Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Passion of the Principal

When I was growing up, my mother had this expression she'd say if she saw of any us stuffing our faces while standing up.

"Sit down," she'd declare, "and eat come un Cristiano!"

Eat like a Christian. Now my mother didn't have a bigoted bone in her body, but I can see where this phrase would be rather disturbing to a lot of people as it equates being civilized with being Christian.

I used to wonder why eating standing up was such an offense to the All Mighty. I wanted to ask my Jewish friends in school, hey, why don't you guys sit down when you eat?

This phrase came to mind recently the other day when I got an e-mail from an outfit that billed itself as a Christian Lending Network.

I figured I had enough Christians already and didn't need to borrow anymore, so I put my cursor on the delete button. But then I realized this company was offering to loan money "based on Christian Principles."

"Put Your Faith in Us!" The ad copy shouts to the heavens. "Bad Credit? No Problem."

The ad features a photo of a hand clutching Rosary beads, to give you that feeling of authority; in this case, a higher authority. It gave me few ideas about other possible taglines.

We Crucify the Competition! How's that for a slogan? Or Our Rates Are So Low It's A Miracle!

Perhaps they could keep it simple and just say God Wants You to Borrow From Us.

I'm hardly the best Christian on the block, in spite of--or because of--eight years of Catholic school, but there's something about people using religion as a way of pulling in customers that really ticks me off.

I'm sure the people in this company will swear on a stack of Bibles that they are truly good Christians and follow the Lord's teaching as they figure out your interest payments, but I seem to recall Jesus chasing the money lenders out of the temple for doing the same thing.

There's something wrong here; religion shouldn't be fused with capitalism to pull in customers. Christianity is being used to woe voters, start illegal wars, stifle science and now as business come-on.

You have to wonder what would happen to anyone who defaulted on loan with these guys. I finally saw Mel "Lethal Weapon" Gibson's religious snuff movie The Passion of the Christ and it's a little scary to think about. I guess the First Bank of Jesus could use clips from the movie with a warning: don't let this happen to you.

This movie was the product of a very sick mind as it is nothing but a stomach-turning spectacle of violence, torture, and gore, combined with stunningly bad filmmaking. Mary, my dad's aide, loaned me the DVD, telling me how she cried upon viewing it, and I can see why. I nearly puked.

Forget about the beauty of Christ's teaching. Oh, hell, no, that's for pansies. Mel's Jesus is a literal whipping boy as he gets his sanctified butt slammed all over Bethlehem. Jesus is punched, kicked, spat upon, insulted, and I think they turn down his bank loan, too.

Then it gets violent.

Gibson throws the a few bits of Christ's word into the mix, along with several quarts of His blood, and a few pounds of flesh, but if you went in there expecting to learn about the word of God, you're bound to wind up covering your eyes and shouting "Oh, Jesus!" on more than one occassion.

Mortal Sin

I remember the summer this atrocity came out. I remember church groups flocking to theaters by the busload, people going on about how beautiful it was. Beautiful? Yeah, I guess if you're a butcher or an anatomy student.

I kept waiting for Jason from the Friday the 13th flicks to show up and really get the party started, but I'm happy to report that Satan--portrayed by a woman--does make an appearance, accompanied by some grubby little devil baby who seems ready to spew pea soup at the drop of a whip.

Gibson was appearing on TV in a series of eye-bulging interviews, convinced people were out to get him, stop him from sending his sacred message. I seem to recall him ducking questions about his father's Holocaust denials as he pushed his movie.

My sister and I watched the film while our father was in the hospital, on the same weekend, it turns out, that Herr Gibson got nailed in Mailbu and went all Goebbels on a Jewish sheriff's deputy. Gosh, Mel, you're making all us Christians feel so proud.

There was so much blood-letting that when we actually found something amusing, we couldn't stop laughing. It happened when Simon was forced to help Jesus carry the Cross. Jesus collapses yet again--in slow motion, of course, the sign of a true hack--and Simon looks down and speaks to him very soothingly.

"We're almost there," he said.

This is good news? You know what happens when Jesus gets there, don't you, big guy? They'll going to nail him to that Cross you guys are lugging, so if you're trying to inspire the man to get up and walk, I don't think you're going about it the right way.

