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The Passion of the Christ - A Review

10 February, 2004 11:49 PM

the passion.jpgWell there are loads of previews happening of Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ'. Quite a few of my colleagues got invited to previews - unfortunately I didn't manage to get one so I'm relying upon the reports and reviews of others.

Following are a collection of reviews on the Passion of the Christ which are followed by a number of resources on that might be of use in preparing to watch the movie and a list of articles exploring some of the controversy surrounding the movie. I hope that this list of resources is useful, please leave your thoughts in comments and feel free to suggest more resources.

Reviews/Columns/Articles on the Passion
- The Passion of the Christ - a Review
- A Review of the Passion
- The Passion of Christ - An in Depth Review
- Hollywood Jesus - The Passion
- Robert Novak: The Passion - A Review/Column
- Movies.com - The Passion
- Lifeway - Review
- The Passion - a review by Terry Inman
- Christian Spotlight - The Passion of the Christ
- Mel Gibson - Feminist
- The Passion - A review by Keith A. Fournier
- A Review by Lisa Bevill

- Hype vs Hope
- An obscene portrayal of Christ's Passion
- Dr James Dobson on the Passion
- 'Passion of the Christ' is a graphic profession of Mel Gibson's faith
- The Passion of the Christ' will leave its mark on viewers
- Gibson's 'Passion' leaves this critic uninspired
- Critics crucify Gibson's Passion
- Good and Evil Locked in Violent Showdown
- Brutality of 'Passion' is draining
- 'Sickening' Passion slammed
- Hating Mel
- Film focuses on suffering
- The most controversial story ever told? Questions of truth and consequences
- Graphic Gospel
- Jewelry Maker Sells Out 'Passion' Wares
- Violent film lovers suddenly sensitive - Critics who praised decapitations in 'Gladiator' blast Gibson movie
- When sacred goes cinematic, passions flare
- 'The Passion' offers a teachable moment
- The Passion inspires Questions
- Denver pastor posts sign that reads "Jews Killed Our Lord"
- Jesus Christ makes the headlines
- Christ Moves Movie Goers
- Jews, Christians Upset Over Pastor's Sign
- Even 'Passion' has product tie-ins
- Ash Wednesday opening of 'Passion' draws crowds, but violence keeps some away
- Passion Watcher Dies
- The Passion Inflames the Web
- Reaction To 'Passion' Shows Media's Disdain For Religion
- A great list of Bloggers Reviews of the Passion

- The Passion of the Christ - Official Site
- The Passion of the Christ - Musical Score
- The Passion - Unofficial Site
- The Passion - Photo Gallery
- The Passion Outreach
- A Reflection Guide to the Movie �The Passion of the Christ�
- Passion FAQs
- Facts, Faith, and Film-Making: Jesus� Passion and Its Portrayal - A Study Guide for Viewers and Reviewers
- Discuss the Passion - Discussion Forums
- Christ's real passion was life
- A Worship Leaders Resource to the Passion
- Gibson's "Passion": Some Need-to-Know Background
- Black Theology and the Passion
- Passion Sermon Ideas
- Scholarly Smackdown: The Theology of the Passion (two New Testament scholars analyse the theology of the Passion
- Is the Passion Biblical?
- The Passion of Christ - Quotes and Video Clips
- The Passion and Preteens - Advice
- Censor stands by Rating
- Filmgoers flock to the Passion
- The Passion - Discussion Page
- Scholars say few details known about crucifixion
- The Reason for the Passion

Is the Passion of the Christ Anti Semitic?
- 3 views on the passion side by side - Protestant, Catholic and Jewish
- Jewish groups left out of Passion
- Who Killed Christ?
- "Passion": A Step Back for Jews and Christians
- An interview with Cardinal Dar�o Castrill�n Hoyos about the Passion of the Christ
- BBC: Religious Battle over the Passion
- Gibson Reworks 'Passion' to Mute Anti-Semitism
- Gibson's right to his 'Passion': Overreaction will cause more anti-Semitism than movie itself
- A Jewish View of the Passion
- The Passion: Christians and Jews
- Rabbi, Christian preacher, voice concerns over Gibson film

In addition to those here is a review that was emailed to me this afternoon. Written by a couple of guys called Paul Harvey and David Limbaugh (whom I do not know - if anyone knows of any links to these reviews I'd be happy to post them).

