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Friday, February 27, 2004

Mixed Reactions to The Passion

No, I have yet to see "the movie" (perhaps this weekend?), but many bloggers around the internet have already done so, and are posting their reviews and responses.
  • Dave Armstrong ("Cor ad cor loquitur") praises the film and expresses his hope:
    May all Christians unite in our prayers and efforts: that this extraordinary movie may bring about many changed lives, and more and more committed disciples of our Lord Jesus. This is our moment. The time is now. Let's stop our stupid and petty in-fighting (over these basic issues where we should all readily agree) and show the world what Christianity is really all about. The film is the first step: our behavior as Christians is the crucial second part of the witness. Please God, be with us; it's the least we can do to thank You for what You have done for us . . .

  • Bill Cork shares his concerns and criticisms, and posts a valuable list of resources on the presentation of Jews in The Passion and Scripture.

  • Fr. Rob ("Thrown Back"):
    there is a scene after Jesus' scourging where Mary wipes up His blood. I was moved to think about the Mass, and every time I look into the Chalice when I say "this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant...". That blood, and the blood at the foot of the Pillar, are the same. . . . I will never celebrate Mass the same way again.

  • A Saintly Salmugundi asks two very pertinent questions:
    1. Why is it that people are beating down the doors to see this film about Jesus while priests and ministers talk about Jesus every Sunday and it is like pulling teeth to get people to come to church and sit in their pews?
    2. If Christians will come out en mass to see "The Passion" what can we do to get them to come out en mass on election day and vote for pro-life candidates?

  • Writing for the NRO, S.T. Karnick ponders the film's excessive violence, and offers this defense:
    It is dreadful. It is difficult to watch. We do not want to see it. We should not want to see it. We cannot want to see it. And that, again, is exactly Gibson's point. There is a reason that we do not want to see this. We do not want to accept our complicity in this horror. We do not want to accept responsibility for it. We just want to be left alone.

  • Guest editorial on "Rerum Novarum" by Mark Downey, on Mel Gibson's "Traditionalism":
    I choose to believe that Mr. Gibson is not really an "ultra-traditionalist" at heart. I refuse to believe that he is being hypocritical in order to sell his movie. In the attempt to practice his Catholic Faith without the confusion (which is certainly in abundance), I believe Mel finds himself swimming in the dangerous whirlpool of "private judgement Catholicism". . . .

  • Forgive me for not mentioning it sooner, but Secret Agent Man posts The Mother of All Essays on The Passion, the Jews, and the Teaching of Contempt.
* * *

LifeSite has been compiling positive reviews of The Passion, perhaps to counteract the negative commentary circulating around the internet. The conservative news site Newsmax quotes Rabbi Mark Gellman of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, NY, the Jewish half of the Rabbi-Priest television duo The God Squad, describing the film's "stunning beauty and daring violence that forces all of us to grow up and learn to accept people who tell their own stories." Gellman also told The New York Times recently:

"We have to allow people to tell their own story," Rabbi Gellman said, though he cautioned that people of all faiths must take responsibility for the effects of the stories they tell.

"Jews who are secure in their Jewishness and secure in the compassion of their Christian friends will see the Christian story in a new way," he said.

One of the film's most powerful moments for Rabbi Gellman is a scene in which Jesus is taken down from the cross. Instead of looking at Jesus, as she does in Michelangelo's Pietà, Mary looks directly at the camera, he said, as if to say, "We all did this."

The film's brutality is poignant, Rabbi Gellman said, because "the alternative is some anemic, cartoon version of the story." ("After Months of Contention, 'The Passion' Arrives in Theaters, by Stephanie Rosenbloom. New York Times Feb. 24, 2004)

Gellman's praise comes in sharp contrast to this interview back in August 2003, when he and Msgr. Hartman differed strongly on whether the film should be made at all.

It should be noted, however, that while he believes that Christians have a right to "tell their story," Rabbi Gellman still has reservations about The Passion. The God Squad offers this balanced yet critical editorial on the importance of "Seeing Through Others' Eyes", which is worth reading in its entirety.

* * *

Finally, Catholic Light refers to a guest comment by Joel C. Rosenburg on NRO about "a vicious, anti-semitic film":

Israeli Cabinet Minister Natan Sharansky went to Berlin in January to show German, French and other European officials excerpts of a vicious, anti-Semitic film.

With all the media attacks on Mel Gibson and his new film, you might think Sharansky showed excerpts of The Passion of the Christ. He did not. Sharansky wanted European officials to see a real anti-Semitic film. So he showed them excerpts of Al-Shatat ("The Diaspora"), a $5.1 million, 30-part "mini-series" produced by Syrian television. . . . [Read More]

MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) has video clips of the aformentioned film [WARNING: EXTREMELY VIOLENT], as well as an article on the key characteristics of Arab anti-semitism. While the Blood Libel has faded from Christianity, it remains alive and well in the Arab world, in comparison to which the present criticism and concerns over The Passion's potential to fuel anti-semitism, while to a certain degree warranted, seems rather misplaced, paling in comparison to the propaganda presently circulating in the Middle East.


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