"Communism" is an ugly word in the United States and has been closely associated if not altogether defined by fascist leaders like Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. But actor and filmmaker Matthew Modine says there is another leader who was a communist but isn't like the others: Jesus.
"I think that you could define [Jesus] as a Utopian communist, where people would work together to solve our problems," Modine told The Christian Post on Wednesday.
His film, "Jesus Was A Commie," is a 15-minute narration in which Modine appeals to people everywhere to cooperate with one another as they address political, religious and environmental issues around the world.
"According to the Bible, Jesus and his followers chose to own nothing, and shared their belongings. There were no needy people among them. Those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales, put it at the Apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. By this definition, Jesus and his followers were communists," he says in the film.
Modine told CP that he isn't a Christian, but is "spiritual" and is open to the ideas and philosophies of a number of religious teachers. He said that the "common thread" that he finds between people like Ghandi, Buddha, Jesus and even Martin Luther King Jr. is love and forgiveness.
"The film is not so much about Jesus or communism, but it's about cooperation," he said.
When asked why he made the film, he says he doesn't attribute his inspiration to any one event but rather a lifetime's worth of experience and watching the world change around him.
"The simply answer...was from a lifetime of living and seeing how the United States, in particular, has changed in my lifetime: the divisiveness that exists in the country, the hypocrisy that I find in most religions, the animosity that exists rather than the openness of love," he said.
Modine believes the world is at a major tipping point because of issues like climate change, overuse of natural resources and a rapid increase in the human population. These things need to be addressed, he says, or there could be a "horrible kind of apocalyptic ending" to human history.
"Our responsibility for the sustainability of our planet is up to us. It's up to each of us to cooperate with one another and to find peaceable solutions to the problems that we face," he said.
"Jesus Was a Commie" has been shown internationally in Germany, Italy and Canada, and Modine says people in those countries don't doubt that Jesus was a communist, but they are curious to know what Americans think about the film. When Americans think of communism they think of "fascistic dictators" who were "responsible for the deaths of millions of people," he says, when they should be thinking about the Utopia imagined by Karl Marx.
There is little doubt that the title of the film may turn some people off to it before they even watch it, but Modine says the skeptics should give it a chance.
"What I will say, without exception, is the people that were offended by the title were the most positively affected having seen the film. The film reminds them to open their hearts, to open their eyes, and to see the world with the kind of teachings that the parables of Jesus shared."
As an actor, Modine has appeared in the movie "Full Metal Jacket," the television series "Weeds" and also plays a role in the upcoming Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises."
On Thursday evening, "Jesus Was A Commie" kicks off the Connecticut Film Festival, and Modine's other short films "Somebody," "I Think I Thought" and "To Kill an American" will also be shown.