“Every age tries to communicate the message of Jesus in the idiom of that time period and culture… There is a spiritual hunger in our culture, and [Gibson] is tapping into it and speaking to the culture in a way that it can hear. And I think the genre of our culture is violence.” —Fran Leap, a colleague of mine here at Seton Hill University, interviewed in an article by Ann Rodgers —Gibson’s ‘Passion’ remains a concern over portrayal of Jews (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
This insight really helps me to understand the function of the violence in the film. Gibson’s success comes from his action film; he is using the grammar of a genre he understands in order to communicate his message. The message itself is radically orthodox, but his medium is radically subversive.
I’ve read concerns that Gibson’s use of violence will once again desensitize society to violent images, but the youth culture that is not particularly attracted to traditional religious media has already been desensitized; and Gibson isn’t interested in their attitude towards make-believe violence, he’s interested in their attitude towards the core Christian message of the significance of the crucifixion and the value of meditating upon it.