<i>The Passion of The Christ</i>

For several days I had most of this post worked out in my head. I know the story well, so I knew most of what I would comment on. I just wanted to wait until I had seen the movie before commenting on it. Now I am having difficulty with the post, as I am in serious awe. The big surprise was how powerful the movie was. This is not the normal glossing over that Hollywood usually does. This is the "in your face", nothing held back, telling of the last hours of Jesus Christ's earthly life. The movie is deeply troubling, as the story should be.

What makes this story so powerful is that it contains a lot of wisdom, and it is universal. The story shows the jealousy and corruption of individuals who are given authority over other individuals. It is the horror of mob rule, the weakness of man's spirit when given a choice, yet also the strength and love that is possible. These things are universal. Christ could have lived in any time and any place and would still be tortured and put to death. Peter would still deny Christ while in a hostile crowd. The priests would still bear fraudulent testimony against Jesus. The local politician would still wonder at the innocence of Jesus and yet hand him over to the executioner, because it was the pragmatic and expedient thing to do. The local constabulary would still follow orders and kill him while admitting his innocence. This story has been played over and over again in every society and in every time.

The critics who suggest that the movie's violence is "pornographic" have perceptual problems (or bad memory). While the blood and gore are pretty much non-stop, it is not as bad as the battle scenes of The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan, or many recent thrillers. More importantly, the blood and gore are critical in telling the story. It is a bloody story, scourging and crucifixion are brutal practices.

I failed to find any of the anti-semitism the critics have found. The critics must be unable to differentiate between individuals, and can only think in terms of a mob. In every scene there are Jewish individuals who love Christ and do not want to see him in pain, as well as the Jewish individuals who wish him dead. I left the movie wanting to hurt people who think they should have authority over others. Even worse is that these critics must not see the universal nature of the story, and think they and their society are above this type of action. Were I a betting man, I'd wager that if Jesus walked amongst us today it would be these same people that would be at the forefront of the mob calling for his death and we'd soon see people wearing gold hypodermic needles or perhaps tiny gold tanks.

The Passion of The Christ is an excellent depiction of Christ's death. The use of Aramaic and Latin (even if mispronounced, how can one tell?) in no way detracts from the movie, and as John T. Kennedy suggests, actually adds to the experience. To someone who has done "blood and gore" makeup, there are shots where the latex and red colored syrup are obvious as such (actually in one scene it looked like an ill-fitting body suit). I'm not sure if the typical viewer would notice it. I also liked the details around Satan in the various scenes. He looks almost angelic until you notice the maggot crawl from his mouth and up his nostril, or his clawlike fingernails. (If anything the movie is anti-North European, why is the only fair skinned blue eyed person Satan? Obviously the work of the Devil!)

The only thing I can figure about the critics is that they really want to hate this movie, but their real reasons for hating it cannot be publicly aired, so they end up digging for excuses about why they don't like it. Mel Gibson has been doing a lot of pro-individual movies recently, perhaps the religious theme just pushed the critics past their limits.

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(Note, I haven't seen the

(Note, I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've skimmed the book.)

While you make some good points about mob mentality and the banal evils of bureaucracy, I fail to see how The Passion could be considered an pro-individualistic movie.

The core message of the whole story is that we are all collectively responsible for Christ's death, even today. How does this support individualism?

For that matter, since Xtians insist that they are monotheists, how is Christ's sacrifice meaningful? If he's part of the Trinity, then he sacrificed himself, to his own creation, knowing full well he'd have everlasting life.

Perhaps I should say

Perhaps I should say anti-collective, or anti-human-authority movie?

The core message is not that "we" are collectively responsible. The responsibility is God's alone. God did not have to offer sinners a way to eternal life. He could allow each of us to just die. But God is like the entrepreneur - he has sacrificed some portion of Himself to serve his customers. The product is life and grace, the target market is every individual, the price is love and respect for the Creator, and acceptance of His sacrifice. It is up to each individual to voluntarily accept or reject His offer.

Well, coming from an

Well, coming from an Episcopalian background, I'd have to say that the Nicene Creed is pretty clear on the issue of who was responsible for Christ's death...

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried...

It sure sounds like we, as a group, are on the hook for his crucifixion to me. Despite the fact that we live almost two millennia after his death.

For the Catholics, it's even worse. You're born in sin and without accepting his "sacrifice", you're fated for eternal torment. Because of your actions? No, because two people living in paradise desired knowledge. Hardly a message of individual responsibility, and a pretty good basis for anti-intellectualism.

Moreover, you're not even responsible for your own actions, as long as you repent.

Perhaps Mel Gibson's rendition of the stations of the cross has a more individualist slant. I can't know yet. But the central message of Xtianity is anything but "anti-collective".

