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The Passion

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  • holderlin66
    The Passion of the Americans By William Rivers Pitt t r u t h o u t | Perspective Friday 27 February 2004 The television airwaves have been filled for the
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 27, 2004
      'The Passion' of the Americans
      By William Rivers Pitt
      t r u t h o u t | Perspective

      Friday 27 February 2004

      The television airwaves have been filled for the last several
      days with a lot of back-and-forth about Mel Gibson's new film, 'The
      Passion of The Christ.' A great deal of debate centers around
      whether Gibson has fashioned a broadside against Jewish people in
      the manner of the Medieval anti-Semitic passion plays of old. There
      are plenty of rabbis arguing with Christian ministers on just about
      any channel you might choose to watch, so I'm going to leave that
      question to them for the time being.

      My question is much simpler: Why would Mel Gibson make a movie
      about people in the ancient Middle East and cast it with so many
      white people? To look at the central actors in this film, you'd
      think Jesus did his work near Manchester, New Hampshire instead of
      the Holy Land. The answer to that question lies within the United
      States, the prime market for this film. There are millions of
      Christians in America, some 25% of whom would characterize
      themselves as evangelical. It stands to reason that this film would
      do very well here, especially given the controversy that has
      surrounded the content.

      The whiteness of the cast, however, speaks to a decidedly un-
      Christian truth that lies near the heart of this republic. Simply
      put, nailing a white Jesus Christ to the cross on film will generate
      a far more emotional response from the American viewing public than
      the crucifixion of a savior who actually looks like he is from the
      Middle East.

      First, let's dispense with the idea that the white people who
      were cast to play the most emotive characters - Jesus, Judas, and
      Mary Magdalene - have anything to do with historical accuracy. In
      truth, the region where Jesus was born was, and remains, populated
      by brown-skinned people. The fact of Christ's non-whiteness is
      borne out in the historical record, and in biblical scripture.
      Right off the bat, the Book of Matthew describes Mary and Joseph
      fleeing to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. Egypt is in Africa,
      and is populated by brown-skinned people. For my money, this would
      be the last place on earth I would go to hide a white baby from an
      angry King.

      The earliest renditions of Jesus, painted by the first
      Christians called Essenes in the catacombs of Rome, depict a person
      with brown skin. During the time of Roman Emperor Justinian II, a
      gold coin featuring an image of Jesus was minted. This coin, which
      today can be seen in the British Museum, depicts a man with
      demonstrably non-white features and tightly curled hair. Finally,
      there is the Book of Revelations, which bears out the crafting of
      the Essenes and the Roman coin-makers by describing Jesus as having
      hair like wool, feet the color of burnt brass, and who resembled
      jasper and sardine stones. Jasper and sardine stones are both
      brown, as is burnt brass.

      The Jesus most familiar to Americans, the Jesus featured in
      Gibson's film, looks like the front man for an alternative rock band
      out of Minnesota. Judas in this film is a shorter version of the
      same phenomenon. White skin, long straight brown hair, decidedly
      European features - this is not the Jesus that preached revolution
      against the Empire long ago. This is the Jesus fashioned by
      Michelangelo five centuries ago, who used his white cousin as the
      model for the savior.

      The ugly truth which never even occurs to most Americans is
      that Jesus looked a lot more like an Iraqi, like an Afghani, like a
      Palestinian, like an Arab, than any of the paintings which grace the
      walls of American churches from sea to shining sea. This was an
      uncomfortable fact before September 11. After the attack, it became
      almost a moral imperative to put as much distance between Americans
      and people from the Middle East as possible. Now, to suggest that
      Jesus shared a genealogical heritage and physical similarity to the
      people sitting in dog cages down in Guantanamo is to dance along the
      edge of treason.

      George W. Bush calls himself Christian. If you believe him, he
      is on armchair-to-armchair relations with the Almighty, enjoying
      regular conversations with He Is What He Is on everything from tax
      policy to invasion plans. Bush serves a unique dual role as both
      the Commander in Chief and as high priest to the evangelical wing of
      American Christianity.

      When Bush did his little flight-suit strut across the aircraft
      carrier last May, he proclaimed victory in biblical verse and sent a
      signal to those Christians who see him as more than a man. Bush,
      that day, quoted Isaiah's passage from the Servant Songs about
      captives coming out and slaves being free. This is the same
      passage, as described in Luke chapter 4, which Jesus used to
      announce his coming as the Son of God. "Today this scripture has
      been fulfilled in your hearing," said Jesus. Bush's use of this
      incredibly loaded passage speaks as much to his messianic fantasies
      as it does to his status as Christian-in-Chief.

      Yet this is the same man who invades countries without cause
      and consigns tens of thousands of innocents to explosive, burning
      death. This is the same man who pushes tax policies that further
      enrich the wealthy while stripping funds and services from the
      neediest in this nation. This is the man who speaks the language of
      vengeance, of fear, of violence. This is the man whose entire moral
      existence flies in the face of Christ's words from Luke, chapter 12,
      verse 15: "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may
      be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions." Sadly, the
      skewed moral compass of George W. Bush is shared by too many
      Americans who would call themselves Christian.

      Possibly the most important words ever spoken by Jesus can be
      found in Matthew, chapter 5, verses 38-45. "You have heard that it
      was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,'" said
      Christ. "But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him
      the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let
      him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one
      mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do
      not refuse him who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was
      said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say
      to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so
      that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes
      His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just
      and on the unjust."

      It is these words that condemn both Bush and the hands-off
      moral attitude of too many American Christians. Certainly, Jesus
      was no fool. In Luke, chapter 11, verse 21, he said, "When a strong
      man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace."
      Self-protection, for person and nation, is both moral and
      intelligent. But vengeance, violence and hatred are not Christian.
      Mercy, love and generosity are the hallmarks of the teachings of
      Jesus. If you are to call yourself Christian, you must be for the
      poor and the weak, and against empire and vengeance. Period.

      These simple attributes are all too absent in the American soul
      and spirit. Gibson's white Jesus is but one example of how far we
      have strayed. It is a safe bet that, had Gibson chosen a brown-
      skinned actor to portray Jesus, his film would not find a connection
      in this country. Millions of Americans try to live by the teachings
      of Jesus, and do so with success, but find themselves at odds with
      those who carry the banner of Christianity. This is a travesty.

      Too many so-called Christians are blind to history, blind to
      the actions of our nation, blind to the hypocrisy of our so-called
      leaders, and the world bleeds because of it. Too many so-called
      Christians are people who would slaughter the savior to protect
      their power and position. Were Jesus alive today, he would probably
      nail himself to the cross to get away from all these people who act
      like barbarians in His name.
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