Barbara’s pissed. She’s referring to a discussion on the Flips list where one poster referred to — and I can’t remember the exact phrase — Christian basket cases. (I had a sarcastic response to her offlist, so I may very well be one of those name-callers.) This prompted various responses, of which Barbara’s measured, sober post is one.
I’m not really in any position to criticize Catholicism — I was raised in a Protestant, United Church of Christ-affiliated household — but I do clearly see Barbara’s point. There is little room, it seems, for such a thing as the critical Filipino Catholic (or even generic Christian) to exist; the operative animal metaphor constantly used is that of sheep. (In anthropology, there is a somewhat parallel tendency to try to keep “explaining” religious behavior — giving rise to the implication that belief in the seemingly irrational is a philosophical/cultural “problem” to begin with, without having to take religious experience very seriously.) And as someone who was quite active in the church during high school and college — yes, Campus Crusade got their paws on me, but more about that later — I fully recognize and understand the deep, rational significance of religion in daily life. And there’s no need to remind readers of the importance of liberation theology to the progressive movement in the Philippines.
Having written that, I share Leny’s concern with how Mel Gibson’s film could be easily appropriated by the U.S. rightwing — and you all know how I feel about the right. Leny writes:
Whereas it is possible to interpret the movie as a call to Christians to embark on an inner spiritual journey, they might substitute a historical event-turned-Hollywood movie, as further license to tell people to take up the cause of the religious right in the arena of politics and culture. There is a fear of the “other” – the one who is not a conservative Christian, who is not white, who is an immigrant, who is poor, who is not straight – that turns that fear into the creation of an undesirable enemy who needs to be either converted or annihilated.
Her words (which, quite honestly, sounded alarmist at first) echo in my head as I read Michael J. Brown’s article for Spirit Daily entitled “Gibson Saw ‘Big Dark, Palpable, Force’ While Filming The Passion,” forwarded to the Flips list — and I’m afraid I can’t quote it in full, and I can’t find it online either — but hopefully you folks would find it enlightening. The article begins:
This is not just the story of a movie. If it were, we wouldn’t be covering it so regularly. No, this matter with Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ and the extraordinary hoopla is a religious event that can be
classed only as major spiritual warfare.
It comes at a time when there is an infusion of grace and also a step-up in the battle with evil.
I hardly need to connect the dots for you folks to recognize the implications of that statement.
Brown peppers his essay with loaded references, calling the New York Times as “no great friend to Catholicism” and Hollywood as “the belly of the beast” — two institutions long talked about as being “run by Jews.” But Brown himself would argue that the enemy here is really none other than Satan (and his minions, who happen to be…?):
Soon, some Jewish organizations (by no means all) were screaming that in portraying the role of Jews in the Crucifixion… Gibson was acting in a way that was anti-Semitic.
Chalk that up as another spiritual attack. The hallmarks of Satan include confusion, division, fear, and the devil’s specialty of false accusation.
Later he writes: “There was the unfortunate flap over whether the Pope had endorsed it. The devil used this in an effort to besmirch both the Vatican and Gibson.” Brown’s cold, for-us-or-against-us, no-questions-asked rhetoric is obviously reminiscent of, well, one of my Great Satans.
(Some of you may be amused by Brown’s words elsewhere:
We all have gone through runs of “bad luck” — from time to time we all find ourselves under a cloud — and often it’s difficult to discern why this occurs. Sometimes it’s simply a period of testing (again, think Job!). At other times it’s our own fault because we’ve allowed dark forces to infiltrate. This can happen when someone brings occult or pornographic books into a home, views the wrong kind of videos, dabbles in things like astrology, or associates too closely with people who are carrying darkness — sinfulness, the demonic — around with them. [Emphasis his.]
You’ll need to see the entire article to put the quote in context, though.)
In any case, I feel no need to give any more money to Gibson. Yes, I know, I know, I haven’t seen it and I should see it before I make any judgements, and it may indeed be a spiritually transcendent experience — but I know my cash will be funding something unsavory in the long run. It’s already become one of those films that one feels pressure to see precisely because discourse is already exhausted prior to its being shown. Besides, wouldn’t you rather see Starsky and Hutch instead?