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Cool Hand Luke and Christ

Cool Hand Luke and Christ June 7, 2021

Warner Bros Entertainment via “purpleclover.littlethings.com”

Way back when I was auditioning my writing for Patheos, I wrote a sample piece about Cool Hand Luke as an allegory for the life of Jesus Christ. The film follows Paul Newman’s character, Luke, after he is interned in a state prison. Luke’s defiant spirit frustrates the prison’s tyrannical regime. Luke not only resists their oppression but also becomes something of a savior to the other prisoners.

I was intrigued by not only the film’s religious imagery but also by the very prospect of imagining the savior of the world as a criminal. As a sampler, here’s a segment of the piece:

Whether this film’s brand of smirking rebelliousness befits the Savior of the world depends on your perception of Christ himself. After all, many of Christ’s teachings (e.g. love your enemies) were considered radical, even controversial in his day. Christ, like Luke, was after all “a natural-born world-shaker.”

Just so, when the Bible does describe Jesus’ appearance, it doesn’t describe him as being charismatic. He was not described as charming or having Paul Newman’s flashing smile. (Isaiah 53:2 “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”) However, cunning and worldly beauty are attributes associated with another scriptural figure whose charm also led many into acts of defiance, rebellion, and riotousness . . .

The entry was uploaded onto the site as a guest post, but now that I’m part of the club I’m officially grafting it to my site. Check out this piece in its fullness here.


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