-------------------------------------------------- the passion 2.jpgI really did not know what to expect. I was thrilled to have been invited to a private viewing of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion," but I had also read all the cautious articles and spin. I grew up in a Jewish town and owe much of my own faith journey to the influence. I have a life long, deeply held aversion to anything that might even indirectly encourage any form of anti-Semitic thought, language or actions. I arrived at the private viewing for "The Passion", held in Washington DC and greeted some familiar faces. The environment was typically Washingtonian, with people greeting you with a smile but seeming to look beyond you, having an agenda beyond the words. The film was very briefly introduced, without fanfare, and then the room darkened. From the gripping opening scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, to the very human and tender portrayal of the earthly ministry of Jesus, through the betrayal, the arrest, the scourging, the way of the cross, the encounter with the thieves, the surrender on the Cross, until the final scene in the empty tomb, this was not simply a movie; it was anencounter, unlike anything I have ever experienced. In addition to being a masterpiece of film-making and an artistic triumph, "The Passion" evoked more deep reflection, sorrow and emotional reaction within me than anything since my wedding, my ordination or the birth of my children. Frankly, I will never be the same. When the film concluded, this "invitation only" gathering of "movers and shakers" in Washington, DC were shaking indeed, but this time from sobbing. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the place. The crowd that had been glad-handing before the film was now eerily silent. No one could speak because words were woefully inadequate. We had experienced a kind of art that is a rarity in life, the kind that makes heaven touch earth. passion 3.jpgOne scene in the film has now been forever etched in my mind. A brutalized, wounded Jesus was soon to fall again under the weight of the cross. His mother had made her way along the Via Della Rosa. As she ran to him, she flashed back to a memory of Jesus as a child, falling in the dirt road outside of their home. Just as she reached to protect him from the fall, she was now reaching to touch his wounded adult face. Jesus looked at her with intensely probing and passionately loving eyes (and at all of us through the screen) and said "Behold I make all things new." These are words taken from the last Book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelations.

Suddenly, the purpose of the pain was so clear and the wounds, that earlier
in the film had been so difficult to see in His face, His back, indeed all over His body, became intensely beautiful. They had been borne voluntarily for love.

At the end of the film, after we had all had a chance to recover, a question and answer period ensued. The unanimous praise for the film, from a rather diverse crowd, was as astounding as the compliments were effusive. The questions included the one question that seems to follow this film, even though it has not yet even been released. "Why is this film considered by some to be "anti-Semitic?" Frankly, having now experienced (you do not "view" this film) "the Passion" it is a question that is impossible to answer. A law professor whom I admire sat in front of me. He raised his hand and responded "After watching this film, I do not understand how anyone can insinuate that it even remotely presents that the Jews killed Jesus. It doesn't." He continued "It made me realize that my sins killed Jesus" I agree. There is not a scintilla of anti-Semitism to be found anywhere in this powerful film. If there were, I would be among the first to decry it. It faithfully tells the Gospel story in a dramatically beautiful, sensitive and profoundly engaging way.

Those who are alleging otherwise have either not seen the film or have another agenda behind their protestations. This is not a "Christian" film, in the sense that it will appeal only to those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a deeply human, beautiful story that will deeply touch all men and women. It is a profound work of art. Yes, its producer is a Catholic Christian and thankfully has remained faithful to the Gospel text; if that is no longer acceptable behavior than we are all in trouble. History demands that we remain faithful to the story and Christians have a right to tell it. After all, we believe that it is the greatest story ever told and that its message is for all men and women. The greatest right is the right to hear the truth.

We would all be well advised to remember that the Gospel narratives to which "The Passion" is so faithful were written by Jewish men who followed a Jewish Rabbi whose life and teaching have forever changed the history of the world. The problem is not the message but those who have distorted it and used it for hate rather than love. The solution is not to censor the message, but rather to promote the kind of gift of love that is Mel Gibson's filmmaking masterpiece, "The Passion."

It should be seen by as many people as possible. I intend to do everything I can to make sure that is the case. I am passionate about "The Passion." You will be as well. Don't miss it!


passion 4.jpgThis is a commentary by DAVID LIMBAUGH about Mel Gibson's very controversial movie regarding Christ's crucifixion. It, too, is well worth reading. MEL GIBSON'S passion for "THE PASSION"

How ironic that when a movie producer takes artistic license with historical events, he is lionized as artistic, creative and brilliant, but when another takes special care to be true to the real-life story, he is vilified. Actor-producer Mel Gibson is discovering these truths the hard way as he is having difficulty finding a United States studio or distributor for his upcoming film, "The Passion," which depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ.

