Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven" -- Religion v. True Spirituality
by Patrick Roberts 12/30/2007 / Entertainment
Kingdom of Heaven takes place in Jerusalem during the 12th century Crusades. Orlando Bloom leads as an honest blacksmith named Balian. His wife commits suicide because their child was lost during childbirth. Balian travels to Jerusalem to redeem his wife's as well as his own soul.
Ridley Scott does a fantastic job developing the characters of Kingdom of Heaven, especially Orlando Bloom's personality. Balian goes from average blacksmith to leader of the Christian army in the battle to defend Jerusalem.
Balian's father (Liam Neeson) admits that he has led an imperfect life, but he does manage to teach Balian a few basic truths before he dies: Protect the weak, tell the truth and follow your conscience. This movie is a demonstration of how following a few basic truths is the surest way to radically change the world.
Balian is surrounded by politics and manmade religion, but he seeks something more spiritually substantial. He wants to put his faith in something genuine. At one point he tells his friend, "I've lost my religion," to which his friend replies, "I don't put much stock in religion." His friend goes on to explain that the true state of a man's heart and mind is what really matters.
Balian's peers encourage him to kill his arch enemy, Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) while he has the chance. Doing this will not only elevate Balian to the position of king, it will prevent a war with the Muslims that would cost thousands of lives. However Balian decides to obey his conscience. He refuses to commit one little evil to prevent what seems to be a greater evil.
Balian's decision leads to the fall of Jerusalem and the annihilation of the Christian army. From God's point of view, this was the right decision. Balian embraces the secret brilliance of faith by trusting God over his ability to crunch numbers. In God's economy, it is better to "tell the truth, even if this leads to your death," as Balian's father said. If Balian had compromised his convictions he might have prevented the death of thousands of people, but he honored God more substantially by trusting his conscience. This demonstrates the general rule that God's priorities are more valuable than human life.
The Kingdom of Heaven demonstrates the futility of manmade religion. Throughout the film reasonable men are at odds with selfish, religious fanatics. Some of the Christian leaders mindlessly chant "God wills it" just before they do something they know in their conscience to be wrong. Therefore Balian's simplified understanding of what is truly valuable, or what is truly God's will, stands in contrast to the stunning stupidity of the religious men surrounding him. Balian recognizes the fact that brick and mortar are not as valuable as human life.