Kingdom of Heaven Analysis

Topics: Humanism, Islam, Religion Pages: 5 (1806 words) Published: April 6, 2011
This is my longer analysis of the Kingdom of Heaven. Appreciate any feedback. [SPOILER WARNING] The Kingdom of Heaven is an anti-religion humanist epic. The moral of the story is that humanism is better than religion. KOH uses a traditional storytelling formula designed to convince people to reject a particular belief or worldview. A sympathetic hero begins the story believing in the worldview the screenwriter wants to discredit. After seeing the worldview for what it really is (according to the storyteller at least), the hero reluctantly rejects that worldview in favor of one the screenwriter wants to endorse. In this case the hero, Balian, starts as a Christian. Through the tribulations of a crusade, he bravely and nobly becomes a humanist.

Humanism is an ethical philosophy that involves the search for truth and morality through purely human means in support of purely human interests. In focusing on man´s capacity for self-determination, humanism rejects transcendental justifications, such as the supernatural and divine revelation (such as the Bible). Humanism also tends to be egalitarian, seeking to make all people equal in terms of wealth and societal status. The movie advocates all of these features of humanism.

It should be noted at the beginning that the movie does portray many real problems in Christianity and religion. For example, the real world has religious hypocrites, crimes done in Christ´s name, and dangerous theology (eg. the Roman theology of suicide or the burning dead bodies). The failing with KOH is its solution to these problems. The hero´s victory does not come by convincing the hypocrite to be authentic, reforming bad practices in religion, or reforming theology. Rather, KOH advocates the rejection of religion altogether. This statement by one the knights depicted by the movie as wise sums up the whole film: "œI put no stock in religion."

The movie starts with Balian as a blacksmith in a small French village. His beloved wife has committed suicide. This event begins the portrayal of religion as wicked. According to the theological understanding of the time, suicide was believed to be an irredeemable sin. In other words, if someone committed suicide he or she went to hell. The village priest (who symbolizes religion generally) not only refuses to bury her but also posthumously punishes her by having her head cut off.

This is a good example of a real problem that the movie could have handled with a good solution. No sin is irredeemable. If a genuine Christian is so overcome by the lies the Devil that he commits suicide, he will still go to heaven. That sin, like all others, has been redeemed by Christ. The Roman theology of the time was wrong on this point. Balian´s ultimate response to this and other problems is to reject religion. A better response to the same problem was seen in the Luther movie. A boy committed suicide and the people expect he will go to hell. Like Balian, Luther was faced with a a crises of what to make of this. Instead of rejecting religion altogether, Luther challenges this theology of suicide on Christian grounds. He says the boy was overcome by the deception of the Devil and that God will forgive him. Luther insists on burying the boy with a Christian burial and says last rites over him. It is the same problem (the incorrect theological notion of suicide as an irredeemable sin), but the movies have very different solutions. In KOH it is a step towards the rejection of religion. In Luther it leads to purification of religion. The priest has other problems. He is a thief. He steals a gold cross off the corpse. He is also cruel. He mocks the grieving Balian, jeering that Balian´s wife is in hell. With a smile, he wonders what she is doing in hell with no head. The priest models the wickedness present in nearly every religious authority in the movie. Balian murders the priest in a fit of rage and seeks forgiveness by going to Jerusalem.

A series of events in...
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