(Originally printed in the Spring 2004 Issue of the MCOI Journal )
For nearly a year before the release of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of The Christ, controversy—public and private—swirled around the project. As is so often the case, many had made definitive decisions about the film without ever having viewed it. Liberals were sure the film had to be denounced, and scrounged around desperately for aspersions to cast upon it.
Some Jewish organizations strongly condemned the movie as being anti-Jewish, perhaps genuinely fearing a resurgence of Christian anti-Semitism, as unfathomable as that may be to us who love Jewish people and Israel. Meanwhile, Roman Catholics, Fundamentalists, and Evangelicals early on were unsure of what to make of the movie, and whether it would be wise to endorse it. It was originally reported that the Pope, having previewed the film, said simply, “It is as it was.” Later, it was reported that the Pope had not endorsed the movie, nor said any such thing, and this went back and forth until we have no idea of what actually happened there. Perhaps Rome was weighing what damage might result from an endorsement. As the date for the film’s release drew closer, sides were being taken and lines drawn for the battle. Mel Gibson took the film on the road for pre-screening and comments. Gibson met with a number of evangelical leaders in pre-screenings and garnered their endorsement. This, of course, further infuriated liberals and added fuel to the fire.
Media big wigs all predicted that the movie would be an abysmal failure. After all, it is a religious film which, according to Mel Gibson, strove to be fundamentally faithful to the Biblical text on which it was based. Moreover, it was done in ancient foreign languages with subtitles added in. Who would go see a movie like that? Some Hollywood elites were so put out with Gibson for going ahead with his production after their public rejection of it, that they reportedly threatened that they wouldn’t work with Gibson again. If he went ahead with it, his career would be history. Can you say “blacklist,” boys and girls? Isn’t blacklisting what liberals are always accusing conservatives of doing? We suppose that only evil and unfair conservatives can “blacklist”—liberals just exercise their “freedom of choice.”
As everyone now knows, 12 days after the film opened, it was slotted into number 47 of the top 50 highest-revenue producing films of all time. Current projections are that it will gross 400- to 800-million dollars. [1.http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Movies/03/11/film.passion.reut/index.html ] Now, the same industry moguls who rejected Gibson’s idea are scurrying to find more religious scripts! It also recently was reported that Twentieth Century Fox, who had earlier rejected distributing the film, is close to signing a home video distribution deal.[2. http://imdb.com/StudioBrief/#3]
We, along with several others from MCOI, and some friends, went to see the film on opening night—February 25. Overall, we thought it was a good movie and well done. We cannot say we “enjoyed it”—in the sense of being entertained—for that is not the nature of this film. It was made to challenge our thinking and sensibilities to the point of asking ultimate questions. “Who is this Jesus?” “Did this really happen?” “Does it or should it make any difference in our personal lives?” Mel Gibson doesn’t attempt to answer those questions in the film, as it focuses primarily on a 12-hour period of the life and death of this itinerant Jewish Rabbi called Jesus the Christ. Frankly, we expected that a movie produced by an ardent (dare we say “passionate”) Catholic would reflect his Catholic belief system; so we are not surprised that, in some ways, the movie reflects a rather “Catholic” portrait of the last hours of Christ, including a portrayal of the Stations of the Cross.
We feel confident Most Christians will not be drawn into Catholicism or Mysticism by viewing this film. In fact, without a Catholic background, we feel that believers may not even recognize the “Catholicism” in the film much less feel a compelling need to attend a Mass.
That said, we do have concerns about the film; and though we completely endorse Gibson’s right to make a movie that reflects his deeply held beliefs, we also think it is our responsibility to point out where Gibson is coming from and what sources he is drawing upon.
Gibson is a capital “C” Catholic. David Neff, in an article for Christianity Today entitled “The Passion of Mel Gibson – Why evangelicals are cheering a movie with profoundly Catholic sensibilities,” writes:
Mel Gibson is in many ways a pre-Vatican ll Roman Catholic. He prefers the Tridentine Latin Mass and calls Mary co-redemptrix. Early in the filming of The Passion, he gave a long interview to Raymond Arroyo on the conservative Catholic network EWTN. In that interview, Gibson told how actor Jim Caviezel, the film’s Jesus, insisted on beginning each day of filming with the celebration of the Mass on the set. He also recounted a series of divine coincidences that led him to read the works of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a late-eighteenth, early-nineteenth-century Westphalian nun who had visions of the events of the Passion. Many of the details needed to fill out the Gospel accounts he drew from her book, Delorous Passion of Our Lord.1David Neff, “The Passion of Mel Gibson—Why evangelicals are cheering a movie with profoundly Catholic sensibilities,” Christianity Today,(March 2004), p30.
