Friday, August 26, 2011

Will "big government" complainers accept its help in the face of two natural disasters?

Rev. Al  Sharpton, MSNBC
I watched Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC last night. He talked about politics, Hurricane Irene (August 21, 21, 2011), how government will automatically step in and help states hit by the hurricane. He reported about a recent earthquake that originated in Virginia, home of "no more big government" politician Eric Cantor.

Sharpton said Republicans are already plotting to play politics with people's lives, using these two natural disasters to extort concession from President Obama when Congress convenes on Monday, at which time the president will reveal his jobs plan to Congress and America.

Many residents hit by the earthquake, and those expected to be hit by the Hurricane Irene, are the main citizens complaining that government is "too big."  It spends money that it does not have, they say. It has becomes somewhat fashionable for these residents to claim they want "big government" out of their lives.

I have become cynical in my attitude about these "help me but diss everybody else" complainers.  I wondered if they will complain about "big government" when they find themselves in desperate need of  big government to come to their rescue. When FEMA and the Red Cross come to help, will they refuse?  Will they say "stay out of our life?" I will be interested to see their reaction to offers of help from "big government."

 Sharpton concluded his show with another insightful quote: "I want a government that's big enough to protect us, but weak enough to let us live our lives".


Monday, August 22, 2011

How near is insanity?

How near is insanity?

The bewildered young woman
Sits on the chair’s edge.
Her stomach is an airtight room
Filled with restless butterflies.
Her body is sore from last night's
Game of toss and throw across 
Their disheveled bedroom.

She inhales lightly,
Exhaling heavily.  

Her hands are sweating profusely

A sign that her anger is 
On the prowl for a fight. 

Where is he? she asks herself 
Tonight the ball game
Will have a new umpire!

 
She is ready to turn their
Small apartment into a
Nonmilitarized battle zone.
She won’t have long to wait.
Her “husband” will be home soon,
Exhibiting his forecastable mood.
She knows his routine like
She knows the back of her hand.
 
He’ll swagger into the apartment
From the garage, flashing a smile. 

The same demonic smile
She sees each time he beats her.
 
I’m glad the children are gone.
They’ve seen him beat me too

Many nights. Too many times,
   She thinks to herself.
 
Her common-law mate is home.
He's cheerfully whistling 
A song he wrote for her.
He calls it a 
Song of Warning to The Bitch

He strolls into the kitchen.
His eyes fall on her face,
Switching to her covered hand.
He sees a pointed object underneath
The towel: a steak knife.
 
“Intend to kill your man?”
He asks sarcastically, teasing her indignation.
“What’s with you tonight?
Feeling your fucking Cherrios?
Apparently you want my fist in your mouth!
Well, get ready and open wide!
Here come my big fat fist 
Toward your toothless mouth!”
                                           He had knocked out most of her front teeth
                                         Over the three years they've been together.
 
The young woman's husband fakes a lunge,
But he doesn’t touch her.
He likes to taunt her,
Reducing her to the
Least common denominator
Before the actual assault.
 
Her eyes hang onto his every move.
She knows how sneaky he can be.
 
He suddenly slams her against the wall.
 Her back locks in a semi-twist.
Pain shoots up her neck, her head.
Her live-in husband hovers over her,
His legs slightly parted,
Waiting to wall-slam her again.
 
She has a tight grip on the knife.
Lifting herself off the floor,
She raises her hand and
Rush toward his chest.
He thwarts the attempt on his life.
He roughly picks up the petite
Woman by her shoulders,
Pinning her against the wall.
“You sorry bitch! You got a nerve,
Pulling a knife on me!
I ought to make you eat it for supper!"

He drops her, slapping the side of her 
Head as she crumbles to the floor.
She is not aware of the stinging pain.
She doesn’t realize that she's  hanging 
Dangerously close to the edge of a cliff. 
And reality is fast deserting her.
Insanity’s thin line is standing nearby,
Studiously observing her.

She lifts herself off the floor,
Shaking loose the stinging head blow
Like a professional fighter.
 
“Kill me! Death is better than living 
With a bastard like you!”
 
Her icy mouth sucks up the kitchen’s warmth. 

“Why don’t you kill me?  
Take the damn knife!
Kill me, you cowardly bastard! 
You were willing last night!
Don’t you want to do it now?
What’s the matter, big man?  
Your Superman nuts
Locked in the freezer?” she taunts.
 
She opens the refrigerator door.
“Oh, lucky guess!
Here they are! In the freezer!
Laying in a saucer! And they look so cold!”
 
Staring at her common-law-husband,
The young woman detects a panic, confused in his eyes.
He tries to avert her attention from his fear.
 
“You a crazy bitch, you know that?
My friends warned me about you!”

“Yeah, yeah. You said that  
A millions times already.”

She is slipping farther and farther away from reality.
She can’t disengage her pending doom.
Every insane nerve in her body is
Fighting for its share of her sanity.
 
