Friday, February 27, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

It's not every day of the week that the chief topic of conversation isn't about a suicide bombing or something related to the war but simply about a movie. That movie of course, is Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Or maybe I've got that wrong. It's not every day of the week that a 2,000 year old event, despite every effort to reduce it to a cultural cliche, shakes off its accretions and becomes, depending upon your belief, either a call to renewal or a blood libel. Yet even that might be wrong. It isn't every day that the news is about what Dostoevsky once called "the eternal questions".

The Belmont Club will neither attempt to review the film nor try to place it in its historical setting. There will be no comment on why Jews, Christians and secular atheists after seeing the same print all appear to have watched different movies. But it is fair to say that this partial retelling of the life of Jesus tapped a nerve that few pundits expected to be there. Yet the astonishment of the studio chiefs must be nothing to the surprise of Osama Bin Laden. We are not as he imagined nor as cynical as we thought ourselves to be. In the end wardrobe failures and celebrity scandals count for less than we think. The are some beliefs that we cannot live without and the longing for the numinous survives even in the concrete canyons of Manhattan. And whether it is spoken in English, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin or demotic Greek still it is whispered in our most secret hour that 'our hearts shall never rest until it rests in Thee'.