Thursday, February 12, 2004

Crossan and Witherington debate The Passion

Thanks to Charles Miller on Synoptic-L for drawing my attention to this:

Scholarly Smackdown
A liberal professor and a conservative professor debate the movie, the Bible, theology and more.
By John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III

It seems that Crossan and Witherington have been asked by beliefnet to engage in a public email conversation in connection with the release of the film. The first exchange, dated 10-11 February, focuses on the question of the suffering and violence. Crossan's piece makes excellent reading -- he really is incapable of being dull. He focuses on the problematic link apparently made between suffering and sacrifice and draws attention to this issue in this way:
And the second question I would raise for our dialogue is: What is the appropriate separation between suffering and sadism? How do you depict and view actual torture without its sadism becoming pornographic? In the same EWTN interview, Mel Gibson admitted that “I don’t think it’s as brutal as it really was. I’ve stopped short of what I think probably really happened. However, it’s brutal, it is graphic.” Then comes this absolutely breath-taking and profoundly disturbing interchange. Raymond Arroyo: “There is a sense of beauty in the violence, and I don’t quite know if I’m expressing that correctly, do you sense that?” Mel Gibson: “Good, yes, I do, I mean that is a definite intent to do that. To make it lyrical, to make the violence lyrical. In a way, to find the beauty in it.” Despite those terrible formulations, the point is clear. Sacrifice equals suffering and so, to appreciate sacrifice, that suffering must be shown with exact and graphic violence.
Unfortunately Witherington has not yet seen the film so he is labouring at a disadvantage at the beginning of this exchange; I'd suggest beliefnet get a copy to him or an opportunity to attend a preview viewing asap.

Beliefnet also have a massive site on the film with lots of links and discussion; I'm adding a link to my page on The Passion of the Christ:

Beliefnet: The Passion of the Christ.

Additional note: one of the two big "fan sites" on The Passion of the Christ has disappeared over the last two days, so I've added a notice on that ahead of withdrawing the link.

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