Gibson co-wrote the script and financed, directed and produced the movie.
For the script, he and his co-author relied on the New Testament Gospels of
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as the diaries of St. Anne Catherine
Emmerich (1774-1824) and Mary of Agreda's "The City of God."

Gibson doesn't want this to be like other sterilized religious epics. "I'm trying to access the story on a very personal level and trying to be very real about it." So committed to realistically portraying what many would consider the most important half-day in the history of the universe, Gibson even shot the film in the Aramaic language of the period. In response to objections that viewers will not be able to understand that language, Gibson said, "Hopefully, I'll be able to transcend the language barriers with my visual storytelling; if I fail, I fail, but at least it'll be a monumental failure."

To further insure the accuracy of the work, Gibson has enlisted the counsel of pastors and theologians, and has received rave reviews. Don Hodel, president of Focus on the Family, said, "I was very impressed. The movie is historically and theologically accurate." Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and president of the National Evangelical Association, glowed: "It conveys, more accurately than any other film, who Jesus was."

passion 5.jpgDuring the filming, Gibson, a devout Catholic, attended Mass every morning
because "we had to be squeaky clean just working on this." From Gibson's perspective, this movie is not about Mel Gibson. It's bigger than he is. "I'm not a preacher, and I'm not a pastor," he said. "But I really feel my career was leading me to make this. The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film, and I was just directing traffic. I hope the film has the power to evangelize."

Even before the release of the movie, scheduled for February 25, 2004, Gibson is getting his wish. "Everyone who worked on this movie was changed. There were agnostics and Muslims on set converting to Christianity...[and] people being healed of diseases." Gibson wants people to understand through the movie, if they don't already, the incalculable influence Christ has had on the world. And he grasps that Christ is controversial precisely because of WHO HE IS - GOD incarnate. "And that's the point of my film really, to show all that turmoil around him politically and with religious leaders and the people, all because He is Who He is."

Gibson is beginning to experience first hand just how controversial Christ is. Critics have not only speciously challenged the movie's authenticity, but have charged that it is disparaging to Jews, which Gibson vehemently denies "This is not a Christian vs. Jewish thing. '[Jesus] came into the world, and it knew him not.' Looking at Christ's crucifixion, I look first at my own culpability in that." Jesuit Father William J. Fulco, who translated the script into Aramaic and Latin, said he saw no hint of anti-Semitism in the movie. Fulco added, "I would be aghast at any suggestion that Mel Gibson is anti-Semitic." Nevertheless, certain groups and some in the mainstream press have been very critical of Gibson's

The New York Post's Andrea Peyser chided him: "There is still time, Mel, to tell the truth." Boston Globe columnist James Carroll denounced Gibson's literal reading of the biblical accounts. "Even a faithful repetition of the Gospel stories of the death of Jesus can do damage exactly because those sacred texts themselves carry the virus of Jew hatred," wrote Carroll. A group of Jewish and Christian academics has issued an 18-page report slamming all aspects of the film, including its undue emphasis on Christ's passion rather than "a broader vision." The report disapproves of the movie's treatment of Christ's passion as historical fact.

The moral is that if you want the popular culture to laud your work on Christ, make sure it either depicts Him as a homosexual or as an everyday sinner with no particular redeeming value (literally). In our anti-Christian culture, the blasphemous "The Last Temptation of Christ" is celebrated and "The Passion" is condemned. But if this movie continues to affect people the way it is now, no amount of cultural opposition will suppress its force and its positive impact on lives everywhere. Mel Gibson is a model of faith and courage.



Limbaugh is...um...yeah. A wacko. And I don't see how he could claim that Mel is just giving us a historically accurate picture in his film. From all I've been able to gather so far (and no, I haven't seen it yet either), "The Passion" is every bit as much a Hollywood fantasy as any other "Jesus" film, and then some. For instance, he includes quite a few details supposedly seen in visions by a Catholic nun hundreds of years ago, that have no precedent either in the Biblical canon or other documents. There are many other "weird" things surrounding the film as well. As someone who lives in the U.S., I can tell you that the amount of ultra-right-wing-evangelical support for this film is frightening and often militant. I'm staying away from the whole thing, personally.

