Philocrites : Scrapbook : February 2004 Archive

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Movie misgivings

Quoted 02.28.04:

Critics who have recoiled at Mr. Gibson's grim vision are puzzling over the widespread positive response. They do not grasp that viewers are bringing to the film a whole store of religious beliefs and emotions, embracing and kindly as well as apocalyptic. These people are not simply going to a movie; they are going to church.

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 2.28.04, reg req'd

Friday, February 27, 2004

Pain principle

Quoted 02.27.04:

The Christ that Gibson is selling is not the Christ of the first-century scriptures, though elements of his story are drawn from them. The first-century Christ, presented primarily in the four gospels, redeemed not through his suffering, but through his death and resurrection, which promised his return. . . . The many narrative details of the gospels' passion stories deliberately echo various verses from the prophets and the psalms. Their point: that Jesus died, and was raised, according to the Scriptures. The matching of event to ancient prophecy established, for the evangelists and for their communities, the authority of their stories.

Gibson missed the evangelists' point. His opening screen flashes a verse from Isaiah 53: "He was wounded for our transgressions; by his stripes we are healed." What served as prophetic authorization for the gospels' proclamation, Gibson takes as an invitation to explore, in lurid and lingering detail, how a human body would look if pulped, pummeled, and flayed. . . .

Gibson's Christ, a theological figure whose origins lie in late medieval Europe, saves not through dying so much as through endless, unspeakable, unbearable suffering.

Paula Fredriksen, New Republic Online 2.27.04, sub req'd

Pure pornography

Quoted 02.27.04:

I wouldn't say that this movie is motivated by anti-Semitism. It's motivated by psychotic sadism. But Gibson does nothing to mitigate the dangerous anti-Semitic elements of the story and goes some way toward exaggerating and highlighting them. To my mind, that is categorically unforgivable. Anti-Semitism is the original sin of Christianity. Far from expiating it, this movie clearly enjoys taunting those Catholics as well as Jews who are determined to confront that legacy. In that sense alone, it is a deeply immoral work of art.

Andrew Sullivan 2.26.04

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Why is The Passion of the Christ so controversial?

Quoted 02.26.04:

Gibson in effect has given us an extreme concentration of the sadomasochistic element in Catholic iconography with most of the spirituality left out.

Robert Alter and Stephen Prothero, Slate 2.26.04

The worship of blood: Mel Gibson's lethal weapon

Quoted 02.26.04:

The only cinematic achievement of The Passion of the Christ is that it breaks new ground in the verisimilitude of filmed violence. The notion that there is something spiritually exalting about the viewing of it is quite horrifying. The viewing of The Passion of the Christ is a profoundly brutalizing experience. Children must be protected from it. (If I were a Christian, I would not raise a Christian child on this.) Torture has been depicted in film many times before, but almost always in a spirit of protest. This film makes no quarrel with the pain that it excitedly inflicts. It is a repulsive masochistic fantasy, a sacred snuff film, and it leaves you with the feeling that the man who made it hates life. . . .

Gibson created this movie; it was not revealed to him. Like his picture of Jesus, his picture of the Jews is the consequence of certain religious and cinematic decisions for which he must be held accountable. He has chosen to give millions of people the impression that Jews are culpable for the death of Jesus. In making this choice, which defies not only the scruples of scholars but also the teaching of the Catholic Church, Gibson has provided a fine illustration of the cafeteria Catholicism of the right. And the American media, which flourish by confusing gullibility with curiosity, go merrily along. A few weeks ago the cover of Newsweek asked, over a closeup of Caviezel crowned with thorns, "who really killed jesus?" The article inside the magazine exonerated us, so we are safe. But is this really the question facing America? Up next: Should his blood be upon us and our children or shouldn't it? We'll be back right after this message.

Leon Wieseltier, New Republic 3.8.04

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Religion writers praise, pan Gibson's 'Passion'

Quoted 02.25.04:

Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher 2.25.04

Mel Gibson's 'Passion'

Quoted 02.25.04:

[I]n their embrace of “The Passion,” Evangelical Protestants are celebrating a portrayal of Jesus that visually and theologically—in every way, perhaps, except in the wail, thunder, and thud of John Debney’s deafening score—is flamboyantly, counter-Reformationally Roman. This film is awash in Catholic piety and Catholic imagery that the forebears of today’s evangelicals would have found religiously and esthetically repugnant. As I write, “The Passion” is being embraced most warmly by Bible Belt churches where, down to this day, the faithful kneel before crosses without corpses. What has come over them?

