Jesus films held to a double standard

Works that portray a literal interpretation of the Gospels are viewed as intolerant or narrow-minded.

I would like to address Nathan Hall’s criticism of Mel

Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” as well as the validity of his perspective on whether the public has been wasting its time on the discussion of the movie.

Hall’s slanderous accusations that Gibson is a bigot aside, his assertion that writers “nationally nearly fell over themselves to churn out fluffy, feel-good pieces” on this film are completely erroneous.

The national press often demonstrates a double standard concerning contentious depictions of the life of Christ. Depictions of Jesus that raise questions about the Bible itself or certain doctrines of the Catholic Church are often lauded among the media elite. Works that portray a literal interpretation of the Gospels or that reinterpret biblical stories within a Christian context are viewed as insipid, narrow-minded or intolerant.

One need not look any further than what many media reviewers dubbed the “misunderstood masterpiece,” Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” in which great license was taken to demonstrate a sexual undercurrent between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Recently, the media have been optimistically clamoring over Columbia Pictures’ future release of “The Da Vinci Code,” a thrilled showing that all Christianity is a big sham and that the Catholic Church’s hierarchy has used murder, extortion and theft among other vices to subjugate women and hide this great lie.

“The Passion of the Christ” is probably the most violent movie I have ever seen. I am hemophobic and nearly passed out during an episode of Dick Van Dyke’s “Diagnosis Murder” on Pax TV – so I can honestly say that I will never see this movie again.

Nevertheless, The Boston Globe missed the point by labeling it “an icon of religious violence.” Gibson’s film is a powerful story and addresses a certain religious perspective in its portrayal of Christ as a human sacrifice for the sin of mankind. If one wants to criticize the movie from an artistic point of view, the argument could be made that Gibson was so absorbed in focusing on Christ’s human suffering that he failed to give him any humanity. One should also keep in mind that the passion Christians recite every Easter is part of a much larger narrative on Christ’s life, death and resurrection – principles that are relevant for our daily lives – and not merely the story of his crucifixion.

With regard to Hall’s second point, I believe he paints with a rather broad brush. I have heard numerous substantive discussions – positive and negative – generated over Gibson’s movie and open dialogue is a good thing. Yes, his assertion that such attention is rarely given to films

dealing with more popular world religions such as Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism. However, three-fourths of the world’s only major superpower do claim to be somewhat Christian and exercise their religious convictions – be them major or minor – when they participate in public policy decisions locally, nationally and internationally. Whether one is religious or not, one must appreciate this reality. Equating the discussion of religion in the public sphere to mere consumerism by the “blind” faithful is quite insulting.

Ian Alexander is a public policy student at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. He welcomes comments at [email protected]