Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 3-07-04
by Jeff Gill

Anchor Pharmacy in Village Plaza has closed; while new manufacturing and warehouse space goes up north of town, we still have changes in the heart of town.

Word is that the prescriptions and “some” employees are going out to Kroger on East Main, and they better treat them right!

PAL Printing is about to finish their shift over to the old bank/library building they bought from the village last year (and we’ll watch to see what goes in their old hardware/clockshop/car detailing space), and the former municipal building, sold at the same time, is slowly being renovated for business and rental use.
In any village like Hebron there’s a real story to learn about what operations “used to be” in various buildings, or even simply “on” certain spots, like Hebron’s first Kroger in the early 1900’s where the drive-thru for Park National is.

Just east of there, Foxy Nails has made the old consignment shop look nice, and in cleaning the pole sign out front (I’m guessing in preparation to paint it), they’ve briefly exposed a ghostly inscription of “Dawson’s 5 & 10” on the west side of the sign. I’ve heard a number of local residents talk about how Mr. Dawson would close on Tuesday’s to go to Cincinnati to restock, so if you told him what you were looking for on Monday, you could get it by Wednesday at Dawson’s. Take that, internet! Hebron had just in time inventory and overnight delivery in the 50’s! Well, sorta.

Lakewood Band Boosters are doing Basket Bingo at the Tri-County Dive Team Building behind the Cardinal in Buckeye Lake on Saturday, Mar. 6. Hard to believe that the day for leaving to play on Disney World’s Main Street is less than six weeks away. . .

You’ve probably read your fill about “The Passion of the Christ” in this column . . . and if you haven’t, you can read my longer comments at . . . but in fairness, is it time to rethink “The Last Temptation of Christ,” Martin Scorsese’s 1988 movie? A perfectly respectful film which was largely controversial to people who had not seen it and had no idea what the movie was doing (it was a long flashback of Jesus’ temptation by a very interesting Satan-figure, not what the filmmakers were saying actually happened to Jesus, which was what folks claimed to be upset about). The soundtrack to that, by the way, was partially recycled into “The Passion.” Anyhow, neither film is for children, and both provoke serious thought about important themes.

And how does “Jesus Christ Superstar” look now? Carl Anderson, the Judas who almost stole the movie from Ted Neely’s Jesus, died last week at 58. Then there’s the rolling release of “The Gospel According to John.” Jim Caviezel, Mel Gibson’s Jesus, keeps joking with interviewers that we’re going to see a surge of movies in Aramaic: but there’s already “Life of Brian” and “Dogma” . . . talk about movies not suitable for children, but all fascinating in their own way.

A number of you have sent me an e-mail forward that I’d actually seen a few years back, which is having a resurgence on the internet, purporting to tell the true story of Mel Gibson. Check out the invaluable at for the real deal; ditto for the Capt. Kangaroo at Iwo Jima story, for which you can enter Keeshan in the search box and see the facts about that.

Did you see the absolutely amazing Rainbow last week? It was a capital-R rainbow, all across the eastern sky: a Perfect Arc, making me think again about how ancient peoples must have looked on this mystery with awe and wonder . . . vs. our amazement even when you know a bit about optics and suspended water droplets. Next week, indicators of Spring (like “pitchers and catchers report” to spring training! and Cubs fans still have World Series hopes!).

Prime Producers 4-H had a great meeting with 35 kids present, and Martha & Dave Cable have their hands full (fuller than usual, that is); the club project this year will be fishing, with a chance for them and this column to tell the story of the most remarkable biotech business in central Ohio, the Hebron Fish Hatchery. Their next meeting will hold officer elections, Sunday, March 14 at 6 pm downstairs at Hebron Christian Church.

Plus this weekend is the birthday of the Girl Scouts of America! They do much more than sell cookies, y’know. Thanks to Juliette Low of Savannah, Georgia sharing an ocean liner with Lord Baden-Powell who had just started a boy’s group called “Scouting,” her curiosity, and her initiative once back home, we now have the GSA. Have a Savannah in the girls’ honor, OK?

