Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes


#75 The Passion of the Christ

posted by Stephanie Drury


Christian culture loves this movie. It is the only R-rated movie they heartily endorse.

The Passion of the Christ received support and endorsement from Billy Graham, James Dobson, Mission America Coalition, Salvation Army, Promise Keepers, National Association of Evangelicals, Campus Crusade, Focus on the Family, Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Broadcasting Network, Rick Warren, Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Max Lucado, Young Life, Tim LaHaye, Chuck Colson, Lee Strobel, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Mothers of Preschoolers, aka MOPS. (The idea that preschoolers may have watched this movie should make anyone in their right mind want to hurl.)

Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars, and said “The movie is 126 minutes long, and I would guess that at least 100 of those minutes, maybe more, are concerned specifically and graphically with the details of the torture and death of Jesus. This is the most violent film I have ever seen.”

The film opens with Jesus being tempted in Gethsemane before his arrest. With the focus placed on Jesus’s torture and death over a 3 day period and virtually no depiction of his 33 year-long sinless insurgent upheaval, we have to wonder if this is basically a snuff film.

*This post originally aired on April 11, 2009, and warranted a repost due to Mel Gibson’s recent media kerfuffle.



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Shannon

posted July 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm


I remember watching this the first night it was in theaters. I was surprised that I even got a ticket considering how so many churches had reportedly booked entire showings.
I was alarmed at the number of people who brought their children (some of them there had to be 4 or 5 years old) to see that movie. Seriously?
I think it drove the point of what the New Testament says happened those few days, but I also didn’t care about seeing the film again – but I have the same feelings for The Pianist, Schindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan – very well done films, but no need to revisit watching the gory-ist of it.
I do notice when church’s have “Passion showings” and I do wonder about the Christians who feel the need to watch The Passion over and over again. Is it really watching to remind themselves of the sacrifice of Christ, or is in some other obsession?



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kenneth

posted July 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Yes, thank you. I’ve been calling it a snuff porn for years (and not winning many Christian friends as a result). It’s also insulting to Christians and those they would try to convert because it supposes we’re all too stupid to grasp the bigger inspiration of the story. Apparently we need the “truth” flogged into us. Plus, it’s kind of a sleazy profiteering scheme. I mean, it’s bad enough when guys make money trafficking Ukrainian girls to Turkish brothels. Pimping one’s own savior is really gonna hit the jury’s ear wrong on judgement day.
On the other hand, it raises an idea for a hell of a good You Tube video: have Mel and a Rabbi split a fifth of single malt and argue the point of collective Jewish culpability in Christ’s death before a mock court….



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Rocky Presley

posted July 27, 2010 at 1:37 pm


I believe that the Anti-Semantic League of America, or ASLA, has recently become a fan as well. Evidentially the director is a giant tool?
But I do have to take issue with one portion of this post. It is not the only “R” rated film that is heartily endorsed by Christians, and recently ASLA, and that is Braveheart. The irony is “mind bottling.” Braveheart even has boobies, which youth ministers must promptly fast forward when trying to make the connection that Braveheart is actually an allegory about freedom from “sin and death” and not about freedom from the English, but we all know that the English are of the Devil.
Speaking of Devil, not capitalizing that word is something that Christian culture loves as well. It is a passive slap in the face to the man in red. You are the devil. You do not deserve a capital letter in your proper noun of a name.



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Rocky Presley

posted July 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm


Snuff porn? I missed the porn part. Maybe you saw “The Passion of the Naughty Schoolgirl?”



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Lynn

posted July 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm


When this movie came out, I was attending a Christian college, and they bought out a couple giant screen showings so we all could go. And my theology professor at the time basically made it our assignment to go see the movie so we could discuss parts in class.
I have mixed feelings about the film. I thought the violence was taken too far, but at the same time I thought the cinematography was great and I liked some of the symbolism (like the teardrop from heaven, or the moment they sort of pose like the Pieta paintings) and I liked the creepy portrayal of Lucifer. But I’ve never gone back for a second viewing because I can’t handle watching torture like that.



