I saw The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre in the third row of a packed movie house in Times Square behind a family with three children clearly under ten years old. One child looked to be five or six years old. I was dumbfounded. Before me on the screen for the length of the fare was a long advertisement for brutal sadomasochism. There were flashes and flashbacks to some of the stories of Jesus's miracles and experiences, but these were often no longer than thirty seconds in length, and completely out of context: you had to have preknowledge of the Bible in order to digest the snippets of Jesus's past.
But to get right down to it, the entire movie was out of context. It had nothing essentially to do with Jesus or his message. It was simply a snuff film of his final brutal hours on the Earth.
An analogy to the "The Passion of the Christ" might be to make a movie called "The Passion of Gandhi." That movie, of course, would not be about Gandhi's political rise and peaceful battles with colonial Britain, but instead the movie would start with Gandhi being shot, and the rest would simply show, slowly and with sadistic "passion," the bloody suffering of watching Gandhi pass away.
Which is the whole crux of my problem with this movie. If "The Passion of the Christ" is the great paean to the beauty of Christianity, then all I can conclude is that spiritual beauty is somehow directly rooted in extreme violence.
If someone took this movie to an isolated village on the Amazon whose inhabitants knew nothing of Christianity, and they showed the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre to them, then all the villagers would wonder is what exactly this snuff film had to do with anything. If said movie were shown to them by a missionary, I am sure the isolated villagers would wonder why this odd person who was obsessed with violence wanted them to join a sadomasochistic blood cult.
There is a lot of good in the Bible, there is much tolerance and positive messages of love in the story of the life of Jesus Christ. Most anyone would do well to study the story of Jesus Christ, if not as a Christian, then at least as a historical lesson of the strength of tolerance and compassion triumphing over wickedness and corruption. Studying Jesus's life would enrich the spiritual life of anyone.
But this movie? It was nothing but a sadistic play-by-play, up-close-and-personal focus on the final brutal visceral hours of Jesus. The gallons of blood flow, the breaking bones crack, the Roman henchmen cackle at their inflicted pain, the skin is torn and pulped, the viscera and the rib cage underneath is exposed... for hours, with nothing else in sight. Meanwhile, for reasons beyond my understanding, if you show half of a breast for half of a second, you have committed a grave moral sin.
I am of course talking about Janet Jackson's inadvertent (or purposeful, according to some) flashing of a breast during the football Superbowl half time show in January. There was much outrage and outcry about this display.
You show a child a female breast and you've scarred his mind? But, as some in the religious right were encouraging (to heck with the rating, all of a sudden, apparently), take your kids to this movie and you do what... enlighten them?
Let us quantify the showing of Janet Jackson's breast as compared to the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre:
Half a second of uninvited breast.
Two hours of ultraviolent evisceration.
Do you say that the breast was uninvited but the movie was? Can you say the same for the children in the theater? And can someone honestly say to me that Janet Jackson's breast, however invited or not, is somehow more psychologically damaging than two hours of buckets of blood? To anyone of any age? In my mind at least, half a second of uninvited breast is far less of a "sin," by orders of magnitude, than two hours of invited gore.
Now, you may ask, what is the fairness of this comparison? Well, they are related in my mind because they are historically contemporaneous: the same religious right that asks us to not look at pornography asks us to look at (and take our children to) a bloody gorefest. The same people who are shocked at seeing Janet Jackson's breast turn around and implore us to understand the majesty of the sacrifice Jesus made for us... in the most counterproductive way possible.
When I see a movie like the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre, all I see is a lot of violent sheep before me, brainwashed from childhood by the great religions of the world, imbued into a cycle of violence and hatred. And all physical demonstrations of love, such as sex of course, being demonized as the epitome of harm to your psyche. When the reverse is genuinely true.
How a breast, a symbol of food for the young and innocent, a completely natural, God and/ or evolution-given organ, worn on the chests of half of the human population, can be a fount of evil if displayed, is utterly beyond me.
Now, I can understand all of the objections to seeing a female breast uninvited, of inadvertent sexual arousal, of a desire to have social intercourse without dovetailing into sexual intercourse. I can understand all of those situations where seeing a breast is inappropriate. But what I do not understand are those who stand against pornography enjoyed in private, and embrace a movie of stupefying violence, all at the same time.
Here is their great "The Passion of the Christ": two hours of the bloody evisceration of a man. So I think I understand the great religions and the religious right and religious fundamentalists all too well. It is about as far away from true spirituality as you can possibly get. Jesus truly weeps, the intolerance that is spread in the name of his message of tolerance. Centuries pass, and a message of love and tolerance is used as an excuse to screen a snuff film, and crush the image of physical expressions of love.
It is funny how the keepers of the religious right spend so much of their time arguing against the rights of homosexuals, of women, of other cultures, and not dwelling one instant on the tolerance that their prophet speaks of. Religious fundamentalists, I salute you: your brainwashing makes your blindness so complete, you can watch so much violence, and call it a message of peace and love. Your hypocrisy is simply awesome, your blindness so complete it is deafening.
It is truly dumbfounding, and I fear for this ultraviolent world we live in and in the time we live in, mankind's teenage years, where such incredible hypocrisy and blindness reigns so supreme: violence good, sex bad.
In short: God, save us from the boobs!
No, not those boobs. And no, not your violent God.