THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: A Review - By Ruth Powers

March 6, 2004

OK, I have now seen The Passion of the Christ.  I am neither in tears nor enraged.  What I am is even more convinced than ever that there are some people who can read an agenda into the phone book.  People who went to see this movie expecting to see anti-Semitism will see it.  People who went expecting a devotional experience will have one.  People with no background in the Christian Scriptures will just be confused.

As I watched, I ruminated on the fact that Mel Gibson and I are almost exactly the same age, so our experiences of church in our early years were probably pretty similar.  My parents are not Holocaust deniers, and they have never left the Roman chuch, but from what I can tell, they probably share the same attitude toward Vatican II as Gibson, especially with regard to its liturgical and devotional reforms.

What this movie really was, as far as I'm concerned, was a visual representation of that devotional that Gibson and I probably shared -- St. Alphonsus Ligouri's Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent and on the first Friday of every other month of the year. The focus of this devotion, especially Alphonsus', was the terrible suffering that OUR SINS caused Christ.  I can still remember one old nun getting after me for something I had done by saying "Every time you do XXX (whatever it was) you're just pushing the crown of thorns harder into Jesus' head.  THIS is why there is so much focus on the scourging before hand (and Deke, as I've said before, that part was pretty damned historically accurate) and the intensity of the suffering.  As the soldier pierced Christ's side with the lance, the words of the First Friday gospel went through my head--"and immediately there flowed out blood and water.  This testimony has been given by an eyewitness and this testimony is true.  He has told what he knows to be true so that you, too, may come to believe." (Jn 19:34-35).

This is Gibson's traditionalist Catholic guilt coming through loud and clear.  I know this because this is how I was brought up in my younger days.  Gibson has just never let go of it, and at this late date I'm not sure he can.

For the record.  I saw no overt anti-Semitism.  Sure, there were things that could be construed that way, but as I said earlier, they could be construed other ways, too.  You find what you are looking for.

From: Deke Barker Date: Sun, Mar 7 2004 Subject: THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: A Review


Anti-Semitism: While I have read a couple of reviews claiming it was overtly anti-Semitic, most of the critical reviews do not make that accusation. Their concern is the effect it will have. And like me, they are most uneasy with Gibson's background and his marketing and PR decisions. Together with what the reviewers seem to see as negative treatment of Jews and overly-solicitous treatment of Pilate, they see a disturbing pattern.

History: I've read that the violence against Jesus was excessive and that it was accurate. I've seen both opinions from supporters as well as critics, so I don't know what to believe. OTOH, precise historical accuracy is not the issue. It is historically accurate to say that Thomas Jefferson (my hero) was a rapist. But it is accurate only if one ignores context. From *ALL* of the descriptions I've seen, there is no context to the scourging. If that is the case, then it is *NOT* accurate, but extremely exces sive to anyone who is not familiar with ancient punishment practices.

Ruth Powers is a Roman Catholic

Deke Barker is a member of the church of The Disciples Of Christ.

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