are Baha\'i
    2009/2010 I decide Baha\'i isn\'t for me after two year worth of study
    2010 lots of looking inward started for no reason in particular, but culture war politics followed this year
    2012/2013 failed Mayan doomsday which led to a lot of looking inward for me
    2015 landmark Supreme Court decision and religious groups response to it especially among Unitarian Universalists and Buddhists clarify my identity as Buddhist and Unitarian Universalist
    The milestones need clarifying which I may do later, but... I tired Eckankar for a year, but nothing really interested me during that year trial. I was interested in Raëlism and Scientology, but only to a limited degree. I was ultimately too religious for Ethical Culture movement and Humanism. I found Islam and the Baha\'i Faith to Western and too moralistic on what a Catholic friend of mine calls "pelvic issues" (gender, gender expression, gender identity, sex, and sexuality issues). I found Neo-Paganism interesting, but would have had to buy tons and tons of books on the sbuject to be sure I was doing it right.
    I still follow the blogs of all the religions I once considered options to keep track of great blogs. I also like the summary of SGI as given in the SGI Charter. I also follow blogs by fellow Buddhists too.
    It\'s really complicated exposing all the leaps of faith I made during my long journey from Protestantism to Mahayana Buddhism. A combination of interest in mysticism, interest in the East, love of Japanese media, LGBT issues, curious it\'s about spirituality, etc led me to Mahayana Buddhism. I also liked the intricacies of Buddhist ethics via that page on Wikipedia devoted to it.
    Jesus, Saint Francis, and Mother Teresa are identified as bodhisattvas. The ten spiritual realms teachings deals with Buddhas, bodhisattva, pratyeaks, arhats, and sentient beings and the graduations of them. I also like reading the Threefold Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nichiren Daishonin as well a writings of the Presidents of SGI like Daisku Ikeda and others.
    You may be wondering why I\'m Buddhist. While in addition to the above reasons, I don\'t believe in a personal God in the theist sense but a universal sprit/life force in a more monism sense, I believe in reincarnation, I believe that other than various human who have been bodhisattvas or lower only Siddhartha Gautama and Nichiren Daishonin were full fledged Buddhas in recorded history, I believe in pacifism, etc are all examples of Buddhist stance I studied and eventually took as my positions also.
    Also, I forgot to mention, I\'m pansexual, genderfluid, and genderqueer. This has also made LGBT-affirmation another imporant trait I looked for and found in Buddhism (and Unitarian Universalism).
    Read more...
    • Apr 12, 2016
      Stephen, I don't want this to appear as a label, but your last name Gray belies how the Search for God can be full of confusion because there are so many labels. Although Baha'i, and I think you'd agree, all true religion is One, and has one Source, as the Tao taught me early on in my own search. I am happy for you having found your own identity and unique place, and writer's voice - it is a compelling story
  • Carol Scruggs
    Apr 11, 2016
    For me, it was The Diary of Anne Frank. Because at the time, as a child, I was learning about heaven and hell in religious instruction, I could not reconcile how someone like Anne Frank would be destined for hell. It started a lifelong quest to get that question answered.
    • Apr 12, 2016
      The Diary of Anne Frank, a powerful story and movie, also showed the heaven and hell on earth, and how spirit was preserved in the face of it. Very moving and very instructive to have such faith in the face of external fear