Jack Miles, Beliefnet 2.24.04

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

An obscene portrayal of Christ's passion

Quoted 02.24.04:

There is no resurrection in this film. A stone is rolled back, a zombie-Jesus is seen in profile for a second or two, and that's it. But there is a reason for this. In Gibson's theology, the resurrection has been rendered unnecessary by the infinite capacity of Jesus to withstand pain. Not the Risen Jesus, but the Survivor Jesus. Gibson's violence fantasies, as ingenious as perverse, are, at bottom, a fantasy of infinite male toughness.

The inflicting of suffering is the action of the film, and the dramatic question is: How much pain can Jesus take? The religious miracle of this Passion is that he can take it all. Jesus Christ Superstoic.

James Carroll, Boston Globe 2.24.04

Monday, February 23, 2004

Unsafe in any state

Quoted 02.23.04:

[From the archives:] Ralph Nader's campaign is reckless, its justifications specious and its consequences possibly irreparable. But it does allow fundamentalist leftists to keep living in their dream world.

Todd Gitlin, Salon 10.28.00, via Jake Rosenfeld at Political Aims 2.22.04

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Seeing through the other's eyes

Quoted 02.22.04:

Jews and Christians cannot watch The Passion with the same eyes, but we can watch it with the same heart. We can watch it with the love of the same God who bestows different gifts upon different people but the same hope to all humanity.

If this happens, then the approaching celebrations of Easter and Passover will not be idle rituals. Instead, they will be transforming fires out of which we can emerge speaking calmly about the ways we're different and singing joyfully about the ways we are all the same.

Marc Gellman and Thomas Hartman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram 2.22.04

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Sex, lies, and Republicans

Quoted 02.21.04:

Bush’s allies are attacking Kerry with everything from a phony Jane Fonda photo to a sickening attack on triple amputee Max Cleland.

Dan Kennedy, Boston Phoenix 2.26.04

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Same-sex couples giving walk down aisle much thought

Quoted 02.19.04:

Kay, 51, and Saville, 53, have waited to wed for over 20 years. They dream of an elegant Saturday-night affair with 100 to 150 friends and relatives. But depending on the future outlook for gay marriage, which could be replaced by civil unions or banned altogether in coming years, they may scale down the ceremony.

Their world won't change significantly when they get the piece of paper that declares them a couple in the eyes of the law. They will still enjoy a solidly middle-class life in their South Chelmsford home, where their living room decor currently gives equal time to singer Bonnie Raitt and the New England Patriots. ("We own a home in the suburbs, have Super Bowl parties, mow our lawn, play golf, gossip with our neighbors in the backyard," Kay says. "This is our alternative lifestyle.")

Tom Spoth, Lowell Sun 2.15.04

Utah's petty little stand can't stop gay-marriage avalanche

Quoted 02.19.04:

Utah can take its petty little stand. It may as well put up a picket fence to stop an avalanche.

Same-sex marriage is way beyond one state's grasp. This is a national movement, a social upheaval. Put your ear to the ground and hear it.

Remember, that's 3,000 couples in one week. Just try sending them back to the closet.

Holly Mullen, Salt Lake Tribune 2.19.04

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

N.H. bill targets same-sex marriage

Quoted 02.18.04:

[Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay man elected a bishop of the Episcopal Church,] called the bill a misplaced effort.

"If the proposers of Senate Bill 427 were really interested in protecting marriage, they would be focused on the failing economy, which requires husbands and wives to work two and three jobs to make ends meet," he said."If this were really about protecting marriage, they would be proposing a resolution not to recognize weddings performed at Las Vegas wedding chapels for people who had just a bit too much to drink. Can we all agree that Britney Spears did more to undermine the institution of marriage in the 55 hours between when she said `I do' and `I don't' than any gay or lesbian couple?"

James W. Pindell and Yvonne Abraham, Boston Globe 2.18.04

Rep. Barney Frank opposed San Francisco's gay marriage effort

Quoted 02.18.04:

[Frank, a gay congressman from Massachusetts, said that] San Francisco's decision to promote civil disobedience and allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain marriage licenses promotes the notion that unpopular laws can be broken or ignored.

