The Passionate – Controversy

The Passionate - Controversy

The Passionate - Controversy

normally the precinct of action horror-thriller movies has found
a new expression in Mel Gibson’s the Passion of the Christ.
Since its release in late February it has become the largest
grossing independent art film in history, and is arguably the
most controversial movie to grace or grotesque the silver screen
in recent years. Why all the fuss over this particular depiction
of histories most significant figure? Like every controversy,
there is strong support for and against the film. The issues are
deeply religious, psychological, spiritual, cultural and
geopolitical. Film is one of the most significant mediums of mass
influence in our time. It has a power to create stereotypes,
inform public debate, and raise social issues which can not be
underestimated. Concerns it may fuel antisemitism have come from
Jewish, Christian and even Muslim commentators because of the way
the portrayal of Jewish leadership in instigating the murder of
the ‘King of the Jews’ might be perceived. The sheer
graphic brutality has also been point of discussion.

On the religious spectrum the movie has engendered responses
ranging from ‘the film is evil’ to it may be
‘the greatest tribute ever made.’ The Christian
world, from the far right of evangelical fundamentalism, through
the middleroad evangelicalism, to the liberalism of the
Ecumenical movement have all been passionate in their responses.
Few criticisms have emerged critically looking at the historicity
of the film and this is not surprising because it sequentially
follows very closely the biblical records.

Preceding the films public release, The Council for Centres of
Jewish Christian relations, issued a statement calling for
"Christian leaders...throughout the world, publicly to affirm
their churches’ teachings on appropriate portrayals and
interpretations of the Passion and to make these teachings
readily available to the general public. And we ask that all
people seek to model the behaviors of justice, honesty, and
compassion that have led to the enormous progress in Christian-
Jewish relations in the past forty years." Why? Because as they
read the signs of our time "anti-semiticism is on the rise" and
the portrayal of Jews collectively as Christ’s murderers
has historically led to violence against them.

Others comment that it is a fair and accurate account. Peggy
Noonan, a contributing editor at The Wall Street Journal, says
that it "is a story about Jews and Romans, about Jewish saints
and sinners and Roman brutes and cynics, but it isn’t
really about Jews and Romans; it’s about humanity.
It’s about us." Mel Gibson fervently denies that it could
be construed as anti-semitic. In a television interview Gibson, a
Roman catholic, says "all of us crucified him" pointing to his
own hand symbolically nailing the left hand of Christ in the
movie. He argues it is confrontational to the audience because it
shows a brutal reality which centuries of decorative depictions
of the crucifixion and iconic art has simply sanitized.

Some commentators are asking if women and men see the movie
differently. Fair question. The cultural lenses through which
people view this movie is also an important consideration. Robert
Franklin, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics
at Candler School of Theology, Emory University suggests that the
movie will offend some mainstream white religious audiences and
resonate deeply with blacks. In brief, he argues that the
‘image of Christ has been sanitized and suits the
Anglo-Saxon middle class cultural bias. This depiction of Christ
as the suffering brutalised servant resonates for Blacks whose
historical experience of torture and oppression has strong points
of identification with Christ.

Henk Kamsterg, THE GOOD NEWS paper (Feb 16, 2004) suggests it
may be the greatest tribute ever made (at least in film).
Articles in Evangelical papers are generally enthusiastic about
the movie for two reasons. It calls for much reflection on
suffering and our own relationship with Christ and it is another
vehicle for exposing to the world a central message of the
Gospel. With a high populace interest - it may create opportunity
to talk, debate and share our experiences with others. Still
others claim it falls far short of the Gospel. But here is the
point. The movie is not the gospel! And has never made any claims
to be it. Others attack the credibility of Mel Gibson on personal
grounds-apparently he just isn’t holy enough to tell the
story, and still others refer to certain mishaps on the movie as
signs of Gods disapproval.

And to those Christians who think "The Passion of the Christ"
is evil... Yes, it is evil. It is the greatest evil ever
committed in the history of humanity. Those hours were the
devil’s finest – the torturing of the Son of God. And
we killed him. We have all called for Barrabas, we have all
denied him, we have all been cowardly, we have all betrayed him.
The second greatest evil is denying the fact that we
wouldn’t have nailed him to the cross ourselves.

Of course, this film is only an artistic representation, it is
not a documentary. Support from the Vatican has emerged in a kind
of double speak. Pope John Paul II allegedly commented after
viewing the film "It is the way it was". The Catholic News
Service secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, suggests that
the statement released was not true. In a counter statement the
archbishop stated the Pope "does not make judgments on art of
this kind." Nevertheless the film has still received official
support from high ranking Catholics.

