I enjoyed your "Thoughts on Jesus" article. As you know from our past conversations, I have also had a lot of experience with the fundamentalist areas of Christianity. So much fear and guilt. It is sad to see these organizations using the film to increase their market share. I have not seen the film, but have read a lot about it. For some reason I don't have a desire or reason to see the film at this time. Maybe later.
Anyhow, I did want to respond to your request for input even though it isn't about the film. Your remarks about wanting to know what really happened and what is the true story of the Christ resonated with me. I have struggled with this issue for many years. One of the best explanations I have read is from the Pathwork lectures <http://www.pathwork.org/>. I reviewed some of them this weekend to help clarify what I thought I read in them in the past. It helped a great deal to solidify my understanding. Lectures 19 through 22 give a straightforward and simple account of how our existence came to be and what Christ's part is in it. There is still so much to understand, however, that can only come as I am ready to receive it. I just have to follow as best I can and meet more people like yourself. We truly are one.
Thank you David for publishing your thoughts about the Gibson opus. I really appreciate your in depth analysis of the movie and your unemotional presentation of your deep thought and search.
No, I have not seen the movie and have no intention of seeing it. I am presently deep into Bishop Spong's "A New Christianity for a New World". Finally the light is beginning to emerge and I couldn't be happier albeit not without a bit of 'angst'.
New Christianity For A New World:
Thank you for your well researched and thoughtful presentation. I'm wondering if you have considered submitting it for publication in another place. It would be well received and certainly timely.
There is a collection of five volumes called "Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East" by Spalding that also includes some wonderful text from Jesus, as well as other masters.
Good travels on your path. Many thanks for your hours of preparation.
and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East"
A GLIMPSE OF MY FAITH
I first gave my life to Christ at the age of seven after my Mom, newly reborn after having been raised Episcopalian, did. Then I was raised Presbyterian and was very openly and devoutly Christian through high school. I reconfirmed my "rebirth" through Young Life, Sunday School and fellowships and Bible study.
Once I hit college, hormones, independence, and a newfound party mentality skewed my path away from Christ and towards a life of "a modern woman of the eighties/nineties" which was formed in part, I'm sure, by my new sorority sisters, joy at the unadulterated freedom from my parents, and the influence of the primarily MTV-based culture I wanted/admired. Church was temporarily forgotten.
College also offered me the chance to meet people from different faiths and with varying attitudes toward organized religion. I did a speech on witchcraft after my mandatory speech class Teaching Assistant (who looked exactly like Funky Winkerbean) encouraged us to give speeches on something that intrigued us. Through my brief research foray into it, I found Wicca comforting in it's matriarchal structure, and it made sense that historically women have been "put down" by patriarchal cultures all over the globe. However, as much as I loved the idea of honoring Nature and the Mother Goddess I saw frequently portrayed in my Art History classes, Christianity still felt right for me.
Later, I also looked into Roman and Greek mythology after being introduced to Carl Gustav Jung through my Psychology minor. I even read one of his books and felt that I must be CJ reincarnated [because] I felt such an affinity to the stories of his youth. I saw the Collective Unconscious as a viable possibility and the perfect accompaniment to my Art Therapy major and personal journey.
I have followed with interest the technological advancements of our time. The amazing discovery that prayed-for people heal faster; that atomic particles act like a wave or a dot depending on intentionality; that ESP IS a scientific phenomenon; that healings and miracles occur daily; that there is a great possibility that there is other life in the universe as seen by many, many varied people from all over the globe and throughout recorded history.
I wondered about Eastern religions and looked into those as well. Was reincarnation something the Bible flatly denied? Yes and No. Through Christ we are reborn, become a new man, there is another birth, not of woman. Yet it is also said that a man only lives once. Grrrrrrrrrr. Is my seemingly innate interest in Egypt simply from National Geographic (and now many other programs)? Is this the only incarnation I have had? Are there mysteries beneath the paw of the Sphinx?
9/11/01 sent me back to my Source. I know I needed to reconnect and that event was the nudge I needed. I still have my moments of doubt, but feel centered in my call to study Christianity and my faith more deeply, even in light of what other ideas and paths I have explored, perhaps to comfortably combine it all, throw out the dross or come to an easy faithfulness.
I, like countless others, want God (for I ASSUREDLY believe that there is a brilliant Creator of all the marvels of this world, both minute and immense) to show me, right NOW, what path I should take, as well as the glory of God, itself. He chose my life, I wish He'd more clearly guide my steps. I'm sure I need to pay more attention.
I want to please the POWER/God who decided my unique self ought to be here, right now, with all my flaws and gifts, interacting with like-minded and not-so-like minded people as I journey through my life. I am a seeker of what His will is for my life, and regardless of my many doubting moments, I am still most apt to believe Christianity, simply because, for me, this is what meshes most internally, even when I doubt.
Which brings me to the Passion review.
I have read all your news list's articles, Beliefnet's, saw the PaxTV "Making Of" special, Mel's PrimeTime interview and many other reviews. They all have colored my viewing, in addition to my own Presbyterian upbringing.
