The Passion of the Christ

Mark Steyn’s movie article this week is a review of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, in honor if its 10 year anniversary.  In it, he reminds us that Mel did it all by himself, with his own money, and without a distribution deal to get it into theaters.  Mark mentions that the film’s budget was $30 million.  This made me curious about how much it made.  Being as it was 100% Mel’s, I presume that he got to keep something like half of what it brought in.  So I went to that handy-dandy web site, the Internet Movie Data Base, and found this page, detailing the Box office (it includes rentals, as well).  The movie came out in February 2004, and the totals given accumulate through March of 2005.  In America alone, over the course of that year, it brought in $371 million; rentals were $204 million.

By May of 2004, it had brought in £10 million (Britain), €20 in Italy, 117 million of whatever they use in the Philippines, and 40 million in Polish money.  The haul in Russia was 91 million rubles.  It was even raking it in, to a some what lesser degree, in the United Arab Emirates.

Wikipedia tells us that he spent $15 million  on marketing. That, plus the $30 million it cost to make the picture adds up a rounding error, compared to what it made. The theaters had to be paid to screen it, of course, as well.  But the picture made just short of a billion bucks in a year.  Here’s Mark:

The headline on the Washington Post review summed it up: “‘Passion‘ Is A Gory Take On A Gentle Teacher’s Violent End”. Somebody’s confusing their Gospel withGodspell. A few days before the “violent end”, the gentle teacher had been hurling tables around in the temple. And, even if you overlook the rough stuff, rhetorically Christ was as forceful as He was gentle.

That’s the real argument over The Passion Of The Christ. It’s not between Christians and Jews, but between believing Christians and the broader post-Christian culture….

After a few hilarious insights, he gets to my point:

Strictly as a commercial proposition, Wimp Jesus is a loser: the churches who go down that path are emptying out and dying. Those who believe in Christ the Redeemer are, comparatively, booming, and ten years ago Mel Gibson made a movie for them. If Hollywood was as savvy as it thinks it is, it would have beaten him to it. But it isn’t so it didn’t. And as most studio execs had never seen an evangelical Christian except in films where they turn out to be paedophiles or serial killers, it’s no wonder they were baffled by The Passion‘s success.

Not just its success due to its subject matter; success in the face of Hollywood actively working to not allow Mel to get the thing into theaters.

This culture, the thing that replaced Western civilization, thinks that abortion is not a horror (check out this picture from the trial of America’s #1 serial killer); it thinks that Silicon Valley geniuses must be driven out of the company they founded–and whom everybody around them loves–when it is discovered that they do not endorse the redefinition of “marriage” for the first time in human history; and it thinks that Islam, the religion that has waged war on Christianity since the day Mohammed died, is peaceful, and that we are persecuting it.  These features of this new civilization trump money every time, when the priorities are arranged.

Given the crudeness, the overwhelming materialism and love of money that suffuses this time of the world, the fact that these anti-Christian religious principles are more important than money might strike us as surprising, but we should not be surprised.  Man is a religious being, by nature.

Jesus came to Earth, and died in our place, to make it possible for us to be a part of His family, forever.  The Beatitudes, and everything that follows them in the whole Sermon on the Mount, are a roadmap, a practical guide to how we can take up and put into practice His gift to us: we can be made perfect, as the last verse of Matthew 5 tells us (the Greek word for “perfect” meaning “complete,” functioning exactly as a thing was designed to do).

Easter is about the price He paid, and also the fulfillment of His promise to give us eternal life; the Beatitudes show us the way, the gate and the very narrow path Jesus’s gift made available: all we need do is obey Him, and follow it.

Poor Mel Gibson.  He made an excellent statement, by making and marketing a picture on the subject this new civilization hates the most, and he won the highest honor this civilization recognizes (the dollars) despite all that could be done to stop him.  Yet he spent the next decade proving that he does not walk the Stairway to Heaven.

The good news is that he could start today (as can any of us).  Maybe someone should send him a copy of my book.

 

Noah, My Review

My last post was a review of a review.  This is my own perspective.  I advise everyone to prepare their minds, put on the “helmet,” perhaps we can call it, before watching the movie, so as to be prepared to “give an answer,” in Paul’s phrase, when others ask what our opinion is.  Very few of the people I have discussed this Kabbalistic worldview problem with knew anything at all about the subject.  Why is that?  For the same reason “Johnny can’t read”: no one taught him.  Dr. Mattson reserves his ire for the leaders of the church who have commented on and/or recommended that Christians see the film without noticing anything Kabbalistic or gnostic about it.  Perhaps no one taught them.  Do seminaries teach these things?

