Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Passion Bandwagon

Well, I've finally finished Atlas Shrugged. And boy are my arms tired.
I'll share something I find interesting from the John Galt speech (p1029, softcover edition):

If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of mother whose higher value is the hat, who would prefer her child to starve and feeds him only from a sense of duty. If a man dies fighting for his own freedom, it is not a sacrifice: he is not willing to live as a slave; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of man who's willing.

I saw The Passion of the Christ last Thursday. In light of that movie, I found this quote very interesting. If Ayn Rand hadn't considered the death of Christ to be a cosmic waste of time, literature, and intellect, she might have said that his death wasn't a sacrifice: He simply gave up something good for something better.

I'd have to agree.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

-Hebrews 12.2-4

The Passion is aptly named, because it gives little back story, concentrating solely on Jesus' death. He performs one miracle at the beginning of the movie, and otherwise demonstrates how a good man might die well. Oh, and a bunch of guys beat the crap out of him. Frankly, I've seen secular films that were more inspiring that this.

The death of Jesus, in isolation, is meaningless. Most of the people who have ever lived have also died, and many of them unjustly. In one scene, while Jesus stumbles under the weight of his cross, his mother runs up to him to offer what small comfort she can. He takes her face in his hand and says, "See Mother, I make all things new!"
But we don't see. The resurrection is limited to the last 45 seconds of the film, rendered anticlimactic, far more subdued than the brutal beating we watched for the previous two hours.

And those beatings were only a mosquito bite compared to the real suffering Jesus endured that could never be captured on film: the separation of himself from the Father. Judas' guilt drove him to suicide; imagine such a guilt magnified billions of times, and one might come close to understanding the burden placed on Jesus.

So what is the point? The passage from Hebrews explains it well: my knowledge of the suffering of Jesus keeps my own life in perspective. I put up with some crap from time to time, and some of it has been my own fault--but it's nothing compared to what Jesus had to put up with... if "put up with" is even an appropriate phrase. This point is alighted upon in one of the movie's flashback scenes, when Jesus tells his disciples that they ought not expect better treatment than what he will receive.

And for those who haven't been keeping score, the Jews didn't kill Jesus. The Romans didn't kill Jesus. We did, insofar as our sin necessitated his death. I didn't encounter the idea of the Jews as a race being responsible for Jesus' death until I was in college, and at the time I thought it was quite silly. I take it more seriously now, in the realization that others take it very seriously; it's still nonsense, though.

But I digress. What was my original point? Oh, yes.
Apart from reminding myself that I shouldn't expect to get off any easier than Jesus did, I really don't see the point of dwelling on his death. "He suffered. Oh, he suffered. Look how much he suffered. He did it for you, too." Meh. Am I forever thankful? Lord, yes. But can we move on? He rose from the dead! I don't have to live by every whim of my desperately wicked heart. I can get all up in God's grill, so to speak. And you know why he died? Because he wanted to. We are the joy set before him, those who will accept his payment and embrace the freedom he gave us.

As a born-again Christian, I understood the meaning behind Jesus' statement, "I make all things new." But I also recognized that anyone who didn't have at least a familiarity with the New Testament Scripture would find that scene highly ironic, at best. So that's my major gripe with the movie: context, context, context. Context.

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