The Passion and the Fury: Why Has a Reverent Movie about Jesus Christ Become One of the Most Controversial Films in History?

By Jasper, William F. | The New American, March 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Passion and the Fury: Why Has a Reverent Movie about Jesus Christ Become One of the Most Controversial Films in History?


Jasper, William F., The New American


But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

--Isaiah 53:5

Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ begins with a black screen and the above-quoted passage of Holy Scripture from the prophet Isaiah. It ends with a scene of the resurrected Jesus Christ stepping from the tomb. In the two hours of film that run between those two bookends, writer-director-producer Mel Gibson has focused on the last 12 hours of Christ's life on earth: The Passion--His arrest, torture suffering and execution.

Gibson's approach to the subject is not subtle, to say the least. He has crafted an unflinching and brutal portrayal of the central event in human history, the ultimate redemptive act of the man Christians believe to be God incarnate. The result is one of the most powerful--and controversial--achievements in the history of film.

But why has there been such fierce and long-running controversy over this project? And why does it continue? It is, after all, only a movie. Every year Hollywood disgorges hundreds of celluloid confections featuring every sort of outrage and depravity imaginable, with no reaction even remotely comparable to the seismic eruption caused by The Passion. Why is that? What, hat is it about this movie that has incited such an unrelenting torrent of vitriol against it and against Mr. Gibson himself? Indeed. the viciousness of the attacks on Gibson. one of Hollywood's most successful and popular stars, must surely be unprecedented in the history of filmdom.

Perhaps no affair more potently delineates the battle lines in the struggle for the soul of America than the year long raging furor over The Passion of the Christ. The critics who have been so savagely attacking the movie and its creator would have us believe they are righteously combating the bigotry and violence that they claim saturates the film's every frame.

Their charges, however, are a smoke screen for a very different agenda. The people sending up the smoke screen are the cultural elitists who hold sway in Hollywood and in the major media. They are anti-Christian and anti-God. They ate nihilists and hedonists who shamelessly use their dominance of our cultural organs to undermine basic Judeo-Christian values and to create moral anarchy. They will support, exalt and promote the most degenerate, sadistic and blasphemous "art" conceivable, but they will not tolerate a major Hollywood-type production that approaches the subject of Jesus with respect and faith instead of mockery and derision.

An independent observer watching from another planet would surely marvel at the tempest raised by The Passion. After all, what passes for "popular culture" in our society today is a toxic Petri dish overflowing with noxious pathogens. Billboards, magazines, newspapers, movies, television, radio, Internet sites, videos and product covers relentlessly assault our eyes and ears with messages of banality and carnality. "Tolerance" is the watchword in our "post-Christian" era where "anything goes." Anything that leads toward the infernal abyss, that is.

No subject is taboo. No censorship must be allowed to stand in the way of modern man's "freedom" and his pursuit of sensual gratification. Nothing is so profane or iniquitous that the self-appointed arbiters of cultural excellence will not find a way to laud it. Homosexual savants dictating American fashion and style on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? Cool! Lesbians engaging in R-rated TV romps on The L Word? About time! Uma Thurman splattering buckets of blood across the screen in Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino's latest celluloid slaughterfest? Dazzling virtuosity! Best-seller The Da Vinci Code's claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were secret lovers who spawned a line of European royalty? Stunningly brilliant scholarship! And woe unto any unenlightened boor who alares to contradict these verdicts from the tolerance police! …

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