Smiling, she knows she has
Reversed roles without permission.
She is now the reducer.
 
“You’re still a crazy bitch!” 

“Like a fox who’s going kill you,
If you don’t kill me!”

Her common-law-husband doesn’t
Want to kill her despite threatening her many times.
He doesn't like this sudden role reversal.
It’s unnatural. It’s awkward.
 
Mistrustful of his angry mate
He cautiously retreats to the bedroom, 
Slowly walking backwards,
Facing his common-law-wife.
He doesn’t know what she’ll do
In her current state of mind.

“That’s right, coward! Run off!
Go to sleep if you dare!

Sleep and wait for the big surprise!
You know what I'm going to do?
Of course you don't!"
Her common-law-husband looks
At the timid woman
He has beaten weekly since
They've been together.
This angry woman was someone he didn't recognize.

"Who's been talking to you?" he demands.
She ignores him. 
Her seeing through him was unnerving.
"Yeah. Somebody's been talking to you!

Again, she ignores her common-law-husband.
"I’m going to pour gasoline on you
And then write my name on your
Chest with a dull knife!
 
Oops! Wait! Changed my mind. 
I’m going to pour your cheap cologne on 
You and set your ass on fire!
I’ll even let you strike the match!
 
Maybe I’ll show a little mercy
Before I stuff your mouth with
All the hell you’ve caused me!

Should I kill you fast? 
Maybe not.
I want you to see hell long
Before you get there!
 

Maybe tonight. 
Maybe tomorrow.
Go to sleep, husband. Don’t worry.

The insanity you drove me to is
Sitting on my shoulder.
Can you see it? It wants your attention!
I'll help you!
Look to the left. 
Look to the right! Look behind you!
 

How you die tonight depends on
How crazy I am. How crazy i feel. How insane I am.
If my craziness don't calm down,
You’re going to die a terrible death!
 

Oh, my. Decisions. Decisions. 
You never let me do that, you know:
Make my own decisions.
One more warning before you
Close your big pretty eyes, sweet husband:

Don’t sleep too hard. Don’t sleep too sound.
Remember to say a long prayer
And hope God will hear you."

The common law wife laughs out loud,
Dancing slowly,  then wildly to
Music she hears in her head.

copyrighted by dorothy charles banks
photo by dorothy charles banks

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Her little ones


Her little ones

They were filled with laughter
They were filled with such joy
And in her youth
She wanted to be left alone
She wanted to be free
One day they grew up and left home

Now when the wind blows
She longs to hear children play
And when the sun goes down
Somehow she looks for them
To come in and prepare for bed

Aged and gray she wishes
So much for yesterday
The little ones she rushed away

From "Silent Seasons" 
copyrighted by Patricia Robinson Arnold

Moody Malady


Moody Malady

O'manic Depression
You moody malady
You took me to the limit
You set me free


I soared with the eagle
I swan with the whale
I was an angel from heaven
I was a nightingale

I would do anything
I was drunk with glee
You make the TV
Talk to me

And then the Thorazine cast its gloomy spell
I crashed from heaven, down into hell
I felt a great weight, too much to bear
I was overcome with despair

But God lifted me up
From my misery
You see, O'manic Depression
He is  greater than thee

And tho' now I am truly free
Our bouts will always be a part of me

Reprinted with permission from the author 
Copyrighted by David Delahoussayse 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

from my black and white photo album

A night on the town Halloween
Singer Evelyn Champagne king

Ladies! Meet "Hot Chocolate"
National singer Michael Henderson and local entertainer Larry Hargrove
Rep. Ron Dellums

"Hot Chocolate"
Late poet Audrey Lord
International entertainer  B. B. King



Department store mannequin

photos by dorothy charles banks

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The President does not always walk away empty handed when negotiating with Republicans


The 2008 regurgitated talking points in 2011 are that President Barack Obama is:
  • Weak and cowardly
  • Not a true leader
  • Too inexperienced
  • Chicago thug
  • Lacks confidence
  • Cannot make decisions
  • Out to destroy America
  • Has destroyed the American way of life
  • Does not believe God, and is not a Christian
  • Is a secret Muslim
  • Lazy and disconnected and emotionally distance
  • "Shucks" and "jives"
  • Hates White people
  • More interested in golfing and traveling than running the government
  • Gives "free stuff" to African Americans
  • Birth certificate is forgery 

The list of names an accusations thrown at President Obama is too numerous to post. The list grows daily. Politicians are just as vocal as are haters and critics of the President.

Not one to miss an opportunity to take a shot at President Obama, Governor Slick Rick Perry recently threw a bone at  Southerners. He knew the lot  would take the bait. The Mexican hating sheriff in Arizona said last week that he plans to investigate the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate. Donald "The Hair" Trump is back on stage singing his birthers song again. He is suffering Attention Deficit Disorder.  Again.

