Return to Contents


Consciousness, context, and the Crucifixion
Jesus’ consciousness is a core theological issue, and [Passion of the Christ director Mel] Gibson deals with it in two very strange ways. On one hand, it’s clear in several scenes that Jesus knows exactly what’s happening to him. And he knows exactly why. And in fact, there are moments when he chooses more: he’s been scourged so badly, he’s on the ground, and the Roman soldiers are about to desist. And he pulls himself up one more time. Why? Because he is choosing, he’s embracing this act that he is engaged in. So in one sense, he is godly in his consciousness. And yet in another sense, he is not even human. As Mary Gordon, a Roman Catholic novelist, has written, all he is in this film is “flesh to be flayed.” This is not a Jesus who has a mind and spirit, or a story or context that makes sense of what’s happening to him. What is the purpose of all this suffering? One of the reasons there’s such debate and dissension about this film is the answer to that question is what the viewer brings to it. We always bring ourselves to any film, any work of art, but here, if you just dropped in and you didn’t know anything about this Jesus, it would be very hard to come away with a clear sense that this Jesus is about redeeming us all through his suffering and resurrection. The Passion and Crucifixion, the suffering of Jesus, is always, always, always in the context of Jesus’ resurrection.

—Barbara DeConcini, Executive Director of the American Academy of Religion, from a panel titled “Viewing Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’: Cinema, Violence, Anti-Semitism, Religion, and Popular Culture in Contemporary America,” sponsored by the Department of Religion, March 4, 2004

Drugs across the hemispheres

Drugs are alien to no society. Every society defines itself in part by reference to its drugs of choice, which means also by reference to the drugs it repudiates. That becomes a part of your identity. In the North, by and large, the drugs of choice have long been fermented spirits. There’s nothing especially alarming or harmful in this proclivity, as long as
societies are reasonably distant from one another and as long as they are reasonably equal to one another. Where those conditions are not met, a different situation supervenes. That isolation isn’t there. The North stays dominant: the drugs it sanctions are prevalent and tend to move freely to the South, but not vice versa.

—Preston King, Visiting Woodruff Professor at Morehouse College and Emory University, in a lecture titled “Drugs: A Case for Global Decriminalization,” sponsored by the Institute for Comparative and International Studies, March 4, 2004