"We have something real to defend here," Frank said of the [Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court] decision and efforts to stop the federal constitutional amendment. "When you're in a real struggle, San Francisco making a symbolic point becomes a diversion."

Beth Fouhy [AP], 2.18.04

Is Jean-Bertrand Aristide still a priest?

Quoted 02.18.04:

[Only metaphysically.]

Brendan I. Koerner, Slate 2.17.04

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Religion losing to youth sports on weekends

Quoted 02.17.04:

On a recent Sunday, Alice Gelwan, a resident of Manhattan's Upper East Side, allowed her daughter to skip Hebrew school so she could take gymnastics lessons with a private teacher at Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex, an 80,000-square-foot indoor arena in Manhattan.

"This is much better," said Gelwan, as she watched her daughter. "At Hebrew school, they give them a snack and go ramble about something that happened 500,000 years ago; but here, they are strengthening family ties, building friendships and self-esteem, and they know their parents are proud as can be."

Tatsha Robertson, Boston Globe 2.16.04

In search of the elusive swing voter

Quoted 02.17.04:

"A basic postulate of American politics today," says the political demographer Mark Gersh, a Democratic strategist, "is that the swing vote is much, much smaller than it used to be." Strategists in both parties have narrowed their focus to no more than 10 percent of the electorate (some have narrowed it even further), and both parties plan to seriously contest only about fifteen states in November.

Joshua Green, Atlantic Monthly 1/2.04

Monday, February 16, 2004

Dean pushes on ahead without campaign chairman

Quoted 02.16.04:

But campaign officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Dean as torn between his pragmatic conclusion that the race is about over and his emotional attachment to the fight itself and his supporters. For the moment, emotions and a fighting instinct are holding sway.

And the signs on the campaign trail -- huddled meetings involving aides, the absence of a formal schedule beyond Tuesday and dozens of empty chairs at events such as one in Racine, Wis., on Saturday -- indicate the end is near for a candidacy that just six weeks ago was first in polls, fund raising and momentum.

Ross Sneyd [AP], 2.16.04

What does Dean mean?

Quoted 02.16.04:

One of the big unknowns of the coming election is this: where will the Dean supporters go when their man calls it a day? Granted, there aren't as many of them as we once thought, but they're numerous enough, they're energetic, and they're mad as hell at Bush. But do they love Dean more than they hate the president?

Julian Brookes, MoJo Blog [Mother Jones] 2.13.04

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Southern Baptists bring New York their gospel

Quoted 02.15.04:

More than 75 percent of evangelical Christian churches in America have stopped growing or started shrinking, and in the Southern Baptists' home region growth in church membership is nearly flat, said Bob Reccord, president of the denomination's mission board.

So church leaders decided to focus their efforts in other parts of the country, where denomination officials now estimate its growth at about 12 percent a year. . . .

The campaign began with Chicago in 2000 and moved on to Phoenix, Boston, Las Vegas and Miami. Now New York will be the site of its biggest push yet.

David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times 2.15.04, reg req'd

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

What happens to Clark's delegates?

Quoted 02.11.04:

Brendan I. Koerner, Slate 2.11.04

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Who killed Jesus?

Quoted 02.10.04:

Mel Gibson's powerful but troubling new movie, "The Passion of the Christ," is reviving one of the most explosive questions ever. What history tells us about Jesus' last hours, the world in which he lived, anti-Semitism, Scripture and the nature of faith itself.

Jon Meacham, Newsweek 2.16.04

Sunday, February 8, 2004

Who was Martin Luther King Jr?

Quoted 02.08.04:

It is precisely this power of ''illiberal'' religion to further liberal ends that transfixes David L. Chappell in ''A Stone of Hope.'' . . .

This is the heart of Chappell's argument: prophetic religion was the powerful trump card of black insurgency, steeling activists with the morale needed for the long struggle. Early in the bus boycott, King put the case for action in prophetic terms at odds with those of white Christian pacifists and perfectionists: ''It is not enough for us to talk about love . . . There is another side called justice. . . . Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.''