If President Obama did not care about the interests and concerns of the people that he was elected to serve, he could kick back and say this is what God told him to do. Forget the uninsured. Forget the unemployed. He could let Republicans kill and bury the social programs that have helped poor and middle class Americans for decades.  The President could demand that all subsidies and tax breaks stay in place for the rich, which is a Republican goal. This what Republicans want him to do. Pretend he is president, leaving decision making and running the government  up to them.

Republicans say the President is anti-business. Just like he wants to destroy America and free enterprise, he wants to tear down big business. It is his fault that American businesses are providing jobs in third world countries. Republicans want continued subsidies and huge tax breaks for the rich. They feel these are not government welfare, compared to unemployment checks for all of those unemployed "free loaders." Republicans see the weekly checks as welfare and a burden on the economy. Lucrative social programs for the rich and richer are breaks for jobs creators.

Slick Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have been hands on recipients of social welfare ever since they have been in politics. Because they are politicians and gainfully employed by the government, they label these government largess differently.

Republicans say the unemployed are lazy drug addicts and drunkards living on the government dole. They say the unemployed do not want to find employment, because it’s easier to sit home and wait for the checks. The real fact is that people getting unemployment cannot sit home and collect checks. They have to keep a tally of  the places they have gone to apply for work. That information is turned in weekly. 

Sharon Angle, candidate for the Nevada senate seat held by Senator Harry Reid, said in 2010: “I was criticized for saying that Americans won't do certain jobs, and the reason that they won't do certain jobs is because they get more pay on unemployment than they can get to work those . . . those good jobs that are really out there. What has happened is Harry Reid has just extended unemployment, and when he did that he not only made it so that people are less employable, but he makes it so that they want to be dependent on the government. This entitlement pays them more than getting a real job.”

President Obama could have adopted that attitude and let the 2010 lame duck session slip by without any achievements. But he saw thousands of people out work to no fault of their own. Instead of judging the unemployed as did Republicans, the President fought to get what he could for them. And, yes, he compromised with Republicans. And, no, he did not walk away empty handed as the media and pundits are repeatedly broadcasting .


The media headlines blared that President Obama caved. Republicans won. Pundits repeated the headlines incessantly. Both turned the lives and hardships of the employed into a contest of winners and losers. 

Republicans got extended Bush tax cuts for the rich. President Obama got a 13-months  extension for the unemployed, thousands of whom later complained that he was not helping them find employment. A presidents cannot hire,  nor can he force businesses to hire.  He can set the tone for hiring.  President Obama has done that and more.

Through compromise the President got and signed a food safety bill. The GOP does not deem it necessary to worry about food safety. I assume all Republicans and tea party politicians in Washington grow their own vegetables, raise their own beef and poultry, catch the own fish.

Through compromise the President signed “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” legislation. Thousands in the gay community complained, saying he refused to touch the same sex marriage issue and other issues relating to gays. In 18 years no Republicans or Democrats had dealt with DADT and same sex marriage. Unhappy gays have threatened to withhold their support for the President in 2012.  Good.  I'm sure tea party politicians and Republicans will give them everything they want if a Republican wins the presidency and the Senate.

Through compromise and bipartisanship on both sides of the isle, President Obama signed a bill for the ratification of START. Through compromise and bipartisanship he signed the 9/11 First Respondents Bill. The GOP did not want to support this bill unless it was paid for in advance. During the eight years George Bush was in office, hate talk radio and Republicans could not praise the first responders enough. They lauded them as American heroes. But when it came time to help them financially, the hero worshipers dropped the first responders faster than a dog can lick its balls.

Republicans would not bulge on the Dreams Act, leaving President Obama to take the blame for their nonactions. Hispanics said the Presidet is not showing leadership. They said he is refusing to take on the Republicans. They have threatened to withhold their support for him in 2012. People, groups and organizations that are not happy with President Obama seem to think that can wave a magic wandand Republicans will automatically cooperate with him. 


These complainer have not listened to anything Republicans are saying. They have not listened to Republicans boastfully vowing to obstruct everything the President attempts to do. Republicans made a promise to themselves that Barack Obama will not be a second-term president. Having an African American president is too much of a shock for them to handle.

Republicans were in control of the presidency, the House and Senate in 2003. They treated Democrats like homeless children. They were allowed to observe Congress and the Senate, but they had to observe quietly, and not ask to participate. Republicans did not demand that bills be paid before they were signed into law by President Bush. According to Orrin Hatch, senator from Utah:  Six years ago it was standard practice not to pay for things."  He made that flip statement in 2009, followed by a broad smile. VP Dick Cheney said with a smirk on his face: "Deficits don't matter."

