What would Jesus watch?Fran Quigley
Would Jesus have had any problem with the millions of folks who rushed to the cinema last week to see The Passion of the Christ? Maybe not. Entertainment is good for us. Inspiration is essential. I didn't care for the film myself, but if others are moved in a positive way by it, great. Unlike a gory film portraying sneaky Jews torturing and killing Christ, the main Gospel message of loving our neighbors doesn't polarize at all. If Mel Gibson really had the pipeline to Jesus that he claims, his film would have been less about the beatings and more about the Beatitudes.
But pardon me if I don't buy the notion that Jesus is Mel Gibson's co-producer. The Jesus who said he was sent to preach the Gospel to the poor was not a movie star. The Jesus who said the meek shall inherit the Earth was not a megalomaniac, wanting everyone to pay attention to him while millions of our sisters and brothers cry out for our help.
The guy who said it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven would have been a little uncomfortable with his story being converted into a $76 million-plus box-office gross from the first weekend. Especially in a world where people suffer and die for lack of essential food and medicine that such money could buy.
So what would Jesus watch? What would make him tremble and cry as The Passion of the Christ has done for so many others?
Remembering that the "passion" in the movie title is best translated as "suffering," Jesus would be moved by a lot of drama currently going on outside the theater.
Take The Passion of the Haitians. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is a place where you can walk down any dusty road and see women and children hold up their shirts to expose their distended bellies in a wordless plea for food. Now, Haiti's immense poverty is exacerbated by violent chaos. This plot line has a historical arc (the world's only successful slave rebellion created Haiti, but its people have repeatedly had to fight off brutal dictators) and a villain (the U.S., which has denied aid while the desperation of the Haitian people led to this implosion). There seems little prospect for a happy ending to this story.
Jesus would definitely be riveted by The Passion of the Mentally Ill. He would be upset by the scene where the schizophrenic man kicked out of the homeless shelter huddles over a steam grate for warmth in an Indiana winter. The Jesus who wanted to free the oppressed would weep at the story of the mentally ill child who, like so many others, ends up expelled from school and locked up in prison.
The Gospels say Jesus used the powers at his disposal to heal the sick. Do we? The Passion of the Infected is a horror film. Six thousand men, women and children in sub-Saharan Africa die every day from HIV/AIDS, most of them perishing simply because they can't afford the $1 a day medicine that would bring them back to health.
The Jesus I read about would have been working on productions different from The Passion of the Christ. He would be side by side with the many devout Christians already adopting needy children, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. Of course, that same noble work is also being done by Jews and Muslims and Hindus. That should come as no surprise: The Sermon on the Mount shares the same themes of selflessness with Zakat, the charitable fourth pillar of Islam, and the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam, "healing the world," not to mention the best principles of Buddhism, the Hindu religion, secular humanism, etc., etc.
Unlike a gory film portraying sneaky Jews torturing and killing Christ, the main Gospel message of loving our neighbors doesn't polarize at all. If Mel Gibson really had the pipeline to Jesus that he claims, his film would have been less about the beatings and more about the Beatitudes.
This is my last column as a NUVO staffer before I start my new job as executive director of ICLU. As we report today on page 10, Jim Walker will take over as news editor of NUVO. Jim is an extremely talented writer, editor and photographer who has already begun working with our team of freelance reporters. I am excited to see the new and improved news section that develops under Jim's watch.
You won't be reading the last of me, though, since I look forward to contributing guest NUVO columns on ICLU-related topics. In the meantime, I owe enormous thanks to my patient bosses Kevin McKinney and Jim Poyser, my wonderful colleagues and so many kind and insightful readers.