Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Crossan on The Passion again

Bible and Interpretation list this article from the Toronto Star (TheStar.com):

Christian scholar questions Gibson's depiction of Jesus
Theology taken from nun's meditations
Passion is dangerous, sadistic, expert says

"This is the most savage movie I have ever seen. I've never seen anything like it. It is two hours of unrelenting brutality." . . . .

. . . . "I have said that if this is the way God is, this punishing God who takes it out on Jesus instead of us, then we should not worship that God. We're dealing with a savage God and we are in really serious trouble if that's what God is like."

Crossan isn't done with his question: "Is your God a punishing God who demands punishment for sin but, who instead of taking it out on us, takes it out on his own beloved son?

"I'm waiting for some strong evangelical with a conscience to say, `Wait a minute. This is not our Jesus. This is not our God.'" . . . .

. . . . . But Crossan is aware of the movie's intent. He knows Gibson's title says it all.

"He said he's not interested in (Jesus') ministry and resurrection, but his sacrifice. But (Gibson) has gone from sacrifice to suffering, and from suffering to sadism. What he's decided to do, and what every passion play does, is to take the four Gospels and reduce them to one. Then you take what each of them does and reduce that to (Jesus') death.

"Then you reduce death to passion, which means to suffer. He shows the last hours (in Jesus' life) as suffering, and I think at that point, it becomes sadism because all that shows you is people thoroughly enjoying beating Jesus to a bloody pulp.

"I'm sure the Crucifixion was horrible," Crossan goes on. "I'm sure the scourging was horrible. I think rape is also horrible but I don't think we should dramatize it or show it in detail. It would be pornography." . . . . .

. . . . . The movie is 5 per cent from the Gospels, 80 per cent from Anne Catherine Emmerich and the rest from Gibson. If she was copyrighted, he'd be sued, or she would get a major screenwriting credit," Crossan says with a chuckle.

But he becomes very earnest when he says he finds it a "huge irony that all these conservative Christians are awestruck over a movie that is based on an extremely conservative Roman Catholic nun's meditations," and not on the very scriptures they hold as inerrant . . . .

. . . . . Ultimately, what the film will convey to foreign markets is that "there are Jews who are bad and there are ex-Jews, called Christians, who are good."
Several of the items here have appeared in other comments made by Crossan on the film. But some comments on specific elements raised here. First, hyperbole. Perhaps this is the most savage film that Crossan has seen, but its violence is nothing like as strong as it is sometimes claimed to be. It is certainly not one of the most violent films made. Nor is it "two hours of unrelenting brutality"; there is a lot of relenting, whether in terms of the camera's gaze, the witnesses' reactions or the flashbacks. Second, harmonizing. I don't know that one can criticize the filmmakers for harmonizing the four Gospels (to "reduce them to one"). Of course we'd like them to do the work that we love doing with the Synopsis, but this is not realistic when one is looking at Christian storytelling. Third, more hyperbole. The film is indeed more dependent on Emmerich's visions than many realise. I was quite struck myself by how many details came from the Dolorous Passion when I began to read it. But 5 per cent Gospels and 80 per cent Emmerich is seriously overstating it.

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