June 2, 2004 00:38 | Confession

The Passion of the Keeerist

Warning: The following may be profuse in profanities, obtuse in obscenities and generally not fit for reading by good christians. I do not mean to offend, only to perhaps displace, for a second, faith. A temporary suspension of belief, as it were.

Spoiler: After being viciously beaten and crucified, Jesus dies. Only to be resurrected. Or so I'm meant to believe.

Last night I watched the film "The Passion of The Christ". Assuming one has the stomach to watch a man be first unjustly condemned, slowly and viciously beaten for over an hour and finally atrociously executed, the film could be described as lush and stunning. The aramaic and latin gave it an extra flavor. I kept expecting someone to break out in the King's english, but it didn't happen. The wailing soundtrack complemented the incessant shouting, screaming, crying and grunting throughout. It was a "good" movie, but not a "great" movie, as Woody Allen might say in a nightclub stand up routine.

That's all I have to say about the film. The subject matter, on the other hand, has kept me scratching my head all my life.

Although baptized as a Roman Catholic, my relationship with Jeeeysus ended after my godfather renounced Satan for me. No matter how hard anyone tried, they couldn't pull me back in. Ahem.

The teachings of Jesus aside - good stuff, really - the whole christian tradition, mythology, ceremony, etc, always struck me as oddly, and utterly, absurd. Over the years I've poked my head into many of the theologies man has come up with in our history, and well, they are all more or less the same. Some enlightened individual shows up and reminds everyone that we are all together in this and we should respect the oneness of being in nature. (We have a couple of cases of anthropomorphic depictions of nature, but these are just manifestations of such a respect and have generally not evolved into instruments of governance.)

If we geographically and historically map the appearance of said enlightened people and attach the essence of their messages, we get a rather fascinating perspective on the state of the world, I might add.

We may notice another thing: Jesus is the ONLY one we killed. And boy oh boy do we LOVE him for it! He died for our sins! Someone please tell me what that is supposed to mean. It is totally beyond me. The poor guy shows up, tells us to love one another and we kill him. From what I gather, essentially, it was a case of "wrong place at the wrong time". The socio-political climate he found himself in just couldn't handle him, and he got burnt. Oops, no he didn't, but for 1500 years after, anyone pretentious enough to think they really "dug Jesus", did. Ahem.

I've come to consider such appearances as a naturally recurring pattern. Statistically it makes sense that a small percentage of humans, here and there, every now and again, might "wake up", "see the light", etc... There is evidence of this littered all over our disparate human cultures. Once in a while, one of these people finds him/herself with enough charisma, courage and perhaps in an environment where they feel the need to REALLY share this awakening. Gautama, Jesus, Mohammed... We remember their names. We worship their words. We totally, for the most part, miss their point.

But that's not my point.

My point is, why, in the face of such a plethora of wonderful knowledge, do so many people not only have a crippling fascination with the symbols used to express it, but focus so steadfastly on the grisliest episode in the life of ONE of truth's proponents?

The whole crucifixion and "died for our sins" stuff smacks of "Oops! Oooo-kay... how do we explain this little blunder?" Two thousand years of severely messed up people all over the place because of a mistake and an overly cerebral desire to explain it away. Brilliant. That's not passion, it's stupidity. Stupidity, after all, is a faculty made possible only by intellect.

Jesus had a lot to teach us, no doubt. His murder, I suspect, was not part of those lessons. At least not in terms of spiritual growth. Perhaps a bit in human affairs and a reminder that we really still are just animals... or can be.


Good stuff B, a couple of things to add.

The dying or disappearing god is a recurrent theme in western mythology (e.g. Dumuzi in Sumer, Telipinu in Anatolia, Persephone in Greece). These deities are generally linked to aetiological myths explaining the passage of the seasons ie. winter.

The story of Jesus' crucifixion may not have its roots in these traditions (the April date is out of sync with the older myths). However, the importance attached to the crucifixion by the christian (read catholic) tradition may reflect its pagan roots.

Finally, I hope I have not insulted the Nestorians among you by insinuating that Jesus was a god - blame my monophysite upbringing!

The psychology of politics and warfare plays a big part. Keep in mind that the Catholic church was one of the strongest political forces in Europe for centuries, and they wanted to keep their faithful high in numbers and loyalty. Nothing emboldens loyalty more than a sense that "we" have been wronged. Hence the emphasis on the crucifixion

You see this at play everywhere. "Red white & blue" Americans are rabid over terrorism because (for a change) it was done to them. Muslims around the world are outraged by western (and in particular, American) intrusions against Islam -- including the Palestinian situation -- (very few elevate themselves to terrorist status, but many are angry). The genocides and ethnic hatred in the Balkans was ripe with "look what they did to us" style myth-making.