Oh, and a word about the reviews: everyone who has been given an advance screening of "The Passion" has had to sign a form stating that they will not say anything negative about the film in their reviews. Worth taking note of, I think.

Jonathan » 11 February, 2004 12:38 AM

I can't speak for everyone who's seen the film, but I saw it at an advance screening and they didn't ask me to sign anything. They did say that we couldn't formally review it, but talking about it was fine.

Darryl » 11 February, 2004 3:40 AM

Interesting, Darryl. I know some people had to sign it, but perhaps only "big name" reviewer types and theologians though? Hmm.

Jonathan » 11 February, 2004 3:53 AM

Paul Harvey didn't write that review of The Passion. See:-


Mike » 11 February, 2004 4:34 AM

Thanks for pointing that out, Mike. I've seen the email before (even received it a few times), and always thought it seemed an odd thing for Harvey to have penned...but never had sufficient interest to track it down. I'll be glad when the movie has come out and had its run, and all the fuss dies back down.

Jonathan » 11 February, 2004 5:38 AM

I saw an early screening and didn't sign anything, much less anything about not criticizing the film.

"As someone who lives in the U.S., I can tell you that the amount of ultra-right-wing-evangelical support for this film is frightening and often militant."

As someone who also lives in the U.S., I can tell you that statement is pure paranoia. The Christians are coming! The Christians are coming! There's nothing to be afraid of.

Cheers, and thanks for the link.

Sophorist » 11 February, 2004 3:00 PM

my dad saw a private screening with other pastors at Jerry Vines church, First Baptist of Jacksonville, and he said it is life changing. He doesn't go to movies that often either.
A pastor from houston said that both the Patriots and the Panthers got to see private screenings. They were all speechless. Of course, that's admittedly, second had.
But I think the hype is much deserved and I don't think I will leave disappointed when I go see it.
Oh yeah and about the Christian paranoia....they are already here...mwahaaaahhaaa!

lj » 11 February, 2004 5:36 PM

Just for the record, I'm a Christian myself...and it still creeps me out.

Jonathan » 12 February, 2004 12:39 AM


I think you'll appreciate the film when you see it. There are a couple of scenes that aren't in the Bible, but it's pretty obvious to viewers who have "read the book" so to speak. The Passion is like any other film based on an historical event - there are going to be some inaccuracies, both real and perceived. It's pretty hard to please everyone.

The movie is no substitute for the Gospels, but it's pretty good as far as films go.

Sophorist » 12 February, 2004 3:07 PM

I am led to believe that the film is fairly acurate. I'll be seeing a preview tomorrow night so I'll probably say more then.

However, even if there is stuff that we don't agree with, we need to grab the opportunity to let the film bring up the subject of 'Jesus'.

Even if we take friends to the film and then discuss it later we have started the conversation. If we have a copy of the scriptures handy we can point out what the actual story is all about and lead people beyond the 12 hours that the film portrays.

Let's not slam the film if we find a few bits that we don't agree with. Let's use it as an opportunity to introduce our friends to the real Jesus.

Rodney Olsen » 13 February, 2004 12:11 PM

For an antidote to Mel Gibson's "Passion of Christ",
see "Churches ad hoc: a divine comedy" at

Herman » 16 February, 2004 4:42 AM

I am one of those reviewers who did sign a confidentiality agreement. So when I was going to write a review (first for Worship Leader Magazine, and then for my website), I wrote to ICON Productions (Mel Gibson's company) and got permission to write the reviews. Then, a couple of weeks after my reviews were done, I received notification from Gibson's company -- an official letter sent to many, I think -- that we were now free to talk or write about the movie. I hope this helps Jonathan to feel better.

Mark D. Roberts » 17 February, 2004 2:45 AM

Haven't seen it, Can't wait, Praise God that Mel Gibson was impacted so much to make the film. It would appear that the film is indeed making an impact in peoples lives... Isn't this why Jesus came in the first place?

Johnathon, the christians may or may not be "coming" but your Saviour is!