Despite President Obama telling Republicans they were not to touch Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security--protesting tea party folk took the streets, telling big government to get out of their lives.  They did not want "big government" to touch their Medicare and Social Security.  I wondered if they are aware that their monthly checks are issued by the maligned big government.

The health care related issue never gone away. Republicans say it's too expensive. We can expect more of the revival of the “death panels” junk talk, popularized by Sarah Palin, with the help of the media and Fox. The uninsured does not want to be insured Republicans are saying, without consulting people who have no health care insurance.

In the midst of the fear-mongering , relentless critics conveniently forgot to mention that insurance companies already have death panels. They decide on a daily basis who will get life saving medications, operations and stays in hospitals. Insurers do not accept people with “pre-existing conditions.”  Being a woman is a "pre-exisitng condition." All  Republicans candidates running for president have said they will wipe out the health care legislation,  Social Security and Medicare,  all of which they will to turn into voucher programs.

Out of anger, the uninsured say President Obama has no right to tell them that they should have health insurance. If he was a Republican he would not care if the poor and middle class had insurance.  Politicians sent to Washington have the best health insurance that taxpayers money can help them pay for. The President feels that citizens have a right to the same excellent, hassle free health care.
 

The President explained when talking about health care insurance, if a young man gets hit by a bus, and needs to be hospitalized, the cost of his care, no matter how extensive, will be passed onto taxpayers. George Bush said every American aldready has health care insurance. He said they can use emergency rooms. A number of Republicans voiced the same ignorance.

The truth is that emergency rooms are temporary pit stops, where individuals are treated, patched up, given a small supply of medication, and a referral for continued care under a private physician. If they do not have health care insurance they are on their own. Emergency rooms are not on-going health care clinics. They are limited to treating emergencies.

If President Obama did not care or believe that Americans deserve the best that America has to offer, he could restrict his concerns and attitude.  Republicans do not want Americans to have the best if it comes from this president. Republican candidates vying for the presidency have already proven that do-nothing politics and big campaign donations are more important than people who will enviably vote them into office. 


President Obama is lazy, disconnected, does like like America or Americans, weak, inexperienced, not a loyal American. . . . Really, Republicans?

Monday, August 15, 2011

'The Help' is not about a 1960's civil rights movement or the physical rape of Black women

The Help garnered $25 million over the weekend, proving the critic's nitpicking is unfounded. I saw the movie Friday, and I looked for the fault finding that Black and White critics discussed on their blogs and in newspapers. Their commentary reminds of all the brouhaha about The Color Purple, in which  Danny Glover played  "Mr”, a mean spirited abuser of his young wife played by Whoopi Goldberg. 

The NAACP did not like The Color Purple. At one of its annual award shows, the organization ignored Glover and Goldberg. The NAACP said the movie “aired Black people's dirty laundry in public.” Issues exposed in the movie should be kept private. It's as though they did not want anyone to know that the Black community has its share of dirty laundry and dirty characters.

Well Lord, howdy, NAACP! Black communities everywhere have their share of mean, abusive  husbands like "Mr." We have men who rape their daughters! We have husbands and wives who are unfaithful to their mates! We have cheating men in the pullpit preaching about morality and righteousness every Sunday morning! We do a pretty good job of "airing our dirty laundry in public without the help of a movie!

I got off track there for a minute. Don't get me started on Black folk being proper and outraged about airing our dirty business!





Pictured top and bottom actors Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Udate: Octavia Spencer was the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Ward winner. She won the Best Supporting Actress, 2012 Academy Awards; Viola Davis won the Academy's Leading Role award, she was also up for Best Actress (she didn't win); the movie won  The Outstanding Ensemble in a Motion Picture, Academy Awards.                                                          
Watching The Help I did not see physical assaults on Black domestics. The attacks were on their spirit. They were helpless to act on what they were feeling. They had to work. They had families to support. But through it all they held their heads high.

My grandmother worked as a domestic for years. She raised White children, and had little time for her own family when she came home late in the evening. My grandmother addressed White women and their husbands with "Mrs." and  "Mr." They called her by her first name. She answered them with yes-ma'am, no-ma'am, yes sir, no sir. They said yes and no to her. If they said something derogatory about Black people, she pretended she did not hear them. Or she would agree with them. My grandmother did this whenever she talked to White people. This behavior was prevalent in The Help.

I remember her working for an old drunkard. He was married, but he deemed it was his right to call my grandmother early in the morning or late at night on days she was not scheduled to work. He often demanded that she come to work on Sunday, no matter her plans to attend church, or spend time with her family. She called him "Mr. Crook".  That was really his real name. 

One night a young White woman she worked came to see her. I was there. I sat and listened to "Yes-ma'am" and "No-ma'am" until I thought I would burst. Unflattering words tickled my stomach, and they were traveling fast towards my mouth. Ignoring the White woman in the room, I asked my grandmother: "Why are you saying yes-ma'am and no-ma'am to her? She's calling you by your first name and you're calling her Mrs. She should show you the same respect!"