I'll put on my Christian hat

I'll put on my Christian hat for a moment and speak in terms of Christian theology (lest I be mistaken for speaking generally):

We are all individually responsible for Christ's death, and each person individually must settle accounts with God.

That God made the dispensation open to everyone is hardly collective, and that there is a defect common to every individual can hardly be called collective.

Any person who sinned is responsible for Christ's death, thus everyone is (since everyone is a sinner). Its not that "well, because one guy was bad, all of you gotta go".

And yes, in all cases it's because of your actions. Who among us has not sinned against God, at one point or another? And sinning is separating ones self from God (an action one takes, not something that just happens to you). Unless that separation is repaired, why *would* you be with God when you die?

For us and for our

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried...

Where is my responsibility? It is clear from this that God's sacrifice is for my benefit - but how does that make it my responsibility? Am I responsible for IBM because I use computers?

For the Catholics, it's even worse.

I am specifically not a Roman Catholic, so I'll refrain from answering.

Moreover, you're not even responsible for your own actions, as long as you repent.

There's a lot of straw there. Forgiveness is given, not removal of responsibility. There is a huge difference.

"We are all individually

"We are all individually responsible for Christ's death, and each person individually must settle accounts with God."

Well, I think you just made my point.

Q: How can we ALL be INDIVIDUALLY responsible for something that happened 2000 years ago?

David - I enjoyed reading

David -

I enjoyed reading your review, but you fell prey to over generalization when you stated "While the blood and gore are pretty much non-stop..."

I viewed the film Sunday, appropriately enough, and I took a peek at my watch at the start of the "blood and gore," which, I'm guessing you'll agree is when Jesus is turned over to the Roman soldiers for his scourging. That scene did not last beyond 25 minutes.

The "blood and gore" was not "pretty much non-stop." I would not count Jesus' walk to Golgotha as "blood and gore." The walk to the skull portrayed a badly beaten individual struggling to reach his place to die with a cross on his back, while he bled from wounds previously inflicted.

John, thanks. We'll have to

John, thanks.

We'll have to agree to disagree. I consider "blood and gore" scenes to be any where the actor(s) are covered in blood and gore. Thus I would consider the walk to Golgatha to be "blood and gore". You are correct that it is not the same as the scourging.

Q: How can we ALL be

Q: How can we ALL be INDIVIDUALLY responsible for something that happened 2000 years ago?

Brian just said that we're not, as such (though some Christians would disagree) - it's our inevitably unsatisfactory nature of our human behavior for which we're responsible and for which we're expected to ask forgiveness.

I personally have no plans to see this movie. I don't see how viewing an exaggerated depiction of violence (I've read accounts saying that no human body could remotely withstand the amount of whipping and lacerating Jesus undergoes in the torture scenes, much less walk away from it) is necessary or helpful to understanding the Crucifixion story. I disagree with the notion that the amount of blood and violence correlates with verisimilitude or emotional or dramatic weight. Plus, I personally just don't enjoy looking at that sort of thing. ^_^

I have to agree with Alex on

I have to agree with Alex on the aesthetics. I'm not a blood'n'gore freak, and while some people may need to see such a graphic representation to understand Christ's suffering, I dont think I'm one of them. And yeah, I just dont like bloody films. (I've only seen Saving Private Ryan once, because once of that level of gore and violence is quite enough; though I imagine that's part of the point.)

To wkw3:

When Christians say "we're responsible for his death", it's in reference to our innate sinfulness, which required a "sacrifice to end all sacrifices" on God's part to redeem us. Not that there was a crime 2000 years ago and we're still being punished for it.

Isn't it more appropriate to

Isn't it more appropriate to take Mel at his word as a very traditional Catholic and appreciate that the blood and gore of the Passion is nothing compared to the eventual Apocalypse? Certainly Jesus, as a human sacrifice, had no illusion about a God of Love, warning his followers in the Lord's Prayer to keep an eye out for God's well-known tendency to tempt the faithful. So even though Satan may be conveniently kept out of circulation for a while, he will be released once again by the God of Love, even after the blood sacrifice of his own Son which will rescue a relatively small portion of mankind. This is not a religion for the faint of heart. Do you think Mel is joking when he says he worries about the future of his non-Catholic wife? Mel knows. You better believe.

One of my cobloggers and I

One of my cobloggers and I have been having a minor kerfluffle today about this over at ThatsNewstoMe.blogspot.com (if the URL doesn't show). Short version: his take is "Jewish individuals who love Christ and do not wish to see him in pain" = Christians and "Jewish individuals who wish him dead" = Jews. Christians Good, Jews Bad, thus anti-semitic. I've been trying to convince him he's wrong, using the broader definition of "love" from equating Christ's commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself, without any success. Any comments on the subject?