Thursday, February 26, 2004
While we are on the subject of The Christ and his Passion, I should point out that Andrew Sullivan has decided that the film is Gibson's psychotic attempt at pornography. Money quote:
GUTTING THE MESSAGE: Moreover, the suffering is rendered almost hollow by a dramatic void. Gibson has provided no context so that we can understand better who Jesus is - just a series of cartoon flashbacks. We cannot empathize with Mary fully or with Peter or John - because they too are mere props for the violence. The central message of Jesus - of love and compassion and forgiveness - is reduced to sound-bites. Occasionally, such as when the message of the sermon on the mount is juxtaposed with the crucifixion, the effect is almost profound - because there has been an actual connection between who Jesus was and what happened to him. But this is the exception to the rule. Watching the movie, you can see how a truly powerful rendition could have been made - by tripling the flashbacks and context, by providing a biography of Jesus, by showing us why he endured what he endured. Instead, all that context, all that meaning, has been removed for endless sickening gratuitous violence.
Sullivan, a Catholic, has a doctrinal difference with Mel Gibson, the director. Gibson contends (and I say this not having seen the film but having read Ponnoru and others in NRO) that Jesus' central message is the suffering of the Passion, the sacrifice on Calvary, and the Ressurection. From my reading of Sullivan's take, Andrew believes that Christ's central message of love and compassion (as outlined in the Sermon on the Mount) is what one should take from Christianity. Gibson's is a much more orthodox view, and is wrapped up in Christ's choice to suffer when he need not have. What Sullivan considers as pornographic, Gibson considers as absolutely necessary. Again, for the Tory take on all this, head on over to NRO (see links below).
I suspect that a lot of what is going on with Sullivan has to do with the fact that Gibson is, more than likely, on Bush' side of the entire gay marriage issue, but that's just my snarky self. More likely is the proposition that there is a deep divide among Roman Catholics between reformists, who have accepted Vatican II, and the minority of more orthodox Catholics, such as Gibson, who reject Vatican II and the movement to extinguish the Latin Mass.
It all gets down to what you did in Church, I suppose. I was an altar boy at an Episcopal Church in Pompano Beach back in the early Seventies. But the Episcopal Church got away from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and got into Guitar Masses, women priests, gay priests, and anything else that was Hip and Aware. Having watched the ECUSA leave the Gospels, I left the ECUSA as it became yet another Harlot of Babylon (btw, how Condi Rice remains a Presbyterian after what's gone on over at that funhouse is beyond me...). I'll probably end up as a Blood and Soil Roman Catholic like Mel, content to send some coin to Opus Dei now and again.
So what to do with this Jesus business? Well, years ago, I was watching the 11 O' Clock News Sports Final. This was in 1998 or 1999. During the broadcast, they were reviewing what went on at the Little League World Series playoffs. They showed a kid who hit a line drive over the left field wall. Beyond the fence was a guy in a gorilla suit who chased down the fly ball and caught it on the run. Shortly afterward I spoke to my cousin and told him of the broadcast. I wondered aloud to him about something that hit me. What if Christ had ministered to the Hebrews while wearing a gorilla suit? Not, "what if he came to us as a gorilla?" No way, Jose! What if Jesus had conducted the Sermon on the Mount while wearing a gorilla suit. What if, instead of the loaves and the fishes, it had been bananas?
In Pilate's waiting room...
Would anyone have taken Jesus seriously? It depends on whether or not you put more stock in the crucifixion or the Sermon on the Mount. I think that that is the choice Gibson is asking us to make, ultraviolence and all.