I viewed it in a typical Midwest (Cleveland, Ohio) movie theater on Sunday afternoon filled with LOTS of teens, as well as a good mix of other ages, mostly/all white. I heard that my childhood Presbyterian church had bought 100 tickets to this showing, where they could discuss it after at youth fellowship. It was a quiet, pamphlet-free event, with sniffles being the only response I really noticed.
1. It was much less gory than I had anticipated after reading various reviews, yet still fulfilled a vivid personal reminder that my Savior suffered immensely to save me. I think the constant beatings were a bit excessive and the Romans were way more terrible than any of the Jews seemed. While to me it seemed overkill, Romans are historically known for their love of mass killings in Coliseums, as well as their fondness for scourging and crucifixions. So, although Mel BEAT the point into us, it MAY [not] have been that excessive.
2. I think Pontius Pilate was portrayed way too kindly, especially after reviewing Josephus' accounts of the violent Roman prefect and considering how much he would have loathed this tenuous, busy, keeping-the-peace-at-Passover part of his job. Pilate previously had no problem killing thousands of defenseless Jews as a show of his authority, and might have wanted to side with the Pharisees and Sadducees just enough to gain their help in controlling the busy city at Passover (where he seldom stayed), while maintaining his authority and adhering to Roman hearings/justice.
3. I was extremely and surprisingly touched by Mary, noting that I am neither a mom nor a saint worshipper. Maia made Jesus personal to me. Kissing a bloody toe on the cross, running to let him know she was there as he carried the cross even as it showed how unbearable it was for her to watch. Playfully washing his hands in his carpenter days at home. The movie ought to have personified Jesus SO much more, but I am glad for these bits showing the person of Christ. His godly nature was in his stalwart, mostly silent acceptance of His sacrifice after His last-ditch garden prayer request to have the cup pass. I loved the Genesis stomping of the snake symbolism there.
4. Although the digital demonization was unnecessary and out of context with the rest of the film, I was also really touched by the sympathetic character of Judas. This was the only time in the movie where I prayed, "Please God, don't let me be led astray from my faith by the allure of money or the fear of not having enough money." Likewise with Peter's denial which, without cock's crow, was still moving.
5. The only thing I really didn't "get" was my confusion surrounding Satan with a "midget/baby". What's that about?? I have heard a mock Madonna and child as well as references to both Genesis and Revelation. I hope you might be able to answer that one for me!!!
Overall, I got a bit teary-eyed, but that was it. I was too well prepared going in to let the movie transport me, I think. The cat o' nine tails gouging out His side was the grossest part, as well as the pools of blood both Mary's tried to soak up. (To the best of my knowledge -- from Crossing Jordan -- this is because Jews believe that all of the body and fluids must be interred together? Once again, I'm not certain.)
Other than the artistic license taken throughout, the only glaring contradiction noted, I believe in one of your articles, was the tearing of Jesus' seamless robe in two. I would have liked to seen the Temple veil torn in two or the garment torn in quarters. I am also not a believer in the validity of the supposed Veil of Veronica or the sainthood of Simon the Cyrene. Both were interesting characters in the movie, but aren't a part of my personal faith. To me, this is another Roman Catholic Saint-making flaw. But to Catholics, this would be essential, and Mel Gibson (and Jim Caviezel) are Roman Catholic.
Overall, I think The Passion of the Christ is simply a Roman Catholic (Mel's pre-Vatican 2) view of the last 12 hours of Christ's life, mostly accurate and a great discussion piece. I'd prefer a more overall view of His Life. I would prefer much more after He resurrects. But this is Mel's movie. There are glimpses of His ministry, His mission, but I think they are far too brief and most likely meaningless for those who don't know Jesus or The Gospels.
With all the hoopla, I am sure many Christian-uneducated people went to see this film (and still are/will). I just hope that they read the Bible, ask questions of their Christian co-workers, friends and neighbors and are able to see and know a more complete Jesus, while feeling safe to share their own views. And I hope this doesn't start anti-Semitism, nor anti-Italianism. For I adore Bella Italia and my Savior is a Jew.
Hope reading this took much less time than my writing it, and that I offered a glimpse of my faith, and how much I appreciate you, your search, and all the reading material you provide me every day :)
"And whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. . ." (Joel 2:32)
God Bless you and yours David, and may God give you His peace and understanding!
A RAUNCHY C+ BLOOD AND GUTS MEL GIBSON ACTION FILM
I saw the film on opening night in Grand Forks, North Dakota as I was teaching a graduate class there for the week at the UND Space Studies Dept on Ethics and Space Commerce. I'm not Christian, I'm Jewish, not very religious, but certainly part of the faith, culture, the people, etc. Also, I study Kabbalah as I like the mystical approach to spiritualism and I am comfortable with it, but also with elements from other practices as well.
The Passion is a raunchy C+ blood and guts Mel Gibson action film. I've seen most of his films, the ones with humor and the more serious ones, and the violence is his trade mark. But in the Passion, the violence is over the top, it is absurd, and it does not nothing to facilitate a bonding with Jesus or the work and teachings of Jesus. It was clearly a detraction.
