Thursday, February 26, 2004

Potemra on Sullivan and "The Passion"

Mike Potemra hit it on the head when he talked about Andrew Sullivan's review of Mel Gibson's The Passion.

His take on The Passion has the strength and weakness of Sullivan’s writing in general. The strength: a brilliant power of analytic insight. The weakness: a tendency to overreact emotionally. Some of his very particular criticisms of The Passion were quite perceptive. I’m thinking here, chiefly, of his remark about the film’s violence. He goes back to the Greek derivation of the word “porno-graphy”—“flesh-writing”—and notices how the film focuses much more intensely on the physical chastisement of Jesus than on His kenosis, his emotional and spiritual self-emptying of His divine honor on our behalf (which is much more central to the Redemption). I can’t count how many times people have told me about this movie, “wow, no man could have endured that much.” They’re not aware of it, but they’re peddling heresy. In fact, a man did endure that much. Jesus was not a superman, in either the Nietzschean or the comic-book sense; He was a man, Who was also God. Sullivan is theologically spot-on when he says: “Theologically, the point is not that Jesus suffered more than any human being ever has on a physical level. It is that his suffering was profound and voluntary.” Now, a brief comment on the weakness of Sullivan’s comment. He accuses Gibson of going “some way toward exaggerating and highlighting . . . the dangerous anti-Semitic elements of the story,” and says that “to my mind, that is categorically unforgivable.” Now, I saw this movie, too, twice, and I was especially on the lookout for signs of anti-Semitism or an overstress on Jewish guilt. I didn’t see it—and I think if Andrew hadn’t been angry at the film on other grounds, he wouldn’t have seen it either.

That's what has begun to bother me about Sullivan. He can be logical, insightful and concise when he wants to be, but if he brings "emotional baggage" into a topic, his rational side submerges beneath a sea of roiling emotions. I can't help but think his attitude toward religious conservatives as a result of the Federal Marriage Amendment has colored his perception of this film. Yet, all that being said, I haven't seen it yet, so perhaps I should withold judgement. If my opinion ends up being closer to Sullivan than that of the majority of folks over at National Review, I'll let it be known.

Finally, on a lighter note, I can't resist this...Check out this 1971 Doonesbury strip.(thanks to NRO's the Corner).

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