Of course, the Crucifiction is all the more horrible, as the spikes are hammered straight through Christ's hands and feet. For some reason, the Romans drop the Cross twice--with Jesus along for the ride--like some kind of twisted coin toss.

It goes on and on, until one woman in the crowd says "Someone should put a stop to this!" To which I say, amen, sister, amen.

When I was in fifth grade everybody in my school went to see The Greatest Story Ever Told. It wasn't required viewing, but you got the distinct feeling that no good Catholic would miss this flick.

Of course I wanted to be a good Catholic, but I also wanted to see David McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin in my favorite TV show at the time, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He portrayed Judas in the movie and it was tough seeing my favorite spy become the biggest traitor in Christendom.

Other than that, I recall very little of The Greatest Story Ever Told. There was Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate; Sidney Portier as Simon. I remember Illya--I mean Judas--throws himself into a pit of fire instead of hanging himself, but then that's Hollywood for you. They can never follow the book.

I remember something else about the older film. I didn't want to vomit. I didn't run out of the theater screaming and I had no urge to throttle the director while shrieking what the hell is wrong with you, you sick son-of-a-bitch! It was a while ago, but I think I would have remembered something like that.

So now we have pundits wondering about Gibson's career, but I'm a little more concerned about my religion. Gibson will recover. Christianity is another matter. The way Gibson, George Bush, and the rest of the Rapture wrecking crew are going at it, Christianity may never be the same.

I gave Mary her DVD back today. I love her dearly for all the care she's shown my father, so there was never a thought of telling her what I really thought of the thing. She knows I didn't like it and that's the end of it. I kept my more strident feelings to myself.

It's the Christian thing to do.


Marsha said...

The sins of Mel Gibson or those of his father do not change the fact that Christ suffered and died the way it was portrayed in that movie.

Was it disgusting, yes. Was it bloody, yes...just as it was when it happened. I'm sorry it didn't impact you the way it did me. It really made me stop and think of what He went through for me. It took that nice little story of Christ and the cross that I've been hearing since the 2nd grade and made it more real for me.

Does it take all that blood and gore to get through to people? For some, yes. For those with hearts so hard against any "religion" that all they can see is the sinner telling the story, no version of it will ever break through and touch their life. And that is the saddest part of all.

The bible says all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. Yes, the messenger is a sinner, but aren't we all?

That's the whole point of the movie.

Marsha said...

I'd like to change the very last line of my previous comment to:

"That's the whole reason Christ died for us in the first place."

My previous comment just didn't come across as I meant it to.

Take care Rob. I hope your father is doing better.

Rob K said...


First of all I want to thank you for inquiring after my father. It is very thoughtful of you and I wish I had better news to report, but the fact is he is very frail and weak, and just not there mentally. I'm not sure what we're going to do, but I don't see a happy ending to this story, quite frankly.

Now, as to the Passion. While I love the teachings of Jesus Christ with all my heart, I truly disliked this film.

Gibson focused soley on the suffering, misery and abuse until I became numb. If you want to spread the word of Jesus, that's what you do.

If you want to make a snuff film or a slasher movie, well that's something else entirely.

I believe this movie did a grave disservice to Christianty. Yes, Jesus suffered horribly, but there was so much more to His life than just the bloody abuse.

Gibson's bigoted ranting does not take away from the Lord's teaching. It just exposes Gibson as a hypocrite and that's between him and God. I would just be thankful if he stayed away from any more films about Jesus as he clearly misses the point.

Thanks for your feelings on this. I wouldn't want you to hold back or be silent about something that means so much to you. But I honestly don't think we're so far apart on this issue.

Take care,


Babsbitchin said...

Wow. I felt the movie. But then, I've always carried the burden of sin and the crucifiction since childhood. I believe Satan has a hand in that, ol codger that he is.Your point of view is very valid and truthful and I'd not seen it that way. But, I felt it once again, that enormous burden of what Christ did for my sins. It's huge. But I don't think most people have that same guilt that I so readily stuff deep down inside me. I'd much prefer not to have it, almost. It was a very apinful portrayal and betrayal. I wish I knew the answers but I do feel enlightened to the other side, the other point of view. Good-nite sweety!