On it goes. Loyalty can be found and kept by keeping the faithful seething with anger over a sense of having been wronged. The "Passion" of Christ was played up in the middle ages specifically to keep European Catholics loyal and to encourge them to fight in crusades against the Moors. (Everything old is new again.)

This is the same reason why all the European paintings of Jesus show him (and his entourage) as white Europeans -- because the white European Catholic masters wanted their peons to relate to them, not to the "darkies" (and the real Jesus was a darkie).

(Aside, a lot of the entourage in those paintings were white because they were painted with the likenesses of the rich patrons who commissioned the paintings...)

I get the sense that you *want* to disagree with the film on principal, or with the underlying story, but, though you're a bit mocking with the "Jeeeysus" bit, when you pare it down to the basic ideas, there's not much with which you disagree.

I haven't seen the film. I guess it's excessively graphic because Gibson pictured the real event exactly that way. I'd prefer that, I think, to a sanitized and palatable version where I could walk away and say "that wasn't so bad."

I do admire Gibson, one of the most popular actors alive, for taking on such a potential disaster of a project, for no discernable reason except to express his faith and show the crucifixion as best as he could represent it.
(I've seen stills from the film and found them shocking, but when I thought about it, I guess that's what a man would look like after being whipped and tortured by a Roman bearing a cat-o-nine-tails. Grisly stuff, certainly not the pictures I was shown in Catholic school of a clean and noble Christ cheerily toting a cross up the hill.)

Passion plays have a long tradition of forcing people to remember the ugliness of the event, to make people feel the pain and suffering and above all, to show them how Jesus suffered *for them*, because that's what they believe.
If it's all true, it's remarkable.

The gory visuals are meant to provoke, to enrage, to make *you* realize the sacrifice made for you. They're necessary. (How much of a scandal would Abu Ghraib have been without the pictures?)

People of sincere faith feel compelled to show this without any political intent - they believe that by doing so, they are helping to save you from a very literal eternity of hellfire.

It's easy as a lapsed Catholic, to write off all of this Jesus nonsense, but at the very heart of it must something of value that transcends the lousy nuns and paedophile priests and bible-thumping charlatans on TV. Deep at the heart of all this is a guy who they *nailed to a fucking cross* because he had unpopular and dangerous ideas. Think of someone you REALLY respect. Someone you could see as a savior of the world.
Multiply that respect a thousand times. Now imagine that he's so good and decent and enlightened that they whip him and pound nails through his hands and let him hang by them until he's dead while a whole crowd of cheering morons looks on.

Then imagine that he comes back. Yeah, I'd want to make a movie about that, so that everyone I can possibly get to see it would *know* what went on.

I don't really understand why it's so socially acceptable to follow any religion except Christianity. I could be at a party and say that I'm a Wiccan or Pagan or Shinto or Buddhist or Druid, and nobody would have a problem with that, but if I said I believed in Christ, suddenly everyone would move away like I was wearing a polyester suit and Brill-creme or something. (Wait, in all honesty, I probably would move away too. Never mind.)

I'm pretty agnostic myself, I don't consider myself a Christian anymore, but if it turned out that all this Jesus stuff was real, I'd be pretty thankful to the dude, despite all of the bullshit that's taken place in his name over the years.

I think the trick in this is to go back to the primary sources of any religion you have an interested in and do your own soul searching. Don't let the liars and the crooks mess it up for you.

Ed: Yeah, I know. I didn't want to get into such things, but yes, I know.

Jim: Phew. Long comment. One I'd rather discuss with you over a beer-u or three...

To clarify: I am not bashing Jesus, or his teachings. I am merely still scratching my head as to why the fascination with the gore of "The Passion", which in my esteem has nothing to do with passion.

In all my years, I have yet to hear a single convincing argument as to the value of this story. Other than perhaps the idea of "conviction".

As for the film, I agree that the portrayal *should* be brutal, because it was. And the film was too. Good job, and yes kudos to Mr. Gibson for taking it on with some success.

ALSO, I in NO WAY mean to disrespect any of my christian friends.

The "died for our sins" part is the essence of the crucifixion.

In the Old Testament God's people lived by the old law, sacrificing animals in atonement for their sins. However, in attempting to keep the laws they were bound to sin and thus imposed the wrath of God upon them constantly, not to mention a whole lot of blood had to be spilled because of it. (Think of trying to keep the speed limit on an open highway! You'd be grilling a whole lot of oxen yourself!)

Jesus came to be the one last and final sacrifice in atonement for "everyone's" sin, even those who weren't even born yet, Jews and Gentiles alike. Once you understand this the death of Jesus not only makes sense but it was necessary. He paid our ransom forever.

