Letters

"Thank God for free speech and democracy!" "Mel Gibson must be stopped!" Readers weigh in on Cintra Wilson's "Inside Mel Gibson's 'Passion'"


Salon Staff
January 29, 2004 2:00AM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

I hope that Cintra Wilson's interview with the feckless Father Mark Stanger on his reactions to "The Passion" was meant as humor, because it is impossible to take seriously. Wilson may be forgiven for her ignorance of Christianity, since she was relying on the words of someone whose formal credentials ought to put him in a position to know what he was talking about. But alas ...

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I have attended the kind of suburban white-bread megachurches that Stanger visited for the screening of "The Passion," and there is no doubt that their strange "Bless me now!" belief gets more than a little creepy at times. That is well known.

I was also a member, for some years, of the kind of Episcopal church where Stanger ministers. Being there is rather like the experience of the kid in "The Sixth Sense": "I see dead people. They're walking around. And they don't know they're dead."

Episcopalianism, as Emerson once so insightfully wrote, may be distinguished by its conviction, "By taste are ye saved." Episcopal churches generally have all the spiritual passion of a cocktail party. Episcopal clergy, in my observation, are distinguished by nothing so much as an appearance of utter tone-deafness toward any sense of urgency about spiritual matters. For bland, fatuous inanity, they are without equal.

The pathetic Father Stanger is no exception. The biggest howler among many in his comments is, "Holding this [the agony of the crucifixion] up as somehow emblematic of something central to our belief -- this preoccupation with both sin and blood sacrifice -- is just absolutely primitive."

Such ignorance is absolutely beyond belief -- for anyone, that is, except an Episcopalian or a Unitarian. The crucifixion is the focus of Christian doctrine, and this was known, and accepted, for the past two millennia. Stanger's monumental ignorance changes nothing. He seems to represent those for whom, in the words of Joseph Epstein, "art and shopping have replaced religion."

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One last comment: It's so funny how liberals, who pooh-poohed any concern with historical accuracy 16 years ago, when the, um, imaginative "Last Temptation of Christ" came out, are suddenly oh-so-scrupulous about getting the facts just right -- facts they have always derided, about texts they never respected or believed in to begin with.

What a crock.

-- Michael Huggins

Er, in the midst of the uproar surrounding the prospect of Mel Gibson's vanity project sparking a riotous worldwide uproar, I can't help but think that this movie sounds about as enticing as an episode of the "700 Club." As religious discourse, the promotion of a viewpoint as Absolute Truth is as predictable as it is insulting. And in terms of mass-media potential, this movie has "Battlefield Earth" written all over it.

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-- Brian Jirousek

As an evangelical Christian who believes in the inerrancy of the Christian Bible, I was somewhat surprised by Rev. Stanger's tone in his interview. I don't know if his condescending attitude is entirely his own or an artifact of the interviewer's views, but I must say that I found his patronizing and sneering tone unbecoming of a man of faith. I am not one to demand political correctness, as I realize it is well within Salon's rights to not present both sides of an issue -- after all, you're just trying to make a buck, just like the rest of us. I am also not one to cry foul at the first hint of being offended -- as an evangelical Christian who regularly reads Salon, I have much opportunity to be offended but I'm usually not. I disagree with much of what I read here, but I read it anyway to try to enlighten myself about opposing points of view. I find it disappointing that Salon and Rev. Stanger do not afford me and my community the same courtesy, and continue to paint us as religious radicals without the capacity for tolerance and acceptance. For the record, I do believe that the Gospels were divinely inspired, I do believe in the doctrine of atonement (sin and sacrifice), and I plan on seeing the movie when it's released. I also plan on criticizing or praising the movie where it is deserved, and not judging it until I've seen it.

-- Kyung Ro

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I am disappointed at the article/discussion between Cintra Wilson and Rev. Mark Stanger. Rather than being an evenhanded look at very important issues surrounding the upcoming movie "Passion," their discussion bordered on an offensive, snarky, denigrating bitch session that wound up seeming as narrow-minded in its own way as the screening events and movie they were criticizing.

Instead of using the opportunity to examine an element of Christian faith and all of the personal layers that are projected onto it, this discussion began with mockery, spent most of the time picking apart the movie and anyone whose faith may have resonated similarly, and ended with a paragraph that totally denigrates the object of many people's devotion and religion.

Surely Salon can do better than this one-sided slam. I look to you to provide insightful, thoughtful angles to issues that are important to today. Religious faith certainly is one of them. Next time approach the subject with more dignity and realize that your readers have a wide range of beliefs and shouldn't be mocked just because they don't seem as refined or sophisticated as you.

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As for Mel Gibson's movie, I haven't seen it and don't know if I will. But if Cintra Wilson and Rev. Stanger want to have a film that is totally in line with their own version of faith and religion, they should go spend their own $30 million.

-- Nathan Johnson

I disagree strongly with "Reverend" Mark Stanger's views. Is he really a Christian? In actuality, Mr. Stanger seems to be questioning the validity of the Gospels as written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, rather than simply attacking Mel Gibson.

I will go and see "The Passion," simply because I believe in the Bible wholeheartedly. I will not let misguided individuals, such as "Reverend" Stanger deny me the blessing of seeing what could be the best biblical movie ever made. I will make up my own mind as to what is anti-Semitic.

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All these attacks on this movie appear to be scare tactics to brand this movie as bigoted and brand people who see it as bigoted also, in an attempt to discourage people from seeing it.

Thank God for free speech and democracy. I hope everyone goes out to see this movie for themselves, instead of allowing strangers to make up their minds for them.

And yes, sin and atonement are very important to Christians, because the BIBLE emphasizes that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. This was why Jesus had to die in the first place. What does "Reverend" Stanger think caused Jesus to die? As an alleged Christian minister, he should know the answer to this question. It almost seems as if he does not believe in Jesus Christ, which makes me wonder why he calls himself a Reverend. His theology does not seem to be Christian-oriented.

-- Lorna Jerome

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Mel Gibson must be stopped. His portrayal of Hamlet is the worst thing that has happened to Shakespeare since the bard's death. "Braveheart" is an idiotic, anachronistic insult to both England and Scotland, and "The Patriot" gives the United States and the United Kingdom sufficient reason to ban Gibson for life. Now Mel is going after Jesus Christ. As Nietzsche might have said, "God is dead, and Mel Gibson has killed him."

-- John Mize


Salon Staff

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