jueves, 4 de marzo de 2004

The PAssion

The Passion has been in the news a lot, probably because this is Christianity's most important religious holiday. Any messiah can be born, but only one died in a way that effected a majority of the world.This movie is about the life and most especially the death of Jesus.

I haven't seen the movie itself, but I did see the "making of" and several reviews.
But, those pieces have given me some food for thought.
They've actually supported my reasons for not being Christian.
Let's take a look at some of the things I noticed in the "making of" - a TV special that highlighted what the producer felt was important about the movie.

The primary message seems to be that Jesus was great because he suffered greatly - voluntarily. Suffering doesn't make a person morally better, nor does it make their message more powerful. To me, Jesus' most powerful message was buried under the tales of his woe and suffering. He advocated in a time of harshness gentleness and care for others, of thinking for oneself. These are important messages, obscured by the movie's focus on torture and suffering.

A religion that glorifies, as this one does, the gore and pain at the expense of the other messages just isn't a religion I can in all good conscience follow.
The after marketing of this movie attests to that - they sell, not necklaces and charms and such of fish or loaves of bread, or other symbols of Jesus' miracles or messages, but of nails - replicas of nails reputedly used to nail Jesus to the cross.

Suffering doesn't add to the glory or greatness of the message of love. In fact, it subtly gives the feeling that if one loves, one must suffer terribly in consequence.
The further notion that because Jesus suffered terribly for the sins of others is morally worthless. How does Jesus' suffering and death contribute to other people's greatness? How does it purify them of any sin or wrong-doing? Killing someone else for the crimes of another doesn't deter the criminal. The knowledge that they can do wrong with impunity because someone else, someone innocent, will suffer, will only encourage the criminal.

Then, we are supposed to juxtapose the fact* that we are all, by the very fact of our birth, sinful with the fact* that Jesus was not sinful - and only the death of an innocent can purge us of our sins.
I don't know about you, but I know most people are basically good people. Comparatively few people commit egregious wrongs. The bulk of wrongdoing is minor, and rarely increases. To assume, from the start, that everyone is sinful is doing them and the world, and even any creative Deity an injustice.
What God deliberately sets out to create a flawed piece, then subjects it to horrible things because it is flawed?

Whether people are good or bad must be judged on their acts - all of them, together, not just a select few. When the US was founded, the presumption was that people were inherently decent and just, and therefore had the right to be presumed innocent of wrongdoing unless there was proof otherwise. Real proof, not just hearsay evidence or another person's word. There had to be an evidentiary connection, material solid proof.
What God would presume his very own people are inherently evil? What does this say about the God? And about the worshippers of that God?

The movie postualtes that everybody in the world, past, present, and future, are responsible for the torture and death of Jesus. This fits with out society's current attitude of blame someone else - and carry the blame forward forever. All mankind is forever blamed of Jesus death, and must forever suffer for it. All of mankind is forever blamed for the Inquisition and deaths of heretics for centuries, and must forever bear the blame. All of mankind is forever guilty of the enslavement, not of all previous slaves, but only of those who were enslaved so briefly in the US [1] - and must therefore pay reparations and bear the blame forever.

Another thing the movie seems to tell people is that if they don't believe Jesus was the son of the God, then they will suffer a much worse fate than the theif who had his eyes plucked out on the cross.
More, in the reviews, they attack the movie for historical accuracy, but never once speculate on the historicity of Jesus's existence. The Romans were obsessive about keeping records. There are no Roman records of a trial similar to what the Christians claim is the trial of Jesus.

I will grant that there were a lot of messiahs running around the Middle East at that time, there is documentation for such. It's possible that the message of perhaps several such messiahs were garbled into one account, and several trials were mashed into one to satisfy a need for roots.

All the Gods know we Pagans are equally guilty of such historical tampering.
I can deal with a mythic retelling of Christianity. I can even deal with it being reasonably hsitorically accurate. From a culture that was predominantly illiterate, a fudging of facts is acceptable.
But - to insist that this is the exact way it happened when we have documentation that it may have gone essentially that way but not exactly is - fluffy.

Worse, focusing on the suffering and death of Jesus obscures his living message, which I feel far outweighs his death message.

And, you know, blaming the Jews for Jesus's death is historically accurate. Jesus was a heretical Jew. He was causing an upset in the governance of the province, distracting people from tax-productive activities, and influencing even warriors to be peaceful. Even if the Jews weren't entirely responsible for the death of Jesus, (or the conglomeration of messiahs that evolved into a single form we know as Jesus), they certainly conspired with the Romans to suppress and kill these messiahs.

It's not going to make modern Jews evil, unless you subscribe to the "eternity factor" : everyone is responsible forever for the actions of all their ancestors.

Yanno, people are responsible for their own actions, and the consequences thereof. My children are not responsible for my actions, although they may have to suffer the consequences of them, and they may have to make changes. But eventually, at some point, my descendents will cease having to bear the consequences for my actions. The cumulative burden of people doing things will otherwise become too great to bear.
One of Jesus's messages was forgiveness. Where is that message today?

* - Not facts, really, but concepts that are presented as fact and treated as fact.

[1] The descendents of the slaves in the US forget that slavery existed in other parts of the world, forget that other peoples were enslaved, some for many centuries, and they forget there are still people living in slavery today. They have fixated upon one brief event in hsitory and are intent on extracting every ounce of guilt and reparation they can from innocent people. It's apparently the Christian thing to do.