Monday, January 25, 2010


Thoughts on 'The Passion of the Christ'

Random thoughts, as I was watching "The Passion of the Christ" -- cannot believe it's been six years since it came out! only because I had to for a class. ...

Way too much spit in this movie. And the J.K. Rowling-meets-Stephen-King-and-they-have-a-baby-together-and-he-goes-into-special-effects special effects are just annoying the hell out of me. Ugh. 96 minutes to go.

I don't mind a movie incuding stuff that ain't scriptural. This is a dramatic portrayal of events for which we only have the barest outlines. It's just that I KNOW that people came away from this flick thinking, Yep, that's exactly what happened, no more, no less. Sigh. Jesus as graphic novel. 66 minutes to go.

OK, OK, I've heard peeps complain about the violence in this movie, that it's gratuitous. I disagree. I don't like it, but whipping with cats-o-nine-tails and crucifixion weren't a picnic. No, it's the dang devilmonkey kids taunting Judas and this creature from "The Twilight Zone" lurking around. *That's* literally gratuitous.

Egad. I think every Christian should watch this once. And every Christian with a blood fetish, who goes on about being washed in the blood, fountains filled with blood from Immanuel's veins, blood of the Lamb, etc., should watch it more than that and think about what they're so blithely singing.

I'm glad I was required to watch it; I might very well have not gone all the way through it in the theater; I walked out of "Halloween 3" for less (only movie I've ever walked out on; although I dang near walked out of "Bachelor Party").

OK, so this is steeped in the highest christology, of course, and draws from the richest veins, pardon the pun, of the most mature Passion stories in Scripture. Fine. Now, I was to see a lower-christology account of Yeshua having died via capital punishment at the hands of the state. Let's have a half dozen or so criminals crucified, with short versions of their stories, then Jesus gets crucified, then a few more criminals -- to show the commonplace context of this capital punishment, not just the spiritual conext, or I should say this particular kind of Catholic context.

Anyway. Glad it's over.


I'm not sure what you mean by "highest" Christology. 1) I've heard of high and low ecclesiology, but I don't think elevation metaphors have been used all that much for Christology. 2) Blood atonement - which seems to me Gibson's subtext - is not "high" or particularly Catholic. In fact, it's just the opposite, as indicated by how much evangelicals fell in love with and disseminated this film, so far as hosting outdoor showings in mall parking lots.

However, if you mean, rather, a closeness to death, to sacrifice, to a baroque sensibility of mortal decay and pain and suffering, then, yes, it would be more Catholic in an old -world kind of way, an aesthetic which arose organically from the cycles of nurture and slaughter, husbandry and consumption.

This would not be where the notion of "sinners in the hands of an angry god" was born.
I thought Mary Magdalene was really sexy.

They got all of the 12 stations in.

The cat-o-nine tails was designed to kill, so just how do we know they used that whip on him?

Sadism is Sadism is Sadism.

The greatest pain that Jesus would have felt would have been being forsaken by his father. Put that on film.

What if Jesus had been "waterboarded"?
High and low christology? What do you mean you haven't heard of high and low christology? Highest = Jesus is God. Lowest = Jesus was a man. Pick your point on the line in between.

It is evangelical Catholic. My wife says "Opus Dei" Catholic. I don't know. ... I'd say the overwhelming response by evangelicals was because the movie is Scriptural -- except for the special effects hooey.

I'm not sure Gibson meant to emphasis bloood atonement per se, as much as blood period. But, to be honest, I haven't read what he meant to convey.
BTW, I'm talking tailgate theology here, Feodor, my own notions of christology from faithful seeking bit limited amateur reading.
High Christology - Schleiermacher, Barth.

Low Christology - Tillich, Weiman, Gilkey.

I, too, was surprised that Feodor hadn't "heard" of such a thing.

I haven't seen the movie, nor do I intend to.

The contemporary evangelicals loved it precisely because, like late-medieval and Renaissance Catholicism, they express a blood-lust (albeit once removed from much of their own experience) that is truly frightening. I am currently reading Jean Delumeau's Sin and Fear and am struck by just how close medieval popular theology coordinates with much popular conservative theology here in America.
Haven't seen it. But then I didn't have to see SAW to know I wouldn't like that either.
You reckon there's a lot in common between "Saw" and "Cross?"
You guys have jiggled my memory somewhat regarding high and low Christology.

But GKS's examples don't bear a relation to the bloodthirsty movie;that's a different issue altogether. You find sadism in all camps of religion, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Gentile.

For me, the movie does not render spiritual access to the claim that God was made flesh and made to suffer. It raises, rather, anger, rage, shame (all motivations for revenge) - and, also in a darkly true vein, fascination at the pain of others.

The profundity gets covered by the obsession. This, then, would be far from high Christology.
Well, in the sense that Jesus is depicted as have full foreknowledge of exactly what was about to happen and why, it's a high-christology portrayal.
I know exactly what's going to happen tomorrow.

Doest the movie explicitly present this as foreknowledge? Or could a viewer see him simply as confident regarding events we all know is coming?

Even the Christ in the Gospels carried on a conversation with the Father regarding what was necessary and willed up until the last moment. This would suggest that Christ felt the horizon of the future was potentially open... and not necessarily determined. "Let this cup pass from me."
As I said, the movie is scriptural. But selectively so. ... In class now! I shouldn't be blogging, so I'll quit. :-)
Before "The Passion of Christ" came out I read an article in the New Yorker by Peter Boyer who interviewed Mel Gibson: "The Jesus War: Mel Gibson & the Passion" - September 15, 2003. I tried to find in online but couldn't.

Gibson holds to a very old Catholic doctrine - Pre-Vatican II - and has built his own church somewhere up in the mountains. He's weird.

A quote from the article which really stood out to me at the time:

"I (Boyer) told Gibson that I am a Protestant, and asked whether his pre-Vatican II world view disqualified me from eternal salvation. He paused. 'There is no salvation for those outside the Church,' he said. 'I believe it.' He explained, 'Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She's, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it's just not fair if she doesn't make it, she's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it."

I saw the film. Wish I hadn't. I thought the part where Jesus was chasing his mother around the dinner table he had invented looked a lot like sexual foreplay. It was disgusting.

Here's a critique by David Denby that I found "Nailed". He makes an observation that was troubling to me as well:

"What is most depressing about “The Passion” is the thought that people will take their children to see it. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” not “Let the little children watch me suffer.” How will parents deal with the pain, terror, and anger that children will doubtless feel as they watch a man flayed and pierced until dead?"
ER:"Well, in the sense that Jesus is depicted as have full foreknowledge of exactly what was about to happen and why, it's a high-christology portrayal."

Wouldn't that be cheating? I mean how can Jesus be having a "human" experience if he knows it is going to happen. If he knew in advance then this was all just for show?

If Jesus knew for certain everything that was going to happen before, during, and after the "Passion" then none of it has any meaning,for then it was the act of a God not of a man.

I may be overstating the explicitness of the movie, though, because *I* as a viewer know how it's going to turn out. OTOH, it's John's Jesus being portrayed here, not Mark's.
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