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Old 12-16-2004, 11:35 AM   #1
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has Frank Rich been reading FYM? NYT columnist ties it all together ...

i Frank Rich. he hits on so many issues being batted around FYM for the past two weeks, it's scary:


December 19, 2004
2004: The Year of 'The Passion'
By FRANK RICH

Will it be the Jews' fault if "The Passion of the Christ," ignored by the Golden Globes this week, comes up empty in the Oscar nominations next month? Why, of course.


"Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, explained in a colloquy on the subject recently convened by Pat Buchanan on MSNBC. "It's not a secret, O.K.?" Mr. Donohue continued. "And I'm not afraid to say it. That's why they hate this movie. It's about Jesus Christ, and it's about truth." After the show's token (and conservative) Jewish panelist, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, pointed out that "Michael Moore is certainly not a Jew" and that Scorsese, Coppola and Lucas are not "Jewish names," Mr. Donohue responded: "I like Harvey Weinstein. How's that? Harvey Weinstein is my friend."


How's that? Not quite good enough. Surely Mr. Donohue knows that decorum in these situations requires that he cite a Jew as one of his "best friends," not merely a friend. For shame.


As we close the books on 2004, and not a moment too soon, it's clear that, as far as the culture goes, this year belonged to Mel Gibson's mammoth hit. Its prurient and interminable wallow in the Crucifixion, to the point where Jesus' actual teachings become mere passing footnotes to the sumptuously depicted mutilation of his flesh, is as representative of our time as "Godspell" was of terminal-stage hippiedom 30 years ago. The Gibson conflation of religion with violence reflects the universal order of the day — whether the verbal fisticuffs of the culture war within America, as exemplified by Mr. Donohue's rant on national television or, far more lethally, the savagery of the actual war that radical Islam brought to our doorstep on 9/11.


"The Passion" is a one-size-fits-all touchstone, it seems. It didn't just excite and anger a lot of moviegoers in our own country but also broke box-office records abroad, including in the Middle East. Most Arab governments censor films that depict prophets (Jesus included), even banning recent benign Hollywood products like the Jim Carrey vehicle "Bruce Almighty" and the animated musical "Prince of Egypt." But an exception was made for Mr. Gibson's blood fest nearly everywhere. It was seen in Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Among the satisfied customers last spring was Yasser Arafat, who called the film "moving and historical" — a thumb's up that has not, to my knowledge, yet surfaced in the film's low-key Oscar campaign.


Arafat's animus was clear enough; an aide said at the time that he likened Jesus' suffering, as depicted in "The Passion," to that of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel. Our domestic culture war over religion is not so easily explained.


You'd think peace might reign in a nation where there is so much unanimity of faith. In Newsweek's "Birth of Jesus" holiday cover article — not to be confused with Time's competing "Secrets of the Nativity" cover — a poll found that 84 percent of American adults call themselves Christian, 82 percent see Jesus as the son of God, and 79 percent believe in the Virgin Birth. Though by a far slimmer margin, the presidential election reinstalled a chief executive who ostentatiously invokes a Christian Almighty. As for "The Passion of the Christ," it achieved the monetary landslide of a $370 million domestic gross (second only to the cartoon saviors Shrek and Spider-Man).


Yet if you watch the news and listen to certain politicians, especially since Election Day, you'll hear an ever-growing drumbeat that Christianity is under siege in America. Like Mr. Gibson, the international movie star who portrayed himself as a powerless martyr to a shadowy anti- Christian conspiracy in the run-up to the release of "The Passion," his fellow travelers on the right detect a sinister plot — of secularists, "secular Jews" and "elites" — out to destroy the religion followed by more than four out of every five Americans.


In the latest and most bizarre twist on this theme, even Christmas is now said to be a target of the anti-Christian mob. "Are we going to abolish the word Christmas?" asked Newt Gingrich, warning that "it absolutely can happen here." Among those courageously leading the fight to save the holiday from its enemies is Bill O'Reilly, who has taken to calling the Anti-Defamation League "an extremist group" and put the threat this way: "Remember, more than 90 percent of American homes celebrate Christmas. But the small minority that is trying to impose its will on the majority is so vicious, so dishonest — and has to be dealt with."


If more than 90 percent of American households celebrate Christmas, you have to wonder why the guy is whining. The only evidence of what Pat Buchanan has called Christmas-season "hate crimes against Christianity" consists of a few ridiculous and isolated incidents, like the banishment of a religious float from a parade in Denver and of religious songs from a high school band concert in New Jersey. (In scale, this is nothing compared with the refusal of the world's largest retailer, Wal- Mart, to stock George Carlin's new best seller, "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?," whose cover depicts its author at the Last Supper.) Yet the hysteria is being pumped up daily by Fox News, newspapers like The New York Post and The Washington Times, and Web sites like savemerrychristmas.org. Mr. O'Reilly and Jerry Falwell have gone so far as to name Michael Bloomberg an anti-Christmas conspirator because the mayor referred to the Christmas tree as a "holiday tree" in the lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center.