And down at the Hebron Mill, thanks to the host business Brezina Design and Construction, an interesting art exhibit is on display by a Licking County graphic designer, open whenever the building is open which is most of the week: but the art display is only up through March, so drop by some morning or afternoon.

More, more, more next week at the Hebron Crossroads, especially about the Crossroads Festival Memorial Day weekend!

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a fan of Samoas (and Thin Mints, but who isn’t?); if you have Scouting stories to share, boy or girl, or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Notes From My Knapsack -- on "The Passion of the Christ"
(a special bulletin insert, Feb. 29)

Since this is a fifth Sunday/youth-led worship, where the preacher normally plays a supporting role and keeps quiet (or at least quieter than usual!), I wanted to add this bulletin insert today for you to read on your own.

"The Passion of the Christ" has attracted a great deal of attention in recent days, and opened in local theaters on Ash Wednesday. The first thing as your pastor I want to say is that I hope many of you will go see it, ideally while it’s still in theaters on a large screen. It is a very powerful movie.

Having said that, let me note that a bolt of lightning is powerful, as is electricity. Fire, Mack trucks, sexual intimacy, these are all powerful things: so powerful that we know that there are certain times and places and circumstances where their power can be channeled and used rightly. So we have fireplaces and don’t build a fire in the living
room floor, there are load limits on bridges and CDL’s required to drive certain vehicles, we have the institution of marriage where life and relationships can blossom and grow, and we make sure our wiring has insulation and fuses and no short circuits in it.

I recommend "The Passion of the Christ" to adult, mature Christians. What I very carefully would caution is that this film is not an evangelistic tool for taking your unchurched friend to, or anyone who knows little of the story of Jesus of Nazareth before Good Friday . . .
and it certainly is not for children ? I’d say age 12 and up at the youngest, but parents would know best.

The movie is indeed violent, because it tells the story of what Christ knowingly and willingly faced without flinching. The movie is violent because it accurately portrays the time and place, which is not our own. But those who say the movie is too violent miss something crucial, I believe. They also distract us from talking about the many counterpoints to the violence: the stunning portrayals of Mary and Simon of Cyrene, and the flashbacks throughout, most of which illustrate the correspondences between the Communion table of our Lord and the events we see unfolding.

Many critics and reviewers, quite frankly, seem downright panicked that this movie, so explicitly and deeply rooted in faith of a very traditional sort, might do well. I’ve read joking references to "Mel’s folly" for almost two years now, laughing about his quixotic attempt to make a realistic movie about the Crucifixion in Latin and Aramaic; I’ve
also read from long ago Mr. Gibson philosophically saying, "Sure, I’ll lose my shirt on this, but don’t feel bad for me: I’ve got more shirts than most guys."

Now it appears that audiences are flocking to see the story of Christ’s sacrifice, and his suffering, and when many critics discuss their discomfort with the violence, what I hear them talking about is their own discomfort with how closely we are brought to the sufferer. This is a hard movie to watch, but for reasons that have to do with what we
think that suffering is for. Most movie violence shows the initial impact, and leaves the suffering out. This does not.

A large number of the criticisms of "The Passion" focus on this point: why is there so much emphasis on Christ's suffering and death, and share so little of his wisdom, teaching, and/or spirituality? This gets at a split within much of Christendom, between those who see Jesus as primarily a great moral and ethical teacher, tragically killed at the end of his life -- and those of us who say that, in some mysterious yet necessary way, his death informs the meaning of his life, and can't be seen separate from it. . .or from the Resurrection. To say that we should mainly share Christ as a teacher goes against thousands of years of teaching and understanding (which we still struggle with, to be sure) about how Jesus being "handed over into suffering and death" is at the heart of the Christian witness, at the table of Communion and in the living words of Scripture, Old and New.

As to the flogging scene, little noted is that from the writings of the Roman philosopher Seneca on down, we know that Roman soldiers were brutal and desensitized to their own violence, crucifying dozens and even occasionally hundreds (a hundred years before Jesus, in the Spartacus revolt against Rome, up to 7,000!) as a tool of terror and oppression. Part of this was the sight of roadside miles of crosses, with sufferers
slowly dying of the effects of the cross, often taking up to a week. This happened near Nazareth, around Sepphoris, during the time when Jesus was a child, and he refers to this as an adult (Luke 13:1-3).

