Flashback: The Passion of the Christ

In anticipation of the shutdown of Apple’s MobileMe service, I am re-posting some of my old blog entires before they become harder to retrieve.

This entry was originally posted on March 17, 2004.

I am really glad I’m not a Christian.

I saw the controversial movie ‘The Passion’ the other night (or as some friends of mine and I called it, that snuff film…)

Going into the movie, I had heard what a lot of people were saying about it, the excessive violence, blah blah blah. What struck me as unusual about it was how one-dimensional the movie really is. Even knowing that the movie focussed almost entirely on the torture and execution of Jesus, the fact that there was so little else to the movie really surprised me. I think I’ve seen porno movies with more depth.

A lot of evangelical Christians say that this movie is a good way to help to gain converts. That couldn’t be more false. Anyone who didn’t have an upbringing in Christian mythology would have a hard time understanding some of the nuances of the movie. One character, a pale androgynous person wearing a hood who appeared at various points throughout the movie — had it not been for some of the reviews and commentary I’ve seen on this film, I never would have known that this person was supposed to be the devil.

Charges of anti-Semitism. I can see how people looking to hate the Jews would have leverage in this movie, but let’s keep one thing perfectly clear: the only people in the film who were obviously Jewish were King Herod (who chose not to execute Jesus) and the man who agreed to carry Jesus’s cross when Jesus couldn’t bear to carry it any longer. A little knowledge of history would indicate that Jesus, his mother, and his disciples were also Jewish, but I couldn’t be certain of that from any context in the movie. And the bearded old men who insisted that Jesus be crucified? They were referred to as “priests.” Ain’t no priests in Judaism as far as I’m aware.

If it wasn’t the most violent movie I’ve ever seen, it’s way up there on the list. I have a hard time making that distinction because, with the exception of a fistfight or two, Jesus’s stomping of a snake to death, and the suicide of Judas, all of the violence was directed at one person. None of those other scenes of violence amounted much to anything in comparison. The violence of movies like Caligula, A Clockwork Orange, and First Blood at least spread the violence out among multiple targets.

By focussing almost entirely on the process by which Jesus was captured, tortured and executed, this movie underscores what is probably my biggest beef with Christianity: the fact that Christians put too much emphasis on Jesus’s death and not enough on his life. Read what he had to say, and you might appreciate some of his teachings and you might even be able to become a better person. Read about how he died (or watch it on the screen, anyway) and you see a people who glorify an exceptional amount of violence aimed at one person.

Then there are the logistical inaccuracies of the movie. Judas accepts the silver from the priests to bring them to Jesus, the police ask which one Jesus is (and he answers honestly), and then Judas kisses Jesus on the cheek. Jesus then perceives that kiss as one of betrayal? I don’t think so. And the choice of the word “betrayal” seems a bit off here too. They were his followers, not his bodyguards.

Even better yet: are we supposed to believe — honestly — that Jesus was the only person tortured before being executed? Are we to believe that nobody else, while everyone was allegedly waiting around for the messiah to come, stepped forward to claim to be the messiah? I would presume that the others met up with the same fate as Jesus, so whatever was done to Jesus was hardly unique to him. Why focus solely on one man?

And I didn’t think Jesus ever actually referred to himself as the messiah or the son of god. I may be wrong there, but I know that if I were the messiah (and knew it), I wouldn’t tell that to my followers for the simple reason that I wouldn’t want to come off as an egotist and drive people away. That actually brings me to another point that bothers me about Christian mythology. God sends you a messenger that you are his child and your goal is to cleanse (and die for) the sins of man. If I received a message like that, I would do everything in my power to ensure that my sperm — divine seed if you would — could get passed on to another generation. I sincerely suspect that it wouldn’t be all that difficult to achieve.

I didn’t see much passion, I must admit. A lot of pain and suffering but not much passion . After seeing a movie like this, I am really glad I’m not a Christian.

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