What is this about? How can those in this country's overwhelming religious majority maintain that they are victims in a fiery battle with forces of darkness? It is certainly not about actual victimization. Christmas is as pervasive as it has ever been in America, where it wasn't even declared a federal holiday until after the Civil War. What's really going on here is yet another example of a post-Election-Day winner-takes-all power grab by the "moral values" brigade. As Mr. Gibson shrewdly contrived his own crucifixion all the way to the bank, trumping up nonexistent threats to his movie to hype it, so the creation of imagined enemies and exaggerated threats to Christianity by "moral values" mongers of the right has its own secular purpose. The idea is to intimidate and marginalize anyone who objects to their efforts to impose the most conservative of Christian dogma on public policy. If you're against their views, you don't have a differing opinion — you're anti-Christian (even if you are a Christian).


The power of this minority within the Christian majority comes from its exaggerated claims on the Bush election victory. It is enhanced further by a news culture, especially on television, that gives the Mel Gibson wing of Christianity more say than other Christian voices and that usually ignores minority religions altogether. This is not just a Fox phenomenon. Something is off when NBC's "Meet the Press" and ABC's "This Week," mainstream TV shows both, invite religious leaders to discuss "values" in the aftermath of the election and limit that discussion to all-male panels composed exclusively of either evangelical ministers or politicians with pseudo-spiritual credentials. Does Mr. Falwell, who after 9/11 blamed Al Qaeda's attack partly on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians," speak for any sizable group of American Christians? Does the Rev. Al Sharpton, booked on TV as a "balance" to Mr. Falwell, do so either? Mr. Sharpton doesn't even have a congregation; like Mr. Falwell, he is a politician first, a religious leader second (or maybe fourth or fifth).


Gary Bauer and James Dobson are also secular political figures, not religious leaders, yet they are more frequently called upon to play them on television than actual clergy are. "It's theological correctness," says the Rev. Debra Haffner, a Unitarian Universalist minister who directs a national interfaith group, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, and is one of the rare progressive religious voices to get any TV time. She detects an overall "understanding" in the media that religion "is one voice — fundamentalist." That understanding may have little to do with the beliefs of television news producers — or even the beliefs of fundamentalists themselves — and more to do with the raw, secular political power that the press has attributed to "values" crusaders since the election. "There is the belief that the conservative view won, and the media are more interested in winners," says Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.


Even more important than inflated notions of the fundamentalists' power may be their entertainment value. As Ms. Kissling points out, the 50 million Americans who belong to progressive religious organizations are rarely represented on television because "progressive religious leaders are so tolerant that they don't make good TV." The Rev. Bob Chase of the United Church of Christ agrees: "We're not exciting guests." His church's recent ad trumpeting its inclusion of gay couples was rejected by the same networks that routinely give a forum to the far more dramatic anti-gay views of Mr. Falwell. Ms. Kissling laments that contemporary progressive Christians lack an intellectual star to rival Reinhold Niebuhr or William Sloane Coffin, but adds that today "Jesus Christ would have a tough time getting covered by TV if he didn't get arrested."


This paradigm is everywhere in our news culture. When Jon Stewart went on CNN's "Crossfire" to demand that its hosts stop "hurting America" by turning news and political debate into a form of pro wrestling, it may have sounded a bit hyperbolic. "Crossfire" is an aging show that few watch. But his broader point holds up: it's all crossfire now. In the electronic news sphere where most Americans live much of the time, anyone who refuses to engage in combat is quickly sent packing as a bore.


Toss the issue of religion into that 24/7 wrestling match, as into any conflict in human history, and the incendiary possibilities are limitless. When even phenomena as innocuous as Oscar nominations or the lighting of a Christmas tree can be inflated into divisive religious warfare, it's only a matter of time before someone uncovers an anti-Christian plot in "White Christmas." It avoids any mention of religion and it was, as William Donohue might be the first to point out, written by a secular Jew.
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Old 12-16-2004, 11:56 AM   #2
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There are a few extreme interpretations of The Passion of The Christ. Personally, I can tell a lot about the person by what they think of it. What is theologically correct isn't always politically correct. When one says "It wasn't just the Jews who crucified Jesus, it was all of us," that's actually very true for someone who believes that Jesus died for all of our sins, not just the sins of the Jews.

