The Passion of the Zealots


A loose confederation of devotees to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” is in a holy lather because the film did not receive a best picture nomination this week from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

They’ve sent tens of thousands of signatures to the Academy demanding, well I guess demanding that they scrap the process of voting and just declare “The Passion” the best picture of all time and hand over a bucket full of Oscars.

While I’d defend to the death their right to raise hell on behalf of their cause, I believe the way they are going about it reveals much about the self-righteous, hypocritical and authoritarian nature of their movement.

So predisposed are they in their belief that everyone that does not have a “Jesus Saves” bumper sticker on their car is out to get them that they are happy to distort reality. They continue to insist that there is a Hollywood conspiracy to squelch “The Passion” yet barely mention (if at all) that the film received three Oscar nominations (cinematography, make-up and original score). The Web site “Passion for Fairness” says: “Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has completely snubbed The Passion of The Christ.”

Three nominations, “completely snubbed?”

Apart from the distortions and paranoia, what truly disturbs about these folks is the rhetoric. For example, take this gem from “See the Passion“: “This battle has become bigger than Mel Gibson, and even bigger than this movie itself. It is a defining moment in the Culture War for the future of our country, our civilization and the world.”

I’m sorry, but I find it hard to believe that the future of mankind is pegged to the 2004 Academy Awards. American Idol IV or the Apprentice, perhaps, but not Oscar.

In full disclosure, I have not seen any of the five nominees for “Best Picture.” In fact, I’ve seen just three of the films that received any sort of nomination. That’s not because I don’t follow cinema, I do. It’s more of a reflection of my viewing habits. I rarely go to the theater, so I tend to catch them on DVD after the nominations.

I did see “The Passion of the Christ” this past weekend. I found it to be a rousing success on a technical level, the camera work, lighting, make-up, music and costumes were undeniably excellent. But the film did not touch me on an emotional level. I frankly became numb to the brutality in much the same way as I did watching the gratuitous gore of “Dawn of the Dead.”

After viewing “The Passion,” I was genuinely puzzled that it didn’t create a backlash among the good, generous and gentle Christians of the sort that I was fortunate to have grown-up among. I can’t imagine their faith and good deeds are motivated by images of sadistic savagery, but maybe I’m wrong.

This gets right to the nub of my issue with the modern Christian evangelical movement. It seems to be driven more by anger than love, a desire for dominance rather than acceptance and the condemnation of all that do not share their view.

If you do not share my view, fair enough. I guess I’ll be cast into eternal damnation.

And if you want to further the cause of religious intolerance I suggest you visit “Passion for Fairness” and click on the credit card icons–just above where it says: “Donate today and help us impose our values on Hollywood!”

I’m sure it would make Jesus proud.

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