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 Post subject: Gibson's Passion
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 6:56 pm 
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I imagine a fair number of Fipplers out there (or are they Chiffers?) are wondering, as I am, whether to go to this movie. I still haven't decided one way or another, but here's a review that may be of interest to those who are in that position.

Gibson’s Passion
Russell Hittinger and Elizabeth Lev

Copyright (c) 2004 First Things 141 (March 2004): 7-10.

From mosaics and music to paintings and plays, the arts have proven to be a mighty vehicle for retelling the Bible and bringing its stories vividly before our senses. A special intensity marks the art created for the Lenten period. Allegri’s Miserere, the moving rendition of Psalm 51 sung on Good Friday, Niccolo dell’Arca’s Lamentation of the Dead Christ with its terra-cotta figures circling in wild grief over the dead Christ, and Dante’s Divine Comedy, the poetic journey lasting from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, are but a few of the great Lenten works that can move the imagination to consider different aspects of the passion. In The Passion of the Christ, scheduled to open in theatres on Ash Wednesday, Mel Gibson adds a work of cinematic art worthy to be mentioned with these classics of Christian culture.

Gibson’s Passion is bound to change our estimation of how a film can portray the life of Christ. Until now, movies about Jesus generally have been of two kinds. The first—perhaps to avoid trespassing on sacred terrain—abandons any ties to a canonical text. Here we can think of the whimsical Jesus in Montreal, or the hootenanny “gospels” of Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar. There are also those provocateurs who try to win an audience through the “unauthorized biography” approach, such as Martin Scorsese in his film version of Kazantzakis’ Last Temptation of Christ. Films of this sort pay the price of making Jesus appear smaller and less compelling than the figure we can encounter in reading or, as the case may be, in questioning the canonical texts.

The film that most nearly succeeds in this “relevant Jesus” mode is Pier Paolo Pasolini’s avowedly Marxist rendition of The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964). (Gibson surely learned from Pasolini, as he makes use of the little town of Sassi Matera, where Pasolini also filmed his gospel.) Pasolini’s cinema-verité shots, nonprofessional actors, and monochrome photography make a visually riveting movie, one that disarms our liturgically and textually informed imagination with its strange and sometimes grotesque iconography, particularly the faces of its common people. If pure film makes what we know depend upon what we see, Pasolini’s movie comes very close to being pure film. Yet because he is so determined to interpret the life of Jesus as a Gramscian allegory of popular liberation, Pasolini makes Jesus less interesting than the rest of the cast of truck drivers, waiters, and prostitutes he recruited for the film. The theme of class liberation also makes for unintended comedy. After the resurrection, for example, the camera follows peasants running gleefully through the fields with scythes and pitchforks only to encounter Christ waiting for an audience before ascending into heaven.

The second kind of gospel film makes a serious effort to tell the canonical story by means of a visual tableau. The best-known example is Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977), which ploddingly covers the camels and magi, the teachings and parables, the miracles, plots, and subplots of Jesus’ life. The beautiful faces and rich settings have a tapestry-like quality, but we never quite forget that we are watching a 371-minute-long visual ornamentation of a textual narrative. For religious people, and probably for most nonbelievers, it is perfectly safe viewing—better, no doubt, than a spaghetti-western gospel—but it is not a work of art that haunts the viewer. A stronger entry in this category is the Gospel of John, currently showing in theatres. Advertised as a “word-for-word adaptation” of the Fourth Gospel, narrated by Christopher Plummer, it is religiously serious precisely because it adheres to the canonical text, but it does not fully transcend the genre of documentary.

It is thus demonstrably difficult to satisfy the demands of cinematic art and canonical text. But Gibson’s Passion is a new kind of film which does just that. In the tradition of Lenten art, he focuses intensely on the climatic moment of the Christ saga, intensifying the power of its sacramental aspects. From the agony in the garden, where Gibson begins, to the pietà at the foot of the cross, Jesus does what he teaches. In the sacred text itself, the last twelve hours of his life contain only the tersest dialogue. The parables have all been spoken. The disciples have slunk away. From here, the question of the Christ is telescoped by Gibson into what we see—or, more accurately, what we are able to watch.

