I have to be honest, I had not heard of the controversial book Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard until I was invited to the screening of the movie based on the book. I've never made it a point to follow O'Reilly and never thought of Jesus as my homeboy.
I am Jewish, but I come from an interfaith family. My family is like the United Nations when it comes to religion, we have a representative in all of the major religions. That meant that religion was always a topic of discussion. My father was a minister in the Church of Christ, so I became very familiar with the teachings of Jesus Christ. There was a lot that I agreed with, yet the religion was never quite my calling. I never got baptized in the Church of Christ to the dismay of my father. I will never forget him telling me that would not be able to trust me because I was not a Christian. I ended up at a Catholic college because it turned out that they had a great theater program. I had Catholic brothers as teachers and it was required for us to take a religion class. After college most of the conversations that I had about Jesus moved to the back burner. Let's just say that he was not a topic of discussion at my Shabbat table.
Fast forward to now, I thought the screening of Killing Jesus sounded interesting, so I jumped at the chance when I received an invitation. A man sitting behind me said "another white Jesus," I giggled to myself because that is exactly what I was thinking. When it was time to start the screening, Bill O'Reilly came out, said some words then announced that the man playing Jesus in the film was Muslim. That peaked my curiosity. Maybe this was not going to be the same old conservative religious based film after all.
When the movie ended, I was filled with emotion. I did not have any expectations of the film. I had assumed it would be like most religious films complete with a full white cast. Instead it was the most diverse looking religious film that I have ever seen. There were people of different shades and hues throughout the film. Killing Jesus also spoke to me as Jesus being a Jew versus him as Jesus Christ. Many thoughts began to race through my mind and a part of me is still processing the information.
There was a reception after the screening put together by National Geographic. In the room was the cast and a crowd of celebrities. I shared some words with Bill O'Reilly to give respect to him for bringing the historical story of Jesus from a different point of view. I spoke with Haaz Sleiman, the actor who played Jesus. He's Muslim which has caused some controversy and criticism. I personally think that it adds layers to his performance. We had a great "Jew to Muslim, you just played Jesus" moment that was filled with so much love.
For Jews and Christians, Jesus is like the elephant in the room. Jesus was a Jew and remained one until his death, yet Christians are the ones who claim him. The Jewish community never calls Jewish the king of the Jews. That title was given to him by those outside of the Jewish community.
I see Jesus as a sacred rebel, someone who lived a unique and inspired live that shared his light with the world as a sacred offering. Do I think that Jesus is the messiah, well no. I embrace Jesus as my Jewish brother. I see him as a teacher of Torah and a messenger of love. As I stated earlier, Christianity is not my religion, but there are some Christian holidays that I really enjoy. They tend to be the ones with pagan undertones like Christmas and Easter.
When I search my heart and soul about how I feel about Jesus, he actually is my homeboy.