One example of Emmerich’s teaching that Gibson draws upon is the scene where Jesus is hung by chains over the side of a bridge while Judas looks on. Another is the scene where Pilate’s wife hands Mary some linen, which Mary used to wipe Jesus’ blood from the stones, where he had just received a tortuous beating. Also notable is the intense focus on the blood and the physical sufferings of Christ. Emmerich was part of a tradition that believed the way to total sanctification was through concentrating on and attempting to physically experience Christ’s passion. As Pastor and Apologist G. Richard Fisher points out:
People just do not understand Passion mysticism and the belief that concentrating and obsessing on the flayed flesh and bloody pulp of Christ’s body was the only way to entire sanctification. It is the only way to get spiritual.
Gibson’s affinity for this “prophetess” is not something he attempts to conceal. In fact, he carries an Emmerich relic with him in his pocket which was given to him by an antiques dealer in Philadelphia.2Peter J. Boyer, “The Jesus War,” The New Yorker, (September 15, — “Passion” Continued From Page 7 2003); http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/980753/posts
How much of Emmerich’s teachings were incorporated into the film? Again, Fisher, who has taken the time to read Emmerich’s works and become familiar with her teaching, remarks:
I don’t think that her work dominates the film. I think [the film] is probably 70% Gospels, 20% artistic embellishments, and maybe, 10% Emmerich. Those pieces are minor.
Fisher sees Gibson’s endorsement of Emmerich in his interviews as being more problematic:
The one huge problem I see is that Gibson has endorsed Emmerich, and people are rushing to buy her book … That is the worst fallout.3Personal e-mail from Pastor Richard Fisher to Don Veinot on 3/10/2004
There is merit to his concerns. Since Gibson mentioned her works in his interviews, and especially since the release of the movie, the sales of her material have skyrocketed. Last year, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ sold fewer than 3,000 copies for the entire year. This year—in the month of February alone—it sold 17,000 copies.4Hillel Italie, “ ‘The Passion’ Spurs Religious Book Sales,” (March 3, 2004); http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/news/wire/sns-appublishing-religious-sales,0,5441138.story
Does Gibson’s Catholic passion mean that the entire film is polluted and should not be seen? We don’t think so. The film—The Passion of The Christ—is substantially faithful to the text of the New Testament. It fairly accurately dramatizes the events of the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus. But people should be aware of the problems with the movie and use their judgment as to whether they wish to take friends to see it. Berit Kjos has written a more in-depth critique about Gibson’s “Emmerich connection” and other concerns about the film. You can find her critique at (www.crossroad.to).
Is The Film Anti-Semitic?
Let us be clearly understood; if The Passion … was, in our view, an anti-Semitic film, we would be the first to condemn it for that reason alone. We are very offended by anti-Semitism. But we did not find it to be so. True, many of the antagonists in the movie were Jewish—but so were all of the heroes of the movie. The main hero, of course, was a Jewish Rabbi named Jesus. Maia Morgenstern, the woman who plays Mary in the film, is a Jewish woman who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She found nothing offensive in the script and stated that she certainly would not have played the part had she found it to be anti-Semitic.
So why did groups such as the ADL (Anti Defamation League) so harshly attack the movie as being anti-Semitic? Writing in Christianity Today, Michael Medved, a self-described “film critic and nationally syndicated radio host who also happens to be an observant Jew and longtime president of an Orthodox congregation,”5Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p38. who, “in the past, has supported and spoken for the ADL,”6Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p39. says of the movie:
The Passion of The Christ offered a convincing, richly imagined recreation of first-century Judea and heartfelt performances. But it remains a difficult movie for any committed Jew to watch. In discussing my reactions to his work after the screening, Gibson insisted that his movie is meant to make everyone uncomfortable, not just Jews. For Jews, however, there’s a special squirm factor in watching the officials of a long-destroyed Temple, which we still revere as a holy gift from God, behaving in a selfish, officious and sadistic manner. I might have preferred a movie version of the crucifixion that interpreted the Gospels to place primary blame on the Roman authorities. Gibson, however, remained determined to bring to the screen what he considers the truth of the New Testament. Certainly, his account of the story—in which the Judean priests and the Judean mob force Pilate’s hand in ordering the death of Christ—falls well within the Christian mainstream and corresponds to numerous references in the Gospels. Gibson’s critics may resent these elements of the drama, but they must blame Matthew, Mark, Luke and John rather than Mel … the film seemed to me so obviously free of anti-Semitic intent that I urged Gibson to show the rough cut to some of his Jewish critics as a means of reassuring them.7Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p40.