Zefferelli’s movie is comparable to a Ghirlandaio painting—exquisite, but the figures occupy only half the canvas. By contrast, Gibson’s figures are in the style of Michelangelo, filling the screen, looming over us, threatening to enter our space. It is unnerving art. When the Roman soldiers call out “vertere crucem” the audience tenses. The soldiers lift the cross, prop it on its side for an agonizing moment, and then let it fall over towards us. As it crashes to the ground, an audible gasp sounds in the theater. The viewer is denied the detachment of looking through a window into a faraway world and is drawn into the scenes as a humble, perhaps helpless, participant.

The emphasis on the visual is accentuated by the sparse dialogue in Aramaic and Latin, making it all the more necessary to pay attention to what we see rather than what we hear. Gibson remarked in a recent interview that “Caravaggio’s paintings don’t have subtitles, but people get the message.” In the version we saw at a screening in Rome, subtitles were included, but not many, and they didn’t provide any psychological refuge. Nor do the few flashbacks of Jesus instituting the Eucharist and washing the apostles’ feet, of the young Jesus with his mother, or of Jesus protecting the adulteress from the mob’s stones. These flashbacks give some context, but mostly they offer the viewer a brief moment to catch his breath before returning to the visual assault.

Gibson has taken an audacious gamble by filling the screen with images that are undeniably brutal; few will be able to watch the scourging of Jesus without turning away. Though the movie is fairly fast-paced, the scourging is long and drawn out, seeming never to end. It begins with a caning, but just when one thinks, “that was unpleasant but not as bad as I expected,” the soldiers pull out a spiked scourge and begin a new round of battering. Later, when the gates of the city are thrown open for the ascent to Calvary, we see Golgotha on the horizon and wonder whether we can traverse that distance with Jesus.

Ultimately, The Passion of the Christ is about witnessing and bearing witness. On one level, the film is calculated to make us want to turn away and go home. At the outset, Jesus tells his disciples in the garden that he doesn’t want them to see him in such a condition. He worries about what they are soon to see: a suffering servant who looks like anything but a king, and whose tortured body will seem quite beyond repair.

Thankfully, as the scenes become harder and harder to watch, the viewer is offered an example, a guide as to how we are supposed to react to the increasingly disturbing images. This comes in the form of Jesus’ mother, brilliantly played by the Romanian actress Maia Morgenstern. Though Mary is the person most affected by these shattering events, she also understands better than anyone the necessity of what her son must do, and she consents to his mission and her own role in it. She in turn shows the audience what they must do. During the scourging, we see Mary with her head lowered, barely able to support herself as she hears the incessant beating of her son. As we think to ourselves, “no mother should have to witness such a thing,” she gathers her strength, lifts her head, and continues to look. If she can, we can. Then, in the harrowing pietà scene at the end of the film, Mary looks directly out at the viewer as she holds the body of Christ, reminding us with her glance that we, too, have been witnessing these events, and that it is now we who are called to bear witness to what we have seen. Like Caravaggio’s Deposition, Gibson’s film places the bulk of responsibility on the viewer.

This emphasis on the role of Mary far outstrips what Pasolini or Zeffirelli was able to imagine. Where Zeffirelli’s Mary, played by the hauntingly lovely Olivia Hussey, elicits compassion, Gibson’s Mary provides comfort. Like the Eve who accompanies Adam in every scene in the Sistine Chapel vault, Mary, it seems, is always present in Gibson’s Passion. Her face is the most reliable clue to the meaning of the unfolding events.

She is paralleled on screen by Satan, played by Rosalinda Celentano as a black-cowled, androgynous bystander. After the scourging, Satan holds a grotesque child in mockery of the old Adam, and also of Mary’s eventual pietà. Then there is the remarkable confrontation in the film between Satan and Mary. As Jesus climbs towards Calvary, Satan glides through the crowd, feeding on the tangible wickedness in the air; Mary is on the other side of the road, trying to reach her son. She locks eyes with Satan, as determined as Satan is smug. Gibson’s disturbing technique of filling the screen with Jesus’ body, almost allowing him to tumble into our laps, is contained visually only by the fact that Mary constantly touches, holds, and comforts the corpus. We find ourselves thinking, “thank God someone else will keep this mess from falling onto us.” To be sure, Gibson employs a mélange of different iconographic traditions; but no other film we have seen has so powerfully depicted the ecclesial and corporate Mary. When she approaches the cross and kisses the feet of Jesus, the camera closes in to show her lips covered with the blood of Christ—the bride inebriated with matrimonial wine.

