Jesus Was A Commie is a film essay by actor/writer/director Matthew Modine. Though the 15-minute short came out in 2011, what he has to say about love and compassion as a society is just as relevant today (which is now the most cliched statement I’ve written in a long time). With the current climate, I wonder if Modine would still say these words today.
As a critic, I’ve had this discussion with many of my peers about whether we judge a film based on its intrinsic qualities as a film, or judge it based on whether we agree with its overall point and content. The middle child in me chooses both but leaning heavily to the artistic side of things. Check out American Circumcision for a great discussion.
Thankfully, the piece is not about why Matthew Modine believes Jesus was a communist. Instead, he uses the provocative statement as a springboard to a more significant discussion. Modine starts by saying that communism failed in Russia, China, North Korea, and everywhere else because of the corruption of its leaders and ruling parties. If you break down the word and basic idea behind it, you’d find that Jesus was practicing a form of communism when he told his followers to sell all their possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.
The balance of the piece has Modine wondering what the world we be like if everyone adopted a selfless attitude like Christ. He mentions Jesus’ words to a mob wanting to stone a woman caught in adultery: “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” What would happen if we asked ourselves this question instead of criticizing someone we disagree with?
“…Jesus was practicing a form of communism when he told his followers to sell all their possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.”
As a short film, Jesus Was a Commie is a beautiful art piece like a coffee table book. Modine narrates his essay from start to finish with footage of himself in locations all over the world like Asia and Eastern Europe. He often stands as the lone Westerner on the busy streets, coffee shops, et cetera. The most compelling image is a large projection of Ronald Reagan on a brick wall, as Modine questions whether he was the real reason the Berlin Wall fell.
Why watch Modine’s film? Simply because it’s a visually compelling film, and he masterfully articulates his thoughts. If you’re open, then let him challenge your worldview—especially if you’re a conservative Christian or a progressive who’s just one click away from #cancelling a person.
If you care about my opinion, my real qualm is with the argument set forth by the title. No, I don’t believe Jesus was a communist. He was a spiritual leader, not a political one, and his words were meant to speak to the heart of every individual—not to a soulless government. Selling our riches and redistributing it (or charity) is a matter of character, not politics. If you hoard your wealth (no matter the amount) and don’t help those in need, what does that say about your character?
When Jesus commanded his disciples to sell everything they had for the poor, it was not Jesus’ attempt to reform government, but a lesson to his believers that God will provide their daily needs. Trusting God will provide for you, and turn one’s true calling towards, as Modine points out, love and empathy for our fellow man and woman. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus Was A Commie is by no means a religious piece, but a challenge to consider our hearts in the area of compassion, empathy, and love. We’ll now take an offering…
Jesus Was A Commie is now streaming on Bitpix.
Directed by Matthew Modine and Terence Ziegler
Produced by Adam Rackoff
Starring Matthew Modine
Written by Matthew Modine
Edited By Terence Ziegler
"…my real qualm is with the argument set forth by the title."