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The Passion of the Christ

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trevor wrote:

: I suppose the rejection of violence in art is a personal conviction.

Actually, I rather like violence in art. I'm a big, big fan of Gerard Jones's book Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes and Make-Believe Violence.

Totally agree. But I can't help but think that the "violence" inherent in the traditional/historic Catholic portrayal of this episode in Christ's life is more of a spiritual aesthetic than it is a mercenary attempt to attract the attention of a base visual lust. I can think of a few triptychs I have shuddered to view, but never feel that they are manipulative blood lust accounts of Golgatha. I wonder if this violence Gibson has been publicizing could be viewed in the trajectory of a different aesthetic. The evangelical church doesn't hold to this way of "veiwing the crucifixion," I don't know. I don't have a problem with any of Giotto's crucifixes:

http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/g/giotto/cr...x/crucifix.html

There is blood spurting everywhere there.

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Peter T Chattaway wrote:

In other words, the kind of skepticism I am engaging in is fine, and the kind of skepticism that I am not engaging in is not fine. No problem there, I guess.

True, you do put the emphasis on the objective acts and their objective effects ("whether or not Mel intends his claim to divine inspiration to have this effect, it WILL make his film impossible to critique, in the eyes of many").

Still, the question of Mel's egotism does seem to be an undercurrent in your posts ("can we not ask filmmakers to be more, I dunno, reserved or humble or cautious when they make such claims about their work?"... "Unless, of course, his religion and his ego are tied together somehow..."). And, as I've already commented, I think there's a misplaced emphasis, at least, in the way you expressed your openness to skepticism concerning an egomaniacal/egotistical interpretation of Mother Theresa's remarks ("Quite possibly... Well, it depends").

Even in this post you write that "sincere humility, it seems to me, would require an artist to stop saying that God has been behind their project every step of the way," which is in my opinion an unreasonably uncharitable way to take Gibson's remarks. You also paraphrase Mel's comments as "The Holy Spirit made this film," when what he actually said was "The Holy Spirit was working through me on this film."

There's a big difference between saying "The Holy Spirit made this film" and saying "The Holy Spirit was working through me on this film." If the Holy Spirit made the film, it is indeed beyond criticism; if the Holy Spirit was merely at work in a film through a person, that doesn't preclude the possibility of the Holy Spirit's work being slightly, moderately, or even gravely impeded by that person's own flaws and limitations both as an artist and as a human being.

Let me hasten to add that I'm not placing myself above anybody here. I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to find posts of mine in which I failed to give someone the benefit of the doubt or unreasonably went to a less charitable interpretation of someone's remarks. It's the principle, not anyone's failure or success at following it, with which I'm here concerned.

To repeat a refrain that, it seems, is often necessary to repeat in these sorts of debates, I do not care about Gibson's motives or his heart or his spiritual condition or whatever ... it is his actions and statements and the effects that these things have on his audience that concern me.

And that's fine. For whatever reason, this kind of language bothers you and it doesn't bother me. You see this clear and present danger of criticism getting preempted, and for me that's just not a live issue. Like I said, it probably comes down to our different experiences (you must have had experiences I haven't of people taking comments like this in a way that preempts criticism; or maybe I just haven't cared about other people's reverential view of things and just argued my own view no matter how they felt about it). Whatever.

I'm just arguing against construing "The Holy Spirit was working through me on this film" to reflect ego or lack of humility, or to mean something like "God was behind my project every step of the way, The Holy Spirit made this film" unless there's some positive reason why it should be construed that way.

It is not when they credit God for the film's virtues that concerns me -- it is when they say things like, "This aspect of the filmmaking fell into place, and we believe it's because God wants this film to be made," or, "Things went so moothly on this set, it must be because God was getting the film made the way he wants it to be made."

All right, you've got a point there. The comments of the Left Behind filmmakers do, I grant you, cross the line into basically claiming "God backs our movie."

Mel's comments push in that direction. I mean, if we take Mel's comment that the Holy Spirit made this film AT ALL seriously, then who among us is going to feel free to stand up and say, "Um, well, the film wasn't all that good, really"?

Once again, saying "The Holy Spirit was working through me" is NOT the same as saying "The Holy Spirit made this film." Mel's comments seem to me closer in spirit to "Here's a song the Lord gave me," which I find basically unobjectionable.

It kinda gets into that weird, nebulous zone where art is no longer art, it is a ministry tool, and how dare we criticize a ministry tool for being bad art.

Once again, I have so little affinity for the viewpoint you describe here that for me the issue is basically moot. I think Mel wants his movie to be both art and ministry tool, and its effectiveness on both fronts is open to criticism.

Where fans of
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(yes, I have found one!) or the
Star Wars
prequels tell us to accept the films "for what they are", fans of
The Passion
will tell us to accept the film "for what it is".