Brewster » 17 February, 2004 5:42 PM

Look all i want to say is from what i've read it seems pretty biblically based...

as for the parts of it that come more from Gibson Catholic beliefs than from a more simple biblical perspective the important thing is that none of this changes the overall message of the film and probably add to the effect it has on ppl... i can only think as a Christian myself that these scenes which may not be true are allright...

however i must admit that i have not yet seen this movie so i guess i could be proven wrong

Gary » 19 February, 2004 12:14 AM

I came across the discussion of Mel Gibson's movie Passion of Christ. Some argue it's anti-semitic. Now John Kerry is Jewish. The movie is said to be very intense and anti- Semitic and set to be a huge box office success. I was wondering if Dean and Edwards see the movie as a deus ex machina, that's going to destroy the Kerry candidacy and that's what they were waiting for and not so much Kerry's intern problem

Ricky Vandal » 19 February, 2004 3:43 AM

I had the honor of previewing The Passion of the Christ and seeing a live interview afterward of Mel Gibson. I attended at Willow Creek Community Church on January 20th. After seeing the movie and hearing Mel Gibson speak, I felt that God had chosen just the right man for the job. If I, a follower of Christ for most of my life, were to make such a movie, it would have too much dialogue and too much information. This movie with it's limited dialogue will leave the audience wanting to know more. Hopefully it will cause some to ask to know God, others to seek him through his word or through the church, and those who have been seeking to finally choose to believe in Jesus Christ. Matthew 7:7,8 Jesus said "Ask and it will be given to you: Seek and you will find: knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." For those who have been believers in Christ, it will humble them and they will remember Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God is moving through this movie in a Matthew 7:7 way. That is my hope. Thank you for reading my comments. May God Bless you.

Irene Dittmer » 20 February, 2004 9:20 AM

FYI I saw the advanced screening and was not asked to sign anything that prohibited me from speaking negatively about the film. Even God gives me freedom to speak, but I would never want to speak against God's good will.

Irene Dittmer » 20 February, 2004 9:39 AM

Thanks Darren for the links. I used them as a jumping off point to create my own commentary and gave you the credit.

tim » 22 February, 2004 4:22 PM

I am glad God have chosen a Catholic guy to make this movie. I am not Catholic, but it's good that no one group or denomination thinks they own the 'message'. Good post - thanks

eddie » 23 February, 2004 7:57 PM

To me it is very simple: The Jews do not believe in Christ, so why should a christian movie matter to them...Granted I understand the fear of antisemitism, however, 1. Christians understand that Christ allowed Himself to be sacrificed for OUR sins, therefore, no one, Including the Jews or Romans "took" His life.
2. Atheists don't believe in anything and don't give a hoot, so what's the problem?

» 24 February, 2004 10:45 AM

Mel Gibson really has guts. His faith in God is so strong that he puts everything on the line to produce a film like this. This film and no film will ever be 100% accurate when it come to the historical account of Jesus Christ. As long as God love for us is the message to the world then it cant be a bad thing

steve » 25 February, 2004 11:37 AM

You can see God is behind this movie, after watching what Jesus went through for me,I will now walk in the authority he gave us on the cross, The Jews didn't kill him, nor the Romans, he laid down his life, looking past the cross to all the future generations who would have right standing with God.As depicted the devil was behind the hatred, but had he known what would happen on the third day the bible plainly says he never would have crucified him, the devil got done like a dogs dinner

Mark Brass » 26 February, 2004 1:39 PM

I am constantly amazed about the references to the film being violent. The account has been around for about two thousand years why has it been decreed "So Violent" now. Compared to many other movies it ain't so violent. Were some expecting a chick flick rather than a reasonably accurate account of a Roman public execution.

It can hardly be anti semitic, the Romans executed the Lord, (technically Christ allowed himself to be sacraficed) so if anything the Italians should be protesting not the Jewish.

Brewster » 27 February, 2004 10:38 AM

This is an awesome way of telling the story of Christ and his love for ALL of us. Whether you believe in him or not. It's just a wonderful film! Words do not do it justice.

Lori » 2 March, 2004 3:36 AM

The movie THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST in my opinion ids not antisemitic. This movie tells the reality of what happened in the last twelve hours of Jesus Christ's life. I think that there is so much debate over this movie because everyone is so use to the Sunday school representaion.

Andrew JOE » 2 March, 2004 6:50 AM

Like many Christians I was excited about the evangelistic possibilities for THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. However after seeing it, Im so disappointed.

Personally I found the film both moving and confronting. As I watched the brutality of Jesus' final hours and death I couldn't help but reflect on what Jesus' sacrifice meant to me.