In an attempt to help Christians to understand the emotions that might cause Jewish people to denounce the film sight unseen, Medved mentions three factors which he says “have contributed to the Jewish unease about Mel Gibson’s well intentioned project.” He writes:
First, we live at a moment of rising anti-Semitism in every corner of the world … Synagogues recently have been bombed in Turkey, set aflame in France, defaced and sprayed with gunfire in California. Hostility to Jews and conspiracy theories about Jewish power have received prominent exposure, even in respectable media (especially in Europe). But the new wave of Jew hatred is not arising from believing Christian communities.
The second factor making Jews nervous about Gibson and his movie concerns Mel’s outspoken identification with a Catholic traditionalism that rejects many of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. All Jewish leaders feel grateful to that reform-minded body of 40 years ago because it put a formal end to the Catholic perception of collective Jewish guilt for the crime of deicide. That Catholic traditionalists oppose some innovations by the Second Vatican Council (in particular its move away from the Latin Mass) doesn’t mean they reject all of its changes … Gibson has made clear in private conversation and in several on-the-record public statements that his personal thinking is far more closely aligned with contemporary church teaching than with the older doctrine that led to so much persecution of European Jewish communities.
Finally, many Jews feel a visceral fear of intense Christian religiosity based upon the long history of anti-Semitic depredations. In medieval Europe, Easter always marked the favorite occasion for anti-Jewish pogroms and riots.8Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p41.
While understanding where some of his brethren are coming from, Medved disagrees with their kneejerk reaction.
The many Jews who react in this fearful manner to the prospect of deepening Christian commitment in the United States have allowed the past to blind them to the present—and the future. In today’s America, the notably philo-Semitic tone of born-again Christianity makes it more common for Christians to support and defend their Jewish neighbors than to persecute them.9Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p41.
Medved puts his finger on another form of “prejudice” that exists in our society today that might go far in explaining the outrage of the ADL and other groups that stirred up this controversy—anti-Christian bigotry. He states:
I’ve also expressed my conviction that the attacks on an unseen movie reflected the predominantly liberal political orientation of the ADL and other groups that represent the Jewish establishment. Numerous commentators have noted recent shifts in the allegiance of Jewish voters. George W. Bush has won greater popularity in the Jewish community than any Republican since Ronald Reagan, and fervent support for Israel by Evangelicals has produced a friendly alliance between them and committed Jews. The ADL, which has been bitterly critical of the so-called Christian Right, clearly looks askance at this coalition.10Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p39.
We think Medved “nails it” with his analysis of the liberal leanings of the ADL and many other Jewish groups and how that liberal bent impacted this issue. Liberal political correctness, taken to its logical extreme, is the natural enemy of truth. When truth must be judged by whether or not human egos are ruffled, truth will inevitably lose its potency.
Imagine retelling the story of the Holocaust, in a movie such as Schindler’s List, if German feelings must be given priority over the truth of what actually happened. Imagine a film about slavery in America, where whites insist that the slave-owners be cast as Asians in order to assuage the feelings of European-Americans. Truth is truth. No race has an edge over another when it comes to righteousness—or evil. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Racism? Please excuse us for a minor digression here. If you want to talk about racism in Hollyweird, look at their normative portrayal of blacks as gangsters and criminals and whites (Christian men particularly) as bigoted ignoramuses. Is this likely to foster “harmony” and “brotherly love” between the races? Meanwhile, “terrorists,” on television and in the movies, are generally portrayed as anything but middle-eastern types! One example is the popular television program, 24. In the first season, the bad guys were white conservatives seeking to block, by assassination, the election of a black liberal. In the second season, the “terrorists” were white conservative politicians with Big Oil connections trying, by terrorist action, to incite a war with an innocent Arab nation against the will of the good liberal President. This season, the “terrorists” are members of Mexican drug cartels aligned with greedy white men willing to release a deadly virus just to make a buck. It is so ridiculous as to be laughable. In order to avoid besmirching Arabs and/or Muslims, the program eagerly bashes others. Political correctness demands that the world be divided into “white hats” and “black hats”—victims and victimizers. Some groups are protected, while others are “fair game;” and that determination is made by the liberal establishment.