The woman, who  had her two young daughters with her, was shocked that a Black woman would address her in such a tone. She smiled nervously.  Turning to her I said, "You should be addressing my grandmother as Mrs." She did not know how to respond. She waited for my grandmother to protect her from me.

My grandmother responded by hurriedly shooing me out of her apartment, apologizing to her “boss lady” for my behavior. I think that is why I never allow a White person--man or woman-- to address me by my first name. If they introduce themselves with "I'm Mr. John Doe", or "Miss (Mrs) Jane Doe", I say “I'm Mrs. Banks.” I have watched expressions change when they are forced to understand that respect is a two way street.

Black critics who feel that The Help is  a Hollywood tale of fantasy should talk to their grandmothers, elderly aunts, uncles and elderly females in their communities who earned their living as The Help. Their stories did not make it to the big screen. During the time period The Help covered it did not matter if a Black woman or man had a college degree or PH.D. Their employment prospects were limited. They could teach at all Black schools and colleges, settle for minimum wage jobs. If women were good cooks they could cook for a sorority house on a university campus.

Black critics of this movie should read their history, and not whitewash the history of their mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers. The Association of Black Women Historians are so unhappy with the depiction of Black women in the movie, it was stated so in this open letter:

"On behalf of the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH), this statement provides historical context to address widespread stereotyping presented in both the film and novel version of The Help. The book has sold over three million copies, and heavy promotion of the movie will ensure its success at the box office. Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights activism."

Professor Melissa Harris-Perry, watching the movie in a theater, tweeted to Lawrence O’Donnell’s, host of the The Last Word on MSNBC :  “This is not a movie about the lives of Black women.” 

Making an appearance later on the show she said:  “It’s historical and deeply troubling to make the suffering of these laborers a backdrop for a happy story. But there was a silver lining to the film.” She concluded: “What kills me is that in 2011 Viola Davis is reduced to playing a maid.”

Davis is an accomplished TV and big screen actress who is hired to play roles of all kinds. She made a choice to play a domestic who was not free to make a choices about where she would work. Their "career" choices were limited to a scale of zero to zero. What Harris-Perry failed to mention is that Black woman in Hollywood are not getting the meaty roles White actresses are getting, no matter how attractive or good they are at their craft.

Summary: The stories in this movie were those of the domestics, and the ordeals they encountered in the 1950s and 1960s, a time of turmoil and civil unrest in America. These women had families to take of, including husbands who could not find work. Black women of that era were at the mercy of  White women who paid them less than a livable wage. They were subject to getting fired for no reason if they made demands for a decent wage, and reasonable hours. They lived with helplessness everyday, 24-7. When an employer controls your pocket book, he or she basically controls you.

The Help was not a Martin Luther King civil right movie. It was not a movie about slavery; the rape of black women and young girls. It was not a movie about Medgar Evers, the slain civil rights leader from Mississippi. The maids told the stories that needed to be told. It appears that telling their stories, seeing them published in a book, freed them. They had a sense of pride. But they still continued working for White families, riding a bus or walking to work. The multi-layered work of cleaning houses, cooking meals and raising White children has not changed.

The older “Yes-ma'am” and “No-ma'am” African America domestics of today still conduct themselves the same as the maids in The Help. I ride the city bus and sometimes I overhear their conversations. Ingrained lessons learned in their younger years are still stuck in their minds, and they can not break the habit of showing respect for the White women they work for. They are afraid to demand equal respect.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rev. Anthony Mays talks about the movie 'The Passion of The Christ'


Rev. Anthony Mays, Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church
The Passion of the Christ is a movie that focuses on the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus. It opens with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani, located on the slope of the Mount of Olives. Jesus appears to be in a state of anguish, seemingly knowing of the fate awaiting him in a matter of hours. Coming from the Last Supper, Jesus is cognizant that he had been portrayed by Judas Iscariot. The  portrayal  subsequently led to the arrest of Jesus.  

A synopsis of the 2004 movie states: ". . . leaders of the Pharisees confront him with accusations of blasphemy; subsequently, his trial results with the leaders condemning him to his death. Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Palestine, for his sentencing. Pilate listens to the accusations leveled at Jesus by the Pharisees. Realizing that his own decision will cause him to become embroiled in a political conflict, Pilate defers to King Herod in deciding the matter of how to persecute Jesus.

"However, Herod returns Jesus to Pilate who, in turn, gives the crowd a choice between which prisoner they would rather to see set free--Jesus or Barabbas. The crowd chooses to have Barabbas set free. Thus, Jesus is handed over to the Roman soldiers and is brutally flagellated. Bloody and unrecognizable, He is brought back before Pilate who, once again, presents Him to the thirsty crowd--assuming they will see that Jesus has been punished enough. The crowd, however, is not satisfied. Thus, Pilate washes his hands of the entire dilemma, ordering his men to do as the crowd wishes.

