What's next for Mel Gibson after his 'Passion of the Christ' violence fest?

I promised myself I would not add to the logorrhea already dedicated to what one writer aptly called a "sacrilegious snuff movie," but I am compelled to wonder why America let itself be seduced by Mel Gibson's pathology. His movie, The Passion of the Christ, is not only a multimillion-dollar violence fest, but also a graphic manifestation of Gibson's madness.

Here's a guy who professes devout Catholicism on the one hand while admitting to Diane Sawyer a desire to skewer the intestines of a critic (and to kill the critic's dog). Why this disclosure alone wasn't enough for everyone to realize that Mel Gibson is completely bonkers is mindboggling.

Unfortunately, people are wasting vast amounts of energy reacting to a lunatic's vision, so instead of discrediting Gibson, critics are going after the film. What we need is a dozen or so psychologist-types analyzing what motivates Mad Mel and why Americans are flocking to see a pornographic movie in the guise of inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

In case you missed it, Gory Gibson claims the Holy Spirit was working through him as he made the movie. This is Catholic code for saying, "God speaks to me." According to Catholic theology, the Holy Spirit is God, or at least part of God. It's kind of like the trilateral commission, with God the father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit making up God, only it's spiritual instead of political. Oh, wait, it's religious theology, a unique blend of spiritual and political. But I digress.

Though I'm no shrink, I've got a few ideas about why this movie is so popular among Christians, especially those of the evangelical persuasion. On the one hand, the tenets of their faith require hardcore Christians to eschew pornographic violence. But on the other hand, they, as all of us, have a dark side. (They don't admit to this, of course, choosing instead to blame it all on Satan.)

So aside from a movie about the torture of Jesus, a movie which purports--but utterly fails--to demonstrate the redemptive qualities of suffering, how else can Christians indulge their dark side? While Catholic priests have found thousands of ways to do so, most devout Christians do everything they can to rid themselves of devilish thoughts. (With the exception of Madman Mel, who has a devilish thought, credits it to the Holy Spirit and turns it into a blockbuster.)

So Gibson's flay flick is a sanctioned and suitable surrogate for sleaze that hordes of Christians can comfortably flock to without feeling defiled by anything as down and dirty as in-your-face porn. Not that Gibson's gore-a-thon isn't down, dirty and in-your-face, but because the actor playing Jesus is merely re-enacting the rabbi's precipitous fall from grace, followed by his flogging and crucifixion; and because the heretofore mentioned flogging and crucifixion were divinely ordained events calculated to save all mankind (and especially Christians) from eternal damnation, then it is perfectly OK to watch two hours of such graphic humiliation and sadomasochism that even the Marquis himself would shudder in revulsion.

The question for Gibson is: Where does he go from here? Though the movie doesn't lend itself to a sequel, there are other moneymaking schemes Mel can undertake to ensure his bank account doesn't dwindle when film interest begins to wane. (If some commentators are correct, Hollywood will not be welcoming Gibson's projects anytime soon.)

He can start by licensing McDonald's action figures. If it works for Disney, why not Gibson?

"Collect one disciple with each Kid's Meal. Jesus and Judas bonus figures available for purchase. Make playtime a learning experience for your children!" A popular item for teens would be a Playstation game entitled "Saviour's Battle," in which Jesus and Satan engage in mortal combat for the hearts and minds of the world's population. A theme park in Southern California would be a big draw for pious families. Gibson could call it "Salvation Acres," or, taking a page from Disney, "Jesus Land." Too bad "Graceland" is not available.

In addition to dioramas representing scenes from the Gospels, the park would have the usual selection of attractions, including rides with a Christian theme such as "Hell House," "Tunnel of Heaven" and "Corinthians Coaster." The park would also feature actors dressed up as biblical characters and a dining experience modeled on the Last Supper.

Since suffering plays such a large part in the Christian mindset, an adults-only shop carrying a full line of implements for self-flagellation and bodily mortification would ensure that moviegoers can inflict themselves with a sobering measure of pain whenever they feel life is going too smoothly. Though these items are already available at leather shops, it shouldn't be a deterrent; after all, the goal is agony, not ecstasy, and, as Gibson's movie reminds us, what could be more Christian than that?

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