You may not believe me but I was all prepared to like The Passion. I don't know how else to say this except that on some level, based on what I'd heard about the movie, I just...I agreed with it.
Let me explain. I spent a hell of a lot more time in churches in my life than most of you pure-bred goyim. For whatever reason, of the few close friends I've had, all have been Catholic with the exception of a Jew or two. No Protestants, no anything elses.
For four impressionable years, I went to a religious private school, from age six to age nine. It was an Episcopalian school. We had to attend chapel every morning. They were very boring services, those Episcopalian services.
And then I got booted out of the Episcopalian school -- long story.
Catholic Church, on the other hand, was terrifying and awe-inspiring for a child. All of my friends who had to go to church loathed it intensely. I will always remember the massive Christ inside the Sacred Heart church: Jesus slumped, suffering and bleeding on the imposing cross suspended above the priest during services. It was terrifying and it made me feel like shit for all sorts of reasons -- not the least because one Irish Catholic friend of mine told me that Jews had suffered the Holocaust and anti-Semitism because they had told Jesus, upon condemning him, "His blood be upon us and on our children."
That was powerful shit. But that's what religion is supposed to be. It should make you want to kill and to die and to tear your hair out and your neighbor's hair -- especially your neighbor's hair. Otherwise what's the point of religion?
Sadly, the Catholics went downhill pretty quickly. From early childhood up to early teenhood, I saw the degradation of the Catholic church in my suburb. The Church went soft, as Dr. Dolan has written in these pages. It gave in. It lost its power over my friends -- who despised The Church as soon as they stopped fearing it -- and it lost its power over me. And that was a goddamn shame. How to justify the burning desire to kill and die?
What Mel Gibson claimed he was trying to do was remind people why Christianity persuaded, why it conquered over other religions, why it has been the source of so much genocide and suffering. The reason is that Christianity, at its inception, at its most persuasive moment, was based on pain. JESUS CHRIST SUFFERED. That's it. I don't know what else Christianity comes down to, why it should matter to anyone, why people should feel anything, if not that one horrible, pathetic, wrenching idea: that Jesus Christ suffered, he suffered epically, tragically, and he suffered for us.
Jesus's "message" -- you know, the stuff about peace and love -- is so unpersuasive that even he didn't believe it. That's why he contradicts himself about a thousand times. Just read the New Testament and you'll see what I mean. I swear Jesus flip-flops on every issue so often he makes John Kerry look like a rock of conviction. But the pain, the physical pain he endured -- he definitely believed that, and so did his early followers.
I wrote a review of the Bible just over a year ago, after having read the Old and New testicles. That reading experience confirmed for me what Nietzsche had always complained about: it made no sense that such a primitive, simple-minded, mostly-embarrassing book conquered the sublime pagan gods of the Greeks.
But I'm not so sure I believe Nietzsche anymore. His decadence theory doesn't quite correspond to the facts.
While in America last month researching my rampage murder book, I was watching the History Channel about Emperor Constantine -- and they told of his battle against the armies of Maxentius, a pagan challenger to his crown, in 312. Constantine was losing the battle -- Rome was falling apart at the time -- until he saw a vision in the sky, a cross. "In this sign you will conquer." Jesus visited him in a dream with the sign of the cross and basically told him, "Put this symbol on your shields, and I'll forget the whole turn-the-other-cheek crap for a few hours."