An actor whose work I enjoy, Mel Gibson, a devout Catholic, has produced a movie on the biblical Jesus’ last 12 hours–The Passion. Reports the Miami Herald:

The film, which Gibson directs, stars James Caviezel as Christ during the last 12 hours of his life and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene. The $25 million production was shot in the Aramaic language of the time, but there were subtitles for Thursday’s showing.

…Gibson said the film “was a strange mixture of the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, along with this incredible ease. Everyone who worked on this movie was changed. There were agnostics and Muslims on set converting to Christianity.” [“Faith Guided Mel Gibson Through ‘Passion'”, Jun. 29, 2003]

The Muslims won’t like that–and neither does it appear do crusading, anti-Passion groups:

This quest for fidelity has made some people nervous. Even without seeing the film, some Jewish and Catholic leaders have accused Gibson’s film of fomenting “religious animosity” and even anti-Semitism. They worried that the film might blame “the Jews” for the death of Jesus. And they requested that a panel of scholars be allowed to review the script before the film’s release.

Gibson’s defenders include Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. He wrote that he found it “puzzling and disturbing that anyone would feel licensed to attack a film of sincere faith before it has even been released.” He reminded Gibson’s liberal critics that when The Last Temptation of Christ–an attack on the historic Jesus–came out, “movie critics piously lectured Catholics to be open-minded and tolerant. Surely that advice should apply equally for everyone.”

Writes editorialist David Reagan:

…Gibson doesn’t want this to be like other “sterilized religious epic(s). I’m trying to access the story on a very personal level and trying to be very real about it.” So committed to realistically portraying what many would consider the most important half-day in the history of the universe, Gibson even shot the film in the Aramaic language of the period. In response to objections that viewers will not be able to understand that language, Gibson said, “Hopefully, I’ll be able to transcend the language barriers with my visual storytelling; if I fail, I fail, but at least it’ll be a monumental failure.”

I for one think the movie will be monumental success, in part for its graphic depiction of the death of Christ. It should also be a timeless demonstration of the most disgusting thing about Christianity: the idea of that the best of all men–according to Christian lore the “Son of God” Jesus–dying painfully on the cross for the sins of the evil. Or, to quote philosopher Ayn Rand (from a Playboy interview):

Now you want me to speak about the cross. What is correct is that I do regard the cross as the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. Isn’t that what it does mean? Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture.

For a concrete demonstration of how the good should be treated see Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

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