Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Wheat from chaff

I saw "it" this afternoon in the South Side with a predominantly black church crowd, which gave my viewing a pentecostal feel. For the Christian, it's not a movie to like or dislike, or to love or hate. I feel "sifted;" it unsettled and disturbed me greatly, forcing me to reconsider some things about Christ that I may have willfully ignored or dismissed for too long (divinity school can do that to you). The questions flying through my head made me realize that like Peter, I, being a living witness to the Passion, am a defendant under trial as well. The searing yet comforting gaze of Mary was all-enveloping, a reassertion of her passionate advocacy for me, her son through grace.

The violence is often excessive, some of it completely unwarranted on even Scriptural grounds, but it doesn't swamp the overall picture. It's a stunning attempt to transfer traditional iconography onto the silver screen. But I have to say "The Passion of the Christ" demonstrates how film remains an inferior (though effective and seductive) medium for communicating the breadth and depth of the Christian faith.

Three articles that stand out amidst the incessant chattering of keyboards over this film:
Kenneth Woodward of Newsweek and Russell Hittinger/Elizabeth Lev from First Things, and the Office of Film & Broadcast in the US Catholic Bishops Conference, all writing calm, balanced, and historically and theologically informed assessments of the film, and of our reactions to it. It's the context, stupid.