Saturday, August 04, 2007

NOT PEACE BUT A SWORD. Rod Dreher thinks the trouble with religion today is it's not masculine enough. After a quote about how there are too many women at services, Dreher preaches:
I believe one reason so many male Christians responded deeply to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was because it depicted a masculine Jesus who chose to endure excruciating pain to rescue those he loved. The Christian faith teaches that this is what Jesus did, but somehow the intense physical courage that that act of love required is easy to overlook. Gibson didn't overlook it. The Jesus Christ of his film embodied manliness par excellence: a strong, brave man who was willing to suffer and die to save others. After I saw that film in a press preview, then went to Ash Wednesday services and heard the plush priest give a homily about how Lent is really supposed to be about learning to love ourselves more, I wanted to slug the guy.
This helps me understand the appeal not only of The Passion of the Christ, but also of contemporary action movies in which the hero emerges after numberless beatings and explosions to kick the ass of Evil. This certainly makes The Passion more interesting than I originally thought. Jesus got more savage treatment than even John McClane gets in the Die Hard movies, and in an age before gunpowder. But since the Biblical conventions made it impossible for Gibson's Jesus to go out and beat hell out of his persecutors, The Passion left its audiences to carry a dream of vengeance out of the theatre and into the world. One of Dreher's sources writes that a Mass "must be a certain kind of ritual. It must be majestic, soaring, even martial. It must challenge and call you on." No wonder Dreher hates the happy-clappy stuff: when one's God has been torn to bits, Christian Soldiers go not inward but Onward.

I have generally assumed that the agon of action heroes was something through which fans released the little frustrations of their lives, but I begin to see that for the devout it may actually be an animated version of the Stations of the Cross.

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