Thursday, March 18, 2004

More Passion

All in all I really liked The Passion. It was honest. Whether I agree with every detail or its theological assumptions is not the main point. It was an incredible courageous work of art by a serious person. Generally my philosophy about films is that if the maker(s) have something important that they're serious about saying, I'll take it seriously.

Here's a link to the book that inspired the film. It's bizarre but that's another topic.

The New York times on the day The Passion opened opined that Gibson might never work again. 300 Mil later, there is speculation that it might be the most successful film of all time. Monetarily that is. The Jesus Film is the most seen film of all time.

I told my wife that Mel Gibson could announce that he's doing 7 films on the life of Christ, of which The Passion is number 6 and Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn and Harvey Weinstein would probably line up to be a part of it. Money Talks in Hollywood. Besides Sarandon's performance as a Catholic Nun in Dead Man Walking was outstanding.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The Trouble with Legalistic Ethics

If you think it’s always wrong to go to R-Rated movies, what do you make of a historically realistic movie about Jesus that is about to become the most successful R-rated movie in history. This is a prime example of how legalistic ethics break down. Rules are fine but must be applied in context. Rules attempt to say what should happen in all situations but what happens when a situation pits two rules against each other. Then you must decide in that context which rule takes precedence. I think this is what Jesus meant when he talked about the weightier matters of the law.

You practice making ethical choices by constantly examining context to see if your rules conflict or if your rules are overturned by a new context. Many R-Rated films are polluting to the soul and a rule to avoid them is a good idea. But blindly applying that rule regardless of the context foolish. Some would say that The Passion should have been rated NC-17 because of violence. Others might say that all religious films of this kind should be banned because they promote intolerance and violence. The great irony is that often those who 'religiously' avoid R-Rated films are at the same time reading a Bible that is very much an R-rated book (as The Passion proves). What I'm advocating is a more penetrating look at context to force introspection about how and when to apply rules and sometimes, when the rules need to change. The fact that this is a complex and difficult process is no reason to abandon it. Wisdom depends on it.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The reason I had a hard time supporting Judge Roy Moore in his defiance of law is that once you ignore the rule of law in a case you believe in, it becomes difficult to criticize others for doing the same in cases you don’t believe in. Do the supporters of Judge Moore also support the actions of those who are illegally pursuing or granting same-sex marriage? I assume not. And ultimately this breeds contempt for the law which is worse than losing the particular case that you feel strongly about.

The following scene from the classic film “A Man for All Seasons” helps make the point. In it Sir Thomas More upholds the need for Law.

Wife: Arrest him!
More: For what?
Wife: He's dangerous!
Roper: For all we know he's a spy!
Daughter: Father, that man's bad!
More: There's no law against that!
Roper: There is, God's law!
More: Then let God arrest him!
Wife: While you talk he's gone!
More: And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?
This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down (and you're just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Friday, March 12, 2004

I found this take from Mel about the creepy Satan baby he put in The Passion. I think he might have some other kind of symbolism in mind but I'm not sure what it is.

I thought the relational connection between Jesus and his Mother was the most interesting and compelling part of the Passion. Now that I have my own children I writhe at the thought of my child suffering at all. The pivotal scene in the movie for me was when Mary tries to soothe Jesus as he carries the cross and says, "I'm here son." And he replies, "See Mother, how I make all things new." This statement struck me like a hammer. Changing this broken world for the better comes from suffering and sacrifice; and Jesus has come not to make all new things but to actually renew the world to surpass it's original glorious nature. These are uniquely Christian concepts that ring out powerfully in this scene. This alone was worth the price of admission for me.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Click here for a powerful final masterpiece from the Man in Black.
In an ironic coincidence, my wife and I have been watching the HBO series Band of Brothers in this same week that we went to see the Passion. Both deal with sacrificial suffering. Both are extremely graphic. In my wife’s opinion Band of Brothers is worse because of its documentary style. As moving as the Passion is, I think Band of Brothers is the most powerful 'entertainment' experience that I've ever seen. Yet because of the trancendant subject matter of the Passion it remains a more profound work of art.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Click here to see pictures from my trip to New York, taken by the multi-talented Grant Blakeman, CU student extraordinaire.
Just got back from New York City and a Creative Summit for artists. Will post on this soon.

I also saw the passion last night. It was moving but I and my wife were overprepared. Nothing is ever as bad as you imagine it to be. Also the stylized and very artistic feel of the film actually takes some of the brutality out of torture. Real torture doesn't have a soundtrack. It's still powerfully done but not as gut level grotesque as some have said. Of course if I had seen it unawares, I might have been more shocked.

I'm going to add more Passion thoughts later on:
- Jesus relationship with his Mother
- Racism?
- Art and it's limits and possibilties
- Idolatry and Jesus movies

Friday, March 05, 2004

Creative Summit

I've spent the last two days in New York City at a summit for creativity in the Arts for those involved in spiritual mentoring on the college campus. Is there such a thing as a "Christian" writer. Perhaps it is better keep the term Christian as a noun (e.g. a writing Christian). I think this is wiser because a Christian is by definition someone who is in process. Maybe Christian is a noun in the same way that process is a noun. It describes a thing but a thing that is in transition.

We heard from Mako Fujimura today. He is a Japanese American. He challenged me with these thoughts
Where is ground zero?
In NYC?
In Japan?
Perhaps it is the whole earth after the fall of humanity?
Can you tell of ground zero in your soul?
I think storytelling is the human vocation. More to follow...
OK, I now have a Blog! No more excuses. I have to start writing some of this stuff down. More to come. Click here for some great "Christian" comedy.

Interesting Stuff