Gibson twisted history. He had to do this intentionally because the guy is smart and what he did to twist history was smart. Its not just the way he portrayed Pilate, the Jewish leaders, etc., it's how he did it. For example, the way he had the Jews dress and appear is characteristic of Jewish dress and appearance from Central Europe in the middle ages. In fact, this dress, the black and white striped garments, the curly hair, etc., this all comes from the Hassidic sects of orthodox Judaism. Certainly it was not present in the biblical period. But by having Jews appear in somewhat modern garb (yes, Hassidic Jews still dress like this, and the Talit often is made with the black and white stripes), there would be no doubt as to who the Jews were and the link with Jews of today would be powerful and unspoken. The movie is full of anti-Semitic indications. If one knows history, the overtones are obvious. If one is not steeped in the history of the period, it will be subtle and implanted in one's thinking without even knowing it. This is the skill of the filmmaker and make no mistake, Gibson is a skilled and talented filmmaker.
I don't really want to spend lots of time discussing the movie because it does not deserve my time. But I will say that since Gibson claims he turned inward to his faith when he reached bottom as a result of booze, drugs, women, etc., and that this movie is his reflection of his faith, then I say the guy is really sick. To dwell on this brutality and whatever message he feels this says about Jesus and all of the life's work of Jesus, well, wow, what does that say about Gibson? And if he thinks his flashbacks told the true story of the work of Jesus, he is wrong because the flashbacks were out of place, out of context and virtually worthless.
I guess it will boil down to how much of a literalist or fundamentalist one is about these issues versus how much of the history of the period and early Christianity is known by the viewer. If one accepts all of this on faith and it is direct from the source, God, Jesus, etc., then this film will probably be holy to them. For those that know history, they will see the flaws and probably react in somewhat of a similar way to what I am saying, give or take a little here and there. It would most likely not deter one from having faith in Jesus or Christianity.
The problem with all of these religions is the history which shows how they were created and manipulated to control people. For example, there is quite a bit of scholarly literature indicating that most of the Old Testament was written by a scribe named Ezra who put to pen oral traditions and history over hundreds of years. Ezra is often cited as the person who wrote the Bible. When this evidence is considered and the timing of it is understood, one can see how things could very much be different in the later word from what actually was taking place. However, in many instances in the Old Testament, archaeological finds have confirmed events and timing, but of course confirming an analysis or point of view is much more difficult.
As for early Christianity, I wish you would have brought into the discussion Constantine and his wicked wife. Constantine was the first Christian Roman emperor. When he convened the Council of Nicea, he merged the Pagan practices into the new Christianity. That is why so many Pagan symbols, traditions, holidays, practices, etc. are in Christianity. Also, it is why so many are in the Old Testament as well since Pagan traditions were side by side with other traditions of the time. But Constantine and the wife did other things too. They got rid of the concept of reincarnation which was in the early days of the religion, it was in the Jewish religion, etc. But the wife felt that it offered people a second chance, so out it went. That way, if you did not obey Constantine, no second chance, eternal damnation. Constantine and the Council of Nicea are known for other manipulations of the early Christian faith to suit his power and what he did and the part he played in shaping the early church cannot be overlooked in any rational and intelligent discussion about these events and times. Gibson of course would probably deny Constantine as well as history.
Will the Passion cause problems and rifts throughout society? I sure hope not. But I think it will energize a group of people to possibly work for and do extreme things, just as the Janet Jackson inappropriate behavior galvanized and energized millions of people to "clean up" the airways. The risk is that these "righteous" people are anything but righteous. For example, my friends have received lots of really horrible hate mail because as a Jew, they wrote reviews of the movie or made comments that were not supportive of Gibson and his fundamentalist faith. There is a website with a petition drive going on to deport all Jews in the U.S. to Madagascar! Fortunately, the last time I checked, only three people had signed the thing. But still this type of hate should not be energized into a greater existence than it already is. In listening to conservative talk radio in the Bay Area since my return from Grand Forks, I have heard nothing intelligent about this movie. Instead, I hear rubber stamp votes for Gibson, Jesus, and if you dare be against this view, you are the bad and wicked one and the Jews have no business going after Jesus and this faith or Mel and his faith. As a conservative, which I am, I am so totally disgusted at the abandon of intelligence and humanity and respect that I cannot even begin to describe it all to you. And I think the Gibson film is a spark to keep this destructive and potentially dangerous behavior alive. And has liberal agendas get forced into the face of people that are religious and conservative, the backlash can only get worse. You see, both sides need to find a way to live with one another in the middle someplace because you can't stick your beliefs and agendas in the face of others and force them to comply. Our world is too big and too complex for that.
I appreciate your writing your article. Its a good and thoughtful piece. Your path is interesting and a path of someone who has a balance with faith, history, intelligence, and spiritual obtainment. Thanks for sending it out.
I just saw the film today. This is what I think.
Not belonging to any one of the three Abrahmic traditions, I went to the movie fairly neutral, even without any feelings for or against Mel Gibson, despite the thick pre-release controversy.
And this is what I saw.
Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ", is not anti-Semitic; it is anti-Jesus.