But as I reflected on the film one worry I had was its failure to adequately present the spiritual significance of Jesus death. For Christians this hasnt been such a huge problem as weve been able to bring our understanding and experience of the gospel into our viewing of the film. However for many viewers who have no understanding of the gospel story, my concern is that they will fail to grasp the spiritual point of Jesus suffering, and rather than see love, forgiveness, inspiration, and possibilities, they will merely reduce the film to a meaningless and loveless blood fest. Some feedback from non-believers and movie reviewers seems to indicate that my nightmare is becoming a reality. It breaks your heart!

Elio » 3 March, 2004 1:49 AM

I wanted to cry aloud during the showing - it was so intense,I wanted to cry "Stop, stop hitting my Christ" but I know that no one or anything could have stopped His crucifiction. We have let His death become so "sterile", so without shame that this showing brings back that He died for you and me! He suffered for you and Me! Our hand was on that hammer when the nails went into his body! We all killed him, but the end of the movie was so special. I challenge everyone to see this movie and not come out changed!

Shirley Fraley » 10 March, 2004 6:34 AM

I can not understand why people think the movie is against the jews. Being a Christian is all about forgiveness and even if the jews are responsible for Jesus's death, a true christian will forgive them as they did not know what they were doing!!! That's the massage not Hatred!! then again all the non catholic critics will not understand this because they judge everything from their point of view.. HATRED!! Please!! Take it easy on your selves!! have some love! As christians we will watch the movie and wake up to our selves that things are not as bad as it is.. we will have more faith.. but the last thing we will think about is to go make trouble with jews for some thing that happened 2000 years ago!!! It all depends on who you are.. if you are a racist you won't need a movie to be racist... they'll find another excuse.. and as for the intimidated jews.. don't have so much insecurity!! Have faith in your god and you will be ok!! that's what I would do if the situation was reversed.. I'll have faith in my god and know that everything will be just right.. then again if you don't have faith in your god.. that's your problem... don't blame the movie!! Jesus choose crucifixion and that's the way it was meant to happen.. and it's no bodies fault! In the long run everything will work out.. everything happens for a reason. Jesus's death on the cross was part of a big plan of god.. that expands to the start to the end of the world. everything must happen at the right time in sequence and more things will happen in the future we might not be able to comprehend at the time but will all make sense one day.. That's our faith!!

Ruwan » 10 March, 2004 10:50 PM

I don't think I want to see Mel Gibsons film The Passion Of The Christ. Not because of the reported extreme violence, nor because of the poor ratings given by most respected movie critics. It's not because of the alleged anti-semitism, the Catholic symbolism or even because of the sub-titles. If I do not go it will be, ironically, because of the publicity this film has received through my church and other churches like mine. It may be contrariness on my part, but the publicity aimed at the church has put me off. It has made me question the intentions of the producers of The Passion, and the media savvy of the church and its leaders.

While I consider myself a film buff and as such I like to see most films either at the theatre or later on DVD, I find myself reluctant to be pressured into seeing a film solely because its subject matter is part of my faith. This may well be a reason for me to go and see a film but it is my choice and I value being allowed to make it. In this instance however, I feel as if that choice has been taken hostage in a clever, deliberate campaign to publicise the film through the church.

Alan Nierob, a spokesman for Gibson, was reported in the New York Times as saying that the outreach efforts to pastors and Christian ministries was more in the interest of marketing than evangelism. "We don't have the luxury (of a big marketing budget) here," "So you've got to do what you can to get the film out there, get supporters, get word of mouth." In choosing to publicise The Passion in this way Mel Gibson, who financed the film out of his own pocket, has cleverly used one of the strongest social networks in existence. Credit has to be given to Gibson for his intelligence, audacity and his perception of how the church would react to his message. The church however has failed to discern how it was being used to benefit Gibson and his production.

While it appears that many people have joined the church as a result of seeing this portrayal of Christ's life, this has clearly led some to unquestioningly accept the whole package. Nobody within the church is asking the tough questions about this film and its marketing. Because it is about Jesus Christ and is relatively faithful to the biblical accounts of Jesus' last hours, it is accepted without critique, swallowed without being chewed over, devoured without being tasted. Pastors and church leaders, wooed and won by clever Hollywood marketing, have uncritically regurgitated the message to their congregations.

It is symptomatic of a wider church culture in which the few dictate to the many with few checks or balances. At grassroots level the opinion from the pulpit carries a weight that, particularly in issues such as this, it perhaps should not carry. More widely the church is adept at creating bandwagons, jumping on them simply because they appear to be going somewhere and then abandoning them only when they come to a crashing halt.