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stephanie drury

posted July 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm


Rocky, the pornographic element comes from the film providing something sensationalistic for the viewer without requiring any introspection or invitation to relationship. Porn for Christians.
captcha: salient windburns



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Jessi Knippel

posted July 27, 2010 at 3:10 pm


It’s also pornographic because it takes all those repressed sexual desires and channels them into a voyeuristic need to see the one of the most painful forms of capital punishment ever created on full screen and reveal over it…the same need that reveal in all the destruction, death and suffering of Mr. LaHaye’s warped revelation theology. There is a sexual excitement around people suffering for faith or being punished for sin.
I *love* how this is ok but there are questions about the Harry Potter Series which has many underlying christian themes.
Stephanie have you written anything about the evangelical embrace of “twilight” specifically the messed up gender dynamics that are expressed in the films/ books that mirror gender imbalances with in many evangelical (and fundamentalist) communities. Especially in light of the whole boycott of Harry Potter?



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Rocky Presley

posted July 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm


I guess I am caught up on definitions. For example, a snuff film is a movie that shows the actual death or murder of an individual, not the depiction of someone who dieing. Thus the distinction between that and CSI. Pornography depicts graphic sexual interaction between two individuals, thus the distinction between porn and Grey’s Anatomy. So by definition, I disagree that the film is either snuff or porn, but I do agree that it is sensationalistic to a point, possibly to a fault.
The question I have is this. Is the death and resurrection of Jesus a story worth telling in and outside of Christian Culture, and what ways are appropriate when telling it? If this is a bad one, then what is a better one? Why do we celebrate the depiction of the graphic murders of Jews or Rwandans, but get bent out of shape with the graphic depiction of Jesus’ death?



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Just Someone

posted July 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm


What is the point of this blog?



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stephanie drury

posted July 27, 2010 at 5:57 pm


That is the best comment I’ve gotten in a long time.



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ben parsons

posted July 27, 2010 at 6:15 pm


this makes complete sense to me, because out of all the things that get films R ratings (sex, drug use, profanity, violence) violence is the one that happens most in the bible. evangelicals are totally down with violence, which is probably why they like wars so much.
i mean, the home i was raised in was totally fine with violence, both on the screen and in actual life. however, premarital sex, drugs, and fucking cussing were not allowed. so i give the evangelicals credit for being biblically and culturally consistent.
i was also raised to never use capital letters when typing.



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Bill

posted July 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm


Ben, capitals aside, I’m glad to see you’re pretty good with commas ;).



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Chrissy

posted July 27, 2010 at 11:22 pm


My church hyped this movie up so much that I ended up refusing to see it. I mean, I love a good splatter film as much as the next person, but the enthusiasm of the church may have permanently deterred me. They were convinced the whole world would change now that Jesus had caught his big break and made it to Hollywood. They devoted entire services to promoting it, using all kinds of empty promises and illogical speculation about how much God was going to use it. When it came out, they rented theaters and encouraged people to bring their “unsaved friends.” After each viewing a pastor would get up and give an altar call. They call it zeal. I call it obnoxious.
Now for the hypocritical part: I totally handed out free tickets to it when I was on a missions trip in Russia. As people came out of the theater we were pressured to pry into their viewing experience in hopes that God would “provide an opportunity” to proselytize. I’ve always hated “street witnessing.” It’s like the more awkward you feel, the more “bold” you are being for Jesus. I don’t think I won any souls for christian culture that day. I didn’t try very hard. I must’ve known somehow, that I was on my way out. I still haven’t seen The Passion.



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Bill

posted July 28, 2010 at 12:40 am


Chrissy, that’s not premonition, that’s just integrity ;).
But you’re right, the clear sadistic focus of the movie, the enthusiasm of the church devoid of any critical thought, and ole Mel’s freaky personal complex of…whatever it is, combined to make this movie unwatchable to me also. Still haven’t seen it. So I’m not the best to speak, but I suspect that, at least in his better films, there is more struggling with sin and redemption (or the lack of it) and the human condition in Woody Allen than in this. Don’t hear too many sermons on him though.
Of course, maybe there’s something wrong with me, though. I still haven’t seen The Last Temptation of Christ, either…and that probably mostly revolves around the church’s off-putting obsession with it more than anything else.
Captcha: “To debauch”. Love it.



