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Thu March 11, 2004
The Passion over The Passion
Questioning the relevance of the passion over "The Passion" to broader religious beliefs.
By Paul WIlkes
Wilmington, NC – [Click the Listen button to hear Paul's commentary.]
If I might add my two cents to the current debate over the movie, "The Passion of the Christ."
Let me say from the beginning, I have not seen the movie. And probably will not. Not out of protest. But really out of lack of interest.
Lack of interest? How can this alleged believer profess a lack of interest in such an allegedly important film about such a certainly important event?
Well, here?s my take on it.
It is not that I am not thankful that Christ died ? died for my sins, so our teaching goes. My sins, yes I understand that.
But something is amiss here. To show ? graphically ? what the man went through ? or better put, how a filmmaker interprets what he went through ? for me is not what I base a lot of my belief and my faith upon.
And that some of the very churches who have so breathlessly promoted the film are the very churches where a cross is rarely displayed ? and a crucifix ? that is Christ on the cross ? well, you can forget about that. Such an unpleasant reminder need not apply. On a regular basis, that is.
I guess in the first place I was never impressed much with the concept of original sin, the Granddaddy of sins -- that whatever Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden would cast a long shadow over history and blacken every soul thereafter. Free will, I think, was and is the issue here. They exercised theirs. And I have the opportunity hundreds of times each day.
Christ dying for our sins certainly is a reason for gratitude. But gratitude only goes so far in my life. Personally, I need inspiration, I need a living presence in my life, I need that hand on my shoulder to turn me onto the right path, the hand that reaches out when I stumble my way through my days. I need a role model.
And so to allow the death of Christ to obliterate the life of Christ seems ? to this alleged believer, anyhow ? misplaced. To wallow in ? at least what I have heard ? almost pornographic gore ? doesn?t really get us closer to the central facts of this man?s life. Why he appeared on earth. What he stood for. That he was trying to teach us humans divine ways, God?s ways. Compassion. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Mercy. Care for the least among us. Self sacrifice. Basic goodness. And, to me the essence of the Christian life, summarized in the simple phrase: do the next right thing.
Of course, I could be entirely wrong on all this. The Passion may be the beginning of a great Christian awakening. Of a flood of new converts.
But I would caution them ? and us. To focus ? and even wallow ? in the death of Christ, and meanwhile to conveniently put his life into the background will not produce God-inspired men and women of faith. If our work is to transform this land, this earth, we, like him, need to strap on those sandals, take the walking stick and go forth into the world.
Paul Wilkes teaches in the English Department at UNCW and is the creator of New Beginnings, a program for local church renewal.