<< Front page Commentary March 19, 2004

Passion shows human cruelty

To the Editors:

Although I’ve listened to a lot of responses to The Passion of the Christ, it took me a full week after seeing it to express my reaction.

If you have seen it, you know that it’s difficult to unpack. But even more difficult to process has been the outpouring of hype surrounding it.

I won’t claim to speak for all Christians on campus, but I would like to endeavor my response as a Christian to some of this talk.

The most common critique that’s reached my ears is: it’s too violent. “Braveheart with a theological twist,” “overdone” or “just plain gruesome” were a few comments that stuck out to me.

When Gibson was asked why he didn’t tone down the violence, he replied, “I did.” I have to agree that the movie is excessively violent, and it has extremely troubling implications.

Most problematic is the idea that this violence of 2,000 years ago has anything to do with us. I see the inclusion of the devil imagery as an attempt to portray that Jesus’s battle is timeless. Some viewers found this aspect hard to swallow, so I’ll offer an alternative view.

The violence against Jesus, as an innocent man, is timeless because it implies that humanity is capable of that level of unprovoked cruelty. Some people can’t accept that because they’re blessed enough not to have experienced it. Sadly, most of the world has seen images in real life like they saw on that screen.

Jesus being beaten by the temple guards looks horrifically like the violence we allow against and between inmates in our prison system. Jesus scourged by the Roman soldiers reminds us of the abuses of slavery, which our country has yet to atone for.

Jesus’s crucifixion despite innocence reflects our own unjust death penalties and hate crimes. The Roman soldiers’ physical and verbal abuse of the Jews imitates the oppression in many “police states” around the world. The expulsion of a leper from the trial in the temple parallels our own treatment of the homeless and mentally ill.

And for Christians there is an added twist that drives the message home. When you see this movie, maybe you just see some guy getting brutally killed. But when I saw this, as a Christian, I saw my best friend, my brother, my lover suffering and dying.

See the movie again and imagine your mother or your roommate on that cross. Then you will see it through my eyes as a Christian, and please take that perspective into account when formulating your reaction.

The Passion of the Christ is challenging because it shows us our cruelty and asks us to atone for it. It shows us our abuses received and asks us to forgive.

Beyond that, it shows us how the one we love most was spat upon, insulted and despised (as much by critics as Roman soldiers), displaying to us to return hatred with love, to return judgment with compassion and to return injustice with mercy.

Our historical moment is different, but the challenge of Jesus will always remain the same.

–Meagen Huelsenbeck
College senior


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