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Spinning

posted July 28, 2010 at 12:40 am


@ Chrissy: I haven’t seen it either, and don’t want to. (Antisemitism + violence = not for me.)
What you’re describing is so… typical, and not just of American evangelical culture. It’s us, here in the US, allowing ourselves to be persuaded by intense marketing and hype.
Sad.
(capcha: distributed purled – these capchas are getting curioser and curioser!)



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Spinning

posted July 28, 2010 at 12:42 am


@ Bill: I actually have heard someone use a bit from a Woody Allen film as a sermon illustration, but that was in NYC. ;) (The movie: Crimes and Misdemeanors.)



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Zachery Oliver

posted July 28, 2010 at 1:20 am


I never really thought it was much of a “pornographic” film (at least in the sense it is being defined here). It merely attempts to show the pain and suffering of Christ during those last hours of his life – no more, and no less. If Gibson wants to focus on that, that is totally fine.
I could definitely see it being offensive in a non-Western context, but since Christianity (or at least a form of it) is so ingrained in pop culture, everybody pretty much know a form of the whole Jesus story.
In that way, the context of American culture fills in the blanks of the story within the film, so who Jesus was is already clear for most viewers and we thus focus on the determination and love of Jesus in enduring the suffering displayed on screen. That’s why it is not good for evangelical purposes. I found it quite reflective, but that’s me.
But preschoolers, really? Little children don’t need to see this film.



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Rachel

posted July 28, 2010 at 1:26 am


@ Ben Parsons:
Except there’s a fair deal of sex in the Bible. And not always the healthy kind either. (Lot and his two daughters, Tamar and Judas, that concubine in Judges…)
Which, in some awkward way, might say something about the warped sexual ethics in some sects of Christianity.



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Flah the Heretic Methodist

posted July 28, 2010 at 9:04 am


Don’t over-rotate on the word “porn”. Some movies have been dubbed “slasher porn” due to their fixation on torture and violence, to the point of exploitation and titillation. If Mel didn’t have a heavy dose of the religious crazy, he’d be making slasher porn — his movies already skated that line. Instead, he made Passion.



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Meghan

posted July 28, 2010 at 9:44 am


Ben: Sex, drugs, and fucking cussing. Ha!
I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable to show a graphic amount of violence (or sex, or whatever) to adults if the point is to get it through their thick skulls just what they owe to the Cross. I’d also roundly agree with the accusation that most of the viewers and proponents of this film completely missed the point: to acknowledge not just the victory of resurrection, but the suffering that predicated it. To align their Christianity not just with the victor’s lap, but with the abused and degraded Christ, as well.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 28, 2010 at 9:50 am


I am shocked, just shocked to learn that MOPS endorsed this film. They always seemed like such good Christian ladies who would never dream of breaking the second commandment. Heavens to Murgatroyd, I’ve been so naive.



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stephanie drury

posted July 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm


I hate that for you, Ben. I hope you know you weren’t raised in a Christian home. A Christian culture home, probably, but not a Christian home.
captcha, and this is not a joke: disciple it!



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Steve

posted July 28, 2010 at 6:15 pm


Stephanie, while I think your blog is (mostly) hilarious, I’m starting to worry that it’s become a place to boast about how much more enlightened your audience is than the rest of “Christian culture.” I’m not sure your readers believe they’re no better than the most hilarious of Christian culture zealots. I’m afraid we’ve gone from gently teasing to full on mocking.
Oh, and I wept like a small girl at the Passion and don’t want to see it again because it was so gut-wrenching, but I thought it was beautifully done.
Captcha: Estrogen takers. I think I win.



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Spinning

posted July 28, 2010 at 6:42 pm


@ Steve: I’m curious – why do you feel the blog is changing?
I think many people who comment here have been deeply wounded by their experiences with “Christian culture,” and a lot of comments reflect that.
capcha: evolutionary Pulitzers (really!). But I like the one you got, too.



