From the March 2004 Idaho Observer:
Torture, crucifixion wows millions nearly 2000 years after the fact
Mel Gibson's long awaited, much anticipated and highly controversial movie, The Passion of the Christ raked in over $125 million by the seventh day. In advance of its release, overly sensitive members of the Jewish faith were expressing their belief that Gibson, a Roman Catholic, is an anti-semite whose intention was to make the world mad at Jews all over again for killing Christ. Though one can appreciate how descendants of Pharisees would be defensive of the shameful role their ancestors played in the death of God's Son, to condemn the film as anti-semitic served only to boost its box office potential.
The film is derided by some for containing what they perceive to be several Biblical inaccuracies. Such derision was to be expected, however, since arguments over what the written words in the Bible themselves mean has been the cause of much anger and bloodshed for nearly 2,000 years.
What is not clear is why Gibson, whose career began with Mad Max nearly 25 years ago, would choose to release The Passion at this time -- particularly in the manner depicted which clearly focused on man's curious capacity to happily inflict unbearable pain on another man.
Had Gibson's intent been to use the mass marketed movie medium to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ to the people of the world, he would have centered his theme around Christ's message which was to love thy God and love thy neighbor -- and love thy enemies.
If the making of a lot of money was the inspiration behind The Passion, Gibson would likely have patterned it after his action films because they had already proved themselves to be sound money makers that did not make him a target of theological angst.
The Passion may be just an artistic extension of the messages Gibson was sending to people who saw Braveheart and The Patriot. In those films, set in late in 13th century Scotland and Revolutionary era America respectively, Gibson celebrated freedom and the virtue of being willing to fight and die for it rather than live in servitude. Since people didn't seem to get the message, it follows that Gibson chose the most defining event in the history of civilization to redeliver the message for which Christ himself was killed: Trust in God, love each other and stand fearlessly in faith for what is right.
From the Editor's Desk
The Passion of the Christ
We haven't learned a thing, have we?
We saw The Passion of the Christ on the third day. It was two hours of torture that proved who killed Jesus: We did.
As I periodically scanned the 150 faces in the theater with me as The Passion progressed that afternoon, I saw their numb shock and the occasional tears -- I saw 150 faces capable of doing the same thing tomorrow if Jesus came and authority told them to hate him to death.
It has been almost 2,000 years since the crucifixion of Christ and we haven't learned a thing.
If the film had taken place in modern times and I was there among the rabble in my present mindset, I probably would not have been His disciple and would have left the scene in disgust. Though I should have stood with Him because no man should turn his back on justice, the revulsion I felt for the mob mentality would probably have been more than I could stomach.
Although I am not proud of this, I am being honest. That is what this film did to me. Regardless of whether Mel Gibson used modern movie magic to bring the Gospel to life or he took some creative license with the Scriptures has no bearing on my experience -- it was a movie; not the divine word of God. I will leave the theological discussion of The Passion for the world's experts to wrangle over for the next several hundred years.
What I saw was how everyone throughout history has been willing to blame everyone else for what happened that day, but we have, all of us, failed to see ourselves and how the pettiness of our nature was responsible for the torturous last few hours of this man's life.
At this time I am going to say something that has been on my mind for some time but has never been properly addressed -- 'til now: The ritual and dogma of organized religion is government of the soul. Organized governments and organized religions commonly develop rules intended to harness the energies of people through fear of authority; they do not develop rules encouraging people's independence from authority.
What was the best that the State could find to do with an actual Socrates and an actual Jesus when it had them? Merely to poison one and crucify the other for no reason but that they were too intolerably embarrassing to be allowed to live any longer, libertine philosopher Albert J. Nock observed back in the 30s.
I think the lesson in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is that we, the people, for our lack of faith, lack of love and want of courage killed Jesus.
What if that understanding underscored the teachings of Christianity and Judaism for the last 2,000 years?
What if every believer who bent his knees in prayer to God knew in his heart that man's frailties caused the civil torture and mutilation of the most enlightened man of His time?
What if people were encouraged to resist their tendencies toward cowardice and mob-mindedness and were taught to stand up for themselves and the virtuous among them?
Think about how many courageous and forward-thinking geniuses have been tortured and murdered by us since the crucifixion because the religions organized around it have failed to preach the value of standing, unflinching, for what is right and just.
If we hadn't killed Christ for our sins, our stupidities and our fears that fateful day; if we had stood for truth and justice then, would we still be burning fossil fuels, draining radioactive fissile fuels and damming rivers for power today? Or, would we have protected the men and women who developed viable alternatives to those now unviable technologies and, for our trouble, have access to them now?
The list of brilliant, perhaps divinely inspired and well-intended men and women who have applied their gifts to make the world a better place, only to be punished for their efforts, grows in my mind the longer I think about it.
But our Christ-killing tendencies do not stop with those of a pioneering spirit. From the vantage point of my independent publishing desk I have spent the last decade watching us turn our backs on hundreds of innocent men, women and children while they were being maliciously destroyed by authorities.
Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these [my brethren] ye did it not unto me, Jesus said [Matthew 25:45].
Jesus was stating that in denying our neighbors in their time of need we are denying Him as well. My files are stuffed with the blood and tears and pain of good, ordinary people who lost their property, their businesses, their freedom, their health and their lives for no reason other than their neighbors were too weak to stand for what is right.
We haven't learned a thing in 2,000 years of bloodshed and betrayal.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ, however you want to imagine the event, set into stone the policy of how the masses will treat one another -- exactly as they are told.
For our sins, we almost always do as we are told.
Maybe that is the message Mel wanted us to get: He wanted us to see how ugly and hopeless the world was and is because of our willingness to trade temporary safety for essential liberty. He did give us Bravehart and The Patriot before all this. If The Passion is an artistic extension of those films, the preceding logic certainly follows.
For sure, the best way to utilize the box office phenomenon that is The Passion of the Christ, is to realize that the will of the people determines the course of history. If Mel can shock and embarrass enough of us to see how our mass-minded behavior determined the horrifying outcome of events in the past, maybe, hopefully, we will finally understand the one true responsibility which the Creator has imbued upon ALL his children: Always stand, in faith and in principle, for what is right and good. (DWH)
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