Sunday, July 11, 2004

Jesus Freaks

By Carl Sundberg
Pulse columnist
March 11, 2004

Recently I went to the theater and sacrificed some hard-earned cash to see this movie about Jesus. Maybe you've heard of it?

Like some of you out there, I was, shall we say, skeptical about "The Passion of the Christ." But with the controversy swirling, I had to see what the big deal was. A friend of mine recently told me that he saw people passing out in the theater, a paramedic unit standing by in the lobby and large men sobbing like children.

I knew then a spectacle was at hand. This was going to be rich. I got my tickets and watched the movie. Waiting. Waiting for someone to pass out, vomit or run screaming from their seat. Anything.

Two hours later, I was bored, and not one person passed out or puked -- nothing. This movie wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

But people were crying, wiping their eyes, lost in a pain that didn't seem to reach me. Is this the epitome of the divine experience? Why are we drawn to agony and misery? Is this the culmination of mankind?

As I got to my car, I saw one of those bumper stickers that read: "What would Jesus do?" I thought about the phrase for a moment and really let it sink in. And I realized whatever it was Jesus did, I'm not going to do. I don't want to be beat like that, and certainly that crucifixion deal has got to be one of the worst ways a person can go.

I felt hollow after I left the film. I needed something rejuvenating. I wasn't filled with love, hate, sadness or any real human emotion at all as I drove home. Funny, after watching the not-as-savage-as-everyone-mentions flick of the last 12 hours of Christ, I felt nothing. Right afterward, I checked my bank account, and with the thick checks I make writing these columns, I had stacks of the mean green. I decided to buy some music.

I went into a music store and began shuffling through the racks. There was loud banger music playing in the store, and a girl with a punk rock shirt helped me find some music I was looking for.

When I got the music I wanted and was checking out, I saw soundtracks for "The Passion of the Christ" and I asked her if people were buying these.

"No, not really."

"Have you seen the movie?" I asked.

"No, I don't believe in God."


"It's unnecessary. There are better things to believe in."

"Like what?"

"Love. Peace. Joy. Those things are just as imaginary as God, and there's more to hope for," she said.

I paid for the CDs and left. Such a peaceful punk rocker, I thought. But she had a point. Not everyone needs violent gods sending themselves down to earth in human forms to be beaten and slaughtered.

There must be something else happening. Some of us need something richer and less angry. Maybe even a good joke could fill the void.

As I was driving home I saw another car, a van this time, with that same bumper sticker: "What would Jesus do?"

As I was unwrapping my CDs, the van with the bumper sticker came within inches of smashing into another car. The car that was nearly smashed had a bumper sticker that read: "Nonjudgment Day is here." Both of the men in the cars were yelling and shaking their fists in rage at each other.

As I laughed and drove around the two angry drivers, I couldn't help but think I had just seen something divine.


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