Sunday, September 17, 2006

Testament of the Death Squads - Good Christ, Bad Christ By GREG GRANDIN

Just a few years ago, with the release of The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson seemed to have done what centuries of religious wars and inquisitions couldn’t: unite Christians, at least conservative Christians. More than two hours of remorseless sadism, of thorns, whips and nails, washed away not just sin but theological quarrels that have defined Christianity since Luther nailed his 95 theses to the gate at Wittenberg Church.

Never mind that Gibson is Catholic. Evangelical Tim LaHaye, the author of the popular Left Behind novels, pronounced the film a “scripturally accurate account of how He really suffered for the sins of the whole world,” even though LaHaye believes Catholics to be little better than pagans who indeed would most likely be “left behind” when the Rapture came. Gibson in fact pulled off something like a modern miracle: he transubstantiated the body and blood of a humane and forgiving Jesus worshiped by less vengeful Christians -- by Catholic Workers, Social Gospel protestants, and even the manor-born Episcopalians who until recently commanded the Republican Party and helped administer the secular welfare state -- into Christ in Pain, a castigated and castigating icon that served as a common reference point for an amalgamated Religious Right. Even politically conservative Jews like David Horowitz and Michael Medved could join in the communion. Horowitz pronounced the film “awesome,” as “close to a religious experience as art can get” and a parable for the cruelties of the twentieth century.