"Whipped and weakened, Jesus is presented with the cross and is ordered to carry it through the streets of Jerusalem, all the way up to Golgotha. There, more corporal cruelty takes place as Jesus is nailed to the cross--suffering, He hangs there, left to die. Initially, in His dazed suffering, Jesus is alarmed that He has been abandoned by God his father. Eventually, He overcomes his fear and with his last breaths, tells Mary, his Mother, 'It is accomplished.' He then beseeches God, 'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit'. At the moment of His death, nature itself over-turns".


Matthews 27:21-26: " . . . The governor answered and said to them, 'Which of the two do you want to see release to you?' They said, 'Barabbas!' (22) Pilate said to them, 'What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said to him, 'Let Him be crucified!' (23) Then the governor said, 'Why, what evil has He done?' But they cried out all the more, saying, 'Let Him be crucified!' (24) When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.' (25) And all the people answered and said, 'His blood be on us and on our children.' (26) Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified".

Movie critics graded the movie from A+ to C-. Moviegoers also walked away with mixed reviews and reactions. The Passion of The Christ, is a controversial movie produced and directed by Mel Gibson. Many Jews were angry at the movie’s suggestion that they were portrayed as being responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. They declared it was antisemitic. Outspoken Jews undertook the task of  getting the movie banned in theaters. The verbal stab at Gibson missed its target. 


No Hollywood money would back the movie financially. Gibson, a well known actor of westerns and action movies, was told there was no audience for this kind  movie, despite earlier movies about Jesus and the crucifixion, that were financially successful. But Gibson was not deterred. He was determined to make the movie. Gibson financed it himself.  So far Passion of the Christ it has netted millions of dollars all over the world. It is expected to garner near a billion dollars when CD sales kick in.

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, gave the movie a C. He thought it should have been a religious experience. He wrote: The Passion of the Christ should have left audiences in a state of exaltation, instead it just leaves audiences exhausted”. Gibson chose to focus on the crucifixion.

Not being knowledgeable about the Bible, I decided to interview Rev. A. W. Anthony Mays, senior pastor of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Austin, Texas on Cameron Road. I had visited his church several times and thought he was a good choice to give me his interpretation of the movie, and to explain the misinterpretations.  This version of the interview is much longer than the original copy that appeared in The Villager in 2004.
 

Dorothy: Is Jesus a title? Or is it Jesus the Christ?

Rev. Mays: His personal name is Jesus. Christ is actually a title, which means the anointed one, the chosen one. But over a period of time, shortening things as we tend to do, it has become Jesus Christ. Some people confuse that with a personal name. It’s Jesus. Christ is equivalent to the Messiah. The Christ comes from the Greek translation as the Jewish Messiah. So it’s a title.
 

Dorothy: So what was Jesus’ passion? Was it God’s passion manifested through him?

Rev. Mays: Actually the word passion means suffering. I don’t want to confuse that with the emotional feeling of passion. The word passion in the scripture is in reference during religious times. It has to do with a period and time of suffering. It talks about Christ during the passion, or going through the passion, or passion week as religious tradition gives us. It’s referring to his crucifixion and his time of trivial.

Dorothy: Some moviegoers had a problem when Jesus was in the Garden. Explain that scene according to your interpretation.

Rev. Mays: Well, I have not seen the movie. But in the Bible at the Last Supper, Christ sought a place to go into prayer. He was consciously aware of the Cross that was before him. When He goes to the Garden of Gethsemani, He goes to be in intense prayer with the Father. Gethsemani is the symbolic name of all those who come together to prepare for the Cross experience. But as I’m hearing from reliable sources, the author, the writers of the movie, interjected in certain scenes, things that come from Bible teachings. But I wouldn’t want people to be confused that’s actually what happened in the Garden.

Dorothy: There was one scene where Satan shows up . . . appearing very womanly. . . almost seductive. Was this one of the temptations?

Rev. Mays: I understand they must have done that in flashback. The temptations, what we call 'The Three Temptations in The Wilderness', actually took place at the beginning, the earliest of Christ’s earthly ministry. When he was preparing to launch his public ministry he was baptized. After he was baptized he had this period of testing. In our religious experience we understand there is always this period of testing to see if the servant will be obedient, submissive, will follow the will of the Lord.

So in the wilderness the temptations Satan was trying to get Christ off track. Satan was trying to get the Christ to use his powers selfishly, such as turn the stone into bread. He was trying to get him to test God by jumping off of a high pinnacle. And then finally the temptation was: ‘I can give you the world without a Cross if you’ll just bow down and worship me. If you'll serve me you won’t have to go to a Cross.’ And of course Christ rejected all three of the temptations. So the temptation experience, with all biblical characters, is the time that they must remain steadfast to the purpose of their calling.

