The Roman occupation of Judaea was often brutal and sometimes nasty — especially when there was a perceived threat of a nationalist uprising, either political or religious. Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ tells us about the ugliness that usually accompanies conquest, empire and tyranny.
The obscenity in The Passion of the Christ lies in its assumption that this gratituous agony was the best idea the almighty God could come up with, to reconcile Himself with humankind.
The movie gives offence to Jews and Muslims, because it presents a “small” God — who is constrained to “rules” as to what He can forgive (nothing?), and whom he can forgive (for his “chosen nearly everything, and the unchosen nothing).
Over and over again the Koran proclaims: “God (Allah) is mighty, wise, compassionate, understanding, merciful!” He will forgive as He sees fit, and not according to some theological formula. He does not need a Son to die. He does not need a Son at all. God is great.
A E Thomson
Mt Wellington, Auckland
a) In the Muslim concept of God’s nature, He rules absolutely, according to capricious whim, and is not constrained by any Law (might makes right). The Judeo-Christian understanding is of a lawful and just God (might serves right): and justice demands recompense for sins, he does not just let people ‘off the hook’.
b) The Passion movie indeed touched on the failings of the Roman Empire. Is this a veiled swipe at the Iraq occupation? The word ‘tyranny’ aptly describes the murderous regime that preceded the occupation. But this is far from the main point of the movie.
c) The incarnation of Jesus as a mortal man happened to be a wonderful idea: signifying kindness, good will, love, and self-sacrifice in the Creator’s heart. Christians are able to relate to the Son of Man on a very human level, for our God is intrinsically a loving person. This is distinct from the remote and incomprehensible Muslim deity: it is apparently not even accurate to think of Allah as a person.
d) I agree that God is is mighty, wise, compassionate, understanding, merciful. That is why it is entirely consistent for Him to send His beloved Son to Earth. Indeed, the Father was separated from the Son, but I am certain that he ‘needs’ the Son no less than any father needs their son.
St. Paul was correct in his letter to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.