Beowulf – Christ the Roman god
December 24, 2007
There is a new god on the block. We have made offers to Odin, as well as some other gods, should we offer to this new god of the Romans, Christ, as well? This is the question posed by an advisor to the king, early in the movie Beowulf. Set in Denmark, 507 AD, I think this is a very good portrayal of religion, and the perceptions regarding Christianity in this time.
Paul (as well as some others) started spreading Christianity throughout the Roman empire, Luke tell us the story in Acts, how the message of Jesus spread from a few followers in Jerusalem, to Rome, the capital of the Roman empire. It’s really a literary strategy as well, Acts 1:8 show this, first Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, meaning Rome. If the message spread to the capitol, then it has spread to all the known world. The book Acts then show how what was said in 1:8 happens.
And Christianity became very successful, and then even the emperor got converted, and then he forced all his people to get converted, and then he started taking the gospel to the nations, to his enemies, by force, by sword and spear. And Christ has become the god of the Romans, and yes, maybe “g”od is the right word. So, should we pray to Christ as well? Asks the advisor. No is the answer he gets, gods won’t help us.
Beowulf gets on the scene, becomes king, and beautifully it is shown how Christianity has gained a foothold later on in the movie, when he is older. Well, since time has passed, and Christianity was spreading in this time, this seems to be quite historical. Whether this new god helped them, the movie do not seem to answer, what exactly the role of Christianity, and also of the symbol of the cross, is, is difficult to know (is it only coincidence that Beowulf boat’s mast fall in the shape of a cross when it is burning at the end? Maybe, but seeing how prominent the cross features in the movie, I wonder.). It seems like Christianity isn’t making any difference though, not in there culture, and not with there daemons.
In this time when Christmas is celebrated, it might be good to ask ourselves what we are celebrating. Is this simply a western festival, to the westerners god? And who will Odin then be in our story? The eastern gods? Maybe that of Islam? It might be a time to ask ourselves whether the war between some western countries and the middle east isn’t becoming to seem like a war between “our god and theirs”, a religious war? And do we pray to God as just another of our gods (which might include many things) to see which one will work?
If you look carefully, Beowulf might be more than fantasy, more than myth, more than great animations. There might be some religious critique in there as well. Maybe I’m seeing things which isn’t there, maybe it’s just random, but maybe it raises some serious questions.
Well, a blessed Christmas to all, to westerners, to those from Eastern countries as well. To all who celebrate the fact that in some way which we still struggle to understand, Jesus was born, the one who was proclaimed King, who was proclaimed God, the human through whom we got to see God, and may we guard against just another “Western god”.