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Saturday, February 28, 2004

Prothero on Gibson. Again!

Stephen Prothero couldn't have written American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon at a better time [Amazon; Powells; Harvard]. He's everywhere on Mel Gibson's Passion: Dialoging with Biblical scholar Robert Alter for Slate, writing "Honest to Jesus" about the history of American images of Jesus for last Sunday's Boston Globe Ideas section, and now he has a fine essay in the New York Times Magazine"The Personal Jesus". Do read it. One of his key observations:

One puzzle of the reception of the film thus far is why born-again Christians have given such a big thumbs up to what is so unapologetically a Catholic movie. Why are they putting their grass-roots organizations at the beck and call of the producer formerly known as Mad Max, buying tickets by the thousands for an R-rated film? Why are they lauding an image of Jesus that owes as much to medieval passion plays and Hollywood action movies as it does to the Gospels, that runs so hard against the Protestant grain?

The culture wars no doubt have something to do with the evangelicals' decision to close ranks with Gibson, who must be commended for so adroitly spinning the debate over his depiction of Jews into a battle between secular humanists and true believers. The evangelicals' ''amen'' to the movie may demonstrate that conservative Protestants have bought more into Hollywood's culture of violence than they would like to admit. Or that, while anti-Semitism is still alive in the United States, anti-Catholicism is finished.

P.S. Down at the bottom of the page, there's a great text ad from an independent group called the Universalist Christians Association that says God is not a sadist — and adds, "Not all Christians believe that God torments sinners for all eternity." Indeed!

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 28 February 2004 at 9:24 PM

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February 29, 2004 02:17 AM | Permalink for this comment


I have to commend you on the outsanding collection of posts and links about Gibson's movie. I got here Googling to get an excrpt from the (subscription only) TNR article "Pain Principle," which you indeed excerpted.

And lo and behold I found a slew of other insightful and intersting pieces about the Gibson movie.

I was hoping to get some answer to the questions about why Protestant evangelicals were so quick to laud a movie that their forebears would have seen as being too Catholic, and I think from the essays you've linked too (Especially the Prothero piece in the NYT Magazine and a few others), that I have a better handle on it.

Thanks for thinking, reading, writing, and linking about this issue.



February 29, 2004 08:24 AM | Permalink for this comment

Prothero is a religious scholar and *still* doesn't know that *marriage is not a Protestant sacrament for most denominations*? The two sacraments are baptism and the Eucharist, *NOT* marriage and the Eucharist, at least according to both my own Lutheran upbringing and my husband's Calvinist background. The rest of what he's saying sounds sensible, but I have to say, this is a very, very basic error. (And one that is not unrelated to the rest of our cultural debates of the moment.)


February 29, 2004 10:29 AM | Permalink for this comment

Mris, good catch!

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