Dorothy: So Satan himself did not show up while Christ was in the Garden?”

Rev. Mays: Not in bodily form. That is one of those areas where I want people to know the difference between actual Scripture, and Hollywood taking a creative license. The temptation experience was a part of the life of Christ.

Dorothy: Some people said Mel Gibson stuck with the scripture, some said he didn’t.

Rev. Mays: The sources that I have said he did not go with it word for word, in the chronology of the scripture. He didn’t stay true to the scripture.


Scene from Passion of the Christ
Dorothy: I understand that he had choices, but could Jesus have change his destiny? What if the crucifixion hadn’t happened?

Rev. Mays: Well, the scripture teaches that Christ could have made a choice. The glorious thing is he chose to be obedient to the Father’s plan. The reality of it was, he actually did have a choice. He could have resisted, but he chose not to resist. Paul writes in part of the scripture in book of first Corinthians that if Christ did not die, and rise again from the grave, then we would still be living in sin. We would still be lost. We would not have any hope because of our imperfection, and because of our being born in a sinful condition. There would be no remedy.

Dorothy: Critics were critical of the crucifixion scene. They felt it was too brutal. They wanted a less violent, cleaner crucifixion. It seems they couldn’t endure what they saw on the screen. Why do we need something quick and clean rather than the reality of that event?

Rev. Mays: I believe the reactions that are being described to me, are the reactions of the brutalization of the crucifixion  . . .  portrayed on the screen in such a manner, in such a way, and the length of time--that is a very dominant part of the movie. Of course we have something in our human nature that makes us cringe at the sense of violence. I believe that generally, persons wanting it to be a quick death is, because they are not comfortable with realizing the extent of Christ’s love for us to endure that; to see it and know that he did it for us. My personal experience was back in seminary. I had a professor who in very conversational tones described the crucifixion in such a way it really pierced me within my spirit, what Christ must have endured.

Dorothy: What did he tell you?

Rev. Mays: He told about the kind of pain, the bodily degree, the length of time, the number of lashes, the method of scourging, the nails, the hanging (from the Cross). He described it in such detail that you could vividly imagine it. I have not seen in any other movie about Christ where they show in detail–as I’m told–the degree of that physical punishment where you can see it, the blood and the like. People want to turn away from that. Actually, it says something about the great weight of sin when we see how much he suffered for us.

Dorothy: When I looked at the movie, each time he was struck, I literally felt the blow myself. I flinched. I wonder if that is what Mel Gibson wanted us to do, to feel what Christ went through for our sake?

Rev. Mays: I think that would be a reasonable conclusion, because at some point, as I read the reports, Mel Gibson has some kind of significant experience in his own life. It came so clear to him that I think that was his drive in making the movie, making it different as other religious scenes. He didn’t spare us the feelings. And perhaps it was well his intention that we would sense even the pain, even to the extent you described, the flinching when the licks were being administered to the Christ.

Dorothy: There were some moviegoers who said they had gone to the movie and were healed. They said they were nonbelievers, but when they left the movie they had become believers. Is it possible for a movie to have that kind of affect? I read that one woman had a heart attack after seeing the movie.

Rev. Mays: I think it depends upon what a person is susceptible to--the preparation of person’s mind of the experience. I do believe that Christ is a healer, and I believe that He can heal, that He operates through faith for healing. So I can’t discount that a healing took place. I don’t believe that was the purpose of the movie. I do believe that Catholics in their tradition, are very open to the miraculous visitations by Christ and images in strange places. I think the culture of that tradition prepares people, and makes people open to that. I do believe it’s possible a nonbeliever can actually become a believer. Though I have not seen the movie, I question how the resurrection was portrayed.

Dorothy: They didn’t show that part.

Rev. Mays: And that was a disappointment for me. A disappointment, meaningfully so, in the experience of the crucifixion. But our faith is about the victory of the resurrection, and I’m disappointed that His victory over death and the grave is not made clear. Other than that it’s a tragic story. So it ends with the tragedy but not taking us to the glorious victory.

Dorothy: Speaking of resurrection, I am sure you’ve heard the Shroud of Turin. Scholars and scientists have done all kinds of tests on the cloth but they can’t figure out how the image got on it. The way Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described Jesus, he fits that image. Why do you think people refuse to believe this might have been Jesus’ image?

Rev. Mays: Well, for me personally, I read in the Bible that man tends to worship relics of the past. In the old testament Moses did something in order to keep people from worshiping those items. Actually, the elements were destroyed to keep the people from worshiping them. The Shroud of Turin, to me, is along that line, in the great interest on whether this was actually the cloth that Christ was wrapped in for his burial. I would rather focus upon the truth of the resurrection, and not place a great weight on if it’s actually the cloth or not. It may well be a mystery, but for me, I don’t want to frame it or bow down to it. If it’s not the cloth it does not destroy my faith. It’s not a crucial issue.

