To me, Easter has always meant Ben Hur. Raised Lutheran, I’d heard a million versions of Christ’s life and death stories by age eight, but I didn’t relate to him. At all. Being a visual person, if I couldn’t see Jesus, he didn’t exist. Hollywood, working in such a visual medium, fixed all that for me with just one viewing of Ben Hur. I loved the movie.
Unfortunately, I was so blown away with the Hur character – far more than the Holy Messiah – that I got Christ mixed up with Ben Hur. Even to this day, when I think of the Chosen One, I think of Chuck Heston. And why not? Wasn’t the movie more about Hur? Wasn’t Hur a great man, too? And wasn’t Charlton Heston a hunk? After all, it was Hur who rode in the chariot race, not Christ. (Anyway, Christ would have been disqualified since it’d been rumored he could perform miracles and would might be tempted to rig the Chariot 500 in his favor.) To a young boy, chariot races ranked over feeding a crowd of people with just one loaf of bread any day.
Unfortunately, I’m a man now and still have trouble seeing Christ as anything but Heston. Every Easter weekend, I resurrect the movie and watch all three hours of this film classic. The religious feeling comes all over my body just like it did many years ago, especially when I hear Hur say, “With my cold dead hands!”
But the tingling sensations are fleeting and completely wiped away the second I think of Charlton Heston at that NRA rally, holding a rifle high over his head, proclaiming his right to own guns will be taken away only “from my cold dead hands.” Just that quickly, all the uplifting, spiritual, goose pimple feelings turn cold.
Religion has been a double edge sword for me from the beginning. Read more about it in the introduction to Chapter 4, “Religion,” from my memoir, Maybe Boomer.