Who Killed Christ?
Most Christians take the position that it is neither the Jews nor the Romans who killed Christ, but that all of mankind is implicated in His murder. However, in light of past centuries of evil and completely anti-Biblical persecutions of the Jews as “Christ killers” by “Christians,” it seems appropriate to us to address the issue here.
Certainly, the text of the New Testament has a crowd led by the Jewish leadership calling for His death “All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’” (Matthew 27:25). On the other hand, Jesus was Jewish, his followers were Jewish, and the early Church was populated by Jews. The Bible portrays the heartrending fact that Christ came unto “His own” and “His own”—as a nation—“…did not receive Him.” (John 1:11) That is sad, but it is not a reason for anti-Jewish sentiment. A remnant of Jews did believe in Jesus and died cruel martyr’s deaths for that faith. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that God has not rejected His people. Just read Romans Chapter 11. A few select verses make plain this truth. Paul, addressing the Church in Rome, many of whom were Gentiles by this point, says:
I ask then: Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom He foreknew … I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins. (Romans 11: 1, 25)
Obviously, there have been many people who have not heeded Paul’s words here, who became conceited and arrogant towards the Jewish people, and did not remember, as Paul states elsewhere in the chapter, that:
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: you do not support the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:17-18)
Israel is the olive tree; Gentile Christians are the wild branches that have been grafted in by God’s grace. The olive tree was not chopped down; some branches were broken off, and the wild branches were grafted in among the others that remained. The root stayed, and sustains the tree—including all Christians—for the last 2000 years. Arrogance among Christians against the Jewish people is completely unwarranted, evil, and has not gone unseen by the God Who still loves His people and always will.
What About The Romans?
Was Pilate given a pass by Gibson as some have alleged? We certainly do not think so. Pilate recognized, beyond a doubt, that he was about to order the murder of an innocent man; and in his weakness, he did it anyway! The Romans did not have much compunction about killing the innocent, generally speaking, so we can only speculate as to why the Gospel text plainly shows that he did not want to condemn Jesus to death—aside from the fact that his wife asked him not to do so. Perhaps, Jesus scared him. He probably did not meet many men who spoke to him as Jesus spoke to him, and Who did not beg or barter for His life. But whatever reason Pilate had for not wanting to sentence Jesus to death, he did it anyway! This is not a “good” man or a “just” ruler. So are the Romans mainly to blame? That would be convenient since the Roman Empire is no more; but it is really a moot point in our view. Our LORD, while He was suffering this indescribable agony of body and soul, asked His Father to forgive the perpetrators. He said that they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:34). If Jesus forgave his tormentors, who are we to cast blame on others? Better to look to ourselves. We are all in need of forgiveness. None are righteous (Rom. 3:10).
The Passion Of The Savior
The truth is neither the Jews nor the Romans took the life of Jesus that day. Because God so loved the world—Jews and Gentiles alike—Jesus freely gave His life to save us all (John 10:18). The answer Jesus gave to Pilate is so instructive, “…You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; …” (John 19:11, NASB). Who gave that authority? God!
The Passion of Jesus the Christ came about, not because anyone took Jesus’ life, but because God gave it. God gave it because of His great compassion for all of us who are sinners—by nature and practice, and have been separated from God, and headed for judgment and Hell. As Mary could not rescue her son from the judges and rulers that day, we could not, by any means, rescue ourselves or our loved ones from the penalty of our own sinfulness. We are all guilty, “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). However, “… the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
God took on flesh and became man in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). He lived a perfect life which we cannot live (Heb. 4:15), suffered ignominious torture and death (Heb. 2:9) by His choice (John 10:14-15), and was raised on the third day to secure our redemption (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Apostle Paul writes:
… being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26, NASB)
We are sinners by nature. But God has provided a Savior. People are not condemned to Hell for nailing the Son of God to the cross. Rather, people are condemned for rejecting the Savior Whom God provided—thus spurning the greatest gift, the greatest sacrifice of all time (John 3:18).
