"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Wednesday, March 10, 2004 I haven't seen the Passion of the Christ ... I don't really want to ... and I can't make up my mind whether I'm going to.
I can't make up my mind because the movie -- which I gather is pretty much 2-3 hours of Jesus' excruciating torture and death -- sounds both theologically offensive and yet very important.
What is offensive to me is what appears to be the subtext to the movie that we need to immerse ourselves in the horrific pain of Jesus' passion because it is the "price he paid for our sins." That's offensive because it turns God into a sadist ... and even worse, into the worst kind of abusive parent. The emphasis on the cross to the near-elimination of everything else -- Jesus' life ... even his resurrection -- has always seemed a deep perversion of the Gospel. And though I can't say beause I haven't seen the movie ... from all reports it sure smells like this is the same sort of thing.
And yet ... and yet, I think there is a way that it is important -- IF (and this is a big IF) we take it as an intense look at something that is only PART of the story.
Jesus' story has probably gotten too familiar and co-opted by Western suburban Christianity. We treat the image of Jesus on the cross as if he was lounging in an easy chair up there -- very casually. There's so much in our culture that says that our faith, like everything else, shouldn't be so important that it radically changes us or takes away our own sense of our own importance or self-definition. But the horrible reality of the crucifixion is a deep and powerful statement of how much who Christ is and what he lived really, really matters. It matters enough for him to endure this kind of pain.
I think it's important for the same reason I think every Christian should, on Good Friday, take the day off work if they possibly can, fast, pray, go to the three hours service and then do a stations of the cross -- completely immerse themselves in the events of that day. For one day, it is critical that we remember that our faith IS about life and death.
And that's what I see as good about The Passion of Christ. But of course if all you ever did was go to the Good Friday liturgy, your view of Christianity would be severely warped. And I guess that's what I fear about those who are flocking to this movie. It's an important image --- but as PART of the story, not as the whole story.
So maybe we all should see it. Maybe I'll wait until Good Friday and see it then. Yeah ... actually, that sounds pretty good. Because I know after I see it I'll need to sit with it for awhile, let it seep through me. But then I'll also need to sing along with the first fire of Easter, and shout Alleluia at the empty tomb, and rejoice that the cross wasn't the end ... that the end hasn't come yet. That we're still living the story.
| Mike at 3/10/2004 09:30:00 PM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."