With what I came to recognize as his passion for horror and cinematographic thriller, Gibson takes up the figure of one of the greatest teachers of humankind, a savior to many including Gibson, and reduces Jesus' Passion to a melodrama.
Only 1/5th of the film script depends on the facts recorded in the New Testament. The rest is of Gibson's producer's vision. As the filmmaker, he is privileged to treat a story the way he wants. In places, some artistic touches depicting love, caring, temptations, though few and far between, are a breath of fresh air. But nothing ingenious that an able filmmaker would not accomplish. The extreme gory-ness is contrived, overdone, and therefore, false. I could not see the magnanimity of the sacrifice, but walked away with the impression of a tortured being bereft of any divinity, humanity, or grace. That I think is the greatest disservice to Jesus Gibson is guilty of. His passion for blood wasted the historical Jesus' Passion.
Gibson plays upon the believer's faith and turns it into a money-making thriller cashing upon the lowest common denominator of public taste. That amounts to betrayal of people, disservice to Jesus. At best it is cheap, at worst it is an insult.
The Passion of The Christ was a wonderful powerful movie and Mel Gibson was right on. The movie was biblical and scriptural and as heart wrenching as it was to see what Jesus went through FOR ALL OF US I think that everyone needed to see just exactly what he went through for us.. It makes me love and bow down to him everyday I get up. It makes me yearn to learn more and more about him everyday.
You have given me a few hours of reading and re-reading and a better understanding of your project NHNE. It is a very moving posting. The information about the perspectives on Jesus are very well known to me, and I even dare to say as you might know, there is no academically accepted proof of the historical existence of someone [called] Jesus Christ.
But your posting is probably the best manual for those who will see the movie. I have decided with a friend to re-visit the movie after reading and discussing your post together.
I live in a small rural and largely vocal fundamentalist community in the western US. I have no intention or interest in seeing this movie . I have seen numerous other crucifixion propaganda films over the years and view this as yet another egotistical exhibition of what this person feels inspired to present as a justification for their "faith". The public reaction I see is one of nearly mass hysteria which I always find fascinating as do many others. No one I am acquainted with or respect has anything good to say about the spiritual content of this film. Perhaps some day someone will make a truly uplifting, provocative and meaningful film portrayal of the life of Jesus.
Meanwhile, it is all very interesting and probably a good thing to have lots of people examining the issue. Thanks for your insights.
I never thought I would need to see a graphic depiction of the crucifixion, or want to see it. I was driven from within to see it. I went to the very first show on Ash Wednesday. I wanted the purest perception I could get of the film. Since no one around here had seen it yet, this was a good way to make sure that happened.
I walked up to the line and stood with my solar plexus churning; fear issues kept creeping upon me. I kept feeling all my spirit friends with me; I felt many around the theater.
We didn't wait too long due to having advance tickets and we went into the theater. Everyone was chirping about something. Then the movie started. The theater grew quiet and the spirits came out in droves. One lady said she thought she saw an angel as we were leaving later. I saw many angels. I could feel people praying and touching within themselves their own fear of lack or of acceptance; their own fear to love each other as we should love ourselves.
This movie was not about the Bible to me, or Christianity, or even Jews or Romans. It was a movie about human suffering and rising above it into the Kingdom of God.
It brought to me in a much deeper sense a connection to all my fellow humans. I didn't see any mob kill Jesus in that movie. I saw a man who set out to accomplish what he came to do. Whether it is myth, legend or factual history, to me doesn't matter. What matters is how it makes one feel.
I came out of the movie renewed in my love for mankind -- not because I love violence and graphic pain laid out in front of me; not because I finally found Jesus, but because of my teachings by Yeshua and the seeds of those held within the imagery of this movie, it became an experience. The experience was not just on the screen. I am very intuitive and so my experience went beyond just the movie; it went with the prayers and the grief of the audience. How each one was touched and moved to go within and seek for themselves what life is, what love is, what sacrifice is, or how they went in and refused to look at their own pain.
Mel did the movie the way he was driven to do it. There is no right or wrong way to portray a political /historical/spiritual person: you portray them as you see them within yourself. The man on the cross in that movie was Mr Gibson, it was me, it was the actor, it was everyone in the theater, it was all the Jews and Romans of the time.
I didn't see Yeshua suffer, I saw him reflect the inner sufferings of all those around him back at them; I saw him absorb the pain of humanity and reflect it back for all to see, in a very graphic manner.
Do I believe in the story of The Passion? I don't believe in movies. I believe in experience and I experienced this movie on a very very deep note. There were no Christians outside my theater handing out anything. Everyone who comes out is quiet and reflective. I live in a city of over 300,000 people.
I didn't go to get an accurate account of the man, or even of the message for the only way you can hear truth is from within. I went to touch myself and everyone there. Our theaters are full of spirits -- those who the audience is calling upon at the time of the movie. It is changing people -- people here are talking about spirituality openly and with passion but without inflicting pain on each other.
My name is Rev. Sharon Schwengler. I claim no religion. I simply follow my way of spirit, my heart, and I live in Corpus Christi (the body of Christ) Texas.
I loved the experience so much that I took my family. My husband was moved beyond tears, my daughter thought "whatever". LOL. We will each see what we so choose to see and what we need to see, even with this movie.