The Anti-christian Passion Of The Liberals
What we find as the most interesting aspect of the whole Passion … phenomenon is the openly bare-fanged, anti-Christian (and anti-Biblical) reaction of the liberals, particularly in Hollywood and the mainstream media. To the liberals, it is not Gibson’s extra-Biblical content that is problematical in this movie. It is the Biblical content that infuriates them. Their apoplectic reaction puts in mind a quote by Mark Twain: “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.” The Bible is very direct and seemingly takes little thought for human ego—except to condemn it (Proverbs 8:13). It just states what happened and what IS. It neglects to couch its message in the soothing and “tolerant” language of twenty-first-century liberalism. How dare Mel Gibson, or anyone else, actually portray the sacrifice of Christ as fact? How barbaric! And, in any case, I’m okay, you’re okay—we’re not sinners in need of a Savior! What we need is more money for education.
Antagonists of the movie practically became unhinged in their passionate attempts to portray the movie as a very bad and dangerous development. The media drew on some of their popular liberal scholars to lend credence to the anti-Semitism charge, openly proclaiming that it is the Bible, not just Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Christ’s Passion, that is anti-Semitic at its core. They trotted out the Jesus Seminar crowd such as Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan to proclaim that the New Testament is anti-Semitic and is responsible for the anti-Semitism of, say, the last 2000 years. Of course, Crossan, Borg and other Jesus Seminar members view the New Testament as mostly myth [according to them, only about 18% of the words attributed to Jesus were actually or possibly spoken by Him (see “The Hysterical search for the Historical Jesus,” MCOI Journal, Nov/Dec 1998)]. They openly opine that the Christian teaching that God sacrificed His Son amounts to the worst form of child abuse. In their view, Jesus was little more than a political “activist” (aren’t you sick of that word?) who was killed by the Roman government as an insurgent. The balance of the New Testament Gospels, according to them, included material designed to be anti-Semitic. They offer nothing like actual evidence for their positions, but they are well loved and respected by liberal media types.
On CBS’ 60 Minutes, tolerant, grandfatherly figure Andy Rooney called Gibson a “wacko” and a “nutcase” and implied that God regretted even creating Gibson. Why would Rooney say such things? What happened to the liberal ideal that everyone’s “truth” is just as valid as anyone else’s “truth?” Isn’t Gibson’s “truth” just as worthy of a hearing as Rooney’s?
Then there was Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, who said of the film: “It is fascistic.”11Richard Cohen, “Faith and Violence,” (Tuesday, March 2, 2004), pA21; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21153-2004Mar1.html He also asserted that “… portions of the New Testament are—an assignment of blame that culminated in the Holocaust.”12Richard Cohen, “Faith and Violence,” (Tuesday, March 2, 2004), pA21; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21153-2004Mar1.html He seems very unaware of the nature and origin of Adolf Hitler’s views—grounded as they were in occultism, Social Darwinism, as well as his utter rejection and hatred of Christianity.
FrontPageMagazine.com columnist, Don Feder, addressing this liberal scare campaign, stated:
The idea that The Passion … is going to excite an American Kristallnacht is truly twisted. Today, organized anti-Semitism is almost exclusively a Moslem phenomenon. Hatred of Jews thrives in mosques and madrashes. It is promulgated by Islamic religious authorities, from mullahs to ayatollahs.13Don Feder, “More Power to Mel,” FrontPageMagazine.com, (February 10,2004); http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12115
Yet, the media hysteria generated by Gibson’s portrayal of a historical event far outweighs the muted response of our media elites to the daily onslaught of terrorist murders of Jewish people in Israel and elsewhere around the world. What hypocrisy! Islam is continually asserted to be a “peaceful” religion; it is Christians and Christianity that is to be feared. Amazing!
