Scorsese’s God-Man Complex

Periodically I go through a Scorsese binge, usually exploring the movies in his career I have never seen.  Recently I watched “Kundun”, his little-seen film on the 14th Dali Lama.  A strange topic for the director of “GoodFellas” to explore – but only at first glance.

I see it as a nice companion piece to “The Last Temptation of Christ”, the wildly controversial portrayal of Jesus from 1988.

I know this isn’t a clear and parallel theological comparison, but in both these movies Scorsese depicts the head of a religion (or sect) during a time of intense turmoil.

“Last Temptation” shows us Jesus as merely a man, steeped in humanity and void of divinity – save that which is slowly given to him by God over a process of self-assessment.  It’s the story of Man made God.

“Kundun” shows us the Dali Lama as something much more than a man, filled with a mysterious and unnamed divine essence.  It’s also the story of Man made God.

That Scorsese portrays (at the most basic level) Jesus as a man and the Dali Lama as God is merely a large scale version of what we all do.  We force God to our level and elevate man to God’s level.

But the real Dali Lama is just a man, and nothing more.  Jesus Christ however is God.  And we don’t need to bring him to our level.  He did that himself when he made himself a man, dwelt among us, and gave himself up to bring us to God.  He’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  He’s the God-Man.

Funny how we switch these things around.

The Solitary Man

When our triune God created Man, He did it in community.  It was a group project.  The three-in-one Creator was never alone.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…’ ” – Genesis 1:26a

When God told Man to subdue the earth, He provided a human counterpart.  It too was a group project.  Adam was no longer alone.

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.’ ” – Genesis 2:18

When Man preferred confinement and distance from God, God brought community down with him.

” ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.’ ” – Matthew 1:23

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:1,14a

When the God-Man reestablished community between God and Man, and Man and Man, it was not a group project.  No, that part He did it alone.

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” – 1 Peter 3:18a

The one true Solitary Man found us self-absorbed and alone in our sins and became totally alone for us to bring us back into community.