Your report caused me to write this. So it is an answer to all three of your questions. :)
I think the whole Jesus on Calvary story has many, many dimensions and interpretations to it. On one level it's about the church using fear and guilt as control mechanisms, on a collective level (or the 'church' as a metaphor of ego on a personal level). Or the story as a hope/fear machine that creates the ultimate filling of the cosmic gap/existential space. Or the story of how Spirit is trapped in matter, crucified on the cross of temporality and time, the cross of basic polarity/duality, and the release possible from that dilemma through surrender to that situation, a transcendence. Or that life is only possible through death, and that "sacrifice" is the ultimate gift that we each make and will make.
I'm sure there are many more meanings. And underneath any of the mythic projections, Jesus was a great and holy man.
But these days, my mantra is not to ask if either sanity or neurosis are involved in any situation, but how sanity or neurosis are involved in any situation. I assume they are both always present. The drama game, the politics of hope/fear, is to look for a loyalty to Good (here, the secret loyalty is to Evil) instead of to Awake. In the movie, Satan is a woman, and androgynous. Classic stuff. This is interesting, as if to say that the eternal polarized game of hope/fear is the Sacred; the Sacred as really a type of Holy Entertainment. So to play this game, we must pin the tail on the Satan, which we will always need to make the story work. Actually, to be fair and not pin it on the Jews or gays or women, we all have to take it -- humanity in the role of Satan, original sin writ large. Which makes God even better (he could send his only son as whipping boy for us?). God as a more pure projection of our own repressed narcissism, the other side of the coin that's being dropped on this movie, and this myth, en masse. No wonder so many have been murdered in the name of God. That's just the price we pay (hopefully they pay) for such excellent theatre I suppose.
Which brings you back to Mel Gibson as Hollywood prophet, in a strange and ironic twist. And when I think of his persona of late, I think: this man is involved in the Ultimate Entertainment for sure. What a holy scam! Religion as the Holy Distraction. Satan couldn't do it any better than that.
Anyway, the attempt to be Good may be a reasonable provisional game, and I suppose it beats trying to be Evil every time; but Evil will ever be nipping at your heels, and if you try to get rid of it, occasionally swallowing you whole -- a great good jolly game of binge/purge ensues. Maybe your "enemies" or potential converts play out the binge half for you, if you're "lucky". God knows you need them to do that, which is sick. Certainly, that's my critique of mainstream Christianity, and Mel Gibson as Hollywood prophet. That being said, there is sanity there as well -- the story itself has much to teach on many levels.
I read with great interest your writings on Gibson's Passion and I have chosen not to pay my dime.
It is important to be informed about what is happening in our world, what books others are reading, what movies people are seeing, even television for that matter. But, I have come to understand in that the "medium is the message."
I, too, was a student of Edgar Cayce for almost 20 years when one day Jesus spoke to me and I walked away taking nothing with me. I spent a time searching for something that rang true and I mostly discovered that "God" was a figment of our imagination.
Having been born and schooled in a Catholic environment, today I am not Christian. I have chosen to be a "nowist", whatever that means to me.
I am a student of ACIM. It has met this criterion for me, which are "make no comparisons, and make no judgments." I read these lines in "Joy's Way" by Brugh Joy in '86 and they have become the injunctions that I measure what I choose to digest. Digest used here describes whether I file something under "g" or not. There is a lot of "g" available.
At first when I began to think that something was out of line in our world, I felt isolated but I understand that there are others who see the us in a crisis position and that we are the problem and we are the solution.
My letter is to myself, David, in that it questions me and my motives. I question what I have accepted as true!
Having spent nearly my entire life (69 years) motivated to find deeper and deeper levels of truth, outgrowing the uninformed enthusiasm of the forever seeking, yet having lived my life, at least aspiring to, in accord with the various levels of self-discovered "truths," to "walk my talk," though having always been willing to refine and clarify or abandon these discoveries, I've been through a number of the same phases you, David, describe.
Moving from an innately devotional yet questioning child to searching for clarification after having deep spontaneous mystical experiences during my late teens, having found the rare available material in the very early 1950's which included Cayce, Yogananda, and later the well known assorted western esoterists, I developed a growing revulsion to the crucifixion. In the late 1970's I traveled to Israel, and in Jerusalem walked the Via Dolorosa. My sense of the horror of that event was overwhelming, and, leaving the group I was with, I found refuge in a cool rock cave on a hillside overlooking a garden, only to discover, after I was surprised as the group caught up with me, that I was sitting in what is one of the candidates for the actual tomb. It, at least, was a peaceful place.
The natural followup to that was a developing awareness of the glamorization of the agonizing suffering of that terrible event -- whether fact or not. To the point that the symbolism of the Christian cross -- and the terrible things carried out throughout later history in its name -- worn or placed or carried with such unashamed pride, has become for me, with the exception of the very young, a sadly revealing symbol of lack of compassion, lack of the use of discretion, of the application of mind, of wisdom.
Because through the years my sense of empathy has grown, and I have withstood and been tempered by the battering of a challenging life, I know that I will not even go to see the film. The impact would be too great.