But all of this makes Gibson’s Passion nearly the opposite of the arcane and politically fraught tradition of the passion play. Such performances were often staged to incite the audience to choose sides, to “save” the integrity and honor of Christ by constituting a kind of party against Judas, the Jews, and the mob in Pilate’s courtyard. Had Gibson used the power of film to give this twisted but all-too-human political stereotype a new lease on life, concerns about the film stirring up anti-Judaism or hostility against nonbelievers would be justified. To his credit, however, Gibson denies the audience any shred of political or religious triumph, or, for that matter, defeat. Even a viewer who already knows and religiously believes in the final outcome of the story must struggle to keep watching, which is humiliating in its own right. There might be reason for scholars and religious authorities to raise questions about Gibson’s synthesizing of distinct scriptural accounts of the passion, or about his use of extra-biblical iconography. But it is hard to imagine anyone coming out of Gibson’s movie with an appetite for a religiously politicized passion. If anything, this is the definitive post-passion-play passion.

Last year, theological criticisms and concerns were expressed on the basis of an unofficial script apparently stolen from Gibson’s production company. Whatever the provenance of the script, this criticism was bound to miss its target because the film depends almost entirely on what the camera shows rather than on dialogue. Though the film occasionally draws on extra-biblical sources, the theological outlook it presupposes is standard Christian fare. Gibson read the visions of the Venerable Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, an eighteenth-century German stigmatist and mystic. The Romantic poet Klemens Brentano (author of Des Knaben Wunderhorn), put the visions into writing, beginning with the Dolorous Passion (1833). The book is a series of simple but graphically detailed compositions of time and place. One of Gibson’s scenes is taken directly from Emmerich. After the scourging, Pilate’s wife Claudia gives linen cloths to Mary and the Magdalene, which they use to mop up the sacred blood. Emmerich also “sees” Jesus on the Mount of Olives looking at the very grotto where Adam and Eve took refuge after being expelled from Paradise; Satan tempting Jesus, saying that the restoration of Adam is too great a burden for one man; and, at the cross, Jesus as the second Adam asleep, from whose side is brought forth the new Eve. Indeed, Gibson’s movie begins with Jesus crushing the head of the serpent in the garden, and Adam-Christ/Eve-Mary typology is apparent throughout it. Still, the question of how much of this imagery was inspired by Emmerich’s visions is inessential, for such imagery and ideas abound in traditional Christian liturgy, hymnody, and iconography.

Gibson says that he set out to “transcend language with the message through an image.” Chances are that even the film industry, skeptical and skittish about the project, will have to recognize his artistic triumph. How its millions of viewers will reckon with the movie is another story. We think that it will induce humility rather than triumphalism. The film is so enthralling that perhaps some viewers will have to remind themselves that it is just a movie and not a substitute for the New Testament, much less for sacramental liturgies or the stations of the cross familiar to so many Christians during Lent. If, having seen and endured the film, Christians are able in a fresh way to wonder at the vault of the Sistine Chapel, if they can humbly return to their churches to participate in the spoken and sacramentally enacted Word, then Gibson’s Passion will have proven to be something even better than what it certainly is—the best movie ever made about Jesus Christ.

Russell Hittinger is the William K. Warren Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa.

Elizabeth Lev teaches Christian art and architecture at Duquesne University’s Rome campus.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 7:16 pm 
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elendil, thanks very much for sharing the review from First Things. That is an especially thoughtful and helpful review, and the first thing that I've read that makes me think seriously about going.

I don't think I will go, although I want to read more reviews and hear more about the movie from people who have actually seen it.

I had dinner recently with a friend of mine who is a Jesuit and we talked about it. He has decided not to see it and his explanation helped me get in touch with my own discomfort about it. I write as a Christian.

I love the Gospels. I love the stories and the overarching narrative and I love the mysteries and I even love the inconsistencies among them, which are many. I believe the best place to go as a person of faith to meditate on the last hours of Christ are the Gospels. They may or may not be the best place to go for a historian, although I've never been aware of any better documents for historians than the Gospels. In my opinion, the Gospels include a blending of historical events, including words spoken by Jesus, and added stories and sayings attributed to Jesus that are there by way of the human authors under inspiration.

The Gospels make it clear that Christ suffered. But they do not dwell on the gory details and the extent of the suffering because while the suffering is very important, the gory details and the extent are not the central message of the Passion.

