October 15, 2004


I finally saw The Passion of the Christ this week. I watched it at work with the A-level Religious Studies students. They like me were moved to tears and beyond. (Tip for any teacher out there: show the film at 9 in the morning, that'll wake up any students still yawning their way into the day).

Whilst agreeing with much of what Zizek says about Gibson's film in his brilliant essay Passion in the Era of Decaffeinated Belief, I think that he doesn't go nearly far enough.

Zizek is right to challenge the smug and lazy culturalist consensus that religious conviction is inherently pathological and dangerous. But he is wrong to suggest that what is most important about Passion is belief. Gibson's Gnostic vision - which is simply Christ's ethical Example rescued from the institutionalized religion that has systematically distorted it in his name - makes the two traditional supports of religious belief irrelevant. Astonishingly, The Passion of the Christ demonstrates that neither Revelation nor Tradition are important for those seeking to become-Christ(ian). What matters is not so much whether the events described in the film really happened - and there is no reason to doubt that that something resembling them did - but the life-practice which the Christ story narrates.

Life as parable.

Let's dismiss first of all the idea that the film is anti-semitic. Certainly, the first half of the film threatens to invite this interpretation. In the run-up to Jesus' arrest, the film appears to depict the Jewish religious authorities as near-subhuman monsters, while the Roman imperial powers are viewed sympathetically, as benign and puzzled observers of a distasteful local conflict amongst the people they have colonized. (In this respect, Gibson appears to buy into the anti-Jewish narrative retrospectively imposed by the RCC once it had come to its concordat with the Roman Empire and was keen to excuse its new Masters of any responsibility for the crucifixion).

But once the notorious beating scene happens, the film goes through an intensive threshold. Here, the Roman soldiers are seen to be gratuitiously cruel psychopaths, whose excessive zeal in punishing Jesus exceeds any 'duty'. It is clear by now that The Passion has no ethnic axe to grind: it is about the stupidity and cruelty of the human species, but more importantly, about an escape route from the otherwise meaningless and nihilistic cycle of abuse begetting abuse that is human History.

The Gnostic flashes that surface in the Gospels are given full weight in Gibson's film. 'My kingdom is not of this world'. But Gibson refuses to give any comfort to those life-deniers and body-haters that Nietzsche rightly exoriates in his many attacks on Christianity. There is little supernatural or transcendent dimension to The Passion's vision. If Christ's kingdom is not of this world, Gibson gives us few reasons to assume that this kingdom will be the Platonic heaven of which those tired of the body dream.

The World which Christ rejects is the World of lies, the consensual hallucination of established power and authority. By contrast, Christ's Kingdom only subsists whenever there is an Affectionate Collectivity. In other words, it exists not as some deferred supernatural reward, but in the Ethical actions of those, who in becoming-Christ, keep his spirit alive. Again, it is important to stress that this spirit is not some metaphysical substance, but a strictly material abstract machine that can be instantiated only through actions and practices. Loving God and loving others more than yourself are preconditions for dissolving your ego and gaining deliverance from the Hell of Self.

What, from one perspective, is the utter humiliation and degradation of Jesus's body is on the other a coldly ruthless vision of the body liberated from the 'wisdom and limits of the organism'.


Christ's Example is simply this: it is better to die than to pass on abuse virus or to in any way vindicate the idiot vacuity and stupidity of the World of authority.

Power depends upon the weakness of the organism. When authority is seriously challenged, when its tolerance is tested to the limit, it has the ultimate recourse of torture. The slow, graphic scenes of mindless physical degradation in The Passion of the Christ are necessary for revealing the horrors to which Jesus' organism was subject. It is made clear that he could have escaped the excruciating agony simply by renouncing his Truth and by assenting to the Authority of the World. Christ's Example insists: better to let the organism be tortured to death ('If thine own eye offend thee, pluck it out') than to bow, bent-headed, to Authority.

This is what is perhaps most astonishing about Gibson's film. Far from being a statement of Catholic bigotry, it can only be read as an anti-authoritarian AND THEREFORE anti-Catholic film. For the Pharisees of two millennia ago, puffed up in their absurd finery, substitute the child-abuser apologists of today's gilt-laden, guilt-ridden Vatican. Against all the odds, against two thousand years of cover-ups and dissimulation, The Passion of the Christ recovers the original Christ, the anti-Wordly but not otherwordly Christ of Liberation Theology: the Gnostic herald of Apocalypse Now.