I am very thankful for this opportunity to share our personal experiences with Jesus of Nazareth, The Christ.
I am born and raised as a Jew who had the good fortune of a very thorough Jewish education. I believe that it was the same Jewish education that Jesus had in the synagogue school of Nazareth where the Chazan (cantor) was his teacher.
I did not have any introduction to Jesus or his teachings until I was over thirty years of age except for the Christmas that is celebrated in America as a commercial holiday, Xmas. I also became accustomed to life as anathema to Christian followers of their religion about Jesus' death.
I became unhappy about the social and cultural isolationism of my Jewish life from the rest of the world's races, religions, and cultures, wanting to "join the human race", the family of wo/man.
Father brought me to Him through my daily recitation of:
"Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your strength. And you shall love your brother as yourself."
I became acquainted with Jesus while working in the civil rights movement, through the Christianity of black Americans who I met in their churches.
Once Jesus became a personality of my acquaintance, he was able to lead me into loving relationship with him and led me to knowledge and understanding of his life. It was his life that was his dispensation to our world, a life in which his death was a teaching; his revelation of God's infinite mercy, and the fact of his having experienced and shares with us everything that we go through -- including the greatest human suffering imaginable, bodily and spiritually.
He came to reveal God to man and man to God, and now lives with and through each one who will relate to his spirit within.
The entire life of Jesus from birth to death is recorded in "The Life and Teachings of Jesus", Book Four of The Urantia Book <http://www.truthbook.com>. It can also be found in separate publication as: "JESUS, A New Revelation" (Michael Foundation, 1999)
Jesus, The Son of Man and The Son of God was the bestowal on our world, in the flesh, of our Creator whose gift of love to to each and all of us is our collective and personal salvation.
I will look forward to reading of the experiences of others in their relationship with the Master, our Father and our Brother, Jesus the Christ.
"The Greatest Victimhood Ever Sold"
I'm taking license with the previous movie title: "The Greatest Story Ever Told", but I think it's appropriate. Whatever the message was supposed to be, that's what I feel the message ended up before the American viewing public. The only clear thing they're going to grasp is Jesus' victimhood. And, in terms of modern politically-correct thinking, perhaps that's real currency. I've never bought Abe Foxman's line that the movie could potentially open up a new wave of anti-Semitism. But what it can do is be a strong contender against Jewish Victimhood; an iconic pillar in the foundation of Newspeak in this country. If that pillar is cracked by bloody scenes of a battered Savior, then what will be lost is control; the unquestioned control that has been exercised in many areas of our society. So, tell me again, why is it Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer want all Americans disarmed? The Satellite uplink is finally destroyed in THEY LIVE, and all the people can see the alien invaders. Not quite yet. I said it was a strong contender, and maybe some cracks are beginning to show, but at present the edifice appears secure. Don't get me wrong, I believe the Holocaust is still overwhelmingly evil if just 750,000 people died rather than the oft claimed six million. But like the plight of the American Indian, the Black slave, or the starving Irish; I didn't do it; and on close examination of my own heart and mentality nothing in my makeup evokes such destructive behavior. I am unrepentant, and do not accept the guilt; which in itself is unacceptable in an American white male today who is accused of being the very root of evil Patriarchy. Now I get to the second message of The Passion, which seems to be that Jesus died for my sins. More guilt on my plate. So, what to do?
Okay, a third theme in The Passion appears to be the Stations of the Cross performed by the Blessed Virgin Mary. I noted the contrast between the mind-blasting savagery on the one hand, with the juxtaposed calm of Jesus' mother Mary, which I also found unreal. I guess I am a fan of the old theatre-style acting, where the gestures are large and expressive; so that all the audience to the last row know the actor's mood. My point is that there are a whole toolbox of skills/tools, if you will, in acting that can denote sorrow, anguish, extremes of despair; and almost none of these were used by the actress portraying the Holy Mother.
Another thing missing to my mind, as I reflect back on the old Cecil B. DeMille movie, were any halos or other metaphysical lights indicating spiritual substance or activity. The production company was Icon Productions, but the product was notably short on symbol and very fleshy, like some florid Renaissance-realism oils or statuary. And plot-wise, The Passion stuck out like a singular piece from an otherwise missing jigsaw puzzle. For that reason, by default, the only message it sends is of Jesus' immense Victimhood.
The Movie was unsettling, disturbing, verging on abuse. Graphic to the extreme, without leaving any area for the imagination. Hitchcock understood that real horror has to be unseen. It is the horror hinted at that grips the imagination and becomes the motive, driving force to compel emotion. When confronted with actual horror, as in a bloody accident or attack of some sort, emotion stops, withdraws, paralyzed and unable to feel temporarily. I felt unable to feel watching The Passion for this same reason of its realism. My point is that the realism has the opposite effect from perhaps what is intended. It paralyzes. Any feeling must be reserved and scheduled later -- time-shifted from such a horror. Yes, I wept, as did almost everyone in the theater audience, but feeling was forced down.
Okay, enough on the movie and on to some of your comments.
