Friday, March 12, 2004Some random thoughts on a Friday afternoon, inspired by a visit to a friend's blog, listening to NPR this morning, and a Monday movie date to see The Passion of the Christ with a friend:
Ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide is still insisting he was kidnapped by US forces at gunpoint and forcibly taken out of the country. Could the reason be that he wants to "save face" with the people of Haiti? If he has any aspirations to return to power in Haiti, by claiming to be kidnapped he would come across as the unfortunate victim of a "bully nation," rather than someone who willingly allowed himself to be spirited out of the country to save his own skin. Thoughts?
Frankly, I am a bit disturbed by the number of people who are holding up Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ as some sort of canonical religious work. Folks, it'a movie. Repeat after me: m-o-v-i-e. From some of the things I'm reading, some people are behaving as though Mel had uncovered the long-lost Dead Sea Film Cans portraying Christ's actual crucifixion. Certainly, a film about the event that is that graphic will stir up plenty of intense emotions, especially for devout Christians who have pictured these events all their lives. That's what good movies do. But let's not get carried away.
I saw a quote posted recently to the comments section of my friend's blog, Multifarious Musings.
It said, "you can't pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe - you either believe and follow all of it, or none of it."
From what I've learned about theology and philosophy, the original 'Bible' was the Hebrew Torah - and it contained many more Commandments than the 10 we assign such importance to today. Many of the teachings attributed to Jesus in the New Testament were essentially "picked and chosen" and modified from its existing 613 mitzvoth, or commandments. Some of these 613 were apodeictic, or absolute mitzvoth - and others were assigned varying degrees of essentiality, and are more appropriately termed "good works" ("do a mitzvah"). So even the "absolute" laws of the Bible were selected from many contained in a far older document. Looking back in history, Jesus would have been seen as a rebel religious leader who preached a radically new interpretation of then-accepted Hebrew doctrine - he "picked and chose" which parts of the Torah he felt were essential: obviously this would not sit well with the establishment of the time. For that "heresy" and that perceived threat to the exisiting, fragile balance of power between Rome and the Jewish nation, Jesus became a political prisoner and was tortured to death for his beliefs and actions. He undoubtedly wasn't the only individual of his time to die in such a way, but his name and the circumstances of his execution are legendary today.
However, let's us not forget that there are many people around the world today who are also making that ultimate sacrifice, by being imprisoned and tortured for their political or religious beliefs; many in ways as gruesome and gut-wrenching as those depicted in Mel Gibson's movie. Who do they die for? Will it ever end? Will we make films about their final hours? Let's remember where this movie really came from: the Hollywood moneymaking machine.