Dorothy: Back to the movie. The Jewish community is upset because, they say, it gives the impression that Jews killed Jesus.

Rev. Mays: Well, according to the scriptures they were conspirators. They manipulated the Roman system at the time to get Christ to the Cross. They weren’t the executioners, because Roman law did not allow them to carry out legal executions. So they manipulated the Jewish leaders, the Romans and put pressure on them to crucify Christ. In that sense they did participate and they did cause the death of Christ.

Dorothy: What role did Pontius Pilate play? In the movie he was very indecisive.

Rev. Mays: In the scripture Pilate is manipulated by the Jews. In scripture reference, the gospel records, Pilate could not find reason to crucify Christ. He could not determine anything that Jesus was actually guilty of, or worthy of death. And his examination of Christ, in the scripture, said, ‘I find no fault in this man.’ But because the Jewish crowd said to him that if he did not execute Jesus, he was not a friend of Caesar. Pilate did not want to get in trouble with Caesar or with the Roman authorities.

His position was dependent upon Rome being pleased with how he handled the territory. And so out of fear, Pilate allowed Jesus to be crucified. He said himself, ‘I wash my hands of this man’s blood.’ And that’s the point, in scripture, that the crowd said ‘Let His blood be upon us and upon our children.’ And that, to me, is where I’m disappointed that Mel Gibson backed away from that because of the pressure that the Jews applied.

Now to be fair to the Jewish sensibilities, historically, a lot of terrible people have justified hatred and violence toward Jews, because they believe they crucified the Lord, and say they are deserving of whatever hatred or violence they suffered. But that’s a twisting of the Scripture. That would be holding a whole nation accountable for the evil of a few men. I am disappointed that he (Gibson) said I’m going to follow Scripture, but would pick and choose what he’s going to put in, what he’s going to keep out to please the modern day theaters. I understand he didn’t want to produce a movie that twisted minded persons would use to become anti-Semitic.

Dorothy: People seem to be looking for something, but they can’t accept Jesus. They can’t accept God. What are they looking for?

Rev. Mays: Looking for God on our own terms.

Dorothy:  We want be God? We want to control other people?

Rev. Mays: When I go back Genius records the original sin, Satan came to Eve, and I believe the real hook that caught her was when Satan disagreed with God. God had said don’t eat thereof (the fruit on the tree) or you will surely die. Satan comes along an says ‘No. No. You’re not going to die, but you will become as God.’ I think that man in his natural state wants to be his own god. He really doesn’t want a god above him. And so the God of the Bible is uncomfortable for the nonbeliever. He wants to find fault with him, because he wants to go his own way. He doesn’t want to be answerable or accountable. He wants to live as his own god; independent, making his own choices and decisions. But he keeps running into life situations, and then he knows is not a god.

Dorothy: Explain to me what a Christian is. People keeping saying ‘I’m a Christian’ but I don’t see it in their hearts and deeds.

Rev. Mays: That is a good question. What is a Christian? In the Scripture, Christian was not a thought out definition. It was not someone trying to be accurate. Because the scripture says after faith had become visible and active, it was only later on in a place called Anthea that they were first called Christians. That’s the first time we see that word. The understanding is that a Christian is a believer in Christ, a follower of Christ. Simply stated in the Bible, a Christian would be someone who believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that he came into the world through the virgin birth of Mary. That he died on the cross for our sins, and rose again, and ascended back to the Father and one day he shall return.

Now, persons who confess that with their mouth, who believes it in their heart, are indeed Christians. You have weak Christians and you have strong Christians. You have baby Christians and you have mature Christians. All kinds of Christians. But the real distinction according to the Bible has to be in what a person believes. It’s said that some people say I’m a Christian, and their lives don’t parallel their confession.

Dorothy: I hear some preachers talk about The Rapture, and I’m assuming that’s the return of Jesus. After 9/11 you would have thought he was right around the corner. So what is The Rapture? Will we know when it comes?

Rev. Mays: The Rapture is a term that describes a future event where the believers in Christ are going to be caught up. That’s what the words means to be 'caught up.' It means when Christ shall appear the second time. Those that believe in him will not experience death if they are alive. It means literally that they would rise from the earth. The Rapture means that those who have died in faith and been buried, will rise from their graves. There is a later time when the earth comes to its final conclusion. It has to do with the war called Armageddon, which has to do with the final judgment. The Rapture is a preview to the final event.

I wonder why 9/11 got the attention that it did in the religious community, even in American history. I don’t know the number or the statistics, but Pearl Harbor was an attack. I don’t understand the rational of saying 9/11 was a terrorists attack. I can understand how unsuspecting America was. That showed how venerable we were for that to happen as it did. But to tie that to some religious calendar event, saying that the end is right around the corner because of 9/11, that is not a conclusion I came to based upon my own understanding of the scripture.