Did you know that Mel Gibson is "the Michelangelo of this generation?" So sayeth the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, in reference to The Passion, the $25 million S&M saga about the death of Christ, financed by Mel himself. In addition to the good reverend, Gibson screened his movie for such deep Christian thinkers as Matt Drudge, Cal Thomas, Peggy Noonan, and the staffs of the Senate Republican Conference and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. They all seemed to admire the faithful veracity of such things as the scourging scene where Jesus is beaten to a bloody pulp with a point-studded leather strap before he is nailed to the cross. It's almost as if Mel was there at the time, which he might well have been since he belongs to a retro Catholic cult in Los Angeles that attends Latin Mass and doesn't recognize any pope after 1965.
Gibson has absolutely refused to preview his film for Jewish organizations concerned, as are many interfaith Christians, about the revival of anti-Semitic hate thanks to the undying stupidity of the notion that "Jews killed Christ." Just how accurate this film is can be gauged by its languages, Latin and Aramaic. In fact, the Romans of the day spoke Greek with their subjects.
Even if one ignores the whole thing as the huge publicity stunt it is, the timing is egregiously wrong. This isn't the time to glorify bloody martyrdom when fundamentalists are blowing themselves up on the streets. There are delicate negotiations in the Middle East, showing little shoots of hope. There are tenuous bridges being built between Catholics and Jews on the one hand, and Catholic and Orthodox Christians on the other. Lots of people are attempting to forget the bloody superstitions of the Church and the Mosque and the fires of the Inquisition, the Protocols of Zion, anti-Semitism, and apocalyptic gobbledygook. On this tender green carpet steps the heavy-booted Mel "Road Warrior" Gibson, bringing a new "passion" to the dialogue.
The new archbishop of Boston said in his inaugural speech something to the effect that the disturbed homeless people who claim that they are Jesus Christ are in fact Jesus, in some strange (to us) guise. We should love them all. That's the message that has to prevail over the sadistic depictions (how many times, oh Lord?) of a body tormented by Hollywood.