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2.25.2004

Empty bread, empty mouths, talk about the Passion 

I've mostly been trying to avoid gradually been sucked in by all the hype surrounding "The Passion Of The Christ," though I do plan to see it eventually. I have to say, though, that the following is rather disturbing:



Already, merchandise associated with the film is on shelves and moving swiftly. A companion book to the film was at No. 20 on Amazon.com's list as of Tuesday afternoon, and movie tie-ins range from replica crucifixion nails to Sunday morning sermons.



Replica crucifixion nails?

UPDATE: You can see a picture of them here. Retail price is $17.

Sales of jewelry in the likeness of crosses (both Catholic style and Protestant style) have trivialized the death and resurrection of Christ in the public eye. I can't quite decide if these nail pendants are going to excite some consumers' taste for the macabre or if they're going to make the crucifixion an even more banal object in the public mind, but neither outcome is really appealing.

UPDATE: A woman in Kansas who was said to be in her 50s apparently collapsed and died while watching the crucifixion portion the movie. God rest her soul.

UPDATE: I've been fairly critical so far of a movie I haven't seen yet, but let me defend it against the charges of anti-Semitism. Somebody had to have killed Jesus; he didn't nail himself to that cross. The four Gospels all concur that Pilate (the Roman governor of Jerusalem), some subset of the Jewish priests and elders, and assorted members of the peanut gallery were all complicit in Jesus's death. This particular group of Jews wanted Jesus killed, but ultimately they had no right to execute anyone; Pilate approved of the crucifixion and his soldiers performed it.

Now I can understand the Jewish people's particular historical sensitivity to this point, but I don't see people in Italy protesting the film as anti-Roman. Ultimately it doesn't matter if it was Jews, Romans, Greeks, Indians, or Martians who were the proximate agents of the crucifixion -- the theological point is that all of mankind committed the sins for which Jesus suffered and died, and Mel Gibson to his credit has been steadfast in making this point whenever he's had to talk to the press. I sincerely hope that this much more important theological truth is communicated effectively in the film.

Oh, and lest we forget, Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave three days hence. Not everyone can carry the weight of the world, but Jesus did and freed us from our sin. Praise the Lord!

UPDATE: This review from Christianity Today is a bit worrying. Excerpt:



For all that is praiseworthy in this film, it is still somewhat unsatisfying. Indeed, the flashback structure itself is part of the problem. In Scripture and in much of Christian tradition, the death of Christ is placed within the context of his life and Resurrection, but Gibson's film reverses that by placing small bits of Jesus' life within the overwhelming context of his death. As full of faith as The Passion is, it never gets beyond its raw and prolonged depiction of human and demonic cruelty; after vividly depicting the suffering and grief and despair of Jesus' followers for two hours, the film forgets all about them, while reducing the Resurrection to a couple of special effects tacked on to the end.

Watching The Passion is like experiencing a woman's labor pains—but never witnessing the joy that makes the pain worth it all.



This does seem in line with Catholic tradition, though -- it seems to me that Catholics focus much more on the suffering of Christ than on his resurrection. Protestant crosses are empty, symbolizing Christ's triumph over death, while Catholic crosses (crucifixes) have a representation of Christ hanging on them.

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