Why the Passion is important
I am working hard on the introduction to an art book about "The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision
" by Doug Blanchard. I thought it would be simple to include a paragraph about why the Passion is important, without resorting to any clichés. Ha! You are the first to read what I came up with so far :
The purpose of reflecting on the Passion is not necessarily to worship Christ, but to remember with compassion the endless crosses upon which people continue to be crucified. Blanchard's paintings make explicit the connection between Christ's crucifixion and all violence, particularly today's anti-gay violence in the name of religion. Like so many other prophets and liberators, Jesus was killed by the forces that oppose love, justice, equality, and freedom. LGBT people often identify with the hurt and humiliation that Jesus experienced on the cross. Jesus himself said, "Whatever you did to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did to me." In that sense, it is entirely appropriate to see Christ in the faces of people who are scapegoated and attacked for being queer. The cross is a powerful Christian symbol that can transform lives, but its misuse has done much damage. The Passion gives viewers the opportunity to stand as compassionate witnesses at the cross.
It may be painful to see the violent death of Jesus, a great man gone too soon due to human evil, but his sacrifice gains meaning when it inspires people to do better. For Christians it redeems a broken world. Jesus embodies the mythic archetype of the hero who leaves the ordinary world, faces deadly challenges on a difficult journey, and returns with power to benefit others. The story resounds in the human spirit. Remembering can bring wholeness.
(Image credit: "Jesus Dies" by Douglas Blanchard
) (Special thanks to gay spirituality author Toby Johnson
and his mentor, comparative religion scholar Joseph Campbell, for teaching me about the hero archetype.)