Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, a cinematic labor of narrow-mindedness and religious zealotry is raising a lot of hell with its recent release. Yes, the Son of the Father is being crucified again for movie audiences, this time with the gore cranked up to Quentin Tarantino levels for audiences grown insouciant with the prevalence of bloody mayhem on television as well as the big screen.
We’re all familiar with the story. No need to keep the end a secret so as not to spoil the outcome. Christ has been nailed to his cross hundreds of times in front of the cameras of all directors, great and small. From Ben Hur , to the Life of Brian , to Scorcese’s Last Temptation of Christ the Messiah croaks on those movie crosses, and if you don’t believe that he will be resurrected, you can bet with assurance that he will be reprised in some future feature.
But this time Gibson caused a real controversy with his version of the passion. The wonder is that he didn’t play the Lord himself. He has made his own career of playing messianic characters in Braveheart, The Patriot, Mad Max and We Were Soldiers , among others. It is also becoming better known that Gibson belongs to a zealous Catholic sect that holds to biblical literalism. So literal that the dialogue is in Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin. But the English subtitles indict the Jews.
That leads to the controversy. Gibson plays right into the old Jews are Christ-killers case by portraying Pilate as just going along with the Jews wanting Christ done away with. So the Romans, among the meanest, bloody bastards around at the time, were just kvetched into doing the dirty work of the Jews. Then of course, the Christians pick up the ball and set about whacking Jews for a couple of millennia. Gibson’s movie cranks up the anti-Semitism factor just at the time the Catholic Church has tardily renounced that interpretation, although I don’t know about the rest of the Christian world, but I wouldn’t linger in front of any synagogues without a flack vest.
Anyway, I’m no biblical scholar and will leave the fine points of the debate to the real scholars, and the not so fine points to the bigots. What I want to address are three things that have been bothering me since well before I left the Church decades ago. Thay are my contribution to the controversy.
One. So, I ask rhetorically: What if somebody didn’t kill Christ? Right: the whole messianic thing implodes. He’s gotta go, or you (and Gibson) got no religion. Christianity is pegged to the Savior dyingfor our sins. No death, no resurrection, no slavation; ergo no religion, no Pope, no Billy Graham, no . . . well you get it. (Hmmm, it’s become a rather pleasant thought.) That makes whoever did the job on Christ unavoidable in the creation of Christianity. And make Judas Iscariot the most necessary disciple, and a bit of a hero rather than a snitch, if you think about it. But, no good deed goes unpunished.
Two. This leads to the De-Jewification of Chirst? You need this pesky prophet dead to have your religion of salvation, but you have to dissociate yourself from the dirty deed. So you punish the Jews for it (nobody punishes the Romans) and set about refashioning the founder of your new religion and separating him from his ethnicity. Now Yeshua bar Yusef was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died a Jew. He wouldn’t have recognized his Greek name from Krispy Kreme Donuts, and I convinced, he would have tossed 87.4 percent of the jerks who call themselves Christians today out of the Temple. (Yeah, and thatdoes include you, Mr. Boosh.)
So Christianity just sort of leaves out that this guy was a rabbi who wanted to reform his own faith, not found another, changes his name, and circumcises away his Semitic identity for something like this:
Three: Was he gay? Well, he hung out almost exclusively with guys, but that’s a Middle East sort of thing even today. Still, you can get a lot of speculation on that if you Google over to “Jesus” + “gay”. For my money he was married to Magdalen, but the Church didn’t like him having normal needs, so they turned her into a whore. Rabbis could be married, but the Church likes to associate celibacy with piety (that’s a good one), so his de-Jewification required his bachelorhood. But Magdalene was always around, even at the end, like a good wife and daughter-in-law. I’m betting she was Mrs. Christ.
I also have a theory on Barabbas, too, but I’ll save that for after I complete my biblical studies.
Finally, Gibson reportedly sent his film to John-Paul II to get the pontiff’s imprimatur on the project. But I understand that the wrong film was shipped to the Vatican. But the Pope like what he saw anyway because at the end of the movie the little lost clownfish was re-united with this father. Close enough.*
©2004, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 2.12.2004)
*OK, OK, hold it with the lighting already! I was just kidding.