Andrew Sullivan’S Comments
His take on The Passion has the strength and weakness of Sullivan’s writing in general. The strength: a brilliant power of analytic insight. The weakness: a tendency to overreact emotionally. Some of his very particular criticisms of The Passion were quite perceptive. I’m thinking here, chiefly, of his remark about the film’s violence. He goes back to the Greek derivation of the word “porno-graphy”—”flesh-writing”—and notices how the film focuses much more intensely on the physical chastisement of Jesus than on His kenosis, his emotional and spiritual self-emptying of His divine honor on our behalf (which is much more central to the Redemption). I can’t count how many times people have told me about this movie, “wow, no man could have endured that much.” They’re not aware of it, but they’re peddling heresy. In fact, a man did endure that much. Jesus was not a superman, in either the Nietzschean or the comic-book sense; He was a man, Who was also God. Sullivan is theologically spot-on when he says: “Theologically, the point is not that Jesus suffered more than any human being ever has on a physical level. It is that his suffering was profound and voluntary.” Now, a brief comment on the weakness of Sullivan’s comment. He accuses Gibson of going “some way toward exaggerating and highlighting . . . the dangerous anti-Semitic elements of the story,” and says that “to my mind, that is categorically unforgivable.” Now, I saw this movie, too, twice, and I was especially on the lookout for signs of anti-Semitism or an overstress on Jewish guilt. I didn’t see it—and I think if Andrew hadn’t been angry at the film on other grounds, he wouldn’t have seen it either.