So I waited to add my reaction, because I’m not an expert.  I wanted everyone to read the expert’s guidance before hearing what I thought as I sat through the thing.

This is a profoundly wicked movie.  For a start, I consider it an evil thing to “bait and switch” the Christian community in this way, setting them up to debate a Hollywoodized version of  a Bible story, when in fact it is a story drawn from an intensely anti-biblical place.  And to hoodwink a Kabbalah/gnostic-ignorant Christian leadership into encouraging the flock to view the picture as a way to debate Hollywood’s treatment of the Bible is especially cynical.  Despicable.

Of course, Aronofsky makes no bones about his being an atheist, and his movies have all been saturated with Kabbalistic and gnostic themes, so he can’t be said to have been hiding anything.  It is, indeed, a failure of the Church.  This should have been seen a mile away, which is the heart of Dr. Mattson’s lament.  How does one spell “Laodicea”?  Am I being harsh? Good.  I am entirely self-taught, which makes me intensely aware of what I do not know, and so endlessly seek correction.  It also makes me open to questions that would not be acceptable in Laodicean seminaries.  But enough about me.  What did I think of the picture?

In the Biblical account, rogue members of the Divine Council (those guys in Job 2 and Psalm 82, I Kings 22:20-23, among others; if you don’t know about it, look up Michael Heiser, and reserve a week or so of sleepless nights as you excitedly plough through astonishing biblical realities no one ever told you about) “left their own domain,” “abandoned their proper abode,” that is, they decided to set up shop here on Earth, to subvert God’s plan for newly created mankind.  They were the cause of the conditions that necessitated the Flood.  So God put them in Tartarus, the deepest part of Hell, where they remain today, awaiting God’s final judgement (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2).

In the movie, they came to help Adam, which made “the creator” mad.  In the Bible, their extraordinarily harsh punishment has to do with the fact that they raped human women, creating a hybrid race of offspring, called “nephilim,” whose propensity for violence came to dominate human society, and whose genetic contribution to the human gene pool became close to universal.  In the movie, there are no nephilim, only these well-meaning “Watchers,” so unfairly stigmatized by “the creator,” who caused them to become encased in frozen lava, so that they look like huge, walking piles of rock–with light shining between the chinks.  Their spirits have been trapped in crude, material bounds by a vindictive, unsympathetic “creator.”  No way such beings would be capable of sex with human women.

In any event, the watchers build the Ark for Noah, and protect his camp like a praetorian guard.  Needless to say, with that kind of labor at your disposal, it doesn’t take the Bible’s 120 years; Noah’s kids have barely grown up by the time the project is finished. Towards the end, when Noah’s enemies try to steal the Ark, they manage to kill the “Watchers,”  who, liberated from their material prisons, burst into heaven, returning to their rightful place.  The movie does not tell us what “the creator” thinks about that.  This is pure, unadulterated, gnosticism, and it is painful to watch–if you know what you’re looking at.

“The creator” never speaks in the movie, even though God is quite chatty with Noah in the Biblical account, giving him advice and instruction all along the way, and then making a permanent covenant with humanity in the end, through Noah, sealed with a sign: every time we see a rainbow, we are to be reminded of it.  God has done this to rescue humanity, and give it a fresh start, freed from the corruption the criminal alien Divine Council members inflicted on a “very good” creation.  What does this despicable film tell us?  Well, God is entirely silent, for one thing.  Noah can only infer what he must do, by interpreting his dreams, and also by an induced dream his witch doctor grandfather, Methuselah, gave him via a drugged cup of tea.  His mission: to ensure that the world, after he rescues the animals, will be free from the cancer of humanity.  “The creator” wants him to kill his whole family, the last survivors–or at least ensure that they cannot procreate, which is essentially the same thing.  Man is a curse upon the earth.  The killing that lions and pythons and black widow spiders do is good.  Human beings are evil.

Now this is particularly rich.  We all know the story: Noah has a wife, and all their sons have wives.  Eight people.  It is a detail every Flood story across the globe retains.  Not here.  Noah only allows a girl on board because he knows she can’t bear children.  She is one son’s girlfriend, so she’s no threat to his conception of “the creator’s” mission.  Both the other boys are denied female companionship, infertile or no.  Everyone knows that there will be no girls waiting when the floodwaters recede.  But that’s the way “the creator” wants it.  Tragically, Noah is married to a woman with human emotions, and she seeks out the witch doctor, Methuselah, who heals the girl.  Noah knows nothing about this.  She gets pregnant–with twin girls!  I know what you’re thinking!  Aronofsky finally got to the number eight, and these girls will eventually be wives for the two bachelor boys!  Brilliant!

