Well, I’ve been gone for a while, but it’s time to start bludgeoning the darkness again!
I saw The Passion of the Christ last night and it is everything that I expected and more. I do not, as a rule, let tears run down my cheeks in movies, but I could not stop them during this one. It is brutal, violent and sickening…and it is, as a representation of the Gospel of Christ, salvific, faith-strengthening, and destructive of self-delusions.
One of the previews prior to the movie was for The Alamo; I await the reviews that will warn of anti-Mexican violence as a result of that film (I dare to predict that you will read at least one review with such warnings).
I had two primary thoughts during The Passion. The first was, “This is my Lord?” It is offensive to our oh-so-pious American Christian minds that our God should be so ignominously put to death. (Perhaps our Protestant pieties are what prevent us from accepting the fact that the violence was at least as severe as depicted, and perhaps more so.) But the thought that immediately followed the previous one was the words of our Lord in John 6:67, after many were offended at His teaching about eating His flesh and drinking His blood: “Do you want to go away as well?” And my answer, because of the faith that God has given me, could be none other than Peter’s: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn. 6:68).
Yes, that is a depiction of my Lord on the screen, as He crushes the head of the serpent, Satan; as He willingly gives His life for the world; as He gives us His Body and Blood in the Sacrament; as He allows Himself to be scourged and whipped and beaten, because it is in those stripes that we are healed; as He is nailed to the cross and dies for our forgiveness.
In a similar way to how the Lord of the Rings movies formed how I see the characters when I read the books, this movie will forever form how I picture the suffering and death of Christ (even if certain incidents in the film were results of artistic license). How fitting during this time of Lent, as we focus on the Passion of the Christ–not as an abstract, historical event, but as an historical event that is made real to us and for us in our Baptism, and when Christ gives us His very Body and Blood at the altar every week. This film may offend our pious sensibilities (and it probably should), but it is pure Gospel through and through. There is no question that Jesus knows from the very beginning what He will choose to do, and that He does it willingly. In the film, Mary is our example of what faith in Christ looks like. She suffers when she must view her Son’s suffering, but she knows that it is necessary for her salvation and for the salvation of the world. Protestants could do well to recover some sense of reverence of Mary as a great saint of the Christian faith, to whom we might look for example.
Those are my initial thoughts, but I plan to see it again.
I was also struck by the irony that comes across in some of the (un-)critical reviews of the film. The people who argue that so many of the things that are in the Bible are historically inaccurate or false are the same exact people who now argue that Mel Gibson included things that weren’t in the Bible. Oh, now they’re concerned about accuracy! There is a wide gap between saying that things that are in the Bible are false and saying that movie creators cannot take artistic (or in this case, theological) license with things that are not in the Bible. But then, distinctions have always been hard for these people to make.