When someone, no matter how good their intentions, shifts genres and depicts the Passion in film, in a "novel" form, or in art, for that matter, I believe one gets more distant from the fundamental truths of the Gospels. This is not, on my part, the concern of a biblical fundamentalist who believes the Bible is perfectly historical and that a film distorts this history. It is a concern, rather, that the Gospels are as they are for a reason. The reader must participate, must meditate on the Passion accounts as they are: Ambiguous at times, clear in general outline, but fuzzy on details.

What have we heard about this film? What are people saying? It's in Aramaic with English subtitles. Ok. It may or may not include some material that may be seen as anti-Semitic. Ok. That's important. But almost always the main thing is the GRAPHIC way it depicts the Passion. If somehow we can really see and hear how Christ must have suffered, we would be moved to be Christians, if we aren't, or better ones if we are. So, it it turns out that this film continues to be most notable for it's graphic depictations, I think it will be a failure on an artistic/theological level (ALthough I suspect ticket sales will be very high).

Already, there is emerging evidence that this is starting to look like a little battle in the Culture Wars. The Christians (read: "The Good, Right-Thinking Christians") will use it as an evangelical tool. Everyone else will ignore it, condemn it, or whatever other heathen thing they might do. More us-and-them which I think is a plague on society.

Finally, and perhaps trivially, and certainly ad hominen, I worry about it being Mel Gibson's piece, considering the influence on his life of his father.

There you go and more than you asked for.

Dale


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 7:27 pm 
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I'm definitely going. I haven't decided if I want to go next week, for the beginning of Lent, or if I'd rather save it until Holy Week, but I'm not going to miss it.

Did anyone else see Mel Gibson's interview with Diane Sawyer the other night? It was awesome!

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 7:40 pm 
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Actually, I appreciate that look at your thoughts concerning the film. It's interesting because I am one of those fundamental Christians that you describe and yet just moments before I had called to set up a babysitter for tomorrow night so that my wife and I can go see it.

Why am I seeing it. First, because I know what the Bible says. Seeing movies that could perhaps be wrong doesn't scare me. I even liked "Bruce Almighty". I know where it's doctrine departs from what is related in Scripture so in that sense it isn't any different than having a conversation with someone who doesn't believe. I even saw "The Last Temptation of Christ." Not a great movie. But it did make me appreciate the true sacrifice that was made on my behalf. Beyond that, any public teaching on what is written is inherently from man. What difference does it make whether a preacher tells us about how it happened or whether we see it acted out on screen. In either case, we don't JUST read the scripture. We hear sermons constructed by fallible humans.

Secondly, I want to support positive images of Christianity. After a while I get run down hearing how silly my religion is... I can see this anywhere from right here on this board to TV to my local newspaper. When someone is willing to publically declare "I am a Christian" I like that and hope to see more of it.

Thirdly, there will be many people effected by this film and I want to be able to talk intelligently about it. Further, I like that Mr. Gibson has declared that he hopes that this will be an evangelistic tool. I'm all for that. He's up front about it. He believes, as I do, that the Christian has the market on truth. It would be just mean to keep quiet about something that you believe will effect someone's life forever. The watching of this movie has already driven many people to read their Bible to discover what it actually says. That is NEVER a bad thing.

And finally, even if folks aren't swayed by the Christian message (a work ultimately done by the Holy Spirit) presented in the film, perhaps people will consider their own morality. I am concerned by our country's and world's relativistic morality and fear that my children will live in a world where right and wrong are irrelevant. That scares me. Maybe this movie will go a little ways to getting people to think about it. To think about sacrifice and love. And our own sins.

Mine's longer than you probably cared to read, too :)

Erik


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:08 pm 
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My reservations about seeing the film are simple enough. While far from being a physically squeamish person, the added element of human cruelty gives me the willies. It's something I think about sometimes and that bothers me--which is one of the reasons I also recently posted that review of the photographic book on the Cultural Revolution.

Quote:
When someone, no matter how good their intentions, shifts genres and depicts the Passion in film, in a "novel" form, or in art, for that matter, I believe one gets more distant from the fundamental truths of the Gospels. This is not, on my part, the concern of a biblical fundamentalist who believes the Bible is perfectly historical and that a film distorts this history. It is a concern, rather, that the Gospels are as they are for a reason. The reader must participate, must meditate on the Passion accounts as they are: Ambiguous at times, clear in general outline, but fuzzy on details.