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Aaron

posted July 28, 2010 at 6:52 pm


Mel Gibson’s “kerfuffle,” Stephanie? Do we really need to swear?
Also, and I’m NOT lying, my captcha: “underfed somewhat.” Really? A fat joke??
:headdesk:



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stephanie drury

posted July 28, 2010 at 6:56 pm


Aaron, I use kerfuffle at every opportunity, it’s one of my favorite words (see facebook profile, ahem). Sorry if it offended you. I mean, I’m glad I offended you.
Steve/Matt, I’m not too concerned about what the blog readers are on about. I get too many responses from people saying how cathartic this process is for them and I’m so glad they’re able to see what wasn’t Biblical in their Christian culture upbringing and finally ask questions for themselves. This journey is huge and I’m so glad to facilitate it in some way. I appreciate your concern.



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Spinning

posted July 28, 2010 at 7:20 pm


@ Steve again: what Stephy just said! This blog (and the blog’s Facebook page) *are* cathartic, no question.
We finally have a chance to express our thoughts without having to worry about someone attacking us for talking about them. Sometimes the process is painful, both from the inside and from the outside.
I’m very grateful for this place, and others like it. If anything, I wish there were more of them!



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Andrea

posted July 28, 2010 at 8:08 pm


I was raised Catholic, I am a believer, and I will not see this film. I don’t believe in glorifying or fetishizing violence and I think this is what this movie has done. Gibson has some deep psychological issues. You see the same sort of thing in “Braveheart.” I don’t think it’s appropriate for children.



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Charles Cosimano

posted July 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm


I actually tried to watch the thing when it made it to HBO and lasted about 20 minutes before having to turn off the television and go vomit.
A couple of days later I ran into one of my neighbors, a rather devout Evangelical, and he asked me if I had seen it on cable. I said I had and he asked me what I thought of the film, undoubtedly expecting to use that to convert me. I responded that it made me throw up and I would have a hard time being around anyone who could watch it and not become violently ill.
Fixed his wagon.



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Gaypet

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:00 am


@Rocky, the “Anti-Semantic League” made me laugh for a long time. I think they are called The Tea Party now. “We Are Against Language Having Meaning!” is surely one of the signs at those rallies.
And may I say that: “What is the point of this blog?” is fantastic! Not quite as good as: “Good luck when you die”, but we can’t win ‘em all.



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Ben parsons

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:53 am


To clarify: I do think I’m better than a lot of these church people. Mostly because I’m less full of shit.
Captcha: this filthiest



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Vicki Norman

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm


Those of you who are attacking the violence and gore in this film are looking at it through the eyes of an unbeliever. “The Passion of the Christ” was extremely moving and meaningful to me and a group of Christians from my church. The reason being that it gave us a chance to be present with our Lord as He was tortured,murdered,and buried. It allowed us to witness the resurection.Most of us want to be present when our loved ones go through traumatic events in their lives.Most people want to be with loved ones when they die. The death of Jesus wasn’t pleasant.It will never fit into a category with other films.



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Virginia Mom

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm


To me, the whole point of sitting through the suffering was … this is a little of what we know that Christ suffered.
Makes you want to vomit? Exactly. That reaction is what one should feel! We have no idea all that Christ went through to wash away our sins. So I have to think it’s good for us to “feel” a little of that … from the comfort of our air condition and couch.



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Spinning

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm


@ Vicki and VA mom: the thing is, ToPC is a ***movie.*** You saw Mel Gibson’s idea of what Jesus suffered, not what actually occurred.



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stephanie drury

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm


Vicki, I agree with Virginia Mom – I would hope believers would be just as repulsed by the depiction, if not more so.



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Vicki Norman

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm


Yes we are repulsed by violence but we are drawn to the truth.Our faith in Christ would mean nothing if His suffering had not taken place.Take the blood out of Christianity and you have nothing more than a charming tale.



