‘Land of Promise’ vs. ‘The Promised Land

I prefer the Land of Promise over The Promised Land.
I choose the silver apples, not the honey and milk.

I can visit this land at any time
without having to possess it,
not having to drive away anyone.
There is a gatekeeper, but there are no gates,
fences or concrete walls.

My nowhere beats your somewhere.
Possibility wins over reality.

But you have The Prince of Egypt, the Dreamworks picture.
I envy you that. I almost converted.

The Prince of Egypt

I have a love-hate relationship to musicals, consisting mostly out of hate. At least that is what I tell the world. I tell people I hate musicals and films that include songs, but I make exception for Jesus Christ Superstar, The Prince of Egypt, The Wicker Man, Aladin. Yes, that are a lot of exceptions.  I disliked the sentimentality of Les Miserables. I didn’t like its music and its aesthetics. But the music is so powerful that I have to give in, physically if not completely mentally.

In The Prince of Egypt, the combination of overpowering music, beautiful imagery and a religious theme is a strong one. As you subject yourself to the music, you might as well subject to its religious content. This seems to be the message. It is pure temptation. It could even be propaganda. Watching this film, I came closer to converting than I did during any church visit.

What does this mean?

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4 thoughts on “‘Land of Promise’ vs. ‘The Promised Land

  1. It means that you don’t have to struggle so hard to hate music or songs in film. 🙂 If done in a tasteful manner and intertwined with the story i don’t mind it at all. I love music as much as i love film. So when these two to melt together it can turn out into something powerful (At least for me). Then again, i don’t tend to hate a certain genre or stigmatise just because i don’t like a genre as much as i like certain others.
    Oh wait.. *ahem* I had a passionate hatred for the western genre. But ten years ago i watched Once Upon a Time in the West (a bit late to that party, i know) and i was blown away. It became one of my al time favorites. Western still isn’t my favorite genre, but if there’s a good story i can watch almost anything.

    As for the Prince of Egypt. I think the things that almost reeled you in where exactly the things you gave as a example. The beautiful imagery, music and a solid story made you connect somehow (I don’t think that the religious undertones/ aspects did that). The movie did the same for me. Now that’s good story telling.

    To cut things short. Don’t be afraid to love a couple of song in a movie now and again. 🙂

    1. Don’t be afraid to love musical films. I will heed your advise. 🙂

      The thing about religious/ spiritual experiences is that you cannot separate the content from its form. Like art I guess. Yes, you can enjoy watching prince of Egypt without becoming a Christian or a Jew. At no moment I thought, a god that murders innocent children must be infallible and all-powerful. I still have my critical faculties in place when I watch the movie. But, religion is about more that dogma or theological truths. Well, in my mind it isn’t about dogma or what’s written at all. Story-telling is key to religion or spirituality. And there is a longing in that movie, that hits the core of being human. It is a powerful story, and in combination with powerful music and powerful imagery … well that is a whole lot of power.

      After seeing the movie, I did not want to seriously convert. But whilst seeing the movie, there was a very strong pull and I realised how powerful stories can be. And perhaps also how they can be hijacked. It was beautiful and a bit scary.

      1. ‘But, religion is about more thaN dogma or theological truths’. Indeed. But most religious followers won’t step outside the boundries of their dogma. Again, just like art. Also, religion and the spiritual (faith) are two separate things. And more often than not people tend to confuse the two (Yes, even religious.. erh, especially religious people).

        ‘Story-telling is key to religion or spirituality’.
        Very true, but they both have a different agenda concerning storytelling. Religion uses storytelling to keep people in check to not think outside the box. On a spiritual level storytelling is there to broaden our horizon to open our minds to explore different things or to create new ones for ourselves.
        I guess that’s why the church is slowly losing ground. Religion is rather rigid when it comes to change. No to little room for the new.
        Yes, again like art.

        Religion is like Hollywood. Keep feeding people the same (dumb) stuff they all know. Keep it simple and safe. And after a while people won’t open their minds to the more spiritual open movies outside the whole hollywood thing. (I’m over generalizing a bit off course.. But hey..)

        Storytelling can be extremely powerful to let us feel, emote and care. Even if the subject matter isn’t our cup of thee. Even more than real life can be or do. I think that’s why the Bible is so powerful for many.

      2. “Religion and the spiritual (faith) are two separate things. And more often than not people tend to confuse the two.”

        This is a big can of worms, and a complicated question which I cannot answer here satisfactorily here. I like the word religion.I do not like it when religion is portrayed as inherently bad, because it is organized or because features a steep hierarchy. I am guessing you are thinking of the Catholic Church when you think of religion. Spirituality is also not the same as faith. I object to the placement of faith – when interpreted as faith in certain beliefs or gods, for there are other interpretations – is seen as central to religion. This is an idea very common in protestantism: your personal belief is what matters, not what you do. I do not care much if someone literally beliefs in gods. I am still not sure if I do. Yet I value my religious practices greatly. I think religion that focusses solely on what you belief in your head, is empty religion. Religion is something you do. I meditate, pray or light candles. If someone says they are Christian, but never pray, go to church, talk to their god, or bases their daily actions on their beliefs, I am not sure I see the point. In any case, I will not let Christianity or Islam define what religion is an call Pagan religions spiritual movements. Why should I? Religion should invite adventure, personal growth, a willingness to engage with the world and its inhabitants. Religion should be spiritual that way.

        Yes, I do not care much for the Catholic Church as an institution and I understand the Calvinistic attempts during the Reformation to make Christianity more democratic. But really, if you strip away the beautiful churches, the art, the traditions and the rituals and all you are left with is personal faith … there really is not much left. Perhaps it is a matter of taste, but I would prefer Gregorian hymns to the songs on ‘EO-jongerendag’ who seem to be dumbed down to kindergarten level. (Of course the songs I heard in the Catholic church I used to visit, weren’t anything like Gregorian.)

        “Religion uses storytelling to keep people in check to not think outside the box. On a spiritual level storytelling is there to broaden our horizon to open our minds to explore different things or to create new ones for ourselves.”
        Why could religion not do the same? Paganism is as much religion to me as spirituality. (and yes, I just think spirituality is an ugly word)

        “Storytelling can be extremely powerful to let us feel, emote and care. (…) Even more than real life can be or do. I think that’s why the Bible is so powerful for many.” But what if I experience the story of Mozes (as portrayed in The Prince of Egypt) as more powerful, that the myths of my own gods/religion? That was the thing the disconcerted me and that I am trying to figure out. Perhaps it has to do with the multiplicity of stories within Pagan traditions as opposed to the linear story-telling of Mozes. But again, don’t worry, I am not converting.

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