The Misunderstanding of the Christ

What would Jesus do? Not what Mel Gibson and Jerry Falwell are up to

Nancy K. Dutton

It’s no secret that religions have deep-seated issues with sex and violence. Al-Qaeda extremists killed 3,000 people on Sept. 11 but likely never touched a woman—all, supposedly, in the name of God. Fundamentalist Christians continue to support Bush after he lied to America so he could bomb Iraq; yet, they called for Clinton’s head when he lied about having sex. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell denounce Islam as a “violent religion” but then use Old Testament texts to prove that Christianity isn’t necessarily a peaceful one either.

“Just as there are numerous references to peace in the Bible, there are frequent references to God-ordained war…We continue to live in violent times. The Bible tells us war will be a reality until Christ returns,” explains Falwell in a Jan. 30 editorial. Judging by his logic, perhaps the God of the Bible and Allah really are the same thing. At the very least, they are both “pro-war.”

Of course, Falwell fails to mention what Jesus might say about war; but, it’s pretty clear he’d be against it—which doesn’t make that bit particularly supportive of his cause. Falwell no doubt liked God better when he was laying down plagues and wiping out whole peoples from the earth. The God that he supposedly follows—the God of love, human fellowship, forgiveness and, to repeat lest we forget again, love—doesn’t fit in well with the Christian Right agenda. Reflexively pro-war and pro-business, the Christians under Falwell, Robertson and, now, Mel Gibson, probably can’t bear to read the New Testament with its constant denunciations of hatred, intolerance and violence. They might as well attend an anti-war rally.

Speaking of Jesus and Gibson, the movie that’s supposed to be about his last hours The Passion of the Christ, has attracted a lot of controversy; but it’s been hailed as if it were the Second Coming by the Christian Right. The movie focuses on the brutality and bloodshed visited upon Jesus, cleverly usurping the message of love and brotherhood, only to replace it with the message of intolerance, sin and violence. Gibson never wants people to forget that we are ultimately responsible for his Lord crucifixion.  And by “people” I mean “the Jews.”

“I urge you all to go see it. Sure it’s rated R, but that’s only for the violence. There is no sex in this movie,” televangelist Marcus Lamb assures his Christian audience. Jesus is tortured, flagellated, crucified and killed, but luckily doesn’t try to hook up with Mary Magdalene.

The film, according to Gibson, is painstakingly accurate. Jesus is played by a dark-haired, dark-eyed actor, and the only languages spoken are Aramaic and Latin. However, the film was shot in Italy rather than Israel—a modern-day Jesus riding atop a donkey trying to enter Jerusalem would be held up at a checkpoint and asked for his identity card. And that’s if he could climb over the wall surrounding the city first.

Jesus is shaking his head at all of us. His birthplace is beset with violence, while his so-called followers have the gall to justify war and condemn peace in his name. Meanwhile, an Aussie with an outsized ego and a martyrdom complex hijacks his life story to guilt-trip all of humanity for his death.

Gibson, Falwell and Robertson should be wary of what they wish for. If Jesus does come back, he will likely be wearing a tie-dyed shirt, smoking a joint, flashing the peace sign and rocking rose-tinted glasses. And he would not want to hang out with the prudes of the Christian Coalition.

Erol N. Gulay, a Crimson editorial editor, is a social studies concentrator in Kirkland House.