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stephanie drury

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:10 pm


I don’t know how charming of a tale it would be, Jesus sure made people mad in his day to say the least, but that’s why I pose the question in the last sentence of the post. Christian culture doesn’t seem to feel this film is unbalanced in the least, and they don’t have a problem with the hype surrounding it. They absolutely love it!



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Stephen Charles

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm


VN and VM,
Your explanations are honest and reflect just what makes the evangelical mind tick. But have either of you considered that encountering the gospel by way of image is a theology of glory, as opposed to the way God intends for us to encounter it, which is to say by preached word and sacrament, which is to say a theology of the cross? Have you considered that this way of encountering the gospel is a tradition of men, a way of being unsatisfied with the way God has ordained we encounter the gospel? Do you recall Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu bringing strange fire to the Lord? And have you considered that maybe this is just glorified entertainment? And why exactly does anyone think they have to know what crucifixion was like in order to understand the weight of our sin? God has already told us its import. Isn’t that good enough?
To the rest of you, the problem here isn’t violence or its apparent endorsement. The problem is the underlying theology of glory that seeks to manifest the gospel in man-made ways.



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Bill

posted July 29, 2010 at 4:37 pm


I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t more effort on the part of Evangelicals to dissect Gibson’s religious life and see the film partly through that lens. As I understand it, he’s a bit of a fringe Catholic, and I would think they wouldn’t like that very much.
Stephen Charles: are you suggesting that no imagery be used in encountering the gospel under any circumstance?



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toujoursdan

posted July 29, 2010 at 7:04 pm


I was living in Canada and saw this with my church friends. We were all shocked that a one-sentence throwaway line in the Gospels (“But he had Jesus flogged”) became a 30 minute scene in the movie. If the violence and brutality associated with Christ’s flogging is so important why didn’t the Gospel writers go into such detail?
We found it theologically questionable as it seemed to based on what is mentioned by a commenter above: “Our faith in Christ would mean nothing if His suffering had not taken place. Take the blood out of Christianity and you have nothing more than a charming tale.”
I think that’s theologically incorrect.
Gibson’s vision is obviously based on Penal Substitution theory, which is Christian Culture’s one and only theory of atonement. In it, God is very, very wrathful because the sinful people God created act sinful (quelle surprise!) incurring a punishment to satisfy God, but God chooses to turn all God’s anger on Jesus, brutalizing Him instead of us, to appease God’s wrath. I think the point Gibson was trying to make was that the breadth and level of brutality somehow shows the depths of our sinfulness.
Funny thing, that theory didn’t appear until the 10th Century when Europe was in the grips of Feudalism, in which a serf must honour their (human) lord who owned the land and controlled their lives. Substitution theory is ultimately about honour. Since sin dishonours God, a price must be paid to restore God’s honour, just like the lord’s. This was altered and expanded at the Reformation, yet is rejected by many conservative Christians – like the Eastern Orthodox. And rightly so, since none of it is particularly Biblical.
I believe as Herbert McCabe, who said: “The mission of Jesus from the Father is not the mission to be crucified; what the Father wished is that Jesus should be human…. The fact that to be human means to be crucified is not something that the Father has directly planned, but what we have arranged.” I don’t believe in Divine violence (even by proxy). I think it’s a very dangerous belief as it is often used to rationalize human violence. And that’s what I saw in the movie. It fits in with Christian Culture’s view of God’s nature but I think it’s a very flawed understanding of the atonement. God doesn’t need blood to forgive sin. Our faith in Christ isn’t based on how badly He was brutalized. It’s perverted theology IMO.



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Bill

posted July 30, 2010 at 10:52 am


Dan, I’m glad you are here. Thank you.



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Sarah

posted July 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm


Dan, that brought me to tears. I echo Bill: Thank you.
Do you have any good resources off the top of your head for other, more biblical theories of atonement? I’d love to do some reading. I didn’t know it was called Substitution Theory, but it’s exactly my current problem with the idea of the death of Christ as I’ve been raised to understand it.
Also, I can hear the evangelical part of my mind (the part of my mind that still responds in Christian culture ways, which in a way I guess is good because it keeps me actively in a state of questioning) responding with that one verse from wherever, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” I imagine that verse might occur to other readers. I am disinclined to think that’s the answer, primarily because it’s simple and doesn’t fit with my biblical understanding of God, but also because it’s one verse, and I can’t remember the context. But what would your answer be to this piped-up objection?
I love, love, love that McCabe quote.
CAPTCHA (seriously): text proneness. I feel like beliefnet knows me, and I’m a little creeped out.



