The Passion

Yesterday, I read Gibson’s gospel, an article by the Grand Rapids Press Religion Editor about Mel Gibson’s new movie. Frankly, it amazes me why anyone would want to make or watch such a movie. I certainly will not see it. Just reading about it disgusts me. I have a hard time watching the crucifixion scenes in any Jesus movie, what to speak of two hours worth. I found it hard to watch the end of Gibson’s “Braveheart” also. So why anyone would want to see it repeatedly and take their children to see it is incomprehensible. If you love someone, do you really want to see them suffer and die a horrible death?

I want to make it clear that I write as a seminary educated, ordained Christian clergy person. I also want to make it clear that the idea Gibson wants to promote, showing how God required this awful sacrifice of his son so that God could forgive us is abominable and barbaric. Who would want to worship such a God? No wonder we have so much violence in the world if that’s what we think God is like. This is called substitutionary atonement, which says that Jesus died for our sins and now we are forgiven. Do you think God is so hateful that God couldn’t forgive us without Jesus having to die that way? There are other reasons to follow Jesus than because he died so that we could be saved. We are saved by the grace and love of God. Jesus died because we are a sinful people who killed an innocent man who tried to help us evolve spiritually. We have killed many who came in the name of God to help us, and it is not because God wanted it. Rather God was on the cross with Jesus suffering along with him and crying over the cruelty of humankind. This idea of substitutionary atonement has been much promoted for two thousand years and is believed by many, however there are other informed theological views of salvation and Jesus’ death.

Gibson wants to promote this movie as being historical, but we need to understand that the gospels themselves are not historical as we currently understand history. Rather, they are more like a historical novel or myth. All four gospels differ in their accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Other, non-canonical gospels give different accounts and interpretations. The gospels lack many details of Jesus’ final hours, and what we do have is not necessarily based on eye witness accounts since it is said the disciples deserted Jesus when he was arrested except for possiblely some women and the beloved disciple who watched the crucifixion. They certainly were not in the Jewish court or the inner chambers of the Praetorium. Scholarly opinion does not accept that any of the gospels were written by eye witnesses.

Another point we should remember, is that Jesus and his original disciples were Jews, and Jesus did not intend to start a new religion. It wasn’t until around 70 CE when the Jews expelled Jesus’ followers from the synagogues and persecuted them that they became a separate sect known as Christians. It is most probable that the Romans were responsible for Jesus’ death since they saw him and his followers as a security threat during the nationalistic, Jewish holiday of Passover. However, it was politically convenient for the gospel writers to shift the blame from the Romans to the Jews in order to avoid further persecution from the Romans who were able to administer the death penalty at will.

Shalom,

Steve


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