Daily Archives: 04/05/2004

April Showers

Guess what? Looks like Guam might get a drenching. There is a tropical storm winding up out over Chu’uk State right now. Looks like it is giving the low islands like Satawal and Puluwat a drenching right now, and it is heading our way. Nothing to get worried about yet, but that red swirling on the satellite loop always catches my attention. Maybe I better stock up on candles and water…

The Passion Of The Christ

I finally saw The Passion Of The Christ yesterday. I figured I needed a little religion on Palm Sunday.

Well, it was bloody. Bloody bloody bloody. The scourging was particularly brutal, with bloody spraying everywhere, and gobs of flesh being torn from Christ’s back. He looked like a piece of meat after that.

Anti-Semitic? Well, the Jews are certainly not portrayed in a positive manner. The priests, King Herod, the crowd of hook nosed peasants braying for Christ’s blood. Not a great day for inter-faith relations. The Roman centurions are not much better, showing a sadistic glee in tormenting Jesus. However, pains are taken to portray Pontius Pilate in a positive light, showing time and again that he did not wish to condemn Jesus. And several of the centurions executing the crucifixion behave humanely, stopping torments or allowing the Virgin Mary to weep at her son’s feet. I’m pretty sure the Roman that impales Jesus with his lance is weeping at the end of the movie, while the Jews are wailing and gnashing their teeth as the temple is split asunder. Not exactly a veiled subtext there.

It was also a chance for me to flex the memories of my Catholic upbringing and that oh-so-useful art history degree I graduated with. ‘Look! Mel Gibson’s recreated the pieta!’

All told, I don’t think it is a bad movie, but I don’t think it’s a great movie either. It is pretty one dimensional; the god-awful suffering Christ endured for mankind’s sins. Mel Gibson tells a simple story of blood sacrifice, and his fetish with blood, pain and torment is disturbing. Thinking back, he has always been an actor obsessed with torment and pain. Mad Max is beaten to a pulp, he gets tortured numerous times in the Lethal Weapon movies, and William Wallace achieves his apotheosis on the rack in Braveheart.

I prefer The Last Temptation of Christ, or even the flawed movie adaptation by Martin Scorsese. They both offered a more interesting interpretation of the Passion and suffering of Christ, his life and the nature of divinity. Is that blasphemy? It was certainly a more respectful and insightful exploration of Jesus than Gore Vidal’s attempt. But both approach the idea that Christianity is as much the teaching of Jesus as it is the proselytizing of Paul to the Gentiles. Gibson’s interpretation of the Passion unwittingly reflects that. The Gospels were written to appeal to a certain audience, specifically Roman converts. Pains were made in the Gospels to portray Romans in general, and Pontius Pilate in particular, as bystanders forced by the blood thirsty Jews into the slaughter of the Messiah.

I think Kanzantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ is a marvelous book, one that prompted me to read Scripture and try to gain a deeper understanding of Christ. Gore Vidal’s Live From Golgotha sparked my reading into early Church history. But I doubt Mel Gibson’s gore-fest will evoke such a reaction in me. The first two encouraged reflection and further study, the film bludgeons with a bloody fist.