Our viewing of Frida, the biopic about Mexican artists Frida Kahlo, threw up a number of issues that framed a fairly long discussion in our class this past week. One of the students wanted to know how it was possible to dialogue with a film that expressed ideas about communism, atheism and sexual or gender issues. I think that it exactly why it is ripe for a conversation but not everyone is on the same page, so we took a stab at exploring these issues with a view to some theological grapplings.
"Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritualess situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions."
We began with the full quote from Marx that is usually truncated and turned into something less than its true content. What Marx addresses is the condition of society as much as he addresses the problem of religion. That is not to say that he doesn't critique religion, but his lens is a societal one first and foremost. I am often surprised at the lack of engagement with marxist theory in some theological circles given its pervasive use in other disciplines--it would seem that a bare bones understanding of marxist theory and even marxist critique of religion would be a must--but I guess not.
Our discussion was fruitful in that it managed to put some things on the table that seem to have been largely ignored by many of these students, funny how a film about art became a catalyst for conversation about everything but that topic.