King was not alone in this gritty realism. Chappell sees it also in Fannie Lou Hamer, who knew the evil of the Mississippi police who tortured her and the goofiness of the idea that they would surrender to lofty arguments. Aggressive action was key to the young John Lewis's definition of nonviolence. For Bayard Rustin, nonviolence entailed not ''moral purism or faith in the oppressor's conscience'' but coercion and suffering.

Jonathan Rieder, New York Times Book Review 2.8.04, reg req'd

Showing them who's boss: David Frum and Richard Perle's An End to Evil

Quoted 02.08.04:

Frum and Perle want transformation from 30,000 feet, without the moral taint of compromise. They scorn the diplomats who must deal with foreigners, not to mention the foreigners themselves. If the world's support is lacking in this struggle, they write, ''then we have to say . . . 'very well, alone.' '' But can the United States do it alone? If you believe in bolstering moderate Muslims, you cannot do things that make them hate you. If you want to transform Iraq, you need help from others, as the administration is belatedly learning. Even in places where Washington can wage a war (mostly) alone, its allies have been mighty helpful in building the peace. The European Union has spent more money in postwar Afghanistan than the United States, and the Afghan national army is being trained today by two countries -- the United States and France.

Fareed Zakaria, New York Times Book Review 2.8.04, reg req'd

A 'Southern strategy' for Democrats: Winning without the religious right

Quoted 02.08.04:

Rather than try to stroke the religious passions of the South, the Democrats' best strategy may be to stand back and let the Republicans bind themselves to their ecclesiastical allies. When the first President George Bush allowed his party to do so at their national convention in Houston in 1992 -- evangelists were given the podium, and Patrick Buchanan was allowed to declare a cultural war on the Democrats -- it provoked indignation across much of the country and contributed to a Republican defeat.

Curtis Wilkie, Boston Globe 2.8.04

Saturday, February 7, 2004

G.O.P. revives line of attack against Kerry

Quoted 02.07.04:

"It is hard to demonize as an irresponsible leftist a man who has locked up criminals and shot communists," [Representative Barney] Frank said.

Robin Toner, New York Times 2.5.04 (reg req'd)

Friday, February 6, 2004

Sparks fly as U. rejects an LDS studies scholar

Quoted 02.06.04:

History teachers at the University of Utah see no "intellectual or cultural merit in Mormonism," says U. religious historian Colleen McDannell. As proof, she points to the recent rejection of a controversial Mormon studies scholar for a Utah history position.

In a Feb. 3 letter to U. administrators, McDannell said her colleagues' refusal to hire D. Michael Quinn, a Yale-educated author and excommunicated Mormon, is "blatant discrimination" and might be "actionable."

McDannell added: "The absence on this campus of scholarly attention to Mormon history, theology and practice is profound."

Peggy Fletcher Stack and Linda Fantin, Salt Lake Tribune 2.6.04

Sleeping with the GOP

Quoted 02.06.04:

Roger Stone, the longtime Republican dirty-tricks operative who led the mob that shut down the Miami-Dade County recount and helped make George W. Bush president in 2000, is financing, staffing, and orchestrating the presidential campaign of Reverend Al Sharpton.

Wayne Barrett et al., Village Voice 2.5.04

Thursday, February 5, 2004

The myth of the God Gulf

Quoted 02.05.04:

[T]here is no God Gulf. It's a myth. Yes, there are significant differences between the approaches of Democratic and Republican voters on religion, but much political analysis has misstated what's actually going on.

What we have seen is not a faith gap but a church attendance gap. Study after study have indeed showed that those who attend worship services regularly do vote Republican and those who don't, vote Democratic. . . .

But church attendance is just one aspect of religiosity. When that same poll asked about "prayer outside of worship" the gap shrunk dramatically, with 67 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats reporting that they pray daily or more often. . . .

Sitting in the pews may not be important to many Democrats, but God and prayer are. In fact, talking about faith may be critical for Democratic candidates to overcome the attendance gap.

Steven Waldman and John Green, Beliefnet 2.4.04

I pray for the end of the National Prayer Breakfast

Quoted 02.05.04:

The Washington Hilton ballroom is today's equivalent of the "street corners" on which hypocrites used to pray "so that they may be seen by others." If the National Prayer Breakfast were transformed into an annual celebration of ecumenical cooperation--with Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others jointly vowing to respect each other--that might be one thing. Its current status as a celebration of public self-congratulation is another. Jesus, surely, would run from the National Prayer Breakfast in disgust, perhaps overturning a few tables on the way.

