[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball

3.26.2004

the passion of the christ

ok, so i promised myself i wouldn't write anything about the passion of the christ after having watched it, just b/c so much has been written already, and i don't want to jump on the pop-cultural express this movie has become (for good or bad). i even put off seeing it until tonight, although renee' saw it w/ her mom on the day it opened, and practically everyone i know has seen it @ least once by now. but now i can't help myself. to preface, though, i think it will take some time for me to process the film, maybe even for me to see it one or more times over, to figure out just what it means to me personally and what effect, if any, it will have on me.

first, though, i think now what i thought weeks ago -- it's art, so none of us should jump on gibson for painting what he sees in the story. how is it different from any artist's depiction of any event, like konstantin's "crucifixion" or salvador dali's interpretation. let the artist paint w/ his or her own strokes. what's so wonderful about gibson's vision, however, is how it conforms to scripture and catholic teaching so well even as gibson emphasizes or highlights things that are poignant to him. incidentally, i was put off by the evangelical church's out-of-hand rejection of scorsese's the last temptation of christ, as well. if somehow there will be a great and final "judgment" of artists for how well they depicted this most momentous of events in history, then so be it; but who are we to become angry b/c mel gibson made some creative and directorial decision that we, personally, might not have made?

second, i was appalled by the violence of it, but not in the same way that i understand the authors of countless articles on tpotc have been. of course it's not for children to see. good heavens, how could anyone think their seven-year-old could have the mechanism to process that sort of violence and, bluntly, gore? even i don't have the mental and emotional machinery to understand it or to even take it all in, and i've been a christian for 18 years and have a masters in divinity. but the violence was honest, whereas some of the portraits of a bloodless christ are so contrived and cleaned up that they lose any historical validity. if a man is crucified, he's going to bleed -- buckets -- and a lithe figure on a crucifix bearing a beatific visage simply strains credulity. the movie was shocking, just like the event itself was shocking, and perhaps we need to stop treading gently on pins and needles in a (fruitless in any case) attempt to be inoffensive, and rather be shocked back into the reality of what raw torture crucifixion could be and was.

third, and i'll stop w/ three for tonight, i didn't have the sort of emotional response that some people seem to have had. i had more of an emotional reaction watching braveheart and in the name of the father than i had during tpotc. sadly, i didn't leave the theatre knowing that somehow i was more holy or less bent to sinning -- indeed, i probably sinned before i got out of the parking lot! but i was moved by the film, and certain scenes i'll probably never forget. the most moving scene, for me, was mary running to jesus when he falls, while simultaneously remembering running to her little boy when he fell as a child. even then, she could only hold him and say "i'm here" (in aramaic, no doubt), and now, some thirty-odd years later, she runs to the defense of her boy. it was fruitless, in a sense, for she could do nothing to stop jesus from walking the way of the cross. but when caviezel spoke tenderly to her, "see mother, i am making all things new," i lost it for a minute. maybe it's b/c i'm still a new father, but understanding how much i love ellie grace has taught me more about our lady's love for our savior, and about the father's love for us, than a million books could've taught me a year ago.

so, for now, i can say only that i thought it was a profound film, and i am grateful to gibson and the actors for bringing it to the screen. you can't help but wonder what gibson was thinking when he shot the last supper scene where jesus told his disciples, "do not be surprised when the world hates you -- remember they hated me first." if i take nothing else from the film than that, it was worth 8 bucks and two hours of my life. i may write about this every day for a week, but then again this may be the last you read of it from me. still, if i don't post anything else about the film in the next few days, then trust that i have decided to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself, like a gift, for that is indeed what the film was.

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