November 18, 2003
The New York Post seems to have illicitly gotten their hands on a copy of the latest cut of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" and given it to a broad cross section of folks for review. In looking at this, and other responses from people to the as-yet unreleased film, it seems to me that your level of offense from the film is inversely proportional to how close you are to Gibson's own beliefs on the religious spectrum. It seems that many devote Christians don't seem to see anything in it that would offend or castigate Jews, while a number of Jews who have seen it are VERY worried about the less forward-thinking members of the Christian community taking this film as new marching orders to beat up some Semites.
Since I haven't seen the film, I can't speak on it. Although, as a firm believer in karma, I think the fact that Gibson's Jesus, actor Jim Caviezel, was the SECOND person to be struck by lightning during the course of filming is telling, to say the least. At the end of the day, I'm curious. I want to see it, so I'll probably check it out.
Having said that, the one thing that struck me about all the statements on the film in the Post (and, in other places) is that everyone seems focused on the brutality & violence of the Crucifixion. I find myself reminded of an Easter sermon where the pastor took great pains to illustrate the gory details of Christ's death, as if to say "he endured all that for you, so don't make his death in vain."
Somehow, this all seems to miss the point, to me. The point wasn't that he suffered a horrible, blood drenched, prolonged death. The point was that he died. Period. And was then resurrected. I once had a theory that the whole exercise of the Christ, of the divine becoming incarnate in the flesh, was that God had to comprehend and experience sin in order to abolish it. If sin is a state of being separate from God, God would have to shear off a piece of his or herself in order to comprehend that. Which raises a number of interesting issues for me. First of all, it suggests that, omnipotence does not mean the absence of process. Yes, God may be capable of doing anything, but everything has a procedure to be followed to accomplish it. If God's goal is to save humanity from sin, that very process may have a very specific set of inputs, procedures, outcomes, and, most importantly, timetables.
Also, if God/Jesus could have died in any manner of his or her choosing to experience death (the opposite of omnipresence, perhaps), why choose a public, brutal death? Could it be because it was an image and a story that will never leave our minds?
Anyway, whatever flaws there may be in Mad Max's movie, I think it will at least get a number of Christians to scrutinize their own faith. Like I said, I'm curious.