I can't say that I'm "philosophically" opposed to depictions of Jesus in these other genres. The point of the Gospels in the first place was to hand down the life of the Messiah, and this was done in a genre busting way, yet a very human way. Artists and dramatists over the centuries have tried to bring home the human immediacy that they have felt from reading and meditating on the Gospels, and I can't object to that because it's the human way of dealing with such things. I do agree that it's awfully hard to do well. Still, I think of Chesterton's reflection that "you can look at grass 99 times and the 100th time notice that it's green." Could that be what Gibson is attempting? Bring home to us that this really happened? Too often, I believe, our image of Jesus is totally inhuman, and yet as Christians we believe that he is, indeed, "this man Jesus" as well as God's Anointed. That, if it is his intent, seems to me legitimate. Which doesn't mean that I'll go see the film.

Quote:
Finally, and perhaps trivially, and certainly ad hominen, I worry about it being Mel Gibson's piece, considering the influence on his life of his father.

Well, I'd certainly hate to have people diss my kids just because of their father--not that that's likely to ever happen.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:16 pm 
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I am definitely seeing it as well. I don't know if I am "looking forward" to it, as I have been warned many times on the violence of it, but I feel that I must see it.

If anyone is interested, here's another review by Fr. Patrick Reardon, who is a priest who was a monk in the same Roman Catholic Trappist monastery that my dad was in (when he was young, obviously before he became my dad.....)

Anyway, here's his thoughts on the movie:

This afternoon I attended a special showing of "The Passion of the Christ,"
followed by a live stage interview with Mel Gibson.

There are several things I would note about this film.

First, there is nothing new here. Except for a couple of dramatic adaptations (a crow pecking the eyes of the unrepentant thief on the cross,
for instance), it is essentially what you have in the Gospels.

Second, there is nothing "shocking" or emotionally wrenching here, unless
one has neglected the traditional pieties of the Church. Those who follow
the ancient Christian custom of meditating on the sufferings of our Lord at
the Daily Canonical Hours (a custom for which we have written testimony from the early years of the third century), or who habitually pray the standard akathists of Our Lord's Passion or of the Holy Cross, or who regularly make the Way of the Cross, or who regularly pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, or who simply ponder the Gospel accounts of the Lord's Passion each day will find nothing here that they don't already know or have not thought about deeply.

One Orthodox commentator has complained about all the blood in the film,
saying that the emphasis on the Lord's blood is not "Orthodox." Folks who
feel this way, I suggest, may want to review the Epistle to the Hebrews and
ask themselves why this epistle is read in the liturgical services of the
Orthodox Church toward the end of Lent.

Third, (and I do not push this one too hard) I wish the producers had
consulted an Orthodox Christian with respect to the placing of the two
thieves. The "good thief," as is known to every Orthodox Christian who has
reached the age of four, should be on the Lord's right, not His left.

Fourth, I was very struck by the use of the Psalter in this film. Jesus is
pictured as praying the Psalms at several points in the film. The Psalms
that are cited are those very familiar to those who pray the Daily Canonical
Hours.

Fifth, everyone should see this film. That includes teenage kids, who will
need a note from their parents to see a film that is rated "R".

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:17 pm 
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If it were just me, i wouldn't go. Just like i shouldn't have watched the Lord of the Rings films either. But all my friends are going to go and some of them will be expecting or needing to talk about it afterwards.

Expect me to say that the book was better. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:21 pm 
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glauber wrote:
If it were just me, i wouldn't go. Just like i shouldn't have watched the Lord of the Rings films either. But all my friends are going to go and some of them will be expecting or needing to talk about it afterwards.


That's the first good reason I've come across for going to see it.


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rebl_rn wrote:
Fourth, I was very struck by the use of the Psalter in this film. Jesus is pictured as praying the Psalms at several points in the film. The Psalms that are cited are those very familiar to those who pray the Daily Canonical Hours.

One of the most interesting after-movie passtimes will be to try to decode things like this, that show what "glasses" Mel sees Jesus through. It will be fun because based on what we've seen and heard, it's definitely not the traditional emasculated Jesus of movies, and it's not the American Protestant view either. Hmm a Trappist Jesus? Why not?

Even if you take the religion out (which is really easier said than done), Mel still has a precious opportunity to contribute a fresh vision of this person who is at the center of so many people's philosophies. So that's another reason to see the movie, in hope that he succeeded.

Still, i got to say that besides being a coward i detest religious fads, and on my own i'd probably wait until it got released in DVD.

