Protesting the Crimes of "Passion"

from a member of Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, New York City

Revolutionary Worker #1232, March 14, 2004, posted at

If you were watching The Daily Show on the Comedy Channel the other night and caught the bit they did on the opening of the movie The Passion of the Christ in New York City, you might've noticed some people with red flags among the crowds in front of a theater in Times Square-- and probably wondered who they were. Here's a report from members of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade who were out there with their red flags.

If you go to the official web site for The Passion of the Christ you can get group tickets for your whole church. You can order official literature to distribute outside theaters with gruesome pictures of a battered and bloody "Jesus" from the movie. You can purchase sermons to drive home the "lessons" of the movie. You will find praise for this film from every major Christian Fascist, including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. And, when you go to this movie--you are likely to run into their "flock." The foot soldiers of this growing, unthinking "army of god," set out to prey upon the minds and hearts of people who go to this movie, looking for meaning and sense in a cruel and confusing world.

So, when the Revolutionary Communist Party, NY Branch, put out a statement about the dangers of this movie, we in the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade studied it and got ready. (The statement appeared in last week's issue of the RW and is available online at On the day of the opening of this movie we headed up to the heart of Times Square with this statement, writings on religion from our Chairman, Bob Avakian, big red flags, signs, and bibles with pages marked off so to show the inconsistencies and the horrors that come with a literal interpretation of this book.

When we arrived there were already half a dozen groups of Christians preaching and "sidewalk counseling." A few of us began agitating--calling out the plunder that has been carried out in the name of Jesus: all the peoples that have been colonized, exterminated, or enslaved by conquerors who carried a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other; the crimes being committed today by a president who thinks he is sanctioned by god; the links between this reactionary religious movie and the ugly state of the world. Others handed out copies of the statement, talking and debating with moviegoers and passersby.

Almost everyone was shocked to see us there--and many had questions about why we were protesting the movie. Three young Black women came up and asked us why we were protesting and what we thought of the Bible. One woman said she feels conflicted because "the Bible doesn't really approve of me." She is a lesbian who has felt for a long time that there was something wrong with the Bible, but she really wanted to know exactly what was wrong with it, why we were so sure. We talked for some time about how this is a book written by men with their own agendas, that the book contradicts itself, and that those who push a literal interpretation of the Bible (like Mel Gibson) are doing it as part of a very sinister agenda. Before she left she got a copy of Bob Avakian's "Liberation Without Gods"-- and she cautioned me that I should keep my eyes open cuz a lot of the Christians are not really peace- loving at all.

Our presence got many people riled up--and drew many in to find out what we were saying. Some Christians tried to convert us and prayed for us, but once they heard that we were atheists, some threw our flyers down and stormed off. Others got very angry and were unflinching in their literal belief in the Bible-- when challenged, they upheld everything from stoning gay people to the creation of the whole world in seven days. It was unbelievable not just how ignorant some of them were to basic features of the world around them--from evolution, to what is a fetus, to whether dinosaurs ever existed, to what fossils are--but how angry they were at us for bringing up science at all!

There were others who stopped to talk or listen in. Some went off to the side of the debates and read our statement closely or talked to each other about it. One immigrant youth who had come to the movie alone spent a lot of energy trying to convince us that we shouldn't rule out the possibility of god--but sincerely wanted to know why we opposed the movie. Many hadn't considered what agenda it may be pushing, seeing it as religious and therefore "above" politics. This guy, and others, agreed vehemently with our opposition to Bush and the direction he is taking the world--but had a hard time seeing how this movie had anything to do with that.

While it wasn't the most typical response, there were several people who thanked us for being out there, and some especially appreciated that we were calling out the oppressive history of Christianity in particular.

A Jamaican man wanted to know our specific beef with Jesus and with the Bible. He wanted to know if we believed in any religion and what it meant to be an atheist. The police came by and told him very gruffly that he had to keep moving. Our new friend didn't hesitate at all and walked over to our side of the police barricades and volunteered to hold the sign that said, "In the Name of Jesus: Slavery, Holocaust, Crusades, Gay-bashing, Native American Genocide," and started yelling out to passersby, "They did slavery in the name of Jesus! They killed the Indians in the name of Jesus! They killed millions in the name of Jesus!" This man had tremendous hatred and anger for the way that religion has divided the world, justified oppression and exploitation, and taught people to accept the injustice. He got a big grin when others in the YB began shouting, "People need to stop praying to things that don't exist and start fighting for liberation." He stayed with us to the very end and took home a copy of our Chairman's writings on religion.

When we were almost out of the 1,600 flyers we had brought, we headed towards the train. On our way, we collected literature from the groups who were peddling religious nonsense. We got our hands on the official Passion literature. And we got something that, even after all the debates we had been in, totally stunned us. It was a Bible with a big American bald eagle symbol on the front, and the words, "Operation Enduring Freedom," the name of the U.S. war on Afghanistan, printed right on the cover! In case we needed further evidence to make the connection between the Christian Fascist agenda, a blood-lust movie like The Passion , and the dangerous juggernaut of war and repression that has been launched from the highest office in the land!

Still on our way to the train, we passed where one of the theaters showing The Passion was letting out, and the scene immediately heated up again, only even more so than before. Here we met people on their way out of the movie, people who had just sat through a graphic depiction of Jesus being tortured and executed, a movie meant to infuriate and provoke. We got a sense of the effect of this movie on people. There were far fewer debates and much less inquiry or discussion--instead, we were surrounded and followed, taunted and yelled at. Their fury raised up to a higher pitch once they realized we were communists. What was most alarming is that these were not the people who came to hand out Jesus flyers or the organized evangelists--these were regular people, of all ages and nationalities, who were whipped up by a dangerous and manipulative movie.

On the train a couple days later I saw a young Black man harassing a Hasidic Jew, blaming Jews for the death of Jesus and praising Mel Gibson. A friend told me about waiting tables and having customers spend the evening trying to convince her to see the movie. Everywhere you go people are talking or reading about it.

As we struggled with people to join us in protesting this movie--it has become more and more clear that the dangers of religious fundamentalism are way too little understood. Some didn't see what the big deal was--"It's just a movie." Others thought it was wrong to challenge people's religious beliefs, or at least not that important.

Bob Avakian recently said, "Look at this whole religious fundamentalist thing they've got. This is an effort to deliberately build up a base of people, millions and millions and millions of people, who are frightened of thinking--I'm serious--people who cannot deal with the `complicatedness,' all the complexity of modern society, who want simple answers to all the complexities of this society. This whole religious fundamentalist thing is based on mindless absolutism--like that bumpersticker: `god said it, I believe it, and that settles it.'. Now here's another example of how they get these people to be unthinking stormtroopers."

No, this is not "just a movie." It is a high-powered piece of propaganda to promote blind and obedient submission to Jesus, as interpreted by religious leaders of an empire that is plundering the planet. As a co-worker of one of the YB members said after seeing the movie, "Well, two years ago a bunch of Muslim fundamentalists flew two planes into some buildings and killed thousands of people. This movie is about getting Christians ready to retaliate in the same kind of way."