Not so much.  First, they have a stowaway (don’t ask), so that would make nine, but the real problem is that “the creator” wants no humans to survive, so Noah has to murder the babies.  As he tells one of his sons: the creator chose me not because I am good, but because he needed someone to get the job done.  Kind of like Don Corleone.

Well, “the creator” chose the wrong man, after all, because he just couldn’t live up to that monster’s expectations.  (Come to think about it, “the creator” might not be so much Don Corleone, who is actually kind of sympathetic, but more akin to the Joe Pesci character in Goodfellas–a mindless, heartless murderer.)  Poor old Noah simply couldn’t do it.  He had the knife drawn, and it looks like he was going for the eye socket, and he knows that he’s got “the creator’s” contract to waste these crumby human scum, but he lets him down.  Maybe it’s because his dad worshiped Lucifer, the good god, and simply can’t in the end play for the other team.  Who knows?  He regrets it bitterly, until the end of the movie, when he is reunited with the skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden (the good guy, remember?), and gets to confer satanic “enlightenment” on the twin girls.  So all turns out for the best, after all!  A new human race, all worshiping the serpent.  Take that, “creator”!

And the covenant God made with the real Noahin the Bible?  The one where God talks to Noah, and confirms it with a rainbow?  Well, you better be paying attention, because while “the creator” does not speak, natch’, we do see a point of light in the sky that starts to blow rainbow-colored rings.  Rings.  Like a snake eating its tail, perhaps?  Not one, lest you miss the point.  One after another.  The end.

Point taken, Darren.  I wonder who gets it, though?

 

 

Debating the Movie Noah

I stumbled upon a very interesting treatment of Darren Aronofsky’s new movie, Noah, and I thought I’d share it and offer a few thoughts of my own.  The article is by Dr. Brian Mattson, whom I had never heard of.  He’s really good.  (You can read the article, titled Sympathy for the Devilhere. I recommend that you click through to the updates he provides at the bottom; one is a short video of Dr. Mattson commenting on the response the article has received, and the other is a follow-up article.)

Mattson demonstrates that the movie is not at all a fanciful rendition of the Biblical story–so we’re starting out on the wrong foot if we begin our discussion of the picture with that as our assumption, and then try to work out how faithful it is to the story in Genesis. Instead, he argues that what we are looking at is for the most part what the Kabbalah says about the creation and the world leading up to the Flood, with lots of gnosticism thrown in for good measure.

The Kabbalah, of course, is a book of esoteric, Jewish, mystical philosophy; it overlaps theologically with the various forms of gnosticism that sprung up in the first centuries after Christ.

What does the average Christian know about Kabbalah?  Considerably less than he knows about gnosticism–and he knows precious little about that.  So it is exceedingly unlikely that most Christians who see this movie will notice this consistent theme, the glue that holds the story together.  It will just appear to be a jumble of weird misinterpretations of the Bible that will disconcert, and will either be brushed aside in honor of that red-blooded American desire to turn off our reasoning and just enjoy a Hollywood special-effects blockbuster, or not, in which case it’ll be a case of walking away thinking it’s a bad movie.  Well, it may be bad film making, but it’s more bad than that.

Mattson calls his article Sympathy for the Devil because in Kabbalah Satan is the good guy, and God is the bad guy.  And that’s just what the movie says. A recurring element within the movie, that almost no one will catch, I’m guessing, is the use of the preserved skin of the Serpent from the Garden of Eden, to confer Enlightenment–that is, to convert someone from worship of the bad God, Yahweh, to the good god, Lucifer.  Read the article; you’ll be amazed.

Because we can’t expect the common man to know anything about these things, Dr. Mattson does not complain about the problem that almost no one will notice any of this.  It is that pastors and prominent Christian leaders have said nothing about any of this (although this video review by Pastor Joe Schimmel, The Noah Movie Deception, makes clear that he recognized some of these troubling issues–the whole thing is great).  I’ll let Dr. Mattson speak for himself:

Darren Aronofsky has produced a retelling of the Noah story without reference to the Bible at all. This was not, as he claimed, just a storied tradition of run-of-the-mill Jewish “Midrash.” This was a thoroughly pagan retelling of the Noah story direct from Kabbalist and Gnostic sources. To my mind, there is simply no doubt about this.

