Hinkley High School didn’t offer AP Chemistry, so every morning, my friends Steve and Dan and I piled into Steve’s black vintage Thunderbird and trekked to Gateway High.  The front seats were stuck in ‘recline,’ and since Dan was taller than I, I took the backseat.  For the fifteen minute ride, we talked about day-to-day mundanities that seem important at the time, but fade as years accumulate:  Did you get this answer on the homework? Who are you taking to prom?  Which colleges have you heard from?

But the times all three of us were groggy or belligerently silent, Steve, a Peter Gabriel fan, put on music.  So and Shaking the Tree were our soundtracks.  Every so often, he’d slip in Passion:  Music for The Last Temptation of Christ, and I imagined that the drive down Chambers Road was a desert journey:  police sirens and ululations; car tires thrumming over potholes and African talking drums.

We knew of The Last Temptation of Christ because of the controversy, another shot in the endless culture war, whose targets would eventually encompass Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” Kevin Smith’s Dogma, Chris Ofili’s “Black Madonna,” and David Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in My Belly.”  But what makes something sacrilegious?  When an upscale dessert spot opened in Cherry Creek a few years ago, members of my parent’s temple were offended by a Buddha statue placed in front of the bathrooms.  They asked the management to move it.  Similarly, in Philadelphia, my sister huffed when we passed Buddhakhan, a yuppie-favored restaurant that features a gilded, oversized Buddha.

“We should,” my sister said, “open a theme restaurant with a big, honking Jesus overlooking everyone.”  Sample menu:  holy blood pudding, Disci-pulled pork, Communion wafer cookies.  The bar would serve nothing but rusty nails.  The name of the restaurant:  ‘The Last Supper,’ of course.

In the Last Supper scene of The Last Temptation of Christ, Willem Dafoe, as Christ, is calmly resigned to his fate.  This the same man (God?  Son of God?) who, earlier in the film, doubted his own divinity.  Did his doubt redouble his faith, or does faith exist only in the absence of doubt?

Dan, Steve and I also had English together, and our teacher presented a Bible-as-literature section.  In it, a classmate and I performed the first act of Arthur Miller’s The Creation of the World and Other Business.  We also gave presentations on other religions:  I wore my sister’s Norma Kamali dress and silvery bangles and drew, on the chalkboard behind me, extra arms to represent Shiva, dancing the world into destruction.

Dan, a Mormon, showed a videotape re-enacting the history of Mormonism.  Shot PBS-style, with a baritone narration over sepia-tinted images, the film droned on, a pioneer Western stripped of its outlaws, Indian raids, wild shoot-outs.  But when the golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written were taken back to heaven, we erupted: What?  How’d that happen?  Did they get shipped Fed Ex?

Daniel, eyes flickering with visible agitation, remained silent, his faith unshakable.

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