::Literate Blather::
Friday, May 25, 2007
An Atheist Watches "The Passion of the Christ"
Random Thoughts During Mel Gibson's Jesus Torture Flick

(I didn’t make popcorn for the “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) for fear that any food would induce vomiting. It’s been more than three years since Mel Gibson made his film about the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus. I specifically avoided going to see it or renting it on DVD. This had less to do with being an atheist and more to do with watching a movie that Roger Ebert called “the most violent film I have ever seen.” But finally curiosity caught up with me and this week, I rented the DVD. With notebook in hand – here are my thoughts, concerns and impressions of the film that David Edelstein of Slate called “the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre.”)

Great. The film is in Latin with subtitles. This is going to make taking notes impossible. Thank God (no pun intended) for the pause button. Hey, didn't James Caviezel star in "Angel Eyes" (2001) with Jennifer Lopez?


The movie opens like a teen splatter flick. A full moon obscured by dark clouds sends a silvery light through the foggy desert wilderness (since when do deserts have fog?). Wild birds squeal and squawk. The camera pans across the desolate landscape to Jesus praying to God in a harsh whispering voice. He wants protection and clearly feels abandoned.

That’s the weird thing about the Bible and Jesus. Every other major figure in the Bible has an intimate relationship with God. David, Joseph, and Moses all have conversations with God – he speaks to them, directs them, and advises them. Yet no where in the New Testament does God speak directly to Jesus – his son.

God apparently is very aloft with family.


Judas gets a bum rap by Christians. Without his greedy betrayal there would be no “passion.” Jesus would have lived to a ripe old age with his wife Mary Magdalene, sired several children, and retired to a bungalow somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea.

Gibson takes some liberties with Judas in the movie. He creates a “Children of the Corn” moment when the babbling Judas is chased from town by a pack of raving, demon-possessed children right out of “Oliver Twist.” They taunt and poke him to the point where he hangs himself over the rotting corpse of a grinning camel. One wonders why he’d kill himself. Won’t death bring him face to face with Jesus’ dad?

Bad planning there.


Mel resorts to “Mad Max” mode when the Jews come to capture Jesus. There’s a slow motion battle with swords flashing and blood spurting. I almost expected Saint Peter to shout: “FREEDOM!”


The torture of Jesus begins about 12 minutes into the movie when the Jewish soldiers chain him and begin to whip him. That didn't take long.


Well, it’s clear why Jewish groups were offended by this movie. Gibson clearly casts the Jewish rabbis as the bad guys – they are portrayed as ruthless, conniving villains (complete with squinty eyes – George Lucas couldn’t have come up with a better caricature). The Jews – according to Gibson – manipulate the conquering Romans. What a neat trick.


Very weird flashback moment in the movie – Jesus and his mom in a bonding moment (she chastises him for not washing his hands before lunch. What Gospel passage is this from?).

And apparently, Jesus invented dining room tables. Not only is he the Son of God but a damn fine woodworker.


Wow. The top Jewish rabbi just backhanded Jesus and spit in his face. Then the rest of the rabbis line up Conga-style to slap and spit on him. Then the crowd – in glorious harmony – kicks the crap out of him.


Hmmm. There’s more appearance of Satan in this movie than of God.


Mel’s Pontious Pilot is a nice guy manipulated by the evil Jews. The poor bastard had no choice but to crucify Jesus. The only thing missing is for Pilot to pass out homemade chocolate chip cookies to the crowd.


The scene when the Roman soldiers – depicted like cackling overfed hyenas – is one of the most brutal I’ve ever seen on screen. They flay Jesus to the point where his skin is flying through the air in sprays of blood. You can even see his uncovered rib bones. Is this necessary?


What kind of God would allow this kind of brutal, inhuman torture of his son? And why would millions of people choose to worship such a God? How sad. Isn’t the Christian God supposed to be about love? How does this torture fest reconcile that?

What a vile movie.


If Jesus is supposed to die for the sins of us all – then why does he cop out of the agenda at the last minute when he screams: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Does Jesus lose faith at the end?


So the Gospel According to Mel comes to an end. It's a bad action/horror flick. Religious porn. Hard to believe that this movie is embraced by Christians.

Read our commentary on Fiction and the Catholic Church

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
accidentally ran across your review...

i didnt much like the movie either, but you should try doing some research on the religion so you can avoid coming off as ignorant.

aside from your somewhat biased rants about the movie itself, you make some mistakes about christianity, at least as far as i understand it. heres a few points to know:

1. God and Jesus do talk in the gospels.

2. the historical flogging and crucifixion done in that time would have easily been more brutal than the movie portrayed.

