Just last week, I got together with a couple of friends to watch Jesus of Montreal, a movie I’ve been watching every year with different combinations of friends for over 20 years now. It’s a great movie, but it has some problematic details, one of which is a scene in which the main character, an actor, strikes a commercial producer across the face with a bundle of electrical cords. The scene is meant to echo the story of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the Temple, and it very effectively captures what is so disturbing in that Gospel account: the idea of Jesus using violence.
If you’re squeamish about this, you can always imagine that he managed to drive out the moneychangers with a “whip of small cords” without actually hurting anybody, but I’m not sure if this really eliminates the problem. The picture remains of Jesus acting in a way that we fervently teach our children never to adopt, because violence is never the answer.
What, then, are we to make of this story? Fortunately, the purpose of the Wineskin Project is not to divine answers to questions like this, but to cast the questions themselves into as sharp relief as possible. I can ask, along with the priests in the story, “By what authority is Jesus doing this?” but if forced to answer for myself, can only say, along with those priests when Jesus turned the tables on them with a question of his own, “I do not know.”