Fine. In the case of LXG, "what it is" is something I'm not particularly interested in; the Star Wars prequels are something else again.

Personally, I'm hoping for another
Gospel According to St. Matthew
, and not for another Campus Crusade
Jesus
movie

My hope is for something like a rebuttal to The Last Temptation of Christ.

and the fact that the Campus Crusade movie has been instrumental (in every sense of that word) in bringing people to Christ does NOT automatically make it a good movie, or even a movie worth praising.

D'accord.

: So we have two interpretations, one more charitable and one less

: charitable, and no particular evidence for either one. I suggest that we

: choose to prefer the more charitable one . . .

Why not, as you say above, just "suspend judgment"?

I suspend judgment of things. People, I give the benefit of the doubt. (At least, I believe in doing so. How well I succeed is another matter.)

I dunno, there's talk of flashback scenes ... those are always awkward to work into a film's structure.

Okay. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, that the movie couldn't be flawed. I'm just keeping an open mind and trying to gauge my hopes appropriately. As it is, I'm optimistic about the film's prospects of (artistic) success.

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Note: May possibly be the LONGEST ever post on this board!

This discussion has been REALLY good and I am so thankful that I have had a slow day so I could read it all and stay on top of it.

One thing that seems to be a continual theme on this board is what Paul talks about in

Phil. 1:17-19

17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.[1] 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

19Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[2]

It seems to be a common temptation on this board to accuse other people from having false motivations where as in reality what really may be our frustration with people who say God made this film I get ircked by that just like the majority of us do.

However, I do think it is important that we understand where Mel Gibson is coming from and realize that he has several people to please. (This could also the excessive political Capitol Hill side of me coming out)

It is my prayer that this movie will not succom to the embarassment of Left Behid and actually be an amazaing work of art.

Unfortunately, this movie is probably going to fall to the temptation of Christian marketing. It will frustrate me just like it will frustrate others. However, I need to remember what Paul said and rejoice that somehow a movie is being made that attempts to speak to a large audience about the "greatest story ever told."

I also thought you may be interested in a prayer letter that I received from a person who works with an organization in Hollywood. I will keep it annonymous but thought you may find the comments of somebody who actually viewed what we have been discussing. . .

Dear Writing Family -

My wife and I just saw a private screening of a rough cut of the new Mel

Gibson movie (starring Jim Caveziel) "The Passion." It is amazing, remarkable, life-changing, gripping, transcendent, stark, horrific, and utterly engrossing.

I am writing to ask that you would pray for Mel Gibson and for this movie. He is already coming under vicious, dishonest attacks from certain corners of the media and one or two organizations (outwardly concerned about the unavoidable "Jews killed Jesus" theme, but probably looking for a whipping boy to bring in revenues) and we could see it is taking a toll on him.

I believe no one will be able to see this movie and walk out unchanged. When it comes out (probably in March), go see it, then make a list of friends and take each one of them to see it. This is the most frank portrayal of the sufferings of Christ ever committed to film. Not easy to watch, but they got the message right in so many ways and with so little dialogue it leaves you breathless . Probably not for kids under age 15. Saved, unsaved, churched, unchurched -- it makes no difference. It is already extremely polarizing, and no one has even seen it yet. So if you would when you think of it, please pray for:

- Mel's peace of mind in the midst of outrageous slings and arrows

- Wisdom for his response (or lack thereof) to said slings and arrows

- Wisdom in finishing the movie and the strength to adhere to his original

vision

- The utter failure of dishonest journalists and other detractors; that their

lies would fall on deaf ears or be revealed for what they are and be

repudiated by the public.

- That every person who needs to see this movie around the globe (God knows

who they are) will have the opportunity to see it. This is God's story, so

everyone involved needs to count on Him to handle distribution!

This man and this movie need the prayers and support of the community of faith, right now, and even after it is in theaters. It may be utterly panned by the press, people may decide not to see it; but I guarantee you if you watch it, you will never celebrate Easter the same way again, or take sin lightly. The price paid was so high.

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(M)Leary wrote:

: I wonder if this violence Gibson has been publicizing could be viewed in

: the trajectory of a different aesthetic. The evangelical church doesn't

: hold to this way of "veiwing the crucifixion," I don't know.

I think the evangelical church has been moving closer and closer to embracing graphic violence in depictions of the crucifixion for a while now, cf. the Visual Bible's Gospel According to Matthew. Quite a few evangelicals embraced The Last Temptation of Christ because of the "realism" of the crucifixion (the depiction of which, interestingly, was inspired by both archaeological studies AND by classic paintings).