The two most prominent wagon drivers of the last decade are Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. Very few churches in the western world remain untouched by the generally positive influence of these two church leaders. So it comes as no surprise to a cynic such as myself that Mel Gibson targeted the marketing of the Passion to the church through these two men and their respective churches. 4,500 church leaders attended a preview at Bill Hybels Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago and after a similar private screening for Rick Warren, the Saddleback Community Church purchased 18,000 tickets.

Meanwhile Catholic, Jewish and other religious groups along with film critics and journalists were, contrary to the usual process, not allowed to see any pre-release screenings. Perhaps Warren, Hybels and other church leaders took advice from film critics or from media experts. Perhaps they were so giddy with the thought that Hollywood was asking their advice, taking their constituency seriously that they could not bring themselves to be anything other than charismatically enthusiastic. But was the amount of time spent by pastors doing promotion work for Gibson and Co. matched by those same pastors in researching or prayerfully considering the film?

In my research I came across many 'Christian' websites which concentrated on repeating the official promotional material, selling the accompanying merchandise (replica nail pendants) and reassuring concerned Christians, who perhaps heard of Mel Gibson's "I want to kill him, I want his intestines on a stick." response to a critical journalist, that "Director, actor, and producer Mel Gibson is a Christian who attends regular Sunday services."(www.thepassion.org.au). The only 'Christian' website that had any real concern was www.listenuptv.com. Lorna Dueck(Executive Producer) is a respected broadcaster and writer who works in a variety of Christian and secular media fields, she writes "Now we're about to discover whether the most popular religious symbol of all time can become a box-office hit. If it doesn't make it, it won't be because Christian clergy didn't co-operate with Mel Gibson and film distributors. I'm not sure who's using whom more, the profit-makers in Hollywood or those with an interest in conversion"

Does any of this really matter? The role reversal of secular critics and Church censorship proponents on the matter of violence in films surely indicates that this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation that will soon revert to the status quo of Church v. Hollywood enmity. It gives us the opportunity, though, to look at ourselves in the church in a different light. We have a right and a responsibility to think for ourselves. We should not blindly follow the lead of others. Whether they are Hollywood heroes, Mega-Church mega-stars or our local pastor they are imperfect. There was only one perfect man, only one man worth following unquestioningly. Perhaps a movie about Him would be worth seeing.
Just remember the imperfect interpreters between Jesus and the Screen.

Dean Herring » 14 March, 2004 8:19 PM

Being a mother, I'm wondering do I really want my children to go through all the motions that I felt, to feel all the pains for themselves to appreciate what I have done for them during pregnancy and labour?
I think I'd prefer just tell them briefly and let them imagine if they choose to, but if I have another baby, I'd still prefer them not to come to the labor room to watch me give birth to be able to "appreciate" so to speak.
I know labor pain is no where near to the cross. But does God really wants us to experience and feel every pain or would He rather just tell us briefly like he did in the Bible and keep us out of His labour room?

Susan » 15 March, 2004 10:12 AM

I just saw this movie and it did indeed touch the very soul of my Chrisitianity. However, I do wish the story told more about the resurrection and and mankind's deliverance. It also needed to show non believers events leading up to the crucifixion, they could understand the depth of Christ's suffering. Paula Fuller

Paula Fuller » 17 March, 2004 10:27 AM

I saw the movie last week thursday. I am barely 14 but was moved deeply by Mel Gibson's interpretation. I myself am a christian, but I beleive that Mel Gibson has a very strong walk with God and I think him making the movie was part of Gods plan to bring the subject of Jesus's crucifixion out into the world again.

Courtney » 18 March, 2004 11:55 AM

Hi there,

"The Passion of the Christ" is opening here in South Africa tomorrow (March 26) and I have just written a review of the movie for my company.

Here is the link for your interest:


Iwan Pienaar » 25 March, 2004 10:44 PM

I think the movie was a great example of what really happened to my savior (Christ). I am a Christian and I stongly beleive in Jesus Christ. But I have one question that even you probably could not answer. To what exstent did they mock and whip Jesus. We do not know that. How the movie was made was great. It was a really good set up and the way you did things in the movie was a great idea, for example when the nails went through Jesus' Hand.