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Spinning

posted July 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm


@ Sarah – you might want to explore a bit in your current tradition for a different take on the atonement.
I was raised Lutheran, and … the emphasis was different. (I think because it’s not a tradition that follows in John Calvin’s footsteps.) Personally, I have a *lot* of difficulty with Calvinist theology, and this issue (penal substitution) is one of the big sticking points for me. My own take is closer to… Christ willingly became incarnate and sacrificed himself in order to free us, rather than to placate an angry God (cf. the way God is portrayed in Jonathan Edwards’ [in]famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”). I don’t think the Father was/is angry with us…
Does that make sense? (I’m kinda rambling right now…)



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Spinning

posted July 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm


I guess I could sum things up in these words: redemption, grace.
(capcha: persist for. Seems appropriate for this topic!)



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Robert

posted July 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm


I think Mel just wanted to kill a Jew in a movie. Badda-bing!



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Gaypet

posted July 31, 2010 at 2:02 am


Honestly! The thing Christian Culture likes best is talking in circles and making excuses for the shit world they believe their own god created. The premise of the religion is that god created a world that humans frakked up and so god’s son had to suffer and die to save us even tho that same god actually made the mess to begin with. And ’round and ’round we go…
Gibson is an Anti-Semite who made a violent movie while his wife was home with, how many kids, and he was banging anything that moved. How is this about grace or redemption or any other such nonsense?



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Spinning

posted July 31, 2010 at 3:47 am


@ Gaypet: My use of the words “grace” and “redemption” have NOTHING to do with mel Gibson or this particular movie.
Check the comments immediately prior to my last one (by Toujours Dan, Bill and Sarah).
(capcha: of climaxed – this is getting too weird! ;))



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Gaypet

posted July 31, 2010 at 6:58 pm


@Spinning: I am sorry. It is legit that you saw my comment as an attack on you in particular because of the “grace/redemption” remark. My intent was not to single you out. As I go back and read the few posts before yours (as you suggest) I see: “Gibson’s religious life”, “Gibson’s vision is obviously based on Penal Substitution theory”, “I don’t believe in Divine violence”, “Christ willingly became incarnate and sacrificed himself in order to free us, rather than to placate an angry God”, and on and on. My point was that Post-Modern Peace-Love-And-Understanding Christians need to try to justify all of the violent and evil shit their god is involved in. AND that Gibson is an Anti-Semite.
A bit disjointed, that. But my comments were not out of context if, like me, you read all of the other comments at once. Which I realize is not what you were responding to. I shouldn’t comment so late at night. :)



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Spinning

posted July 31, 2010 at 8:44 pm


@ Gaypet: My apologies for thsoe caps – should have put my usual tag, that they were meant for emphasis, not yelling. and I also understand what you’re saying about reading lots of comments at once. they tend to blur after a while.
re. my opinion of the film, well – I haven’t seen it. Deliberately. (Too much violence plus – from what I understand of many scenes + one of Gibson’s extra-Biblical sources – overt anti-Semitism.) am definitely *not* a Gibson fan, though early in his career, he gave some great performances. (In thoughtful films, like “Gallipoli” – ironically, about the needless deaths of many Aussie and NZ soldiers during WW; also in “The Year of Living Dangerously,” about the onset of a military dictatorship in Indonesia.)



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Spinning

posted July 31, 2010 at 8:45 pm


Ah, I forgot to say that I did mean “grace” and “redemption” in. re. Christ, though *not* re. the way Christ is portrayed in Gibson’s movie.