SDG wrote:

: Still, the question of Mel's egotism does seem to be an undercurrent in

: your posts ("can we not ask filmmakers to be more, I dunno, reserved or

: humble or cautious when they make such claims about their work?" . . .

This refers directly to the statements Mel made, and not to Mel himself.

: . . . "Unless, of course, his religion and his ego are tied together somehow...").

I haven't bothered to go back and see what the context of this statement was, but I suspect it was in response to someone who implied that religious devotion and ego were somehow mutually exclusive things. They're not. Indeed, this is one of the points I was getting at with my comments about martyrdom -- to the non-religious, it may seem that a person has "nothing to gain" by being killed for his faith, and therefore the willingness to die for one's faith is a sign that the person is free of ego, when in fact, the martyrs received plenty of glory and honour and attention during their lifetimes from their fellow Christians, even as they were taken to their deaths, and they went to their deaths believing that they would receive even more glory and honour and attention, so, one can easily see how the ego could benefit from all of that. Like the scholar I linked to stated, Mother Theresa did not choose a life free of rewards, but simply found different things rewarding -- I cite that not to make any sort of statement about Mother Theresa's ego, but to point out that just because a religious person makes choices that are unfathomable to the non-religious or even to members of the same religion, it does not follow that the choices were not motivated by the same basic drives that compel the rest of us to make our own very different choices.

: And, as I've already commented, I think there's a misplaced emphasis,

: at least, in the way you expressed your openness to skepticism

: concerning an egomaniacal/egotistical interpretation of Mother Theresa's

: remarks ("Quite possibly... Well, it depends").

Why should I NOT be open to skepticism, until I have investigated such interpretations for myself? Why should I be CLOSED to skepticism (as you seem to be), or assume (as you seem to do) that such interpretations of her work are automatically wrong? Why should I not suspend judgment? Words like "possibly" and "it depends" hardly indicate any suspicion of egotism (let alone egomania, which I don't think either of us has ever mentioned in this thread before) on MY part.

: Even in this post you write that "sincere humility, it seems to me, would

: require an artist to stop saying that God has been behind their project

: every step of the way," which is in my opinion an unreasonably

: uncharitable way to take Gibson's remarks. You also paraphrase Mel's

: comments as "The Holy Spirit made this film," when what he actually

: said was "The Holy Spirit was working through me on this film."

"...and I was just directing traffic." (You really must quote the entire sentence.) Which is really not all that different from how someone might argue that the Holy Spirit was working through the evangelists when they wrote the scriptures, and they were just purchasing stationery.

: If the Holy Spirit made the film, it is indeed beyond criticism; if the Holy

: Spirit was merely at work in a film through a person, that doesn't

: preclude the possibility of the Holy Spirit's work being slightly,

: moderately, or even gravely impeded by that person's own flaws and

: limitations both as an artist and as a human being.

So you would argue that Mel Gibson, if he was simply "directing traffic", was still capable of gumming up the Spirit's work on the film somehow?

: Mel's comments seem to me closer in spirit to "Here's a song the Lord

: gave me," which I find basically unobjectionable.

Well, I don't find it basically unobjectionable. If somebody said, "Here's a song the Lord gave me, and I was just writing the notes down," then I would have a problem with that -- even if the song WASN'T crappy.

: My hope is for something like a rebuttal to The Last Temptation of Christ.

Yeah, let's get that loincloth back on the cross! We may have characters speaking in dead languages and all, but we don't need THAT kind of authenticity! wink.gif

: : Why not, as you say above, just "suspend judgment"?

:

: I suspend judgment of things. People, I give the benefit of the doubt.

And when people make statements or commit certain actions, then we have things, not people, to judge.

mcyoung27 quoted:

: Mel Gibson . . . is already coming under vicious, dishonest attacks from

: certain corners of the media and one or two organizations (outwardly

: concerned about the unavoidable "Jews killed Jesus" theme, but probably

: looking for a whipping boy to bring in revenues) and we could see it is

: taking a toll on him.

Yeah, I think the anti-semitism charges are probably pretty baseless, and certainly no one should be making a big stink over them until the film is actually released and we can see what the film does or does not show.

: I guarantee you if you watch it, you will never celebrate Easter the same

: way again, or take sin lightly. The price paid was so high.

Here is where we enter potential theological problems with the film.

For example, as I understand it, the western church, both Catholic and Protestant, has tended to see sin as a legal problem for which the crucifixion was a punishment that God was legally obliged to inflict on someone, whereas the eastern church, i.e. the Orthodox, has tended to see sin as a disease for which the incarnation and the crucifixion were an essential part of our healing; Christ, by sharing our humanity (including our mortality), infected us with a measure of his divinity, the way an antidote fights back against a poison, as it were. As it is, I think there are deep, deep problems with the western way of looking at sin and atonement, and I have been thinking this for years -- since well before I began dating an Orthodox woman, so please, no accusations that I am under her influence here. (If anything, my attraction to her stemmed in part from her Orthodoxy, and my attraction to Orthodoxy, complicated though it may be, stems from my dissatisfaction with Catholic/Protestant understandings of this very issue.)

