IN HIS OWN WORDS

Mel Gibson was asked what he felt about potential backlash against his movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” He responded, with classic Christian grace: “I don’t know where it’s going to fall. And quite frankly… you want to hear something? I don’t give a flying fuck.” The man who allegedly only put as much violence in his movie as occurred in the Gospels was also asked how he would greet Frank Rich, one of his more prominent critics. Gibson replied, “I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick … I want to kill his dog.” This is the man now hailed as the savior of America’s evangelical Christians. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Advertisements

QUOTE FOR THE DAY I

“The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs.” – Hannah Arendt, Dissent, Winter 1959.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY II: “Long before he emerged as the spear-carrier for the sort of Catholicism once preached by Gen. Franco and the persecutors of Dreyfus, Mel Gibson attained a brief notoriety for his loud and crude attacks on gays. Now he’s become the proud producer of a movie that relies for its effect almost entirely on sadomasochistic male narcissism. The culture of blackshirt and brownshirt pseudomasculinity, as has often been pointed out, depended on some keen shared interests. Among them were massively repressed homoerotic fantasies, a camp interest in military uniforms, an obsession with flogging and a hatred of silky and effeminate Jews. Well, I mean to say, have you seen Mel’s movie?” – Hitch on Mel Gibson’s S&M religion.

SAY WHAT? Here’s a <a href = http

//www.nationalreview.com/nr_comment/cherry200402270920.asp target = _blank>bizarre sentence in National Review Online:

The gulf we place between ourselves and God through sin is bridged only by that intense physical agony Gibson depicts and is taken to task for depicting.

I think that’s a fair inference from Gibson’s movie. But it is theologically very suspect. Would our sins have been expiated if Jesus had only been flogged twenty rather than forty times? (The Gospels do not tell us how brutal this process was. For some reason, the evangelists reduced the episode to a couple of sentences. Gibson makes the flogging the centerpiece of the whole film.) If Jesus had been roped to the cross and died of asphyxiation, rather than being nailed there, would we still not be saved? If the nails had been placed in his wrists rather than his palms, would we not have been redeemed? Of course some of these details are there in the Gospels; but Gibson’s loving obsession with them, his creepy love of watching extreme violence, is nowhere found in the Gospels.

Let’s take a few clear examples. The Gospels do not tell us that the jailers of the High Priests beat Jesus to a pulp before he was even delivered to the Romans, or that he was thrown in chains over a prison wall, almost garrotting him. That’s Gibson’s sadistic embellishment – so that Jesus already has one eye shut from bruises before he is even tried. The Gospels do not say that the flogging of Jesus was so extreme and out of control that a centurion had to stop it because it had gone beyond any of the usual bounds of Roman punishment. That again is Gibson’s invention. In the crucifixion scene, the Gospels do not say that in hoisting the cross, it fell down by accident so that Jesus was pinned headfirst between the cross and the earth, his crown of thorns thrust even deeper into his skull. Again, that’s Gibson’s interpolation. It’s as if Gibson’s saying that being crucified isn’t bad enough – you’ve got be crushed face down by timber first if you are going to save all mankind.

I repeat that there is something deeply disturbed about this film. Its extreme and un-Biblical fascination with human torture reflects, to my mind, not devotion to the message of the Cross but a kind of psycho-sexual obsession with extreme violence that Gibson has indulged in many of his other movies and is now trying to insinuate into Christianity itself. The film could have shown suffering and cruelty much differently. It could have led us into the profound psychological pain that Jesus and his mother and disciples must have endured by giving us some human context to empathize with them; it could have prompted the viewer to use his or her own imagination to fill in the gaps of terror, as all great art does; it could have done much more by showing us much less. But the extremity is Gibson’s obvious point. I can understand why traditionalist Catholics might be grateful that there is some Hollywood representation of their faith. But they shouldn’t let their gratitude blind them to the psychotic vision of this disturbed director – and the deeper, creepier, heterodox theology that he is trying to espouse.

