Ridley Scott’s beautifully filmed anti-war war movie is now out in the theaters, and it is thought provoking in so many ways. The story is grounded reasonably well in history telling the story of the hiatus between the 2nd and 3rd Crusades when Saladin’s forces surrounded the Holy Land and there was an uneasy peace with a leper king Baldwin, a Christian ruler in Jerusalem. The peace was preserved through tolerance and allowing persons of all monotheistic faiths who have a stake in Jerusalem to have free access to the city to live, and work and pray.

The film is laden with ironies of various sorts not the least of which is the portray of both Moslems and Christians fervently shouting and believing that it was God’s will that they murder the infidels on the other side, only to discover that in fact God thwarted both sides’ efforts from time to time.

The film is called Kingdom of Heaven and Jerusalem is seen as it’s epicenter, which is the ultimate irony since it is the site of so much unheavenly plotting, treachery, immorality, and murder, but then such is the very nature of war.

Scott intends to force the audience to realize the inherent contradictions involves in fighting for the Kingdom of Heaven, a Kingdom Jesus said would be established by love, even love of enemies, by turning the other check, and by refusing to retaliate when harmed. It is a Kingdom worth living and dying for, but its very nature is violated by killing for it.

It is not a surprise that Orlando Bloom, who plays the role of Balian the central character in the movie (a blacksmith become knight on crusade), becomes agnostic in the face of the machinations that go on in the name of God, both on the Christian and Moslem side of the ledger. Yet the leper King Baldwin is a wise King and there are reminders along the way in his life and in the lives of others of real Christian values such as goodness and kindness, even to one’s enemies, and holiness, and always being prepared to tell the truth. In the end Balian resolves to defend the people of Jerusalem but not the bricks and mortar.

This is a wonderfully thought provoking movie for people of all faiths and no faith, and it raises the question once more whether Christian crusades can be holy wars any more than Moslem jihads. Or is it in fact the case that there are no just wars, only wars that seem more and less justifiable to us, more and less injust to human beings who have an infinite capacity for self-justification and protecting their own turf? Scott’s movie throws down the gauntlet in a way his earlier effort in Gladiator does not, forcing us to realize both the limitations and the great cost of violating one of the fundamental Biblical commandments recognized and accepted by all three monotheistic religions— Thou shalt not murder.

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