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The Last Testament
September 8, 2017
by Jonas Bendiksen
“Surely I am coming back soon.”
The New Testament’s penultimate verse prophesying Jesus Christ’s imminent return remains one of history’s defining sentences. Christians have waited two thousand years for the second coming of Jesus Christ, when he will bring about the End Times, judge mankind and correct our hopelessly flawed existence. If he came, what would Jesus say about our contemporary world, and not the least what would today's people would make of the Son of God?
Luckily, those who are eager to meet the Savior might no longer have to wait: Two years ago Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen started a personal project to chronicle seven men who all publicly claim to be the biblical Messiah returned. Some are powerful and have thousands of followers. Others are true underdogs, with only a handful of disciples. All are united in the faith that they themselves are the Chosen One and have come to save the world.
Visiting their communities in England, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Zambia, Japan and the Philippines, he photographed the Messiahs themselves, as well as their disciples' daily life and rituals. Through photography, video, interviews, Scripture and historical material he explores who these individuals are, who the biblical Messiah was - and what people today yearn for him to be in the flesh.
The project is an invitation to imagine each of the claimants to be The One. The portrayed people all struggle to be taken seriously outside their own communities. But why do people brush them off as cult leaders or mentally ill? Do their followers have any less basis for their beliefs than adherents to mainstream religion? Where exactly lies the border between faith and delusions? To whom do we grant the privilege of defining what constitutes accepted religion?
Bendiksen's overriding theme is the mechanics of religion itself, a force that continues to shape society. The result is an exploration that encourages reflection about the boundaries of belief, while simultaneously telling a unique, colorful and surprising story.
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