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Your Name

posted July 31, 2010 at 8:52 pm


Bill,
You asked me: “Are you suggesting that no imagery be used in encountering the gospel under any circumstance?”
No, the Eucharist is very visual. God gave us his incarnate son, not Jim Caviziel. But, yes, after that, visuals are out. There’s good reason God gave us his Bible only.
Dan, re penal substitution, I think you are quite wrong. The cross and its brutality do demonstrate the enormity of our sin. The problem here isn’t the gravity of our sin and God’s righteous judgment on it, the problem is that oddly reveling in it through this sort of glorifed entertainment is like children playing with a corpse.
(capcha: “subtlety swabs.” Yeah, baby.)



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Stephen Charles

posted July 31, 2010 at 8:53 pm


Crap, did it again. That was me, not “Your name.”



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Gaypet

posted July 31, 2010 at 11:03 pm


@ Spining: Gallipoli! Yes! That is the only Gibson movie I own. Although I must say that as a full fledged geek I was a Mad Max fan in my youth. He is not a terrible actor. Just an jerk.
And, for the sake of full disclosure, I have not see the movie (Passion)either. It is possible that I would rather have my eye sucked out. Possible.



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Bill

posted August 2, 2010 at 12:14 am


Stephen Charles, So you are actually meaning a visual depiction of Christ then? Which makes perfect sense within the Reformed tradition you’ve identified yourself as previously. I had taken your use of the words “image” and “gospel” in the widest sense possible, so an error on my part. I thought you meant to ban all metaphorical engagement, which would seem problematic for someone who honors the sacraments.
I do get nervous whenever I hear a “the way God intends”. But I’m better than I used to be ;).



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Stephen Charles

posted August 2, 2010 at 10:03 am


Bill, correct. Trust me, I quite understand your nerves, but at least one benefit of iconoclasm is that it keeps us away from the follies of Passionism.



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Sarah

posted August 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm


@Stephen Charles: Well, there’s always some kind of benefit to restricting a behavior or practice. “Playing it safe” is one of the things Christian culture excels at in a lot of areas. There’s a price, though, that comes with the safety. Frankly I’d rather have the freedom and run the risk of error; I’m pretty sure truth is more fluid and organic than strict legalities can encompass, and is frequently far from safe. I’d rather be open to real experience than protected from possible mistakes.
In this instance, in other words, I would rather that the Passion film exist (which itself isn’t being called into question quite so much as Christian culture’s fierce enjoyment of it) and have people go wildly wrong over it than have rules preventing the film’s production or viewing in the name of preserving said people from theological error. Forbidding the film in the name of iconoclasm is, to my way of thinking, just as bad as reveling in its gore.
Not that that’s what you were saying, but “iconoclasm” is a pretty strong and absolute word, so I was responding to it accordingly.



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Stephen Charles

posted August 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm


Sarah,
Good point, I understand. The word “iconoclam” carries some decidedly bad legalist baggage to us moderns, and for good reason. That’s what I think may have also unnerved Bill.
But keep in mind that I speak from a Reformed perspective high on liberty and down on legalism. I’d never want to talk about film-going the way Fundies talk about substance use and worldly amusement (or the way fellow Refoermed talk about education). I say give me the spirit of iconoclasm but not the law (soft or hard).



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Sarah

posted August 2, 2010 at 8:13 pm


Huh. I have to admit that you’ve surprised me, Stephen. I’ve never encountered a Reformed individual who was big on liberty and small on legalism. I feel like the M&Ms meeting Santa Claus.
(The CAPTCHA was “complexity standoff.” I HAD to comment.)



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Stephen Charles

posted August 2, 2010 at 10:25 pm


Sarah, that’s because old school Reformed are a rare breed in modern Protestantism. It was the new schoolers who got everyone tied up in knots over personal holiness fubar, and they won they day. I daresay any Reformed you’ve encountered are our versions of Methodists and Fundamentalists. Yeah, we got ‘em.
(CAPTCHA: “refreshed in.” Huh-uh.)