So let me tell you what the real scandal in all of this is.

It isn’t that he made a film that departed from the biblical story. It isn’t that disappointed and overheated Christian critics had expectations set too high.

The scandal is this: of all the Christian leaders who went to great lengths to endorse this movie (for whatever reasons: “it’s a conversation starter,” “at least Hollywood is doing something on the Bible,” etc.), and all of the Christian leaders who panned it for “not following the Bible”…

Not one of them could identify a blatantly Gnostic subversion of the biblical story when it was right in front of their faces.

I believe Aronofsky did it as an experiment to make fools of us: “You are so ignorant that I can put Noah (granted, it’s Russell Crowe!) up on the big screen and portray him literally as the ‘seed of the Serpent’ and you all will watch my studio’s screening and endorse it.”

He’s having quite the laugh. And shame on everyone who bought it.

He says that this is happening because we have returned to the spiritual environment of the 2nd Century, and of course I concur, that being a central theme of my book How the West Was Lost.

 

Unbearable? Not.

I love the Nick Nolte movie The Good Thief.  Certainly, it is a “worldly” picture, and those who wish to seal themselves off from such things will not find the benefits in it that I do.  So forewarned is forearmed.

He is an American who has lived all his life in France, a drug addict and a gambler.  And a thief.  He is middle aged and at the end of his options.  Nothing left.  At the start of the show, he bets all his remaining money on a horse, and loses it.  He has no money left for more heroin.  His friend apprises him of an opportunity to rob a casino in Monaco (he lives in the South of France, so Monte Carlo is close).

Let’s back up.  The opening scene is in a bar, a very raunchy place.  One thing leads to another, and he rescues a prostitute from slavery, by sheer bravery.

So what do we have here?  Heroin addicts, prostitutes, raunchy bars, gamblers, and large-scale robbery.  Oh, betrayal, too.

I can’t say it’s a tale of redemption, because the story does not go that far into the future of the character Nolte plays.  He’s conversant with the Bible (as the title of the film indicates), but that’s no help.

When I watch that movie, I think of myself.  I have spent my life lost, even after I was saved, in a sense.  We have no idea what a mess we are in, for the most part.  What I mean is, to truly learn what is wrong with us is terribly difficult.  Things might seem fine, but the depth of our sinfulness is almost always invisible to us.  I think it’s God’s mechanism to enable us to cope, actually.  If we truly saw what we are, we could not cope with it.

In the movie, Nolte has a choice: if he’s going to attempt the last great job, his only hope for the future, he knows that he has to kick the heroin, so he does.  On the spot.  No whining, or wavering.  He decides.  What comes next is an ugly process, and the movie shows it.

Set aside that the story is about an evil plan.  Isn’t that our own reality?  How ugly do we realize our own true selves to be?  I think the picture is very close.

We are all junkies, in other words.  We are all at the race track, betting our last dollar on a horse that fails to win.  We all have no prospects left.  Then, we are offered an opportunity to put everything we have left on the line; all or nothing.  Complete redemption, or utter collapse.  Those of us who have chosen that, know.  It is Matthew 5:3.  Then comes the mourning.

I say that we are all in that place, and that’s true, but it is a miracle that brings us to the place where we can recognize it.  And it is also a miracle that allows those of us who have done that in the past to keep on the Stairway to Heaven, developing in sanctification.

At the end of the movie, the theme develops that we must bet everything, with full confidence, and keep doing it, over and over.  This takes place one night at gambling tables, but for US it is each and every day, as long as we live.  Faith is the substance of that which we cannot see.  The boldness of the character in the movie, his confident knowledge that each wager will be a winner, on that night, is akin to our own challenge.  The movie may not know that–probably doesn’t.  But oh, it does tell that story.  Just like The Matrix, the movie makers might not know the truth they are telling, but the truth is there, for those who have eyes to see.

Once again, I caution the tender reader: this is not a gentle movie, and it is not about a man who is converted to Christ.  The deep, redemptive truth in it is not obvious.  But it is there.  Just as the stairway interpretation of the Beatitudes is not obvious, but is in fact there.  We are mired in sin, and it requires boldness to choose another way, and the path is even harder, once we are on it.  Courage, boldness.  Living in a world saturated in sin, and facing our declining options without collapsing.  One hopes that Bob, Nolte’s character, turns to Christ, after the movie ends, but for us to see ourselves in it should not be too difficult.

Then again, it is a movie that can be enjoyed for stylish excellence, great acting and wonderful writing.  If you like that kind of thing.