Firstly, I make it a point to do my best to avoid "renowned experts," especially when you have a gathering of them. Academe has had a concerted agenda to see how much of Jesus can be forgotten or declared superfluous to the point that in recent meetings I've encountered young people who declare in outrage that everybody knows Jesus never existed; that he was just a symbol or a fabrication from older myths. The logic rests upon the assumption that if there has ever been a similar story, then a later retelling must be only a permutation of the original. To stretch this logic to the max, you could then say that every alien abduction story is simply a fabricated retelling of the Betty and Barney Hill incident. The only problem is, I didn't see Betty and Barney when I was up there on the Mother Ship! Bah Dah Dum! Conversely, when you're discussing the Red Letter Bible words of Jesus, many of His sayings bear a striking resemblance to the Hindu Upanishads. Does this mean these words were simply filched by some well-meaning but confused early Hebrew-Christian? Plagiarism versus what?
In 1971 Professor Goldstein and myself were met in India by a sannyasin who explained that he had been commissioned by the head of his monastic order, the Shankaracharya of Puri, to document the travels of the young Rabbi Yehoshuva. In the temple records at Jagganath Puri, which go back thousands of years, are notes of a series of lectures given by a Hebrew Mahatma who explained to the people the inner truths of their religion. He was acclaimed to be "the perfect Hindu," in the words of this sannyasin. This Hebrew Mahatma then traveled to a Buddhist monastery in the North, where he was hailed as "the perfect Buddhist." This sannyasin was overjoyed to get to speak with Westerners about his sacred task at hand. I fully expected to return to the States and find later on that he had published papers and perhaps a book. But the books that did emerge by Western authors on Jesus' travels in India bear little resemblance to what the monk told us. Many years have passed since then. Recently, one of my former monastic brothers sent photos from India from the cave where Jesus did sadhana. I haven't been in touch with them for years, and only received the photos through some nuns I have renewed contact with. I honestly cannot say whether this cave is authentic, but the brother is over there living and teaching school. If anyone should know, he is in a position to.
So, just for fun, what I would like to do is apply some of the principles of Eastern Thought (very generally) to the question of Western Doctrine. If I ever get around to it this probably belongs in my not-so-soon-to-be-published book: "Life Begins at 400". The Chapter might be: "Jesus As Guru".
When I'm discussing Hinduism with American friends I often end up saying, "You know, in my last life I didn't believe in reincarnation either." If they catch the semantics on the fly-by I might get a smile, but despite protests to the contrary, Americans are fairly wedded to 3D Rationalism-Annihilism. Whether they say it or not, they believe they die when their body dies. Religion, then, serves merely to allay their fears, stave off the unavoidable confrontation with the pit of nothingness. In clear split dichotomy to their 3D Rationalism is juxtaposed their belief in God and Jesus. And I want to say, "I don't care what you believe; what do you KNOW?" And all they know is the physical world. So it's no surprise when a belief gets dislodged by some purported expert. Then they are left with the pit of nothingness. So, I point that out and they're immediately reaching for their Linus Blanket of religion. And we go round the rosy again... until a person deals with the fundamental question of what he or she is using religion for.
Jesus washed the feet of the Disciples. What was he doing? Peter protests and Jesus states that unless Peter submits to having his feet washed, he will have no part in what Jesus is preparing. I think Yogananda may have given a lecture on this or something, but Jesus is the Guru taking on the karmas of the disciples/chelas. It is after this "ceremony" that He sweats blood in the Garden of Gethsemane; when He implores that this "chalice" be taken from Him. The chalice is full of the energetic karmas. This energy draws the lashings, the spittle, the derision of the crowd, the repeated rending of His flesh and the final indignity of the crucifixion. When He declares on the cross, "It is accomplished," He is stating that the karmic debt has been balanced. And here's where I step off into what could be considered heresy, "Jesus did not die for everyone's sins; only the twelve." But that sacrifice was the stone thrown in the calm pond. The wave moved outwards. Every one of the twelve died a violent death except John. They, too, had taken on the karmic weight of others as the circle moved out and expanded. Many in the Early Church met similar fates. At one time it was considered a death sentence to be a Christian. Less than half survived the persecutions.
Jesus founded/instituted a Guru-param-para line of Initiation. Through the rite of Consecration/Ordination, the line has been extended down through the centuries. It is in its essence a Mystery School. It's focus is Water Magic. All the symbolism circles around water as the hub. From the first miracle of the changing of the water into wine, to the final water and blood flowing out of the crucified Jesus' pierced side. It is said that the Early Church had many baptisms; i.e., successive Initiations through blessing of waters and immersion. In contrast to the Prasadam at the local Hindu temple, the sip of Ganga Jal or Panchamrita, the Sacrifice of the Mass has us consume the veritable Body and Blood of our Savior/Guru. The Early Church Fathers continually spoke of being grafted in to the Body of Christ through the partaking of the bread and wine. It is cannibalism plain and simple; sublimated in symbol. It may offend the sensibilities of many to say so, but that's what it is.