Posted by mark k-p at October 15, 2004 12:20 AM




well said, it's been a surprise to watch authorities i respect chat lazy rubbish about this film.

Posted by: scott at October 15, 2004 08:49 AM



Well that was a load of self-indulgent shit.

Posted by: Paul at October 16, 2004 03:35 PM



do you think you could explain precisely what you mean paul?

Posted by: matt ingram at October 16, 2004 07:41 PM



Guess I'm just a hardcore pagan because this Jesus shit REALLY disgusts me.
Enjoyed the movie, sided with the Romans (even if some of the grunts were a bit undisciplined).

Posted by: nick at October 18, 2004 03:42 PM



Nick, with all due respect, surely the dissing of Xianity and the advocacy of Paganism are about as boring and molar as you could get. Paganism is more or less the official religion of the european master class now, isn't it, that and zen? btw, in what sense did you 'side with the Romans'? The Romans didn't have a side, they were just hand-wringing equivocating postmodernists, allowing their dirty work to be done by grunt-level male sex virus abusing psychotics. Surely the positive line in respect of the Christianity/ Christ thing - and this is entirely about hyperstitional potentials rather than historical fact or religious tradition - is the black/ Toni Morrison/ Baby Suggs Gnostic liberation theology line - better to be dead than to be an abuser.

Posted by: mark at October 18, 2004 05:49 PM



btw, I think we can assume that the lovely and aptly named Paul is a Catholic.

It's so wonderful that the victims of this atrocity-propagating superstitious child abuse blood cult confirm how rational and positive they are when their mumbo jumbo is questioned.

Posted by: mark at October 18, 2004 05:51 PM



Oh yeah, and also: CURSE THE CRUCIFIED!!! (shrieked from a revolving head)

Posted by: Nick at October 19, 2004 07:20 AM



the abusers are most often the abused

Posted by: tommy at October 19, 2004 08:32 AM



Hey, nicely done, Mark. The Gnostic Christ was simply an enlightened being reaching out with compassion to lift up others from the pit of oppression and suffering. Interesting to see some of the knee-jerk robot responses here, from both sides. Christ and the edifice of Christianity tend to be two very different things.

As PKD said, The Empire Never Died.

Posted by: lvx23 at October 20, 2004 07:40 AM



How can Scorsese's sexualised Christ be Gnostic? What could be less gnostic than that?

As for 2,000 years of Xianity.. there have been 0 years of Xianity and 2,000 years of Roman Catholic Satanism. You need to get out more, Nick, the master class are all into zen and pagan rituals these days:-). Those that aren't participating in Satanic rituals at Somerton, that is.

Posted by: mark k-p at October 21, 2004 11:45 PM



..gibson's movie was purely dogmatic with not an inch given to the gnostic christ as accorded by the nag hammadi at all:

the movie works on two basic principles of storytelling: gibson's film hits at the emotionally charged level of 'sin' and 'savior' and gibson's film uses snuff film motifs to the highest and even alluring levels (..watching the passion in montreal quebec at an imax outlet: i was deeply struck by the understanding that i was being subjected to the most successful snuff film using a major religious icon that has ever been conceived and made...)

by tapping into that most obvious zeitgeist of dead religion -- that an infinitley wise and knowing supreme entity would sit around and judge humanity based upon 'sin' seems as obsolete and as far fecth as believing that saddam hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction because this was seen by the truly mis-understood seer nostradamus -- and yet gibson's personal snuff film makes the millions and moves the masses to tears by tapping into the 'we-as-humans-are-sinful'
memetic programming that was fed to generations of forefathers whom in the name of 'g0d' slaugthered millions for not being 'like g0d's obedient children...'

...interesting that when the truly gnostic christ depicted in martin scorcese's brilliant masterpiece 'the last temptation of chirst' the movie was considered a dameon spawn by christians: jews: and catholics of fundamental underpinnings and lasted a mere two weeks before universal studios grew afraid and yanked the film from theatres: during that year of the movies aborted release martin scorcese and his immediate family had death threats issued to them because martin scorcese had dared to depict a vile and vulgar christ not accord to the king james' 'sanctified' savior of men (..and even in the re-written accounts of the king james gospels -- there exists plenty of passages that can be read as purely gnostic such as jesus telling the pharises at one point: '...but isn't it true that we are all g0ds...') that has been carefully milked into being this lifeless letter of the law and not a hair nor nair of 'spirit'...

