20 January 2020
Passion -The Film
Dear People of St Johns and St Philips
The film "the Passion" has got enormous publicity. It is a topic of general conversation and for that reason alone we cannot ignore it. The film shows the last 12 hours of Jesus' life before the crucifixion. It is clear that it is extremely violent to the degree of being gratuitous violence. Martin Marty says "I don't take to depictions of violence. It puzzles me that conservative Catholics and Evangelicals who oppose violence in films find it fine if Jesus is in one. If you get your kicks from the sight of blood and gore, this is a way to get them "sacredly."
Jesus' death is not about how much suffering he went through, but the significance lies in WHO was suffering and to what end. Jesus' death is meaningless without the full shining glory of the resurrection and the life and works of Jesus.
A disturbing theological emphasis which Mel Gibson, the producer, claims for the film is one which is foreign to our Protestant tradition, [but is within a strand of Spanish Catholicism in particular] that suffering in itself is desirable to produce holiness and the more the better. In one interview Mel Gibson said "I don't think it's as brutal as it really was".. Raymond Arroyo,the interviewer asks, "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 replies "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!" This I find alarming and verging on sadism.
The Roman Empire WAS brutal, crucifixion WAS brutal. One thing this film may bring out in our violence ridden world is a graphic recognition of Christ's humanity for those who believe in a comfortable gospel where Good Friday has been forgotten - but it will be a cruel awakening. Maybe it will bring some to ask more about this Christ, but at what cost to Christ's message of love and forgiveness and what message about the nature of God is given? The discussion which arises from it will also cause us to search our own understanding of God in the central part of our faith.
It is our human violence that is demonstrated at the cross to which God says a resounding NO in the resurrection of Jesus. We do not need to wallow in our violence, [the scriptures do not]. Yes, Christ knows pain, not only physical but also the pain of human betrayal and the Godforsakenness of the cross and therefore we can know that he walks with us down some very dark roads. But that is because of the gracious YES to us of the God who bears our torture and breaks the cycle of violence by returning to us love and life and forgiveness, the costly grace we find so difficult to understand. Jesus shows us the way is one of love and that could just get lost if we dwell on our violence in a medieval version of the Passion story. [Definitely not for children]
May the peace and love of God be with you all as we travel toward Easter
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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