Those (ahem... such as Hitler) who point the finger on the Jews really don't get it at all. Then there are those who say, "Where is the LOVE in this movie?" I would answer them, it's all over this movie. Every beating Jesus took was out of his love for humanity. He could've chosen not to. He did it out of his heart, because the wages of sin is death. There are quite a few logical skeptics who fear the spread of anti-Semitism. Hate is not of God, regardless of what Osama bin Laden might think.

I have not a doubt at all that this movie was probably the most violent movie so far in the 21st century, but to most Christians, the violence was quite meaningful, which separates it from a number of Hollywood's gore-fests. There are Psalmists out there - and other denominations - who can tell you that the actual crucifixion was so gory, that the film was nothing near it.
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Old 12-16-2004, 12:26 PM   #3
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great article. thanks for posting this, Irvine.

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Old 12-16-2004, 12:41 PM   #4
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If the Golden Globes dismiss a film that grossed almost $400 million, I think people would definately wonder who Hollywood represents. Hollywood is afraid of Christianity and spirituality in general becoming a larger basis for success in Hollywood, and I think that's because they have little to no interest in theology.

PETA protested this movie, where do you think they stand?

I think this part of the article fascinated me:
Quote:
Arafat's animus was clear enough; an aide said at the time that he likened Jesus' suffering, as depicted in "The Passion," to that of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel. Our domestic culture war over religion is not so easily explained.
Well, Mr. Arafat, you can take a political stance on anything out there, can't you?
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Old 12-16-2004, 01:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Macfistowannabe
If the Golden Globes dismiss a film that grossed almost $400 million, I think people would definately wonder who Hollywood represents. Hollywood is afraid of Christianity and spirituality in general becoming a larger basis for success in Hollywood, and I think that's because they have little to no interest in theology.
How much the movie grossed means very little in the Golden Globes.

It couldn't be the fact that the movie was horrible. It couldn't be that it wasn't much more than a snuff film. This movie did absolutely nothing for me spiritually. I don't need to see someone bleed to know someone sacrificed their life for me.

I think it has very little to do with theology.
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Old 12-16-2004, 01:05 PM   #6
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I'm Catholic, as is Mel Gibson. I didn't see this move because I was concerned about the violence and the gore--I am quite a high strung person and I have trouble with this stuff. It certainly wasn't because I objected to anything about this film, indeed, friends at church told me they were really happy someone had made a movie about Christ's Passion, and I feel the same way. That said I wish to hell they wouldn't blame Jews for it not getting any Golden Globe or Oscar nominations. The people who cast ballots in these awards come from all walks of life. Of course some of them are Jewish, some are not. There are other reasons it's not getting certain awards. The subject matter is more controversial than that of most movies. When that's the case the Golden Globe/Oscar votes are harder to get. That's Hollywood. There are certainly things I hate about Hollywood, but whoever you are, you've got to take the bitter with the sweet. That's life, and the forces of Destiny, in my belief system God, don't care who you are, that's the way the cookie crumbles. "The Passion" was a huge success for Gibson, in the way he wanted it to be, I think, and I think he should count his blessings. He's not going to get a whole slew of earthly honors for it.
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Old 12-16-2004, 05:57 PM   #7
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That was such a great article. Pretty much said what I've been thinking about the so-called bashing of Christians.
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Old 12-16-2004, 06:41 PM   #8
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Re: has Frank Rich been reading FYM? NYT columnist ties it all together ...

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
This paradigm is everywhere in our news culture. When Jon Stewart went on CNN's "Crossfire" to demand that its hosts stop "hurting America" by turning news and political debate into a form of pro wrestling, it may have sounded a bit hyperbolic. "Crossfire" is an aging show that few watch. But his broader point holds up: it's all crossfire now. In the electronic news sphere where most Americans live much of the time, anyone who refuses to engage in combat is quickly sent packing as a bore.


Toss the issue of religion into that 24/7 wrestling match, as into any conflict in human history, and the incendiary possibilities are limitless. When even phenomena as innocuous as Oscar nominations or the lighting of a Christmas tree can be inflated into divisive religious warfare, it's only a matter of time before someone uncovers an anti-Christian plot in "White Christmas." It avoids any mention of religion and it was, as William Donohue might be the first to point out, written by a secular Jew.
This is so true. It's like, either draw your sword or shut up. It's madness. And yes, "White Christmas" was written by a secular Jew, Irving Berlin, just over a century ago now.
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Old 12-16-2004, 11:02 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
How much the movie grossed means very little in the Golden Globes.
Maybe so. It could also be that Hollywood dismisses films that don't fit with a widely secular audience, even if they had an impact on a Christian audience. I don't hear too many in Hollywood patting Mel Gibson on the back, and saying "Wow Mel, you've got a lot of guts. Your movie was meaningful to me."