3. Jesus isnt losing faith when he dies, hes quoting scripture thats apparently prophetic (psalm 22).

4. contrary to western pop-christianity (often an easy target), the central theme behind the judeo-christian system isnt God loving everyone--then there would be no need for hell either.

but instead of getting into what can be a rather complex world view, i will take another angle in answering your third to last paragraph:

sin, badness, or whatever else you want to call it, is the basic problem or issue that all religions (and political/legal systems for that matter) are employed to deal with. religions generally come up with various methods for people to atone for their crimes. political and legal systems are generally created to keep crimes in check (i.e., laws).

the christian system says good deeds do not cancel out bad deeds. that is, you cant make up for bad deeds by doing good ones (that also wouldnt work in a court of law).

the gravity of the sin/crime is proportionate to the value of the injured victim. for example, killing a bug is less offensive (if at all) than killing a human.

if God is infinitely more valuable than a human, a sin/crime against God is infinitely more heinous than an ordinary misdeed.

the punishment then, also needs to be proportionately enhanced. ergo hell (infinite punishment).

remember, bad deeds cant be erased with good ones. so we are all screwed. unless you were perfect, which nobody is, according to biblical standards.

the only solution then is either for us to pay the penalty or have someone else pay it for us. no one can pay for someone elses debt since one has his/her own to contend with.

so the central thesis in christianity is that Jesus, the perfect Son of God, could and does take our place. hence the crucifixion.

yeah was this a long explanation. but easy questions can have complicated answers.

and watch your arguments or youll give athiests a bad name.

Blogger GFS3 said...
Hi Anonymous:
Thanks for your comments.

1. Please cite for me where God is quoted in the Gospels and where the conversations between God and Jesus take place. I can't find them.

2. I don't see how this is has anything to do with the movie -- or, in fact, your arguments.

3. That's the Christian interpretation of Christ's last words -- not the Jewish or Muslim take. I don't see it as prophetic -- and, in fact, the Gibson movie shows Jesus asking God to spare him from having to be killed.

4. You lose me here because you haven't said anything. Try again please

This piece is meant to be humorous and satiric about Mel Gibson's ultra-violent movie -- not an essay on the Christian interpretation of the Gospels.

But thanks again for reading.

Blogger TheMickeyBug said...
well...the lord (Jesus) had to die on the cross... why? so he can save us..for all we know we could have rotted in hell..and he loved us, and because he did..he came down from heaven to pay the price we had to pay for all the crap we've done...so hes an awesome God thats what you should have put in your review...

Blogger TheMickeyBug said...
and one more thing before i go.. that movie was a reminder that the lord is coming back soon...and its Christians job to help as many people as possible so they don't go to hell...to all you who may read this might think that hell is a stupid fairy tale...but i got a news flash for ya its not! don't believe me? look up the book...23 min. in hell.... and trust me then you'll know what i mean...

Blogger GFS3 said...
Hi Michelle:
When you get to heaven with all the other nut jobs? Please lock the door behind you.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"What kind of God would allow this kind of brutal, inhuman torture of his son? And why would millions of people choose to worship such a God? How sad. Isn’t the Christian God supposed to be about love? How does this torture fest reconcile that?

What a vile movie."

First of all, I would just like to say that I am not trying to bash on you in any way. I am just letting you know Christian beliefs.
Jesus Christ chose to come down here and pay for our sins. He knew it would be horrifying, and beyond all pain any human being could ever endure. But he did it because of his love for us.

Now, most Christians think that there is only a heaven, or a hell. I am part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and we believe in more that just these two. After all, why would God want to save just a few of us?

Because of what Christ did, when we die we will ALL go to a higher existence. Even the lowest of the low will be in a place better than this earth. Although the wicked will still have to be punished for their sins.

They will be punished eternally, but that doesn't necessarily mean forever. It just means the torment will be eternally painful for the time in which that person suffers.

If you want to do more research, you can visit www.mormon.org. But anyways, I am just trying to clarify what we believe.

Remember that no matter who you are, or what you have done, God loves you. Jesus Christ can help you.

From: A Mormon.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I've recently watched the movie too, and at the time I was an athiest. When I came to your review I researched more about Christianity and I realised that you don't actually know much about Christianity. But any thats not my point, I came to say that the scenes between Mary and her Son are trying to show the pwerful bond of love between a mother and son. I thought those scenes were touching. Also Mary Magdalene wasn't Jesus' wife, just one of his many close friends. Once I had researched Christianity I wanted to find out more about Jesus, and I realised what a loving kind man He is. I AM NOW OFFICIALLY A CHRISTIAN!!!!

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