Jesus Geek

Unlike those who fear impertinence — say, Sunday school teachers or the fundamentalists who reared him — Brian Flemming takes questions.

Even when he’s already asking the tough ones himself.

So when Open Circle’s Spiritual Cinema Series unveils The God Who Wasn’t There, Flemming’s new documentary, he’ll be around afterward to discuss his contention that Jesus Christ never existed. He entertains frequent challenges: e-mails and letters and accusations of allegiance to Satan. Spreading his dark Good News at more than a dozen screenings, he has withstood thoughtful criticism as well as threats of damnation.

“I hear all the time people saying that I want to destroy Christianity,” he says. “To that I say, ‘I just want to end Christianity as we know it.'”

This probably doesn’t make people feel better.

But the Bible is literature, he contends, and he sees no sense that its mix of contradictory and impossible stories — themselves mostly cribbed from earlier myths, as he makes clear in the film — should be given credence. “The future I see for Christianity is that we treat it [the Bible] the same as the plays of Shakespeare or the books of Greek or Norse mythology.”

His film takes a lighter touch than you might expect, and despite his own sometimes ironic narration, it builds a real case, focusing on the origins of the origin stories — about which he claims today’s Christians are wholly unknowledgeable.

Flemming is likable and talkative, and he seems to be holding up fine to the scrutiny. But, he concedes, “Some friends are very disappointed, and we have to avoid the subject.”

A few years back, Flemming wrote the book for Batboy: The Musical, which was about the strange things people believe. Now he’s overseeing the indie distribution of the God documentary; up next is his third film, The Beast, a thriller that shares themes with The God Who Wasn’t There. “It’s the anti-Left Behind,” he promises.

And despite no formal contract with Satan, he has scheduled that one, tentatively, for release on 6/6/2006.