Quote:
Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
It couldn't be the fact that the movie was horrible. It couldn't be that it wasn't much more than a snuff film. This movie did absolutely nothing for me spiritually. [/B]
Oddly enough, I feel much differently about it than you do. It got me focused much more on my spiritual life.

Quote:
Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
I don't need to see someone bleed to know someone sacrificed their life for me.[/B]
I needed to see it, and I know this. Before I saw it, I had no idea how horrifying the crucifixion was. My previous imagination had me thinking something like this: They must have smacked him around a few times, spat on him, called him a few bad names, and nailed him on the cross.

Quote:
Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
I think it has very little to do with theology. [/B]
Hrmm... It was very true to what scripture suggests what went on. What were you expecting to see differently?
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Old 12-17-2004, 09:02 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Macfistowannabe


Hrmm... It was very true to what scripture suggests what went on. What were you expecting to see differently?

the main problem with the film, as i understand it, is that the scouring -- the gory centerpiece of the film, where barechested men whip and flay a very handsome, nearly naked young man, repeatedly -- is not mentioned in all the Gospels. as far as I know, there is no encounter between Jesus and a sort of satanic figure in the Garden of Gethsemane, nor does the Bible does not have a raven pecking out the eye of one of the crucified thieves.
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Old 12-17-2004, 03:44 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Macfistowannabe
What were you expecting to see differently?
Oh I don't know maybe a focus on the teachings of Christ. An insight of the true meaning of why Christ was here. None of that occured.

Yes Christ suffered. Suffered a lot. But there are those that have been tortured worse, who have suffered worse. The Bible never claims Christ suffered anymore than some of these people, so why the focus on this? Why should Mel get patted on the back for this film? I think he did a huge injustice to film and spirituality. He was the first to do a big budget film on the life of Chirst and this is what he did? No one came out of that film learning anything they didn't already know about Christ that was noteworthy. All you saw was blood, big deal. Not one person I spoke to that saw this film came out of the film knowing anything more about Christ than they already knew except damn that was painful. Not even my non-believer friends. This means the film was a failure. Every other film I've ever seen that was based on reality and that I consider good, I came out learning something new about this subject, a new respect, a new insight, something. This film nothing, plus he added so much BS like the satan figure and what not.

Mel should not get patted on the back for this film. He should be scolded and leave the film making to someone else.
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Old 12-17-2004, 04:23 PM   #12
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Near pornography from what has become a truly scary individual.
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Old 12-17-2004, 04:54 PM   #13
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i think the pornography analogy is right -- reducing an individual to flesh, and only flesh. christopher hitchens wrote something rather sardonic about the film:

"A few years ago, Mel Gibson got himself into an argument after uttering a series of crude remarks that were hostile to homosexuals. Now he has made a film that principally appeals to the gay Christian sado-masochistic community: a niche market that hasn't been sufficiently exploited. If you like seeing handsome young men stripped and tied up and flayed with whips, The Passion Of The Christ is the movie for you."

what i also think is shocking (again, i haven't seen it, so yes, you can toss out all my observations, but i have read a lot about this film) is that the violence was extreme, but it still garnered an R rating. i also was shocked that "saving private ryan" and "black hawk down" were R films. both were excellent, especially SPR, but they should have been NC-17.

yet, god forbid we show sex and/or nudity. now *that* is what gets a film an NC-17.

isn't violence much worse than sex? wouldn't you rather have sex and watch sex than be tortured or watch someone else be tortured?

i don't get it.
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Old 12-17-2004, 05:49 PM   #14
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I think the way the Christian right embraced this film is horrifyingly scary and just shows their desperation.
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Old 12-17-2004, 06:14 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
i think the pornography analogy is right -- reducing an individual to flesh, and only flesh. christopher hitchens wrote something rather sardonic about the film:

"A few years ago, Mel Gibson got himself into an argument after uttering a series of crude remarks that were hostile to homosexuals. Now he has made a film that principally appeals to the gay Christian sado-masochistic community: a niche market that hasn't been sufficiently exploited. If you like seeing handsome young men stripped and tied up and flayed with whips, The Passion Of The Christ is the movie for you."

what i also think is shocking (again, i haven't seen it, so yes, you can toss out all my observations, but i have read a lot about this film) is that the violence was extreme, but it still garnered an R rating. i also was shocked that "saving private ryan" and "black hawk down" were R films. both were excellent, especially SPR, but they should have been NC-17.

yet, god forbid we show sex and/or nudity. now *that* is what gets a film an NC-17.

isn't violence much worse than sex? wouldn't you rather have sex and watch sex than be tortured or watch someone else be tortured?

i don't get it.
Exactly! People (especially in the US, maybe only in the US
) get so wigged out about sex and porn, but hardly bat an eye over violence. No wonder we're so fucked up in this country.
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