A Polite Bribe w/Gerd Ludemann

When: Thu., Nov. 8, 7 p.m. 2012

A figure of persistent controversy, the Apostle Paul has had his actions parsed for millennia, including his offering of aid from Gentile churches to Jewish religious leaders in starvation-plagued Jerusalem 30 years after Christ’s death. Was this an acknowledgment of solidarity with Christianity’s cradle — or as the title of Robert Orlando’s documentary suggests, payola meant to smooth the way for Paul’s evangelical mission? As arcane as the argument may sound alongside more pressing contemporary concerns, it has brought down heat once more on one of the movie’s interview subjects: maverick German theologian Gerd Lüdemann, formerly of the Vanderbilt Divinity School, whose standing as a self-professed “non-theist” has made him a revered (and reviled) challenger to some of Christianity’s most cherished beliefs. As Rob Simbeck wrote in a 2002 Scene profile, “He is famous — or notorious, depending on one’s predisposition — for saying what every liberal biblical scholar has heard and what a not insubstantial number believe: that many of the claims of classical Christianity, including its cornerstone, the Resurrection, are pious fluff that simply doesn’t hold up in the face of modern historical research and post-Enlightenment sensibilities.” Lüdemann, a part-time Nashvillian whose book Paul the Founder of Christianity provided the film with its title, co-hosts a screening tonight at Green Hills with director Orlando; the post-screening discussion is being filmed — which should give you an idea of the sparks the filmmakers expect. See apolitebribe.com for more details.

Jim Ridley

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