Talk focuses on ‘Passion’

Matt Trapani

Hardly any other movie has caused such a stir as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” This movie has sparked much controversy in the media, the church and among movie-goers for its excessive violence and alleged anti-Semitic message.

Because of these controversial issues, the Offices of Mission Effectiveness, core humanities, history, theology and religious studies held a lecture on March 12 given by Dr. Mary C. Boys about “The Passion of the Christ.” Dr. Boys was part of a council which was asked to read an advanced copy of “The Passion” screenplay and submit a report. During her lecture, she discussed several issues she had with this movie.

One major issue Dr. Boys has with the film was the imagery of Jews in association with the devil. “I’m not saying this film is anti-Semitic,” she said. “There were just many exaggerations and characterizations I was not happy with.”

One such scene in the movie depicted a group of Jewish children becoming possessed by demons (and acting crazy). There were also scenes of Satan lurking among crowds of Jews.

Boys worries what these images will do for Jewish-Christian relations. She explained to the audience that in the Middle Ages, Jews were actually afraid to go outside on Good Friday or Easter Sunday for fear of being attacked by Christians who blamed Jews for Jesus’ death. She also told the story of a friend of hers, a Holocaust survivor, who held these fears as well.

“So far this film hasn’t resulted in any action,” Boys said. “But it’s bringing up memories of when Jews were attacked. There has to be some powerful imagery there.”

During her lecture, Boys brought up the Second Vatican Council, and its statement that neither the Jews of Jesus’ time nor afterward were collectively responsible for the death of Christ.

“The Church has recognized the toxic effect the story of the Passion has on Jews. They are now trying to re-educate the people about the story,” Boys said. However, Boys fears this movie may be a step backwards.

Boys also critiqued the excessive violence in the film, most notably the 20-minute “scourging” scene. Defenders of the film say that much of this violence appears in the Gospels themselves. She agrees that the Gospels report on the sufferings of Jesus, “but they do not dwell on it,” Boys said.

Boys believes that the reason for the excessive violence is because it reflects society’s movie taste today. “Violent movies are what sell,” Boys said. “After a while, even I become desensitized.”

Still, Boys does not feel it is right for so much violence to be in this movie. “There is something about watching ‘the scourge’ [scene] and seeing people eat popcorn,” she said. “Isn’t that tasteless?”

“I agree wholeheartedly that this film was overly violent,” Claire Dwyer, a senior who attended the lecture, said. “The 20-minute torture scene was intense.”

Another student who listened to Boys speak, senior Justin Schafer, said “I thought Dr. Boys brought up some good points, but she has to remember that this movie was about the crucifixion and death of Jesus; of course there’s going to be a lot of violence.”

During her lecture, Boys also spoke about some of the recent issues that have surfaced, such as the homosexual marriage issue in Massachusetts. She says that it is very difficult in our society for people to have a civil conversation about controversial issues. She described a news report she saw covering this issue in Massachusetts. “People were shouting scriptures and saying [the gays] were going to Hell. This is religion?” Boys said. “Why do we use the Bible to bludgeon people with our convictions?”

Boys concluded by saying that she hopes people will become interested in religion again as a result of this movie. However, she warned, “We can’t make this film the fifth Gospel according to Gibson.”