So, if, as some of the film's promoters seem to feel, the point of revelling in all the blood and gore of the crucifixion is to make us feel more guilt over our sins -- to make us feel, perhaps, that each and every one of those penetrations of Jesus' skin should have been inflicted on us instead -- then I think that's a problem.

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Yes. Should we think of the Crucifixion moreso as something we have 'done', or as something we are 'doing'? ( And am I even correct in thinking that we should think of ourselves as 'crucifiers'? ) Who are we rootin' for in this movie, really? sad.gif

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Flippin' 'eck no threads for a few days and then 25+ when I turn my back for a second. Where do you guys find the time (or are you just olympic speed typers?)

Anyway.

I do think we need to be careful in getting a balance.

Of course family focus is a pitch, and perhaps adding the Holy Spirit line was unneccessary, a;thopug basically as a Christian we would hop the Holy Spirit was working through what he was doing. Its hard really for us to judge a man who has poured 2 years and

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Peter,

If I may - I'm still stuck on your feeling that art with an "agenda" is propaganda and your concern that Gibson has an agenda for this film, thus negating the classification of "art" for this film.

Would you say the same thing for movies such as "Bowling for Columbine", "Schindler's List"... and others. Don't want to open a discussion on all sorts of other movies here, but these movies obviously have an "agenda" from the filmmaker. So is it really the fast that Gibson has an agenda with this film that bothers you or is it that Gibson's agenda is motivated by his personal faith that bothers you?

- trevor

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JPB said that maybe Mel was confused. These are confusing times, no doubt. It seems like religious images have lost their power. Perhaps they have even become a tool in the hands of the devil? ( btw do we believe in the devil's existence here? ) Or, rather, have the 'face' of the devil and the face of Christ become indistinguishable to us? That's why I asked: who are we really rooting for in this movie?

It seems like we are back in the catacombs and yet we somehow believe that we are the 'guest of honor' in this world at one and the same time.

We are the 'small part' and the 'star'. Or we want to be both of these. Maybe to be, or become, a moviestar ( like Mel ) is an 'unforgivable sin'? Unforgivable because it brings with it the aforementioned confusion, and we get 'lost' and we develope a mysterious subconsious animosity or resentment toward mystery itself.

Do we want to crucify the mystery that won't become a neat little movie for us?

( Part of what brought this on for me was remembering having seen a news show on one of the cable channels [ while channel surfing ]. The show was some kind of investigation of the porn industry. On it I saw a woman hold up ...brace yourselves.....a dildo in the shape of a crucifix. Now, maybe you have seen worse than this...of course there is worse...I was naive. But, this memory made me think of the movies, and how I would have believed that the arms of someone manufacturing this type of thing would immediately shrivel up or a lightning bolt would hit them or something like that. In other words, the movies may be teaching us to punch evil in the nose rather than turn the other cheek. Somehow I am convinced that we certainly want to 'punch' something, and certainly something deserves punching, but with all of the confusion we may find ourselves wanting to strike Christ instead of the devil, and we don't even realize it. We may even want to do this for the very reason that we are frustrated with Christ for not sending a lightning bolt?? )

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Quite a few evangelicals embraced The Last Temptation of Christ because of the "realism" of the crucifixion (the depiction of which, interestingly, was inspired by both archaeological studies AND by classic paintings).

Good point. Score one for historical criticism.

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MattPage wrote:

: Where do you guys find the time (or are you just olympic speed typers?)

I am both a fast typist, and I have no life. smile.gif

: It's a tension, but at the same time even low budget film cost a lot, and

: why shouldn't Mel pitch to a key audience? He may have over done it,

: which is bad for integrity and art, but most Christians won't read the

: article, most newspaper won't report that comment.

I dunno, it seems to have been widely distributed, at least among Christians, and the story has made it onto the newswires, as well.

: Well I keep saying you should at least watch "il Messia" (Rosellini).

Yes. Yes you do. I hang my head in shame for not seeing it yet. smile.gif

: It was a terrible event. I don't want it glammorised, but I don't want it

: passed off either . . .