We by ourselves can never make atonement for our sins.We can never reconcile ourselves back to the Father. Jesus is the Way, and the Life, no one can get to the Father but through Him. Jesus became the mediator between our sinful nature and the righteousness of God.

From this point on, Salvation is the key that unlocks the knowledge and understanding of the ways of God and the believer's purpose and destiny. Without this understanding the world and her affairs will continue to be baffling and without hope.

Salvation comes by repentance of our sinful nature, believing that Jesus is our Saviour and Redeemer paying the price for our freedom from death and sin (sin will always be in the world, but now the believer has a choice between sin and righteousness)and believing that Jesus arose from the grave, is alive and is Lord over all.

I myself have not seen Gibson's movie not because I disagree with his work but that I already know the price that was ransomed for me. I'll never really know how much it cost Him, but I know I'm free. If you don't understand the "price" then you won't "get" the act of the crucifixion as a whole.

Unbelievers won't understand the deeper levels of God because they haven't invested what it will take to understand. The natural mind can't comprehend the ways of God, this knowledge can only come by the Holy Spirit gifted to us by way of Salvation; without this the Truth becomes ritualistic and corrupted. Symbolic objects, unbiblical theories, and false truths become the accepted practice and the Truth is buried and/or dismissed. True believers are not born out of religion, they are born again by Salvation.

Jesus' death was no accident, in fact, it was ordained by God. It was the understanding of the Father's love and passion for mankind that enabled Him to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Son: I thank you for trying to explain this but I've heard it many many times, and it still seems utterly senseless to me, especially when contrasted to the same notions "of the True Way" in every other human belief system. Again, Christianity is the only one which embodies this in the form of a man, "The Son Of Man"/"Son of God".

No man, or beast, shall die for my sins. My sins are mine to be atoned for, and you for yours. It's all just a scapegoat for individual responsibility.

And this Jesus taught as well. Integrity and respect. Love thy neighbor. Do unto others as you'd have done onto you. This concept of sin, inherited from Judaism and it's predecessors, is what taints all of this, and by extension, all of western culture for the last 2000+ years...

I'll stop now before I go "Matrix-y" on y'all... ;) An anomaly in the runtime, perhaps? ;) Ok ok I shaddap...

I understand Boris. Salvation is a gift to be accepted and not to be forced upon anyone (everybody take note). It will all be senseless while your eyes are accustomed to darkness, Salvation brings light to this mystery if you desire it.

Oh yes, we are ALL responsible for our actions, don't get me wrong. I am the first to stand in that line. The thing is, once acknowledged we have a choice to deal with sin in enlightenment (by way of Salvation) or not deal with it at all and go on our merry way. Just know that the wage of sin is death--in flesh and in spirit, now and eternally.

I can only speak for Christianity--NO person can be atoned and reconciled back to the Father without the acceptance and acknowledgement of the Blood of the spotless, sacrificial Lamb. You either accept the gift or you don't. Everyone has a choice of their destiny.

Ok, now I shaddap...

For the sake of clarity, in this case the english word "Passion" was a synonym of "Suffering", before it came to the definitions we usually attribute to it today.

So "The Passion of the Christ" literally means "The Suffering of the Christ".

Yes, I believe that is the meaning which was intended. Unfortunately that's where alot of people get stuck and go no further.

The "suffering" is just one aspect, one dimension of the true meaning. If one gets caught up on the suffering they'll miss the ultimate message.

It's really about love. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

Also, Jesus spoke in parables for a reason. What it looks like at first glance may not be all that it is.

Son, we also all have a choice in how arrogantly we interact with others. Please, you cannot know me or my salvation, or my path to it.

I contend we are on the same path, only we use different words and symbols.

I do not bore you with mine, please do not attack me with yours.

I will leave your preaching comments, even though those words are so cliché as to feel like sledge hammers being flung at me.

Steven: thanks for the clarification. It doesn't make the fascinationwith blood, gore, death any clearer though. ;)

11- Oww, man! What'd I do?

Boris, forgive me if I've offended you, or anyone else for that matter. I don't mince words much but please don't take it as an attack.

You asked a question and, being who I am, I should always be ready to give an answer regarding the reason of hope within me. I just wanted you to know that for me, there's something else in this event that's greater than the blood, gore and death and I have no fascination with it.

I came across your blog (nice by the way) because I'm interested in one of my own. I saw what you wrote and I... couldn't... just... let... it... pass, but, I will digress.

I hope this sorry band-aid for those sledge hammer boo-boos will be acceptable. Hope to see you on that path.

Hmmm.. not sure what to say really as I was not so much offended as annoyed, but hey it's all good! ;)

(by attack I meant it more like one may be attacked by rain... but anyways...)

I appreciate your comments and your position. Was just a tad annoyed by the approach, honestly... But again, it's all good.

As for paths, lemme know when you eventually set up your blog. :)