If they wanted to speed up the process, with what for the pragmatic and harsh Romans passed for mercy, they would "flog the hide off" the one to be nailed up, so their back could not be used to give support, and thus shorten the death to a single day instead of days and even a week.

Some have asked about the point of Christ carrying an entire cross, while the thieves carry only crosspieces; again, if the arrest and "trial" of Jesus was rushed and somewhat furtive, then the uprights would only have been prepared in advance for the other two. Add to that the intention to humiliate and teach a lesson to those watching: "rebel
against Rome in any way, and this is what you can expect," and the whole cross burden, plus the gratuitous flogging along the journey (the "Via Dolorosa" of the Stations of the Cross, or Dolorous Way) makes a certain cruel sense. Theologically, we also see this as symbolic of Christ carrying an "unnecessary" burden, the weight of our sin and shame.

As to the particularly horrific aspects of what Christ is put through, which some have called "over the top" or "unrealistically demonic", the historian in me trumps the theologian. There is a movie which probably will never be made about a key moment in Ohio history, an event which almost anyone reading this has driven past, just north of Upper Sandusky. It is the death of Col. William Crawford, a close friend of George
Washington, who had the misfortune to command a militia group into the Ohio country during the American Revolution. Many of these same militiamen had brutally massacred almost a hundred innocent Moravian Christian Indians a few months earlier, and now a detachment was looking to find the actual perpetrators of the raids on the Ohio River
settlements in the 1780’s.

Instead, the raiders caught them, and captured a few, including Crawford, who had initially gone along somewhat unwillingly, but precisely to prevent more undisciplined killing as had happened before. Since the previous commander had escaped the debacle on the Sandusky River, these Indians in the pay of the British out of Fort Detroit decided that justice required that this commander pay for his men’s sins, and suffer a hundred deaths to "balance accounts." There was even an American Judas in this story, Simon Girty, who pointed Crawford out and stood by uncomfortably, protesting that he couldn’t have helped if he wanted to.

If you need details, you can "google" around a bit to find out about the horrific, days-long death of Col. Crawford. He was immortalized in numerous Crawford Counties across the Midwest, plus a few Crawfordsvilles. He died for the sins of others, and showing his dying
agonies would make "The Passion" look quite tame. (And the story has long since been confirmed by archaeological research into the marks left on mangled skeletal remains from that period, along with similar tales such as Fr. Jean Brebeuf in Canada, or Simon Kenton in Kentucky and southern Ohio.)

So the question isn’t "does this sort of thing happen" or "is it ever really this horrible" or
even "should this story be told" but "what does this death have to do with me, anyhow?" Crawford’s death has a great deal to do with how this area became part of the United States and how Ohio came to be; can anyone really doubt that Jesus’ death, and the manner of his dying, has any less to do with the world as it is today?

Finally, there have been many who say that the movie does not emphasize Jesus’ "good news" so much as dwell on the "bad news" of his death. To that I have to turn to another old friend in faith, who lived himself 150 years ago, but has said much to me today. "For, while ultimately the Christian message is good news: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on
earth peace, good will towards men’, ‘Come unto me all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’; it is proximately to man’s self-love the worst possible news -- ‘Take up thy cross and follow me.’ Thus to be relived of suffering in one sense is voluntarily to accept suffering in another." (Kierkegaard by way of W.H. Auden)

If we could get past some of the more simplistic (and I believe, ill-founded) critiques of "The Passion," I believe Christians and others of good will could have some very interesting discussions and even healthy disagreements about how we would have shown or told different parts of the story -- the use of Judas' demonic tormentors and the final scenes in the Temple come to mind -- if we had $30 million to gamble on a "leap of faith" such as this.

There are more points in Mr. Gibson’s defense I could offer, but let me just close by noting that I hope you do see the movie, and we have a chance to discuss it with others through Lent as we again approach Good Friday, those eternally significant events, and their meaning for us.

In Grace & Peace, Pastor Jeff

(on-line p.s.: if this isn't enough for you, click to:
for large quantities of commentary and reviews from a faith-based perspective. pax, jbg)