Agreed. I don't know how I would do it, if it were up to me, but as I have said before, I do know that the most effective scene for me in Saving Private Ryan was not the D-Day sequence, with all of its gory eye candy, but the scene near the end where Adam Goldberg is stabbed on the floor -- the focus of that scene is on the character, on his face, on his reaction to what is happening, and it's horrifyingly real. The focus is not on the mere physical violence -- I don't think we even get a penetration shot -- but on what the violence MEANS, emotionally and viscerally, and the trick that I hope Gibson can pull off is to somehow get us to focus NOT on the physical violence but on what the violence MEANT to the people there.

trevor wrote:

: I'm still stuck on your feeling that art with an "agenda" is propaganda

: and your concern that Gibson has an agenda for this film, thus negating

: the classification of "art" for this film.

I don't think I have used the word "agenda" to describe Gibson's film. If Gibson was calculating every shot on the basis of what would be more likely to make a person convert, then I suppose he would have an agenda. But if, in the process of making this film, he is being drawn into the Other, and hoping to draw others into the same, then the film is "art" enough for me.

: Would you say the same thing for movies such as "Bowling for

: Columbine", "Schindler's List"... and others.

It is pretty much impossible for Michael Moore to make a film WITHOUT an agenda -- it is the only way to explain his frequent distortions of fact. I suppose there is an agenda of sorts behind Spielberg's "serious historical" movies too, including Schindler's List and Amistad and even Saving Private Ryan, but there can be a place for that sort of thing -- I just wouldn't necessarily call it "art".

: So is it really the fast that Gibson has an agenda with this film that

: bothers you or is it that Gibson's agenda is motivated by his personal

: faith that bothers you?

Neither. Right now, it is the manner in which he promotes the film that bothers me. I do not believe he has any "agenda" at the moment beyond saying, "Here's what happened, look at this."

gregory wrote:

: btw do we believe in the devil's existence here?

Depends what you mean. I do believe that, if there are "good" spirits called "angels", then there are probably "bad" spirits called "devils" too; and I do believe, as C.S. Lewis suggests, that these "devils" conspire against each other and try to exert their power over each other, and thus, one "devil" could very well turn out to be an "alpha demon" who dominates all the others. But I certainly don't believe in "the devil" in the sense of some sort of equal-but-opposite-to-God figure, and I certainly don't care for the attitude many Christians have, which is to assume that if things aren't going their way, it's the devil's fault.

Since I started going to my girlfriend's Orthodox church, it's been interesting to say the Lord's Prayer and notice how I instinctively continue to end it "deliver us from evil" while everyone else ends it "deliver us from the evil one". I believe it all depends on how you translate "poneros" in Matthew 6:13 (curiously, Luke's version of the prayer leaves this particular line out altogether), and the word certainly doesn't HAVE to refer to a particular personality -- it also appears in verses like Matthew 5:11 ("Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of PONEROS against you falsely, for my sake"), Matthew 5:39 ("But I say unto you, That ye resist not PONEROS: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also"), etc.

Some of the OT passages that are frequently cited as references to "the Devil" are actually NOT references to him, at least not explicitly. The serpent in Genesis 3 is simply described as "more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made". The "satan" (it's a title, not a name) in Job 1 may be just a prosecutor, and not an "evil" spirit. Isaiah 14 is about the fall of an earthly king, and does not necessarily refer to any spiritual entity. The whole idea of an "evil one" seems, to me, to be a later theological development.

There is more than enough evil in the world, and it is no small favour to ask for deliverance from all of that; we don't need to speculate that a single mind is behind it all. And if there IS a single mind doing whatever it can to harm us all, I see no need to flatter it by saying that all the evil in the world is its doing; there is enough evil in my own heart, thankyouverymuch.

FWIW, in a footnote on page 451 of Jesus and the Victory of God, N.T. Wright says he prefers to refer to the "dark power" behind the problem of Israel's exile as "the satan, the accuser", as opposed to the personal name "Satan", so as to "retain... the biblical ambiguity as to the 'personhood' of this figure."

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: "I dunno, it seems to have been widely distributed, at least among Christians, and the story has made it onto the newswires, as well. "

Mayb this is a difference over here then. I've only heard that comment from this board, not from anywhere else yet in he UK Christian press. (Although I'm not an avid reader).

Matt

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Well, one thing's for sure from that trailer... they sure ain't worried about spoilers.

Man, even the trailer is hard to watch.

Interesting that they're using Peter Gabriel's Rabbit-Proof Fence music as the background, since Gabriel's soundtrack to Last Temptation was re-titled Passion...

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Then if anyone says to you, 'Lo, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. - MT. 24;23

Interesting to think how literally this verse could perhaps be applied here.

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I didn't think it was that bad actually (perhaps I braced myself cos of your comment Jeffrey). I guess its a film only about the last 12 hours so its mainly only got footage of the grim bits to chose from. I don't think anything here was worse than other Jesus films

It reminded me of the trailer to "To Kill a king" (as in the one I saw originally which was different one to the one on the website). It has that contemporary historical drama feel about it.

Makes me even more keen to see it.

