Passion play

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A Passion play is a dramatic recreation of the trial and execution of Jesus Christ, and his subsequent undead visitation of Earth. These plays are mostly a relatively benign, if odd, celebration of the death of a man, but they can stray in to anti-semitism through the depiction of Jews as Christ killers.

Christianity cannot ignore the death of Jesus, but most prefer not to seek out people to blame for it.

Despite the name, these plays typically contain very little sex.

Modern productions[edit]

Passion plays are staged annually, mostly around Easter and Lent, in most countries with a significant Christian population. These range from school children productions up to movies, such as Mel Gibson's torture porn, The Passion of the Christ. The basic story follows the Gospel accounts, but productions over the years have used artistic licence in much the same way that Shakespeare plays are regularly presented in ways that the bard could not have anticipated.

Accusations of anti-semitism[edit]

It's difficult to tell the story of Christ without mention of Jews, since he was a Jew living in a Jewish community (albeit one ruled by the Romans). It is definitely far easier to accuse Jews of deicide if one ignores the political situation of the time.

Historical perspective[edit]

The Jews of first century CE Judaea were subject to Roman law, although they retained authority over religious matters. Historians dispute the Gospel depiction of the Romans as being reluctant participants in the execution of Jesus. The Roman empire of that era was not known for tolerating threats to its authority, and the governor of a province, Pilate in this case, would be unlikely to tolerate a Jewish man uniting people behind his claim of kingship. Luke 23:1-4 contains the following discussion between Pilate and the Jewish leaders who brought Jesus before him:

Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Jesus, a king." So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man."

Would a Roman governor have "no basis for a charge" with a man refusing to pay taxes, and claiming to be king? If so, Pilate was a very odd governor. Of course, at the time of the codification of the gospels, Jesusianity Christianity was more a Roman religion than a Jewish sect, so having the story downplay the role of the Romans in the execution of Jesus (and hence implicitly play up the role of the Jews) makes more sense.

Jewish-Christian reconciliation[edit]

As a result of the Holocaust, there was a push among mainstream sects of Christianity to repudiate anti-Semitism. Jews as Christ-killers is a common theme in anti-Semitic literature. In 1965, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Nostra Aetate, a declaration on religious tolerance passed by the Second Vatican Council. In regard to relations with the Jews, it states:

Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ;(13) still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.[1]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Jews are not collectively responsible for Jesus' death.[2]

In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI published a book, Jesus of Nazareth, which refutes the Christ-killer narrative.

Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ[edit]

See the main article on this topic: The Passion of the Christ

Mel Gibson's movie adaptation of the passion drew criticism for its anti-semitic overtones, and his alarmingly graphic depiction of Christ's death. The latter led to one critic describing the movie as being "a two-hour-and-six-minute snuff movie — The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre — that thinks it's an act of faith".[3]

Gibson seems to have a thing for the bloody deaths of his heroes, such as in the movie Braveheart. Again, the death of William Wallace can't be airbrushed out of a film claiming to be based on historical events, but one wonders why so much attention is lavished upon his execution? Returning to his Christ slasher-flick, the integral teachings of Christ seem to be lost in the orgy of blood, torture, and screams.