EMAIL OF THE DAY I

“I saw The Passion of The Christ last night. I am still processing through what I saw and how I feel about it. The only thing I can say for sure right now is that it was, without question, the single most disturbing thing I have ever seen.
A couple years ago I went to the movies and watched Hannibal. When I left the theater I felt this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was a very disturbing experiencex85.but for different reasons than The Passion. When I left Hannibal I felt disturbed at myself, at the fact that I had willingly paid money to watch such gratuitous and gruesome violence. Not only was there cannibalism, there was a scene where Hannibal drugged a man, cut off the top of his skull, sliced off part of his brain, and fried and ate it in front of the man. The entire movie was sickening. And I watched it with friends for x93entertainmentx94. I left the movie as sick at myself as I was at Hollywood.
The Passion was different. After it was over I couldnx92t do anything but sit and stare blankly at the screen. The violence in this film was terrifying, but in a totally different way than in Hannibal. I have been a Christian for most of my life. I have done a lot of missions work and, Ix92ve felt, have served Jesus well. I have thought of myself as a pretty good person who never did anything terribly wrong. But I did do something terribly wrong. I am complicit in, and responsible for, the savage murder of an innocent man, of my Lord. My faith demands that I accept this truth. I am equally complicit with every other person who ever has, and ever will walk this earth.
This Passion brought that point home with me in a totally new way. Ix92ve always known Jesusx92 death was terrible. Always knew he died for me. But never really thought through just how horrible and terrifying it must have been. Watching this movie was, to me, like being there as a witness to the act. As one complicit in His death, I might as well have been one of those shouting x93Crucify!x94 I might as well have spat on Him, laughed at Him, placed the crown of thorns upon His head, and driven the nails into His hands. It was for my sins that He embraced the cross and willingly paid the terrible price. All my life I have taken Christx92s sacrifice for granted without ever really considering the true cost of the cross in terms of the brutal and savage pain I inflicted upon the Savior. That is what I find most disturbing. Itx92s also why I can never be the same after watching The Passion of The Christ.”

EMAIL OF THE DAY II: “My parents were out of town for the week and I had returned from spending the weekend at a friend’s house to see in our mailbox the new issue of TIME. I did the usual flipping through that the “average” 20 year old would do. I glanced through what it had to say about Gay Marriage and then continued on my way to the back. I saw your essay, “Why the M Word Matters To Me.” I read with undivided attention and full interest. I began to tear up as I read on. I felt an immense similarity in your life to the events that I have experienced. I understand, I am young. However, I feel being gay has given me a “leg up” in terms of any and all emotional torment one can experience. When I got to the last paragraph everything seemed to freeze. I read the line where you said that you want to remember a young kid out there that’s reading this and for him to know that his love has dignity. I think after that essay I put a whole life-time of tears into tissues. I have never been so touched by anybody’s words of compassion. I truly feel that you gave me the hope and courage I need to fight on to have that beautiful day where I can say “I do” to the person that I love and am willing to spend the rest of my life with. I also believe that you gave me the honor to be able to come out to my parents, an act I have dreaded for the past 5 years.
I’ve been through institutions for depression and suicide. I’ve done my fair amount of rebellion. I also believe that I have had my heart broken at times for falling for straight guys and expecting something that would never come, I don’t want to assume but I believe that you have probably been there as well. I’m not the flaky kind that breaks under pressure very easily, I have a good record of standing my ground, so it’s a bit awkward for me to be crying while writing this to you. I can’t express how grateful I am that there is someone out there that knows what it is to be hurt and what it is to long for something. You are my courage.”

CORRECTION

The wonderfully named bigot, Seaborn Roddenberry, was not a Republican. (Am I allowed to call those who wanted a constitutional ban on inter-racial marriages bigots? Or were they just concerned about the “sanctity” of civil marriage?) He was a Democrat. Most bigots from Georgia were Democrats back then.

A QUESTION

“The Passion of the Christ” is obviously a provocative movie, and will bound to provoke widely differing judgments. But what strikes me about the responses is how politically monolithic they have been. I’m especially struck by how the conservative media, press and intellectual establishment has been, so far as I can tell, completely uniform in its positive response. Among the theocons and neocons, uou are less likely to find a criticism of this movie than you are to find criticism of the president! Have I missed something? Has some brave neoconservative or any writer who gets his paycheck from the conservative media dared to criticize this movie? Or is the Popular Front intact?

BALL-BREAKING

The boyfriend insisted I link to this.