Matt

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Gregory wrote:

Then if anyone says to you, 'Lo, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it.
- MT. 24;23

Interesting to think how literally this verse could perhaps be applied here.

Huh?

What's the "here" here?

The Passion movie itself (and by extension all Jesus movies)?

Mel Gibson's comments about the work of the Holy Spirit in his movie (and by extension all human claims of divine activity on earth)?

This thread / board (and by extension perhaps all Christian interaction)?

What am I missing here?

Not to, like, discourage a newbie or anything. Welcome, Greg. biggrin.gif

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Thank you SDG. ( Though I was a clown in another life. Now there's a 'huh?' for ya. 8) ) I was thinking mainly about The Passion in particular, but was also questioning the 'Jesus movies' in general, I guess. I think that I am afraid that certain types of movies may contribute to a kind of death of the imagination. And maybe movies specifically about Christ would contribute to this moreso than others.

One thing in particular I was thinking about: I was going to ask what would be wrong with placing the words, "...like God." to the end of MLeary's signature ( I think that's what they are called ), the quote by Herzog. It would read something like: ...movies are for illiterates, like God.

This got me thinking how God seems to always do the unexpected. The wise men didn't follow literal signs that read: This way to the Savior of the world. They followed the stars. Anyway, I would be interested to here more thoughts on any of this.

Also, maybe for you especially SDG, my protestant friend one time brought up that he thought that the Antichrist could possibly be a future pope! I was trying to think whether we as Catholics could come to the conclusion that this is even a possibility?

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gregory wrote:

: I think that I am afraid that certain types of movies may contribute to a

: kind of death of the imagination. And maybe movies specifically about

: Christ would contribute to this moreso than others.

On the contrary, I think the sheer plurality of films about Christ makes it difficult for any one film about him to command the imagination the way that, say, Schindler's List is bound to command our idea of who and what Oskar Schindler was -- we who have seen at least two of these films, if not twenty of them, are compelled to construct our OWN visions of Christ, based on whatever elements seem to work in each of these films.

: Also, maybe for you especially SDG, my protestant friend one time

: brought up that he thought that the Antichrist could possibly be a future

: pope! I was trying to think whether we as Catholics could come to the

: conclusion that this is even a possibility?

FWIW, if Jesus could insinuate that the devil resided in the Temple, i.e. the home of God and the place where his Spirit resided, then I don't see why it would be impossible for people with a high view of the papacy to imagine that the devil could come to reside there, too.

OTOH, I don't buy the idea that the Antichrist is a specific person -- the only references to "antichrist" in the Bible of which I am aware are either symbolic (e.g. the guy riding the white horse in Revelation, who is never called the "antichrist" but IIRC is understood as such by the likes of Hal Lindsey) or explicitly state that there are "many antichrists".

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Gregory wrote:

I was thinking mainly about
The Passion
in particular, but was also questioning the 'Jesus movies' in general, I guess. I think that I am afraid that certain types of movies may contribute to a kind of death of the imagination. And maybe movies specifically about Christ would contribute to this moreso than others.

I suppose this nagging fear will always be with it in one form or another. I admit I deal with it on some level myself. But Jesus movies seem to me to belong on a continuum that includes statues, relief, paintings, and icons, crucifixes and pietas and stations of the cross. There are some who find it necessary to draw a line somewhere, and say perhaps, "Icons yes, perhaps even relief sculpture, but not sculpture in the round"; or perhaps "Okay to sculpture, but watch out for movies." Without dismissing entirely the force of the concern, I believe that the pros outweigh the potential cons.

Also, maybe for you especially SDG, my protestant friend one time brought up that he thought that the Antichrist could possibly be a future pope! I was trying to think whether we as Catholics could come to the conclusion that this is even a possibility?

As Peter points out, there's some ambiguity about the term "Antichrist" (and "Beast," which is usually what people have in mind when they speak of the Antichrist). While Peter is right to point out that the Bible speaks of "many antichrists," in one of these very passages St. John affirms that "the antichrist is coming" (1 John 2:18), so I think it's reasonable to speak of "the antichrist" in the singular. And I don't myself see any reason not to identify this figure with St. Paul's "man of lawlessness / son of perdition / lawless one" (2 Thes 2:3-9) -- though John's "Beast" is another story.

However, perhaps unlike Peter, I do identify the Beast as a single individual man. Specifically, I think it is Nero Caesar. I think the book of Revelation is first and foremost about first-century events -- not first of all the end of THE world, but the end of A world, the world of OT Judaism, including the destruction of Jerusalem, the Holy City, and of the Temple. I think these events represent an act of divine judgment that prefigures and anticipates God's ultimate eschatological judgment on the whole world, and so what John wrote about first-century events applies also and more significantly to apocalyptic events. So I think that the Beast is first of all Nero Caesar, and also that there will be an ultimate Beast in the last days. Whether he will be an individual man I don't know. I tend to think so, though.

