January 16, 2021

Is the gore necessary? Martin

Is the gore necessary?

Martin Marty- one liberal who has my utmost respect- comments on violence in The Passion, and I must say that I agree with every word. Really, this is perfect.

The previewers who like violence if it shows Jesus suffering, on the grounds that savagery moves people to appreciate his sacrifice, are measuring the wrong thing. In Holy Week I’ll be listening to Bach’s Passions, singing about “was there ever grief like Thine?” and meditating on the wounds of Christ, but not in the belief that the more blood and gore the holier, a la Gibson.

The humanistic and theological point: pain is pain, suffering is suffering, torture is torture, and horrible pain-suffering-torture is horrible, and I don’t think there are grades and degrees of these. Today, all over the world, people are suffering physically as much as the crucified Jesus. The point now is not to accept grace because we saw gore. The issue is not, were his the worst wounds and pains ever, but, as the gospels show, the issue was, and is, who was suffering and to what end. Christians believe that Jesus was and is the Christ, the Anointed, and they are to find meaning in his sacrificial love and death, not to crawl in close to be sure they get the best sight of the worst physical suffering.

For years, I’ve noticed that people have an advanced appetite for visual gore, and the entertainment media has kept increasing the gore we view. Look at one of my favorite shows, CSI. Every week there is some really shocking, explicit, disgusting stuff; things that would have been unheard of a few years ago. It’s a trend towards explicitness that has overtones. We don’t need to see more. We are just dulled, and we want to see more to be, as Marty says, “moved.”

But can gore move us to accept grace? Interesting question.

Now The Passion is taking this road, and I am wondering if the Roman Catholic aspect of all this has registered with evangelicals yet? The sufferings of Christ play a role in the piety and art of RCs that most Protestants can’t appreciate. The gore is an object of meditation in RC piety. Not just the person, but the suffering at the stations of the cross. This doesn’t really impact the way we view the film, but we need to say that the suffering of Jesus- no matter what it was- is suffering for us and for our sins. We also need to say that it is not the physical suffering of Christ that atones, but the offering of his life and person in our place, taking the wrath of God on our behalf. 2Corinthians 5:21. Saying, “My sins deserve a beating and a crucifixion” is not really the Gospel. Let’s try “…he descended into hell.”

Christianity Today Film Forum has many links discussing the accuracy of the movie, and I can already see a number of Biblical errors and omissions, but that is understandable. It’s art. Even any one of the Gospels, taken alone, is less than the whole story.

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