Ethos Education

Life of Pi: Why do Christians regard Jesus as being central to their faith?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Knowledge of the ways in which, according to believers, God can be known.
  • Understand key concepts about God’s nature.
  • Understanding of what Christians believe about the identity of Jesus.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect on the reasons why they like and dislike different things.
  • Analyse a film clip to determine why someone could disagree with some elements of Christian belief but be strongly drawn to the person of Jesus.
  • Analyse a Bible passage to determine what Christians believe about Jesus.
  • Reflect on the significance of the Christian belief that Jesus is fully human and fully divine.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a summary of the student’s own opinions concerning Jesus.

STARTER:

Ask the students to all stand up while you read through a list of things. Ask them to remain standing if, broadly speaking, they like each thing you read out and to sit down if they don’t like it. After each item on the list invite students to suggest why they like or dislike it. Stand everybody up again before reading each new item. Use all or some of the following:

  • Football
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Ice cream
  • Justin Bieber
  • RE lessons
  • Weekends
  • Christianity
  • Jesus

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about the reasons why people may or may not be drawn to a particular religion, and in particular thinking about why people react as they do to the Christian faith.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from Life of Pi (20th Century Fox, 2012, certificate PG). Click here to buy the DVD online.

It’s worth noting that the central character in Life of Pi holds Hindu, Christian and Muslim religious views, and sees no problem with adhering to all three religions simultaneously. This lesson focuses on his Christian beliefs. By starting the clip a few minutes earlier and finishing a few minutes later, it would be possible to make a different lesson on Pi’s syncretism.

Explain that the film shows the adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) telling the story of his life to a young author. In this clip Pi (who also holds Hindu and Muslim beliefs) tells how he came to become a Christian. Ask the students to pay particular attention to which aspects of the Christian message Pi found off-putting and which he found attractive.

  • Start time: 0.14.47 (beginning of chapter 4 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.17.10
  • Clip length: 2 minutes and 23 seconds

The clip starts with the line, ‘I met Christ in the mountains when I was twelve.’ It ends with the line, ‘The longer I listened to the priest, the more I liked this son of God.’ Be ready to stop the clip promptly, as the next line – which follows quickly – shows Pi’s tendency to mix and match religions and will be confusing in the context of this lesson.

Ask the students what Pi thought of the priest’s initial comments about God and Jesus. Remind them of the following exchange:

(Flashback Pi) ‘Why would a god do that? Why would he send his own son to suffer for the sins of ordinary people’

(Flashback priest) ‘Because he loves us. God made himself approachable to us, human, so we could understand him. We can’t understand God in all his perfection, but we can understand God’s son and his suffering, as we would a brother’s’.

Allow some time for the students to discuss the priest’s argument. Do the students agree that it is easier to understand Jesus’ life and his suffering as a demonstration of God’s love than it is to understand the concept of a loving God?

Ask the students to read Colossians 1:15-20. Ask them how this passage might be used to support the priest’s assertion that Jesus’ life helps people to understand more abstract concepts of what God is like. Draw out that in describing Jesus as ‘the image of the invisible God’, the writer is saying that in Jesus people can see what God is like. The passage goes on to talk about the redeeming work of Jesus’ death, which also relates to the priest’s comments about Jesus’ suffering.

Ask the students why they think Pi became so fascinated with the Christian faith despite his initial assessment that it made no sense. Remind them of two lines from the clip: ‘But this son, I couldn’t get him out of my head.’ and ‘The┬álonger I listened to the priest, the more I liked this son of God.’

Explain that many Christians would argue that the Christian faith is uniquely centred on the person of Jesus. While the founders of other major religions seek to point past themselves to something else, Jesus actively tells people that if they want to find God they can only do so through him (refer the students to John 14:5-7 as an example). Jesus’ identity as fully human and at the same time fully divine is central to Christian belief.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write their own personal account of what they think about Jesus. They should demonstrate their understanding of what Christians believe about Jesus, while also addressing the question of whether they find him to be attractive, off-putting or of no relevance.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A copy of the film Life of Pi and the means to play it.
  • Bibles.

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