Forgiveness and Human Existence: A Superhuman Power?

At the beginning of this article, I claimed that Jesus makes a disappointing Hollywood super-hero. Unfortunately, Mel Gibson failed to recognize this and tried to present him as one anyway. In her book, Jesus of Hollywood, Adele Reinhartz writes, "Far from perceiving Jesus' identity as the Son of God through his ability to endure the extreme suffering inflicted upon him, some viewers may fail even to perceive his humanity. The reason is simple: the relentless, numbing violence. For most of the film Jesus does not resemble a man so much as a hunk of raw meat. By reducing Jesus to an oozing pulp, Gibson has also demoted him from a human-divine being to a subhuman one."(5) Perhaps the Jesus of scripture, the Jesus who cried from the cross, "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do," is quite simply more human than any of us dare to realize

J. Ryan Parker is pursuing a PhD at the Graduate Theological Union in religion and the arts with a focus on film. His research interests include the history of religious cinema, the relationship between cinema and the church, religious cinema after The Passion of the Christ, and the affinities between German Romantic landscape painting and the films of John Ford. He is also the creator of and main contributor to Pop Theology (, a website that explores the intersections of religion and popular culture. He received an MDiv from the Divinity School at Wake Forest University.

(1) Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 119-125

(2) Sharon Waxman, "Hollywood's Newfound Passion for Christ," New York Times (July 20, 2005), available from:

(3) "The Religious Dimensions of the Torture Debate," Pew Research Center Publications (May 11, 2009), available from:

(4) Jürgen Moltmann, In the End-the Beginning: The Life of Hope (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004), 93.

(5) Adele Reinhartz, Jesus of Hollywood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 121.

Where do you see God in the movies? Join the discussion...

1/1/2000 5:00:00 AM