02 March 2004

"Crucifixation" in the Philippines

Dean Bocobo of Philippine Commentary has a different take from most Anglosphere bloggers on Mel Gibson's "crucifixation" movie.
The shedding of real blood by real people is a real part of our celebration of Christianity and its seminal event in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. That event, we don't only voyeuristically make the subject of gory movies, public prayers and pious displays, but some Filipinos exhibitionistically crucify themselves in a literal imitation of Christ on Good Friday. Others participate in organized self-flagellations that occur all over the Philippines during Holy Week.
via Belmont Club, who adds his own unique take.
There are three points to be made in this respect. The first is that most American and European Christians will find the Filipino Lenten practices about as incomprehensible as non-Christians may find the cinematic rendition of Jesus' sufferings. The second is that the Filipino penitents are entirely sincere in their devotion. The inability of Westerners to understand this Filipino tradition in no way reduces its value to the people of that Archipelago. The third is that anti-Semitism is wholly unknown, indeed, incomprehensible to Filipinos for the simple reason that they have never encountered Jews in any quantity. The average Filipino has never nor will probably ever meet a Jew. Anyone who takes the trouble to view a Filipino Lenten commemoration will see Romans depicted as the villains and the Jews -- in one glorious lump including "the Apostles, Mama Mary and the other Mary the Magdalene, Pilate, Caiphas, Barabas (he was loudly cheered), Judas, and of course Jesus Christ himself" -- played by the townspeople themselves.

Most Christians now live in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They far outnumber the dwindling congregations of Western Europe. The vast majority of Third World Christians know nothing about the historical conceptions of anti-Semitism -- the Ghetto, the Pogrom, the Holocaust. To a very large extent, the debate over the anti-Semitic content, or lack thereof, in The Passion of the Christ is not between modern day Christians and Jews, but across a fault line in Western and Middle Eastern history.

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