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ErikT wrote:

Mine's longer than you probably cared to read, too :)

Erik


Nope. Darn good. Great comments all around. I may be swayed, genre-busting aside.

Dale


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If it works it works, and there's no way to tell
without seeing it. I'm skittish of the violence,
but artistic visual depictions of this story have been
with us for centuries, and it's intriguing
that here may be another. If it's good,
then it's likely to be very good.

I don't know if I will go yet. Maybe
some of you can report back?

You know God being incarnate in a man is essentially
violence to 'both,' which is what
The Last Temptation of Christ was about.
But there the movie was a snooze, I thought.

And the violence of that sacrifice, the one
on the cross, is plainly meant
to make something understandable.
Maybe that's what it takes. 'Odor of blood
when Christ was slain..' Yeats wrote.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:32 pm 
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the same Roman Catholic Trappist monastery

Just out of curiousity, is that the place on Lake Oconomowoc? I think it's not there anymore, sold (or at least a good part of it) for real estate development.

I, too, find the Eastern church's Lenten and Passiontide liturgies very moving.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 8:55 pm 
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I'm definitely going to see it. I haven't sat in a theatre for about 7 years.

From the massive reviews I've read online, and news reports showing actual clips from the movie itself, I know I will be deeply moved. I'm not a stone. I'm sure it will resurrect old feeling of when I use to believe.

But I'm thankful for studies in good history. That will probably help stabilize me from falling for this most convincing version of "The Greatest Story Ever Told." I will be reminded of the strong probablility, and evidence, that this story originated with the death of Chrishna Zeus, (some spell it Christna Zesus) hundreds of years earlier, who was born of a virgin, performed miracles, used some of the same parables as Christ, healed the sick, died for the sins of many, and was nailed to a tree and crucified for the salvation of mankind.

I will think of the parallels between the two human-gods and how the later story of Christ came to be more dramatic than that of Christna, having in all likelihood been improved and intellectualized by more modern writers. But I may be thinking more of Chritna's suffering. Surely it was dramatic and deserves some credit for the existence of this story.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 9:38 pm 
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Lorenzo wrote:
Chrishna Zeus, (some spell it Christna Zesus)

For some reason, seeing this salad of deity names, made me think of Buddha Wisely.

Buddha Wisely for President!

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I read a moving and extraordinary essay by John Sacks,
a Jew who was invited to speak at the Holocaust 'Revisionists'
yearly convention in California. He went and spent
several days with them. They were pretty normal people,
he concluded, and not at all anti-Semitic. As we know
they admit that there were concentration camps
in which hundreds of thousands of Jews died
due to disease and neglect, and there were massacres,
that it was appaling and wrong; what they deny is that
there was a deliberate plan to exterminate the Jews.

Why, if they aren't anti-Semites, do they believe this?
Two reasons, Sacks says. First, plenty of people have
their pet crazy theory to which they're deeply committed,
e.g. that Oswald didn't kill Kennedy. Second, these
people, often of German ancestry, can't bring themselves
to believe that Germans, who gave us Bach and Beethoven
and Goethe, could do such a thing.

Here is part of his talk to them, a triumph of compassion,
I think, and the aftermath.

'We all have it in us to become like Nazis. Hate is a muscle,
and if we want to be monsters, all we have to do is exercise it.
To hate the Germans, to hate the Arabs, to hate the Jews.
The longer we exercise it, the bigtger it gets, as if every day we curl forty pounds and, far from being worn out, in time we are curling fifty, sixty, and are the Mr. universe of Hate, the Heinlich Himmler. We all can be hate-full people, hateful people. We can destroy the people we hate, maybe, but we surely destroy ourselves.'

The people who say the Holocaust didn't happen applauded. Loud and long they applauded, and a number of German deniers tood up. Some asked questions about Ausschwitz, like why did I think that Germans MEANT for Jews to die? But one from Berlin, named Wolfgang, later confessed to me: 'I believe that Auschwitz became unsanitary. The Jews were worked very hard. I grant you that. They died. And they had to be gotten rid of. And after they died, the SS put them into crematoriums. I won't deny that. And maybe to scare some, the SS told them, 'You're next, you're going to go up in smoke.' And maybe..."

The conference ended on Monday. No one was ever attacked by the Jewish Defense League. The deniers meet next in Cincinnati, and they have invited me to be the keynote speaker there. I've said yes.


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