Robbie and Jesus… part two
Well, if you ever want to boost your blog stats, write a post about Robbie Williams! Not only has my little exploration of his latest song Bodies become my most viewed post ever and the most commented ever, but I’ve also had to refuse to publish a handful of comments for the first time ever! Not a particularly good claim to fame, that last one, I’m afraid. :/
I do hate having to censor comments and it’s not a decision I took lightly, but for those that found comments weren’t published – a few pointers. If you make an anonymous comment and/or are deliberately insulting and/or accuse Robbie of satanic things that border on defamation and/or mention the illuminati or other such hogwash, well then I won’t be publishing your comment. To be honest, the number of the beast comments that I did publish were getting pretty close to the bone as well. To all those that would make such comments – just remember Robbie Williams is a human being too. Do unto others… love your neighbour… ring any bells?
On the other hand, can I say a very big thank you to a number of first-time commenters who had some genuinely interesting things to say about Robbie’s new single. I think those that are presuming Robbie is now born-again may just be going a bit too far, but I like your optimism.
In actual fact, the best bit of wisdom on what exactly Robbie is on about in this song comes from Sam who highlighted the following video interview with Robbie. Please do watch it since what I say next is based on this interview:
I think there are a number of things to point out here. Firstly, Robbie notes that he is fascinated by conspiracy theories. He says that he doesn’t necessarily believe them, but goes on to note ‘I like a bit of magic in my life and my magic is these conspiracies’. I think we can probably all relate to that. What is faith ultimately if it isn’t a reaching for something more than we see?
Anyway, he reveals that Bodies was borne out of his fascination with conspiracy theories. Amongst the conspiracies he mentions, he questions whether Jesus existed and says that the Bible was written in Italy 400 years after Jesus died (something I would imagine he got from reading the Da Vinci Code). Not only that, but he suggests that there were many ‘Messiah’ type stories around and that Jesus is sort of an amalgam of those stories – where a child is born to a virgin, does some magic stuff, is crucified and then rises to life. He concludes by encouraging people to watch a movie called Zeitgeist, which suggests the Romans apparently invented the myth of Jesus solely to exercise control over Europe. The movie goes on to say that 9/11 was engineered by the US government and that the American Federal Income Tax is unconstitutional. As one reviewer describes that movie:
“[Zeitgeist] film-maker Peter Joseph can be credited for one thing, itâ€™s flawlessly utilizing Dale Carnegieâ€™s yes-yes technique to influence the viewer. Like any good conspiracy theorist, he starts with information that is true (yes #1), follows with information that is apparent enough to make the viewer question previous dogma (yes #2) and inserts his interpretation of what is driving those occurrences (in this case, that the US government intentionally detonated the twin towers). One major distinction between a conspiracy theory and a valid explanation is that conspiracy theories rarely work inversely as deduction. As a Math Professor of mine loved to recite, proving all poodles are dogs does not prove all dogs are poodles.”
Hilariously, you can vaguely here the interviewer say in the background to Robbie ‘you seem to have done your research’. Err, yeah no he hasn’t… at all.
Of course, we can pick apart Zeitgeist and thus Robbie’s thinking around the story of Jesus in moments.
Firstly, the Bible was not written 400 years after Jesus in Italy. It’s a vast collection of documents that spans a tremendous amount of history. The story for how the Old Testament or Jewish Bible came into being as a collection of documents is not the same compared to the New Testament. The African Synod of Hippo in 393 AD approved the New Testament canon as it stands today but there’s a big difference between deciding which books are in and which are out (as they did) and actually writing it yourselves.
Much of the New Testament was written within thirty to seventy years after the time of Christ based on eye-witness accounts. Our earliest manuscripts are plentiful and very, very early by comparison to some other major figures of antiquity. Historically speaking, there is more evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ than there is for Julius Caesar. The existence of Jesus is just not in doubt by any credible historian. If he’s really interested in exploring this, Robbie would be better off reading some serious treatments of the issues rather than Dan Brown.
If he did do that, he’d be quickly able to pick holes in the Roman control argument himself since the earliest manuscripts come from a time much earlier than any attempt by the Romans under Constantine to use Christianity as a cultural force and means of control. Such conspiracy theories just don’t add up at all.
So, there you have it, Robbie fans. What the song is about is a conspiracy theory and not knowing whether Jesus really existed or not based on Robbie taking in such pretty outlandish stuff all in the search ‘of a bit of magic in my life’.
The very simple answer to Robbie’s questioning is that Zeitgeist and films and books like it might be great fun, but they don’t have a shred of worth in terms of history and actual concrete reality of what went on 2,000 years ago.
I still think it’s an interesting song and it’s given me lots to talk about with young people in this parish – not just the Jesus references, but the whole area of self-image ‘looking good naked’ as Robbie describes it and rejecting your own reflection, as well as an incarnational faith that values physical presence and bodies in general. All worth a bit of time and thought.