Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Passion of Ignorance...
Quite a bit has been bandied about concerning the Mel Gibson film, "The Passion of the Christ". I haven't seen it yet, since I never seem able to actually get into a theatre, no matter how early I arrive, no less, because the hoopla certainly does attract people to the cinema. And some interesting ones as well. The hoopla, or kerfuffle (to quote the WSJ), if you will, revolves around a few salient points: the film is anti-semitic, the film is blasphemous, it's gory and violent. I can't speak to any of this because I STILL HAVE NOT SEEN IT!

I have tried twice to get in to see this movie, and both times, all shows were sold out. That either indicates that people have finally been interested in something beyond the three inches in front of their own noses (a good thing) and are partaking in the movie experience, or, that people are sheep being herded into movie theatres by a media blitz. Theatres in this area are staying open late to include extra shows, and even with that, they're all swamped. Either way, even standing in line outside the theatre is an interesting experience.

To begin with, both times that I've stood in line I was harrangued, politely though, by Southern Baptists that were kind enough to make the trip from Virginia, North Carolina, and even Alabama, who tried (in vain!) to talk me out of seeing the movie. All have said they were interested in "saving my soul", which if you ask me, left my person somewhere around 1985 after 12 years of Catholic school, but I digress. What my soul, or the vestigal remnants thereof ,requires rescue from is never quite spelled out. The well-meaning and earnest little teenage girls that hand out little prayer meeting notices (on glossy, hip-looking, 5x8 advertisment cards --- almost as if the church is throwing a rave!), wearing "God Loves NY" t-shirts, can never quite articulate what is so evil about the film, but they assure me with the certainty of the believer, that this is so. Ask them if they have seen it, and the response rates somewhere between "Not on your life" and "no I haven't, but...".

Their objection, apparently, is that the film depicts Christ and it does not matter at all whether that depiction is flattering, indifferent or gross. Christ should not be depicted, period. Christ should definately never be depicted if there's some money to be made out of it, either. I guess Mel Gibson is not entitled to make a living off the Lord, unlike say, the preacher-folk that pass the collection plate and evangelize on T.V.

So, the way I figure it is that there's a bunch of people incesnsed, somewhere, who are so enraged that they must hop on buses and travel 1,000 miles to New York to vent their anger, in a polite way, quoting scripture and using little southern girls, with them cute accents and all, to keep me from seeing something that they haven't seen themselves, but which they can assure me is evil incarnate. Well, if the fire and brimstone speeches don't dissuade ya, then maybe them cute south'ren females will.

As to whether the film is anti-semitic or not, I cannot attest to that either. Ask someone who has been fortunate (if that's the right word) to have seen it if this is so and all you get is "it's really graphic, but it was great". Which leads me to another conclusion about why more people don't get off their behinds more often --- even when they do, do they ever notice anything or have a thought provoking moment?

The anti-Semitism accusation revolves around a 2,000 year-old-charge that the Jews executed the Saviour, and this MUST never be forgotten, in the same way that Muslims believe the Crusades must never be forgotten, or the Kamikaze winds that saved Japan from the Mongols, or the Holocaust, the Alamo, Pearl Harbor, and the Battle of Trafalgar. It's a rallying cry that resonates, even if you're not exactly WHY it should do so.

Did the Jews execute Jesus? Well, no, the Romans did. Jews did not go around crucifying people, that was the Roman's job. Was Jesus killed because he was the Saviour? Well, no, he was killed because he was denounced as a heretic by the Jewsih authorities and a potential subversive by the Romans. Crucifixion was not the standard execution for spitting on the sidewalk for example --- it was used almost exclusively on political threats to the Roman order of things. The Romans could care less about religion very often, unless such debates and strife should interfere with their ability to keep order and collect taxes. Sorta like Mayor Bloomberg's take on smoking, but again, I digress.

Jesus was killed because he threatened the established order of things, plain and simple. The Pharisees wanted him punished because he preached a reform of their own religion that would have seen them cast down. The Romans wanted him punished because such religious rabble-rousing was bound to cause violence and a disruption of civil order, which was a constant theme of the Roman occupation of the Holy Land. Jews had revolted many times and fought quite a few religious wars amongst themselves and Rome, quite frankly, was annoyed at having to continue breaking up these little internecine brawls. Pilate did the expedient thing ---he ordered a crucifixion which satified the religious authorities and he covered his own ass with the Borad fo Directors in Rome by disposing of a potential joker in the deck. The symbolic washing of the hands merely signified that Pilate was bowing to both popular demand and performing his duty as he saw it, although he did not like it, I think.

But getting back to why people feel it is necessary to beat the same old deceased equines (the Jews killed Christ, any depiction of the Lord on film is evil), I can only say that very often devout belief possibly covers for a deep-running ignorance . I can remember the same things being said about "The Last Temptation of Christ" (which I did see, and while it was thought-provoking, I didn't think it was cinematic tour-de-force), and quite honestly, the only people who recycle the same platitudes more often than religious folks are democrats (small 'd' intentional). I can remember quite clearly being yelled at by a white-haired grandmother that while standing in line for "The Last Temptation" that I had just, in fact, bought my ticket to hell. Considering the fact that I live in New York, I thought I had already been there for quite some time, but I was assured, strongly, that seeing that film would reserve me a window seat on the "Damnation Express". All I got out of that movie was that Barbara Hershey had nice tits. The other thought that came with that was that if Jesus had both a human and divine side, why should there not have been an internal struggle as to what his purpose was on Earth? The Temptation, if you recall, was that he had a chance to do things differently, to live a different life, and in the end, he didn't. He still wound up hanging on the cross because his duty was always clear. The film was a study of a man with overwhelming responsibilities (that often comes with divinity) who, perhaps, had one last regret about actually carrying that particular weight.

The particulars, especially the scenes of sexual congress with Mary Magdalene, were shot as a dream sequence, nothing more. Of course, if dipicting Christ on film is evil, then showing Christ with private parts enaging in the sinful lusts of the flesh is inherently evil.

Maybe one of these days I will get into the theatre to see the movie. But in the meantime, I would appreciate that those who travel on buses across the country to dissuade me from an activity they have little first-hand knowledge about be kind enough to a) stay home and b) realize that hypocrisy on behalf of the Lord is no virtue.

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