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Bill

posted August 3, 2010 at 1:01 am


SC, Truthfully what unnerved me was this:
“…the way God intends for us to encounter [the gospel], which is to say by preached word and sacrament, which is to say a theology of the cross”
of which iconoclasm is a part but not the whole, it seems. Maybe I’m overreading again. It’s just that second-guessing God’s inclination or ability to meet any seeker in any meeting feels dangerous and belies the Offense and Mystery that is the Son of Man. If a person reaches toward God, no matter how clumsily, let me not stand between him or her and the God Who Reaches Back!
I sense that Passionism may be the tip of the iceberg of the follies of my own faith ;). It is a sticky mess of half-chewed gum, self-referential and short-sighted, but it is my own. Mercy on us all!



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Stephen Charles

posted August 3, 2010 at 9:50 am


Bill,
Ah.
No, I don’t think I’d say you’re overreading here. But what you have to keep in mind about us Reformed is that we believe, not that God is unable “to meet any seeker in any meeting,” but that God is the initiator and has prescribed very specific ways of communing with him. And those ways are Word and sacrament. That seems way too limited to our natural understanding, so we invent all sorts of other ways, like movies and emotions and statues and (religious) experiences and thoughts and values and virtues and politics and on and on it goes.
May I be so bold as to suggest that maybe you share something in common with Passionittes, namely that encountering God is not limited to Word and sacrament? But where you diverge is that gory movies just aren’t your cup of meat? Maybe you like your spiritual films more gentle? But violence versus peacefulness isn’t what this turns on, to my mind. It’s a theology of glory that encounters God on its own terms instead of theology of the cross that encounters him on his.



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Sarah

posted August 3, 2010 at 10:44 am


I’m going to go with the assertion that it’s much tidier and more comfortable — and more in keeping with what it takes to govern a group of people — to assume that God only works in certain ways. Particularly since Word and sacrament were selected and enacted and institutionalized by men.
This is where I have trouble with Reformed theology. Big on rules and clear definitions. Also, “It doesn’t make sense because we’re human” is a rationale for a lot of questionable thought systems, Christian culture included.



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Stephen Charles

posted August 3, 2010 at 2:38 pm


Sarah,
I understand but disagree, of course. I would say that God, not man, institutionalized Word and sacrament. But if I recall you are Catholic, right? One doctrinal difference between Rome and Geneva is something called “creatura verbi.” Prot’s hold that Scripture created the church, while Rome holds that the church created Scripture. The net result is something like the Magisterium, which elevates the church (i.e. human teaching) above revelation. Coupled with some modern influences that elevate reason over revelation it follows that you may be more susceptible to the idea that “Word and sacrament were selected and enacted and institutionalized by men.” (FWIW, evangelicalism elevates experience over revelation.)
And I can see how you’d draw parallels between the Reformed need for rules, tidiness and definition being similar to what drives CC. But I could just as easily say that the need to work outside these things is also what drives CC. It can easily turn into he said/she said. From my pov, everyone follows rules of one sort or another, even those who say they don’t. We were made to follow rules. The question is, which ones?
(CAPTCHA: “saltine neuroblastoma.” As Tiny Fey would say, “What the what?!”)



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Sarah

posted August 3, 2010 at 3:40 pm


Actually the Roman Catholic church equates tradition/magesterial interpretation WITH revelation. But I don’t care all that much about that; I’m basically only Catholic insofar as I believe in the transubstantiation. I love the tradition, the mysticism, etc., but I was raised evangelical and attended a Reformed college, so Catholicism doesn’t strictly define me.
What’s most interesting to me is your use of the word “susceptible,” as if my perspective is a disease and yours is the cure. In which lies my primary objection to most of the Reformed theology I’ve encountered: I dislike absolutes.



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Spinning

posted August 4, 2010 at 1:28 pm


@ Stephen Charles: While I appreciate where you’re coming from (“old-school Reformed”), I think equating Protestant beliefs with Calvinism is a bit off the mark. Or maybe what you’ve just said about Protestants (as opposed to Catholics) was/is a bit oversimplified for the sake of making your point? (Text-only communication can be tough!)
At any rate, there’s a lot of Protestantism that has little or nothing to do with Geneva. :)



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