I will not be seeing the Passion

_ This is a slightly modified version of an email I sent to my parents and sister. All of them are a good deal more religious than yours truly, but here s my take on the film and the ministry of Christ_

I do not plan on seeing The Passion. The movie, I have been told, and feel free to correct me, starts with the betrayal and for the remaining balance of the film, aside from a few brief flashbacks, is the corporeal scourging of Jesus.

Jesus’ physical torture is not the message of Christianity. Christianity was a religion of the underclass, of the oppressed, of the beaten down. The original Christians lived the tortures of The Passion every day. No, the message of Christ’s ministry is hope, its moment is the Resurrection, its holiday is Easter.

This movie encourages the masses to focus on the wrong part of Christ’s terrestrial visit.

Freud said that man’s actions were the result of a battle between the eros instinct (to create, to preserve, to procreate) and the thanatos instinct (the urge to destroy, to revel in death and destruction) [ Original source: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, summary]. Jesus’ final hours can either be seen as precursors to salvation (eros) of the soul or glorifications of the body which can be reversely illustrated through torture. To focus on the thanatos exclusively strikes me as demented and immature, quite possibly even psychotic.

This film seems like an unadulterated flow for two hours of thanatos. I think that authors and artists who dwell exclusively in the thanatos instinct are sick.

I think religions that glorify corporeal mortification and that obsess about scenes of history like The Passion are likewise ill (thus I’m no fan of certain sects of Catholicism, in particular).

Gibson appeals to sadomasochistic sexuality in the film and essentially asks the audience to get off on the thanatos-charged glory of blood. I’m, quite frankly, disgusted.

Gibson serves up, under the cover of Christian history, the same foul aspect of human existence which enjoys snuff films, yells “jump” to a man on a ledge, and lets ones eyeballs feast on the bloody corpses of Iraqi schoolchildren blown up by missiles.

Sick? Yes. But we all know that we let this greater evil of our nature run wild in moments of fear and loss. Am I asked for proof? What did you do all day on 911? Is the scene of people leaping out of the WTC not burned into your memory?

To admit we have this instinct is one thing, to cater to this instinct in glorious rich physical detail ( like those lush colors captured in Mel’s Panaflex celluloid ) with the deep enfolding beauty of gorgeous Mediterranean actresses is perverse.

I can think of one other form of visual titillation which operates in the same manner and which has the exact same effect upon the soul: pornography.

Here’s another, war films (thanks Chris Hedges). War films as much as they deride war (Platoon, Full Metal Jacket) invite you into their orgy of death. The rich visual media pull you in, you go with Private Joker through Boot Camp, you thrill as they lay waste to the Vietnam stronghold, you are even invited to thrill as he puts a bullet in an illiterate rice patty farmer woman’s head. Thus even anti-war movies become war pornography.

The Passion is Christ pornography.

Gibson’s perversion of the message of Christianity aside, I think he’s acting cheaply as an artist.

It’s artistically dishonest and cheap to turn the screws on a mother/son relationship. You know you’re guaranteed to extract pain from the audience, to protract it is perverse, cynical filmmaking.

The film strikes me a perversion of the Christian spirit and, based on the amount of marketing associated with the film (, I wonder what Jesus’ reaction to this financial endeavour would be given his stormy relationship with moneychangers.

I fear that the Christian majority who are praising this film do not realize that they are sowing the philosophical seeds of the destruction of their faith. Strange that the same parties that decry the commercialization of Christmas are praising The Passion, the media event. Do they not realize that just as the history of the Holocaust has been re-written by Spielberg, so too will the history of Jesus Christ be turned into a commercial institution? Do not these masses realize that supporting The Passion is undermining the strength of the Christian faith?

So, no I will not see The Passion for I believe true Christianity is worth trying to preserve.

I have a few additional thoughts on the matter in the extended entry

  1. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those attending the film are there to get off on the sadism. I remember Alex DeLarge of “A Clockwork Orange” reading the Bible every day in his incarceration – imagining himself a soldier in the pillaging armies of Israel or as a Roman soldier.

  2. Interesting thet Sadomasochistic sexuality is the unification of the thanatos and the eros. The act that generates life being united with activities evocative of corporeal destruction.

Now the language of sex and death have long been intertwined and I’m breaking no new ground here.

My point is that if sadomasochism is the negative union of sex and death, then what is the reverse. You know, the whole the two opposite extremes eventually loop back and meet each other theory? So positive, union, death, life. I’m inclined to think that the healthy union of thanatos and eros would be a New Orleans funeral. Celebration of life in death. It’s a jazzy affair where the mourners are invited to dance, celebrate, wear snazzy mourning clothes and parade the essence of a soul. Seems about right.

  1. The history of the Holocaust re-written as Schindler’s List, the film is the heart of many philosophers’ (particularly Jean Baudrillard’s) that the Holocaust didn’t happen. He means that in the sense that Holocaust as Schindler’s List has superceded the tales of woe in Poland and that movies, such as Schindler’s List, are make believe, the true event never happened.

Baudrillard took the statement “the Holocaust never happened” to be provocative and get his statement noticed by world press, I think his point is correct though.

  1. Two of my favorite movies are “A Clockwork Orange” and “Fight Club” - surely some will claim that these movise are as thanatos-obsessed. Well, Fight Club is the movie equivalent of this post, a meditation on the thanatos versus the eros in modern men. It’s not an exclusive portrayal of people getting beaten. A clockwork orange features 40 minutes of laughs and lashings of the old ultra-violence before we have violence beaten out of us (the antithesis to the ultra violence thesis [Hegellian Theory of Argument] , the Ludovico experiment), and whereafter we come to a peaceful hostility with the thanatos in the synthesis statement of “I was cured”.

  2. I remember a Pagan girl i knew in college told me that Christianity was a bloodthirsty religion that praised a bloodthirsty God. Looking at the Old Testament, I could not argue the point. The New Testament, I contended, was different, had a different message - a message of nobility, sacrifice, and love (amidst a pretty heinous blood sacrifice).

If one accepts The Passion as an addition to the collective unconscious model of the Christian canon I shall never be able to defend against her indictment (it’s not like it’s very easy on a strict read of the Bible for that matter..).