Why They Hate 'The Passion'
R. Cort Kirkwood
by R. Cort Kirkwood
Passion Of The Christ" is high art.
other movies of the religious and non-religious genre, this one
is not entertainment. It isn't a film you see to knock off a few
hours on a Saturday afternoon. You experience this film, then ponder
it, as you ponder the symbolism, characters and moral lessons in
a great work of literature.
Mel Gibson's "Passion" isn't mere literature, and the history it
retells, recalling Christian art through the centuries, is the principal
reason it is a sublime piece. The film's arresting cinematography,
imagery and techniques set it apart from the classic attempts in
such films as "Ben
Hur" or "The
Greatest Story Ever Told."
again, Gibson's method of revealing the suffering of Jesus Christ
has invited something beyond the usual film criticism: unalloyed
hatred. "The Passion," we are told, is "anti-Semitic" and tantamount
to Nazi propaganda. It does not comport with the Gospels. It does
not provide the "context" for the Crucifixion and does not dispense
Jesus's teachings. It's a gore-fest, unworthy of the $7.50 we would
plunk down for, say, "Kill
Bill" of "Natural
Born Killers," two much more measured films on the violence
of which is nonsense. The critics dislike this film for an unspoken
reason unrelated to, yet hidden, in what they have written, that
reason having been written into the film. Its message is this: "I
Am The Way, and The Truth And The Life."
course, secular critics, whether politically or theologically liberal,
don't want to hear the Truth. Thus, the angst and hatred, the weeping
and gnashing of teeth. Thus, their primal scream, echoing Satan
in his Hell when Christ dies in "The Passion."
the Critics Are Wrong
addressing "The Passion's" message, better to dispense with the
main objections. First and foremost is that the film is anti-Semitic
because it depicts Jews as the bloodthirsty caricatures conjured
up by Julius Streicher, the Nazi propagandist.
Only viewers schooled in anti-Semitic mythology, 99.99 percent of
whom aren't, would draw that conclusion. Indeed, it's hard to see
anti-Semitic images even when looking. They aren't there. No one
will walk out of this film an anti-Semite who didnít walk in one.
The principal villains in the film are the Romans wielding the whips
with sadistic abandon, pushing Our Lord to his death at Golgotha.
yes, the film conforms to the Gospels. So seamless is Gibson's tapestry
that average viewers, many undoubtedly enthusiastic Christians but
unschooled in Scripture, won't know what he culled from extra-scriptural
sources. On this point, the critics contradict themselves. They
say Gibson departed from the Gospels (in depicting the savagery
of the scourging, for instance) by consulting those sources. But
then they argue that the Gospels are ahistorical, that Gibson should
have consulted other sources. Whatever. The film depicts what most
viewers, particularly Catholics, remember from their desultory reading
of the Bible. As for "not providing the context" of the Crucifixion,
so what? Even viewers who are only nominal Christians or atheists,
who live in post-Christian America with everyone else, know the
story behind "The Passion." They don't need "context."
truth raises another false criticism: that the film is too violent
and does not show Jesus's important teachings. Again, poppycock.
The "violence" is over-hyped and unlike the typical Hollywood fare.
The critics know that and lie in pretending otherwise. As for the
teachings, flashbacks provide them. They show Jesus preaching the
Sermon on the Mount and telling followers to love their enemies.
Without words, Jesus imparts the lessons of mercy and forgiveness
and condemns hypocrisy when he saves Mary Magdalene: Let him who
is without sin cast the first stone. Jesus teaches his apostles
at The Last Supper, and delivers the invocation every Catholic hears
when he attends Mass: "This is My Body ... this is My Blood."
Gibson's Jesus imparts Christianity's central teaching: "I am the
way, and the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but
Passion critics and haters, these last words are the genuine problem
with the film. It isn't that the film imparts too few of Jesus's
hard teachings. Rather, it imparts too many. It renders his most
important teachings. It proclaims, unflinchingly, what non-Christians
and tepid Christians do not want to hear: To enter Heaven, we must
go through Jesus Christ.
with Jesus, comes the Cross, another teaching too hard for the modern
age: He suffered and died for our sins, and we too must suffer and
shoulder His Cross. After all, our own sins fashioned it. This is
Gibson's point. His sins, our sins, put Christ on the Cross. Our
sins brought down each stripe from the Roman flagellum, crowned
Him with thorns and delivered each agonizing blow of hammer on nail.
Real Christians believe every sin drives another nail into His hand,
another nail into His foot, another lance into His side.
modern liberal Christian or Jew, so attached to secular utopian
fantasy, doesn't want to hear about suffering and redemption. They
don't want to see it. They have no need, after all. For them, Jesus
Christ is not a Redeemer but a utopian-socialist philosopher, urging
not just love for the sinner but love for the sin. This film
Catholic and Marian, a recreation of the Sorrowful Mysteries of
the Rosary and The Stations of the Cross shows them the Truth,
something many men fear more than the Lie.
Quid est veritas?" Pilate asks Jesus. Beaten and manacled,
the Truth stood before Pilate. The critics can't bear it. They love
the Lie, so they must hate "The Passion."
columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send
him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record
in Harrisonburg, Va.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com
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