Certainly there have been wicked popes in the past, and may be in the last days. But could a pope be an antichrist -- could he be an actual apostate, deny that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22), deny the Father and the Son (1 John 4:3), deny that Jesus has come in the flesh (2 John 1:7)?

Strictly speaking, the pope's charism of truth would not intrinsically protect him from apostacizing, from rejecting the Christian faith, and adopting wrong or heretical views -- though it would prevent him from trying to teach those views with the full authority of his office. However, the charism of truth also belongs to the college of bishops and to the people of God as a whole; and the Holy Spirit would never allow an apostate pope to remain in office as bishop of Rome, even in the end times.

Catholic teaching gives us some idea of what will actually happen in the end times. There will be massive persecution of the Church, and there will be mass apostasy from the faith -- though there will also always be a faithful remnant that, as I said, would never permit an apostate pope to hold the Chair of Peter. On the positive side, there will also be mass conversion to the faith -- from Judaism. Before the end, the Jewish people will in some large, dramatic, corporate way, finally recognize and accept Jesus as their Messiah. Cf. my piece on the Left Behind phenomenon.

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Regarding the plurality of Christ films, and how this plurality prevents any one film from dominating our imagination, it occurred to me after I wrote that that the plurality of Christs, if you will, is an integral part of our scriptures, too -- four gospels, not one -- so the task of constructing or imagining a Christ who is some mixture of all these things and beyond all our portrayals of him is an integral part of our worship.

SDG wrote:

: While Peter is right to point out that the Bible speaks of "many

: antichrists," in one of these very passages St. John affirms that "the

: antichrist is coming" (1 John 2:18), so I think it's reasonable to speak of

: "the antichrist" in the singular.

Well, what the verse says, in full, is, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour." So there's an ambiguity about the singular "antichrist" and plural "antichrists" there -- and as a side note, it seems that either this "last hour" has been stretched out for millennia, or the author of I John was mistaken in his estimate of how soon the Second Coming would happen.

: However, perhaps unlike Peter, I do identify the Beast as a single

: individual man. Specifically, I think it is Nero Caesar. I think the book of

: Revelation is first and foremost about first-century events . . .

I actually agree with you there, as far as that's concerned.

: . . . not first of all the end of THE world, but the end of A world, the world

: of OT Judaism, including the destruction of Jerusalem, the Holy City, and

: of the Temple. I think these events represent an act of divine judgment

: that prefigures and anticipates God's ultimate eschatological judgment on

: the whole world, and so what John wrote about first-century events

: applies also and more significantly to apocalyptic events.

FWIW, N.T. Wright certainly argues that the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple as an act of divine judgment is what Jesus predicted in Mark 13 and parallel passages -- that is, the passages which many evangelicals tend to interpret in a more Left Behind kind of vein -- so he might agree with you on Revelation, too, I dunno. Not so sure how Nero fits into this, though, since he died during the siege of Jerusalem, the Temple of which was not finally destroyed until a couple years later.

: Certainly there have been wicked popes in the past, and may be in the

: last days. But could a pope be an antichrist -- could he be an actual apostate,

: deny that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22), deny the Father and the Son

: (1 John 4:3), deny that Jesus has come in the flesh (2 John 1:7)?

Well, when you put it like that, it does seem unlikely that anyone making such pronouncements could qualify for the job of Pope. Then again, that very passage you refer to in II Thessalonians does say that the "man of lawlessness" will "set himself up in God's temple", which, from a Catholic point of view, could very well be a reference to the Vatican, no?

: . . . the Holy Spirit would never allow an apostate pope to remain in

: office as bishop of Rome, even in the end times.

Are you saying, then, that there have NEVER been apostate popes?

FWIW, I frankly have no idea what to believe or expect with regard to "the end times" -- I tend to regard the whole thing as somewhat mythical, kind of like the early chapters of Genesis (as with the beginning of time, so with the end), but like Wright, I am "reverently agnostic" on the subject.

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FWIW. I sometimes wonder if we are making God in our image with cinema. Would we recognize an unglamorous, uncinematic Christ? And most of all: A BORING Christ?

In Notes from Underground Dostoevsky has his main character, who is a "spiteful man", describe himself as acting "bookish". Is this the beginnings of 'fame'? And is the opposite of this fame what we call today boredom? Today, for us, I'm sure the word would be 'movie-ish'. Dostoevsky's character acts bookish in spite of himself ( at the end he seems to place the blame on some other forces: "they won't let me!" [ change behavior ] )

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SDG wrote:

: Cf. my piece on the Left Behind phenomenon.

