The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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The Passion of Fools

February 25th, 2004 · No Comments · culture, media

With the release of Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, the reactions have largely fallen into two camps — both of which illustrate the lack of historical and theological understanding that Christians have of their faith.

The True Believers say that the shocking illustration of violence against their savior reinforced for them the magnitude of sacrifice Christ made for them. They’ll say it like this: “Now I understand what a sacrifice Christ made for me.” Thanks, Paul — you’ve succeeded in tossing out whatever validity the real human Jesus may have had through his life and teachings in favor of the fantasy superhero Christ. Like Santa Claus, dropping merrily into every house on a single evening, the Christ was able to project his actions thousands of years into the future to touch specific individuals. Or better yet: he’s still alive, you know… just like Elvis. If it’s okay to worship a fantasy being, why not pick one that lives a happy life?

The Skeptics complain that Gibson’s movie vilifies the Jews and overplays the violence. If anything, this shows an remarkable lack of understanding of both the words of the Gospels and the context from which they were written. The Gospels were violent and were strongly anti-Jewish. They were written at a time when the Jews were non-entities and the Romans were the dominant cultural force. Of course the Romans are written in to either look like heroes or, at the very least, agents of benign neglect. As Americans, we live in a world largely free of violence, and it is difficult for us to imagine the scope and breadth of pain inflicted upon convicts in the Roman world, especially those indicted for political uprisings. If anything, Gibson was unable to entirely show complete realism without achieving an NC-17 rating. It is impossible to create an accurate portrayal of any of the Gospels without producing a work full of violence and anti-Jewish sentiment, because these things are inherent and structurally vital to the texts.

As for me, I’ll probably wait until I can rent The Passion and watch it as a capper after Event Horizon and Jacob’s Ladder.