Julie Gorin, writing for National Review Online, thinks there is a calculated reason why the media have jumped on the anti-Semitic bandwagon:
There’s a reason the controversy got as big as it did. The liberal media, acting like they care whether someone is anti-Semitic or not, is not only insulting but insidious as well. The plan is to keep The Passion … ruckus they raised in their pocket for fuel in countering accusations of anti-Semitism the next time they diminish terrorism against Israelis, the next time they misrepresent Israeli raids of terror camps as massacres, and the next time they demonize Israelis for building a wall to stay alive. All they’ll have to say is: “We can’t be anti-Semites. Just look at the hell we gave Mel!” The very fact that the notoriously anti-Semitic and anti-Israel New York Times took the lead a year ago in condemning Gibson’s film and family should be telling.14Julie Gorin, “The Jews Who Cried Wolf,” National Review Online, (March 5, 2004); http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/gorin200403050933.asp
We are very concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism worldwide, but we do not believe it is Christians who are fomenting that evil. And, we do not buy for a minute that it is the supposed anti-Semitism in the Bible that enrages the liberals. What infuriates them is the assertion in the Bible that all persons (Jews, Gentiles, Blacks Whites, Israelis and Arabs, Conservatives, and Liberals) are moral failures in need of a Savior. And not just any Savior; the Bible states that there is only one Savior (Acts 4:12), and that no one can come to the Father except through HIM (John 14:6). This is a slap in the face to both the liberal social “gospel” and cultural relativism.
The Bottom Line Of The Passion Controversy
Is the film ultimately good or bad for the furtherance of the Gospel? In light of the controversy the film has sparked, the culture, in general, is talking about what it all means; and that is an open invitation for prepared believers to explain the true Gospel and give meaning to the events described in the moving film. Will it help to spur believers to become more committed to the proclamation of the Gospel to their unsaved friends and loved ones? Only if believers know and can articulate what the Gospel is. Taking your non-Christian friend to the movie is not going to do it.
Michael Makidon in the March/April 2004 issue of Grace in Focus, writes:
While the film’s Catholic influence cannot be ignored, it does indeed offer great opportunity for us as Christians. Most assuredly, in reaction to unavoidable criticism that The Passion … will receive, many will quote Paul’s words: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). Yet, may we always remember that the bridge this film builds between here and eternity leaves the viewer one step short of glory. While the film does quote John 14:6, nowhere else can the Good News of Christ be found—that Christ justifies all who simply believe in Him. The film upholds the cross, the means of our justification, yet never explains how one may be justified. While this film will afford us great opportunity to share the Good News, we must not assume that the movie alone will convey what one must believe in order to be eternally saved.15Michael Makidon, “DOES MEL GIBSON’S PASSION FALL SHORT?,” Grace in Focus, (March/April 2004), pp1,3.
More than ever, Christians need to be able to articulate WHY Jesus willingly came to earth as one of us, and why He willingly went to the cross for us. He or she must be equipped to then answer the same question asked of Paul by the Philippian jailer, “… what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).Ω
© 2016, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
|↑1||David Neff, “The Passion of Mel Gibson—Why evangelicals are cheering a movie with profoundly Catholic sensibilities,” Christianity Today,(March 2004), p30.|
|↑2||Peter J. Boyer, “The Jesus War,” The New Yorker, (September 15, — “Passion” Continued From Page 7 2003); http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/980753/posts|
|↑3||Personal e-mail from Pastor Richard Fisher to Don Veinot on 3/10/2004|
|↑4||Hillel Italie, “ ‘The Passion’ Spurs Religious Book Sales,” (March 3, 2004); http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/news/wire/sns-appublishing-religious-sales,0,5441138.story|
|↑5||Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p38.|
|↑6, ↑10||Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p39.|
|↑7||Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p40.|
|↑8, ↑9||Michael Medved, “The Passion and Prejudice,” Christianity Today (March 2004), p41.|
|↑11||Richard Cohen, “Faith and Violence,” (Tuesday, March 2, 2004), pA21; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21153-2004Mar1.html|
|↑12||Richard Cohen, “Faith and Violence,” (Tuesday, March 2, 2004), pA21; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21153-2004Mar1.html|
|↑13||Don Feder, “More Power to Mel,” FrontPageMagazine.com, (February 10,2004); http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12115|
|↑14||Julie Gorin, “The Jews Who Cried Wolf,” National Review Online, (March 5, 2004); http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/gorin200403050933.asp|
|↑15||Michael Makidon, “DOES MEL GIBSON’S PASSION FALL SHORT?,” Grace in Focus, (March/April 2004), pp1,3.|