Monday, February 23, 2004

Getting passionate about "The Passion of the Christ"

This is the week that Mel Gibson's controversial movie, "The Passion of the Christ," makes its debut in theaters.

The movie is under fire from several fronts, from groups who charge it's anti-Semitic to, on the opposite spectrum, strict fundamentalist Christians who believe anything out of Hollywood couldn't be of any value. Meantime, some evangelical Christians see it as the be-all and end-all when it comes to evangelistic tools.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but have spoken with several people who have...and I tend to agree with Southern Baptist leader Adrian Rogers that perhaps the people most affected by the movie will be Christians themselves. Rogers believes the movie will cause Christians to realize in a greater way the price that Jesus paid for our sins, and help take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Christ instead.

Chad Bresson, the news director of WCDR Radio in Ohio, posted some balanced comments on the movie on a radio forum that I frequent. Bresson says Christians need to be ready to take up the slack on what he sees as the film's biggest weaknesses--first, the fact that it doesn't really answer "why" Jesus died for our sins, and secondly, what he sees as the short shrift the movie gives the resurrection. He believes Christians should be ready with answers on these issues from nonChristian friends.

My personal feeling? I believe God can use anything he chooses to advance His kingdom, and I hope this movie will do that. It seems to me that anything that gets people talking about Jesus and asking questions about Him could be a very good thing. I don't have to agree with every detail of the movie to be blessed by it or moved by it.

By the way, I found a link on the WCDR website to this site, from the publishers of Our Daily Bread, which seems to be a fairly reasonable and balanced response to the movie. It includes questions about the movie as well as reviews, and suggestions on how to "dig deeper."

Tim Jackson writes on the site: "The Passion of the Christ is not primarily an evangelistic film. Mel Gibson is a filmmaker, not an evangelist. He is also passionate about his Christian faith. His goal was to make a historically accurate and authentic film about the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life, based on the New Testament Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

"If you’re expecting this film to preach at you, it won’t. Rather, the intent is to let you see and experience for yourself what the suffering of Jesus was all about. What viewers choose to do with what they see is left up to them. In fact, Gibson uses his development of the biblical theme of truth by the way he embellishes on the character and struggles of Pontius Pilate and his question, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). Gibson invites the audience to wrestle, along with Pilate, with the facts about the One who claimed to be "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).

"Interestingly, one of the lasting impacts of the film is the question that lingers in the mind of the viewer afterwards: 'What have I done with Jesus?'"

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