mel gibson's the passion represents the current spiritual zeitgeist achieved by a dying dead crumbling culture -- that as long as spirituality becomes reduced to innane gibberish fed in a loop that would make the best dj envious to the masses: then 'g0d' becomes 'feared and loved...' while all spark of gnosis (..to remind -- gnosis means simply to realise that the spark of divinity already and always belonged to the individual and that the individual must undertake the great initiation to know thyself truly....) becomes diminished and dimmed as being that 'sinful nature' of man needing g0d's infinite love and guidance and threat of punishment and denial if man continues with his or hers sinful ways......

gibson's film becomes a very powerful sygil invoked to remind anyone willing to step past the rather rhetorical analysis of the film as being more than what the film has truly been: a highly memetic snuff film projected at the willful whom never want to assume accountability to their lives but wants to pan-handle along the stagnate waters of dogma and systems of dogma to spread among the other willful.,,,,,

thank you.

Posted by: Osa at October 22, 2004 03:57 AM



"the master class are all into zen and pagan rituals these days"
but the enraging thing - that which is literally life-ruining - is that once this [unutterable expletive deleted] infects you, as it soes everyone after even at the most seemingly incidental contact - ordinary and thoughtless pagan simplicity, that is to say, merely suspending acknowledgement of the most intrinsically STUPID idea ever conceived [One God] - becomes utterly impossible
only spineless submission, hysterical opposition, or pitiful and hypocritical displacement activity (pseudo zen and pagan rituals) remain as options
That's why JC - who's identity is indistinguishable from planetary One God propagation - is eternally a figure of abysmal revulsion for me - he stole my freedom in such a radical way that only species-terminating convulsion could ever bring it back
That is why this topic is the other side of our politcs row - After the ABSOLUTE spiritual violation JC represents, only a process that is as all-encompassing, impersonal, mathematical, ruthlessly indifferent to human cries and machinically momentous as k+ technocapitalism could imaginably turn things around (anything relying on human volition - such as your cold rationalism IMHO - is immediately, or even anticipatively, subverted by the toxic legacy of the Nazarene - if 'we' get a say in the future, we just stay ****ed)

Posted by: Nick at October 22, 2004 03:58 AM



Ha, ha. Declaring something as a "load of self-indulgent shit" is the height of imprecision and unmeaning. And more applicable to the comment itself than to the writing it presumes to say something about (without saying much at all).

The political battle in the United States over this film was inevitably to be located outside of the film itself. But hopefully, in this context, the externalities of the film are as fair game as the contents. And, I think, most of the criticisms leveled at this film were calculated political strategies, and not necessarily unethical ones.

To the anti-Semitism of the film (ie, of the story): what seems to have been overlooked is that the Christ story is not one in which the Jews killed God but one in which even the Jews are capable of killing God. In the Biblical context, even the Jews, the chosen people of God, the representives of best Biblical humanity had to offer, could harden their hearts to such a point where they could encourage the death of their foretold Messiah. Ie, nobody is safe from the sex-death/veil-of-tears circuit, not even the Jews. How much worse for the gentiles.

The film, though, fails to illustrate the special status of Jews to the story, and this oversimplification is similar to that made by the Catholic church for centuries, an oversimplification which isolates Jews as a block of people uniquely capable of killing God rather than integrating them into the common body of the people generally capable of killing God.

Posted by: thistle at October 22, 2004 04:21 AM



thanks Reza - actually this comment was a bit intemperate and has hopefully been superceded - sure you can raise the tone!

Posted by: nick at October 22, 2004 06:57 AM



Nick, it's strange ... your comment appears in the control panel but i can't find it here (a technical problem with moveable type i guess). plus, i did reposted all the lost comments. unfortunately, there is only one comment by Aisha on Abjad which has been lost and i can't recover it. since i have reposted all your lost comments, they don't appear in order. sorry for that.

Posted by: Reza at October 22, 2004 07:13 AM



In order to enter the meta-verse, otherwise, known as heaven, I would sumise that one would have to be neutral. Having unresolved angst, resentment,what have you, toward Christianity or any other religion for that matter shows exactly how much of your own power you have freely given away. Sounds like a dweller on the threshold of fear to me. Not that I judge, but 360 degrees from fucked up, is still fucked up. I have the opinion that heaven is right here right now. It's interesting to know so many so called pagans whom are every bit as domatic as "some" Christians. This straight jacket of binary aristotle logic is killing us as humans. Interesting post btw...thanks.

Posted by: Uncle $cam at October 27, 2004 08:15 AM



Is there any posts on here from this year?

Posted by: christy at September 19, 2005 08:15 AM



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