To understand Jesus' speaking as the Son of God and/or the Son of Man, one needs to understand Tiphareth on the Tree of Life. Jesus is Savior, He is Lord, because He is Tiphareth on the Middle Pillar with the Good Thief and the Bad Thief flanking him. There are Rabbis that dispute the relating of Jesus to the Kabbalah. But, when you study it deeply, there is no question left. It is accomplished. After descending, He ascends, renting the veil of Paroketh, that the righteous Abraham and the Patriarchs may ascend/enter in. He is the Avatar, cutting the groove in the psyche of humanity that we may accomplish/ascend where our souls have never gone (this creation). So, although He did not suffer and die for all humanity, when we partake of that sacrifice, we begin that working which becomes our salvation.
Okay, enough of a mishmash of Eastern/Western thought?
Bottom line, forgetting all the "theology" and speculation: when you are in an exorcism dealing with critters from God only knows where; critters that are very real and very dangerous, btw, despite platitudes to the contrary, The Name of Jesus is a most powerful protection. The Name of Jesus has saved my life on more than one occasion. Pronounce it whatever way you want; say it in any language; it bugs the stuff out of bad spirits and drives them howling. And I forgot to check with any academics or experts on whether that is bonafide. Oh, my!
Question 1: Now it's your turn. Have you seen "The Passion of the Christ? If so, what was your reaction?
Answer 1: No, we haven't seen the movie and have no plans to. We have a 13 year old son who originally asked to see the movie because others at his school were talking about it right as it was coming out. When I began looking into this movie, and read about the violence I knew I didn't want to see it personally and also was not comfortable with him watching such a graphic movie as well. We decided not to allow him to see the movie.
I explained to him that sometimes, when you see graphic images, or when you read graphic reports, the mental images and deep emotional responses to them can take years to overcome and I know this via personal experience. We didn‚t want him to experience something like this until he was older and had more emotional maturity.
Coincidentally, the very next morning an article in our local paper said basically the same thing that I had explained to my son! Here's a small excerpt:
Answer 2: I think some of your reaction and experiences have a lot to do with being in a community with a heavy New Agey influence, rather than living in a more diverse community, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. While The Passion and its controversy was previewed in the newspapers before it came out, by far what's taken precedence in the news and press in our area is our various local voting issues and the gay marriages.
Also, in our personal lives (my husband, my son and my own and friends) there has been very little conversation about the movie since our original decision when it first came out. My husband did mutter a brief comment on Saturday night as we were driving by the theater and saw a line of about 25 people waiting to get into to see the movie: "I wouldn't wait in line to see that movie like we did for 'Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King'". Nor have we seen or heard anyone bringing Bibles to those in line to see the movie in our area (like they did in yours). But that's about it.
As a spiritual person who practices "Debism" in "The Church of what Deb Believes" and who also happens to be a non-NewAger, non-Christian, non-Buddhist, non-Atheist (etc., etc., etc.), I'm not surprised at all to learn that Sedona had Christians passing out Bibles there, any more than I was not surprised that San Francisco got Christian protestors holding signs and passing out Bibles and Bible scriptures in front of San Francisco's City Hall because of all the gay marriages. In fact, it makes perfect sense in that strange way that it all makes sense.
But living where you do and experiencing things as you are does limit your ability to step back from the situation and see things from a more detached and diverse perspective. And with that, I think I can help you.
There is an international online community called "ArcanumCafe.com" and in their Open Discussion Forum there is one thread about "Mel Gibson's The Passion". I think you should read the responses there. There aren't that many -- only 26 replies. But, I think those 26 replies will help you gain a wider perspective on the movie. I certainly enjoyed reading the responses, the wisdom within them, and most of all, I enjoyed the overall humor about it all. It helped bring things more into perspective for me, and I think it will help you as well. (And no, I do not have a reply in that thread).
Lastly, I want to excerpt something from another article about The Passion that came out in our local newspaper the same day, another article that I found informative and that I think will help expand (as well as affirm) your comments:
"It can't be told except according to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John or ... Mel..." or me, or you David, or any of us for that matter. We all have our passions, our connection with God/Source/Spirit and it can't be expressed any other way. The Passion is the Gospel of Mel, and Mel is living Melism and attending his own Church of what Mel believes. No one has to attend his church. I live my passion and connection and it comes out a me living Debism and attending the Church of what Deb believes (and no one other than myself needs to attend that church either) -- the same way your passions come out as you living Davidism and attending your own Church of what David Believes and that would include your work at NHNE.
It may be disingenuous for any of us to think we can give the most authentic representation of anyone else's passions, except our own. And that is what [Mel] has done in this movie. I think, in the end, it's simply a matter of choice: do you see this movie, or a different one? And either is fine.
Additional excerpt from the article mentioned above:
The only thing that really needs our focus and attention is forgiveness. Forgive wherever and whatever needs forgiving. Forgive Mel for making this movie, history for being obscure, forgive the lies, the deceit. Forgive the people for being greedy and hateful, and scared; ourselves for being this way; whatever: just forgive, forgive, forgive. And if [you] feel... others should be asking for forgiveness (like Mel) and can't or aren't, then you forgiven for them, until then can.
end with this excerpt for Pathwork Lecture 201, "Demagnetizing
Negative Force Fields -- Pain Of Guilt"
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