Gregg Easterbrook, Easterblogg 2.5.04

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Praise the Lord! (and Howard Dean, too)

Quoted 02.04.04:

I am a born-again liberal. That is, my politics are liberal and two years ago I was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Maine, while the congregation of my church stood on the sand and sang "Amazing Grace."

Kathleen Fox, Newsweek 2.9.04 via Holy Weblog!

Winning isn't everything

Quoted 02.04.04:

At some point, either Clark or Edwards will have to prove that he can win the support of Democratic voters in states in which the Democratic nominee will actually have to campaign in the general election. Clark may be the choice of Oklahoma Democrats, but Oklahoma hasn't cast its electoral votes for a Democratic presidential candidate since LBJ's 1964 landslide. South Carolina has been a solid GOP bet for decades—it was one of the five states to go for Goldwater in '64—though it did side with Jimmy Carter in 1976. Granted, Edwards demonstrated the ability to garner significant support in Iowa, but Iowa hasn't gone Republican since Ronald Reagan's 1984 rout of Walter Mondale.

In the general-election swing states of New Hampshire, Arizona, Missouri, and New Mexico, the combined number of Clark and Edwards voters fell far short of the number of Kerry voters—by double-digit percentages in each state except Arizona, where Kerry still garnered 9 percent more voters than Clark and Edwards put together.

Chris Suellentrop, Slate 2.4.04

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Church organists behaving badly

Quoted 02.03.04:

The tunes — reported to range from the EastEnders theme to Dambusters at a Remembrance Day service — are usually disguised and intended to amuse only those in the know. Matthew Redman, 35, a regular organist at Wells Cathedral in Somerset, was inspired by Monty Python to pay homage with the song Every Sperm is Sacred before Evensong.

Suzanne Leigh, BBC News Online 2.2.04

Monday, February 2, 2004

We see that now

Quoted 02.02.04:

We confess. It's all true. Everything you say. We trafficked in hate. We did it in anger. Just as you said, Mr. Kristol, Mr. Krauthammer, Mr. Brooks: We poisoned the airwaves and befouled the sheets of our nation's most august publications. We attacked a sitting president, impugned his integrity, smeared his family, invaded his privacy, tried desperately to drag him down to our own filthy, rock-bottom, sewer-dwelling level.

Tony Hendra, American Prospect 2.1.04

Pope on Gibson movie: Was it as it was?

Quoted 02.02.04:

Not even the most rabid ultramontanist believes papal infallibility extends to movie reviews, so the film will rise or fall on its own merits, apart from anything John Paul thinks. . . .

Yet there are times when a story is important not so much for its content as for what it reveals about the players involved, and the institutions they serve. Such is the case with the pope’s alleged comment, and I’m afraid it doesn’t reveal much flattering about anyone.

John L. Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter 1.30.04

How Democrats can talk of religion

Quoted 02.02.04:

Politicians who talk about religion need to explain why it's relevant to their qualifications for public office. Dean got caught in a common journalistic trap when interviewers started pelting him with questions that belong more on a Christian e-dating site: What's your favorite book of the New Testament? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? What about eternal salvation? Do you feel like Job? Candidates clearly can't control what questions journalists choose to ask. But if they are focused on providing clear answers about their personal faith informing their political life, both they and voters will benefit.

Amy Sullivan, Philadelphia Inquirer 2.1.04

Sunday, February 1, 2004

The myth of runaway taxes

Quoted 02.01.04:

The tax burden is the share of income that goes to pay state and local taxes. In [Massachusetts in] 2004 those taxes consumed about 10 percent of personal income -- exactly the same percentage they consumed in 1964. . . .

In the most recent quarter, the federal tax burden -- taxes as a share of gross domestic product -- was 16 percent. The number is lower than it was when President Bush took office. It's even lower than it was when Ronald Reagan was president. In fact, you have to go back to the administration of Harry Truman, the spring of 1950 to be exact, to find a time when the federal tax burden was lighter than it is today.

Charles Stein, Boston Globe 2.1.04