The Passion of The Christ has crossed over from just mass
public interest to geopolitical concerns. Why a seemingly after
the fact ‘spin doctoring’ on the Pontiffs statement?
Historical revisionists of the Post-world war two era drew
attention to the both Protestant and Catholic churches complicity
with Hitler’s National Socialism which made the Holocaust
possible. This lead to subsequent public statements by the
Churches respective public relations machinery (possibly as much
guilt ridden as ethically driven) rejecting any kind of theology
of ‘collective guilt of Jews and the claim of
deicide’. So as one argument might put it, sensitivities
about being called anti- Semitic are very high. But what are the
political and economic repercussions for the Roman Catholic
Church which might be causing them to ‘recant’ a
statement of support from the Pope himself for the film? Who are
they concerned they may offend? Are there geopolitical powers at
play in this entertainment industry drama which few commentators
will investigate beyond the religious, art and
‘cultural’ expose?

The Muslim public response to this movie is on the surface far
less evident than the Jewish and Christian responses. Muslim
comments of the movie range from simply suggesting that no
Muslims ‘should see the movie except for evaluation
purposes’ to ‘standing with Jewish critics in their
opposition to the alleged Antisemitic messages contained in the
films potential’. Again this is not surprising since
drawing attention to either Jews or Christianity with critical
depth is not part of the Islamic tradition. While Muslims say
that Jesus was a prophet, they do not believe that he died on the
cross. Speaking about the Jews, the Koran states: 4:157. That
they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary,
the Messenger of Allah.;- but they killed him not, nor crucified
him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ
therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only
conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-

So they argue that the Christian faith wrongly assumes Jesus
died, hence there is no need for the resurrection upon which the
whole of the Christian faith must be centered; and the Jews were
wrong in assuming they had succeeded in killing the prophet (even
if it was their intent). This is a two pronged attack, one
driving to the heart of the Gospel and the other at the apparent
hatred of the Jews towards Jesus, whom Islam has appropriated as
their own prophet of Allah. Or put another way, the Jews tried to
kill Jesus the prophet of Allah but failed. Surely this is the
religious seed of the Islam’s own anti-semitism.

Islamic fundamentalism is culturally and politically
anti-Semitic and the middle-east conflict is all the evidence one
requires to demonstrate this point. Anti-Semitism may be denied
by moderate Muslims, but Christians and Jews are definitely not
part of "ALLAHS" flock. The criticisms against the film are
designed to appear pro-humanity not anti-Jewish but at the same
time they barrage Jews in Israel (which they do not recognise as
a Nation State) as anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian. Does this
reflect the anti-semitism being socially engineered through the
United Nations and the mass media’s biased representation
of Israel as the sole aggressor? As the geopolitical power shifts
to the European Union, anti-semitism will increase.

An important question needs to be asked. What is the EU
designs for the Middle East?

Jesus Christ lived, died and was raised the third day, and is
the only mediator between God and Humanity. Not only does this
statement present a stumbling block for the head of the Roman
Catholic Church, it also causes a stumbling block for the Jews
who do not recognise The Messiah, and it causes a stumbling block
for Islam, because Jesus, not Muhammad is the true messenger of
God who calls us into a deep personal relationship with Himself -
not subservience (which is the meaning of Islam).

The real controversy has not yet been discussed?

The Resurrection.

The essence of the Protestant Reformation was an earnest call
from the layman in the street for God's word to become public
property for the common people. No longer was it to be the
private property of a select few, after centuries of repression
and persecution from the Church of Rome. This emergence for
change, as a backlash from the Dark Ages, became the new trend as
the rollercoaster reform swept across Europe, and eventually to
other parts of the world via the new colonies, as people tasted a
fresh wave of tolerance and freedom.

However, ‘amendment’, ‘improvement’,
and ‘correcting’ a worldly system (even a
"Christianized" version) was not God’s agenda. He was
calling His people to a better country, beyond reform and the
policies and dogmas of man. To a city which hath foundations,
whose builder and maker is God. Who knew by Scripture, they had
not been called to building any earthly institution, nor were
they refashioning one, but were being led to a new inheritance,
where Christ Himself would build His church, against which the
gates of hell would not prevail.

As the Reformation fell short (as it was only prepared to
return to God’s Word in part, or in gesture), today, there
is a cry for a New Reformation from many circles within
Christendom. This, no doubt, is the trumpet call of the false
watchman, who would see multitudes captivated into this pseudo
movement. Redefinable and adaptable to suit the times; where
"signs", "wonders", "prophecies and visions" would count above
God's word, and a "relevant" gospel would replace the biblical
one, as mankind goes about building his own utopia, welcoming in
a replacement "Christ" - as the Second Advent.

This present new wave is the final rejection of the Bible of
the Reformation, where Christendom is bound by the comfort zones
of the present religious status quo, and where Western
"Christians" are more concerned about the preservation of their
country and the conditions they have enjoyed for so many years,
than the kingdom to come. Unable to discern the times they become
preoccupied with co-existing with a world that is hostile to
"their" God, rather than preach about a kingdom that cometh not
with observation, but is found within the faithful remnant.

As always, for God's people, it is not a matter of
"improvement", but getting back to the unchanging Scriptures and
the cross the Scriptures testify to ... save Jesus Christ, and
Him crucified. "Leaving behind familiarity, the fullness of
bread, and the abundance of idleness; and pressing toward the
mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Hebrews 11:40 ...

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