I was rather surprised by Charles Krauthammer's column in the Washington Post this morning, not so much by his pointed criticism of Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ -- that was all certainly legitimate, it seemed to me, although I haven't seen the film and am unlikely to in a theater. (I have seen Jesus of Montreal, which I quite enjoyed and highly recommend, but I never got around to seeing Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ -- I think the idea of David Bowie playing Pilate and John Lurie as James put me off.) In any case, Gibson is merely a filmmaker -- he has either made a good movie or a poor one, and, as I haven't seen it, I won't bother to speculate on which. (Yes, it's also possible, I believe, to have made an immoral film -- Leni Riefensthal's Triumph of the Will comes to mind immediately -- and I think that's ultimately what Krauthammer is getting at.) What I found interesting was his introduction, which seems to suggest that the Gospels themselves are the problem:
Every people has its story. Every people has the right to its story. And every people has a responsibility for its story.
Muslims have their story: God's revelation to the final prophet. Jews have their story: the covenant between man and God at Sinai.
Christians have their story too: the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Why is this story different from other stories? Because it is not a family affair of coreligionists. If it were, few people outside the circle of believers would be concerned about it. This particular story involves other people.
As I recall, other people--including the Jews (whom Krauthammer suggests come off badly in the New Testament)--figure in the Qur'an as well.
What interests me most, though, is that Krauthammer limits Christianity's story to the crucifixion and resurrection. It seems to me that one of the more important aspects of Christianity is the notion that God chose to live among his creatures as one of them -- the know a mother's touch, to learn to crawl and walk and speak, to suffer all the vicissitudes and joys of childhood, adolescence and adulthood -- before finally giving up his life for those who persecuted him. (The most powerful part of the passion for me has always been Peter denying that he follows Jesus three times -- the rock on which the Church was to be built crumbled in the clutch. Human, all too human...)
Can the "story" of Christianity exclude the sermon on the mount? The parables? The miracles?
I assume Krauthammer's introduction was mere rhetoric (in 800 words, how sophisticated can one be), but it was odd to read it nevertheless...Posted by Ideofact at March 5, 2004 11:51 PM