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Still from the trailer for The Thorn's touring production.

Horror and empathy

My response to a gory Passion play

A couple years ago I bought tickets to The Thorn, a modern Pas­sion play. It was being performed at the Sea­coast Church in North Charleston, South Carolina. I drove there from my home in North Carolina on Good Friday. It was curiosity more than piety that impelled me.

I had recently read an article by Patton Dodd criticizing contemporary Passion dramas, such as The Thorn, for being excessively violent. In the essay, published in Slate, Dodd shows how these plays, like Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, depict extremely gory tortures that have little basis in scripture. He is troubled by such lurid sensationalism. He sees it as a manifestation of our culture's hunger for macabre visual thrills, regardless of ethical considerations.


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