This weekend I was provided a special opportunity to preview a new original series coming to CNN -- Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, a CNN original series premiering March 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The episode focused on The Shroud of Turin, something I have admit until watching this show, never gave much thought. It still amazes me every time I watch or read about the Catholic faith how much I still don’t know and how much there is to be known. The Shroud of Turin is an object of fascination from the faithful point of view as well as scientific, in fact, the last time it showed in public 2010 more than 2 million visitors came to see it.
“A first-class panel of on-screen contributors will provide expert commentary – academics from the world’s best universities, including Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Oxford, provide historical and theological insight, while the likes of Father James Martin SJ (the editor of ‘America’ the United States’ national Catholic magazine), the Rev. Paul Raushenbush (executive religion editor of the Huffington Post), and Erwin MacManus, senior pastor of MOSAIC Los Angeles, help bring our characters and their emotional journeys to life for our audience.”
The reenactments were all done exclusively for this new series are so well done; I actually had to inquire if they were from a movie or indeed, as I’ve already stated but I think bears repeating, created solely for the purpose of the show. The reenactments are tastefully done - to me at least - revealing the incredibly act of the violence Jesus endured and the amount of blood that would have been available to cover the Shroud yet not overwhelming the viewer. Full disclosure: I did overt my eyes a few times – so it is possible there was more shown than I PERSONALLY WITNESSED!
From start to finish Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery was riveting. I particularly marveled at the explanation of the many markings on the cloth – it was something until I watched this that I had never fully appreciated. Nor did I ponder some of the deep spiritual back stories going on in the Gospels – such as how “meeting Jesus for one time was life changing, and that probably changed Joseph of Arimathea’s life” (Fr. James Martin), or the meeting between Pontius Pilot and Joseph – powerful!! As Fr. Martin goes on to explain, “You can imagine this was a very tense meeting between the two men.” Lost in my sometimes perfunctory listening to the Mass readings was the fact Joseph of Arimathea had to get permission to take Jesus body, and never did I consider the risk he took in that kind act.
“Also offering expert analysis throughout the series is David Gibson, an award-winning journalist and filmmaker who specializes in covering the Catholic Church. He is co-author of the series’ companion book from St. Martin’s Press, also titled Finding Jesus, due to be released Feb. 24.” Gibson reminds the viewer, “The Shroud of Turin is an icon of scientific obsession. If can prove the shroud is real, it is proof Jesus existed.”
Of course as a believer there are counter-points that are difficult to hear, but I think if I am going to adopt an enlightened opinion, I need to hear all sides. This CNN series is clearly going to cover the entire story – all the angles, and not just those that believers, like myself want to see. In making a well formed decision on anything, we need all the information – facts and varying points of view, observations or hypothesis, all that helps us to ponder and decide on our own what we will believe. While I do not personally buy into the alternate explanations, I will leave it for you to watch, and decide for yourself. Suffice it to say, it was thought-provoking but left me wondering why put all that work into a forgery? Of course, the answer could be the obvious – some people will do anything for money.
My final analysis? Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery is a must see for Lent (or anytime really). We do tend to sanitize the cross, as Duke Professor Mark Goodacre points out. Finding Jesus certainly removed the ‘pretty’ and reminded us of the raw reality; and then poses the question-- Does this Shroud provide us the tangible evidence to that reality? Don’t miss March 1st premiere.