» 28 March, 2004 1:24 PM

I think the movie was a great example of what really happened to my savior (Christ). I am a Christian and I stongly beleive in Jesus Christ. But I have one question that even you probably could not answer. To what exstent did they mock and whip Jesus. We do not know that. How the movie was made was great. It was a really good set up and the way you did things in the movie was a great idea, for example when the nails went through Jesus' Hand.

» 28 March, 2004 1:24 PM

I think the movie was a great example of what really happened to my savior (Christ). I am a Christian and I stongly beleive in Jesus Christ. But I have one question that even you probably could not answer. To what exstent did they mock and whip Jesus. We do not know that. How the movie was made was great. It was a really good set up and the way you did things in the movie was a great idea, for example when the nails went through Jesus' Hand.

» 28 March, 2004 1:24 PM

HI, Mel Gibson I am a hugh fan of yours, you did a excellent job making this movie. I hope meet you in person one day. Keep up the good work.

Miss Emile Alston » 16 April, 2004 3:58 AM

im with u Jonothan the passion creeped me out and im a catholic

Ibinez » 31 May, 2004 11:33 AM

Hey, I know the Passion is old news now and you prolly already know about how the film was heavily influenced by Anne Catherine Emmerich's book -- The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but to those that didn't know, I recommend checking out the following website for a very detailed identification of the scenes from the Passion based on her book:
(I noticed they were all the scenes I watched during the movie and thought 'I don't remember that from the Gospels...')

My main issue with Emmerich's influence on the film is that she had an anti-protestant view (she apparently had a vision of purgatory and said that protestants suffered there the most because no one was praying for them). Because I do not agree with Emmerich's views and because I do not like the message portrayed by some of the extra, non-gospel scenes in the Passion I must stress to anyone who goes to see it that although it is based on the Gospel, it is not as authentic as Gibson has marketed it. Why change what was in the Gospel...? Did he not think the story was interesting enough for the secular market? Anyway... just had to get that off my chest {:-)

Malessa » 1 June, 2004 12:41 AM

Mel Gibson The Passion Of The Christ was very heart breaking. You Did a good of make that movie. I am a hugh fan of yours, I hope to see you some day.

Miss Emile Alston » 24 July, 2004 4:44 AM

I have a review on my site... www.gfcom.org/potc

GFC » 10 September, 2004 4:11 AM

Everyone must see this movie. I say to non-christians just see it for a history lesson.

Amanda » 18 September, 2004 7:49 AM

I don't normally like to get involved in "religious" debates or shove my "christianisty" down people's throats, but tonight I just wanted to share a few thoughts, I'm aware the hype of the movie is old news now, but I still wanted to share my bit! I'll let you know straight up, I'm another Christian. After seeing the movie, I understand that non Christians might find the movie a bit full on, one of my friends who saw the movie (not a christian), said she didn't like the movie because of the "blood and guts". But I have to ask, would the movie have the same affect on people if they didn't show what really happened? The movie is supposed to be a direct portrayal of Christ's final hours... if you read the bible it does describe the beatings, it does describe the ridicule! Were people expecting a sugar-coated version of the death of our Lord? Of course its going to be a bit bloody, thats how it really happened kids! When I saw the movie I was so incredible moved, I cried nearly the whole way through! It suddenly hit me like a tonne of bricks, even though I've been a Christian most of my life, a man CHOSE to die for me, a man died in MY place, one man suffered so much pain to save the world... that man saved me and he died to save you! To me, that is the most amazing thing I've ever known.
Finally someone showed the world in the only way they could think of... you always had the choice to go see it, and I'm sure Mel Gibson & God both knew there would be mixed reactions to this movie, so you're free to form your opinion, you choose of your own free will how it affects you. I just ask that you see it for what it is and don't try and make it into something its not. It is a movie about a man, a man who was hung on a cross to save you and me, a man who opened up the doors of heaven so that I could live in eternity with my Saviour and Lord. Knowing this, how can I go on living the life he died to save me from?
I don't expect this to have a profound affect on anyone, but I just wanted to have my say... Thanks for reading!

Chantelle » 2 December, 2004 9:25 PM

The P.O.Christ changed me, and to just get to see what Jesus suffered to save all of us and the jews, romans, etc. was amazing. And from the looks of many of us who are from Canada, the P.O.Christ portrays a christian point of view on what Jesus was thinking, seeing, hearing etc. so there is no reason for anyone of another religion to feel threatened because it all comes down to how much Jesus loved all of us and to how much we should all love eachother despite religion.

Kaitlin » 10 February, 2005 12:36 PM

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