BTW, good article.

FWIW, I have only read the first Left Behind book, and I believe there is a mention in there of the Pope being among those who are raptured -- I couldn't bother to look it up now, but I believe it comes up, just in passing, in a conversation between Buck Williams and his colleagues. I remember raising an eyebrow at that, because it seemed so out-of-character for a book bearing the name of a dyed-in-the-wool fundie like Tim LaHaye. But I didn't read any of the other books, so it wasn't until I read an article on the franchise in the Atlantic Monthly that I heard about this raptured Pope's Lutheran tendencies. I found myself wondering if the initial reference in the original book had been a casual aside tossed in there by Jerry B. Jenkins, and if LaHaye had rapped his knuckles for that, and if Jenkins had been obliged to come up with this "Lutheran" explanation when it came time, in the second book, to demonize the remnants of the Catholic Church.

FWIW, I've written a few articles on end-times films and culture myself:

http://peter.chattaway.com/articles/leftbehi.htm

http://peter.chattaway.com/articles/lindsey.htm

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gregory wrote:

: I sometimes wonder if we are making God in our image with cinema.

: Would we recognize an unglamorous, uncinematic Christ?

Yes, this is one of the concerns I had when people began saying Caviezel would be perfect for this role because he looks so "spiritual" (similar to how Zeffirelli chose Robert Powell, who initially auditioned for the role of Judas, for his film because he liked the actor's eyes). An interesting corrective to this approach may be to get a bootleg copy of Son of Man, the Dennis Potter play that was produced on British television over 30 years ago -- the Jesus of this film is short, pudgy, dynamic, and in The Jesus I Never Knew, I believe Philip Yancey describes him as looking like he'd just rolled out of an English pub.

: And most of all: A BORING Christ?

I thought most cinematic Christs WERE boring. smile.gif

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Hmm where to come in one this one..

I’d affirm what PTC & SD have said about a plurality of Christs. 4 years ago when I closed my eyes and thought of Jesus, he was Robert Powell – even at the same time as me finding his Christ as too boring.

So in someways gregory I see what you’re getting at, but then I guess the majority of people for whom Cavaziel will become the dominant image will be people who have no image, and in that case the fact that the movie is getting them to consider Christ is a good thing in itself.

Also I'd agree that often the directors of these films do make Jesus in their own image (in fact in nearly every case), but that trend in the lives of Jesus of literature was noted in Schweitzers time if not before. (Its also why I think watching these films is important because otherwise we do the same and create Christ and therefore God in our own image. I feel I have to watch Pasolini's fkilm often precisely because I don't like his angry Jesus, eventhough the script is all from the bible)

However, having now seen so many of these films as Peter says I’m forced to create my own image of Jesus, or at least to acknowledge there is a void there hemmed in by a circle of perspectives from the various movies. One thing that is interesting on this (at least to me) is that I generally think of Jesus in terms of 1st Century Palestine, whereas Mel (my wife) tends to see him as her contemporary (I guess either side of the coin of him being a contemporary in 1st century Palestine)

I agree most cinematic christs were boring, and would echo Potter's Son of Man - the image of whom is so different from the others you suddenly realise how similar all the others were and that your image of Christ is totally unrelated to the gospels.

Now as for end times stuff. I studied this quite a lot a couple of years ago, so thought I’d throw my tupence in. (although some of my thinking in other areas has changed such that I really need to re-evaluate where I got to).

I think I’m most comfortable with understanding there being a spirit of the Anti-christ, hence you can refer to many anti-christs (as 2 john does) all of whom have this spirit (this isn’t meant as a euphemism for demon btw), or you can refer to the antichrist (spirit) as 1 john does (FWIW I’d maintain that they were probably different authors). I’m not sure how I’d tie that in with the man of lawlessness though. I think I came to some position on it, but I can’t remember.

As for the beast. I ‘d agree that its one person, but I’d go for that person being Vespasian. Revelation is commonly placed at around 96 AD, which was about the time of his rule, but more significantly he was thought by some to be the re-incarnation of Nero (hence the mark of the beast being Nero’s name) and the other signs fit with the popular myths about Nero’s re-incarnation as Vespasian. Also IIRC he was more of a empire wide persecutor of Christians, rather than just in Rome.

And left behind is tosh IMO – although I’ve not read it so perhaps I shouldn’t say, but for pluck-a-random-verse-give-it-a-new-interpretation-tie-it-in-with-another-verse-which-we-rip-out-of-its-context-so-that-its-opposite-to-its-original-meaning-and-just-150-years-later-make-one-of-the-bigest-selling-series-of-Christian-writings-ever-and-then-make-lousy-films-on-it its unbeatable.

From reason to rant in one easy post smile.gif

Matt

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