I used clips from The Passion in my Wednesday night teen class to help illustrate
the story of the cross better.
When looking at the movie "The Passion of the Christ" I have some extreme reservations
with using it in a youth ministry context - or any context for that matter. Over
the years I have prayed through the scriptures and frequently focused on the passion
narratives. The images in prayer and study did not take the many "editorial licenses"
that Mel Gibson took in his portrayal of the last hours of Christ's life. So,
I would like to challenge the statement "It was reality." I believe Gibson's
artistic expression in the film exaggerated reality - portraying Jesus as a "super-human."
Ms. Simox in her email reflection stated "This film is violent. It is reality.
How are people expecting Christ's crucifixion to be portrayed? Do they think it
was a walk in the park, something any human being could endure?" I take serious issue with this statement. As much as Jesus was fully God
and fully Man - he was fully MAN. And yes - I believe that a human being (in
great shape) should have been able to endure his suffering - otherwise he was
not like us - not human! Can people not see that this takes away from the films
credibility? Although unscientific (from watching the movie) - if you added up all the blood lost, the strength needed to carry his cross (which
likely did not even look like the one carried through the streets) I think we
take away from the believability of the Passion. In Gibson's attempt to be "realistic"
I would say that he erred and may have made it "unrealistic or unbelievable."
Which leads me to the next issue - why did he make such a violent and bloody portrayal
in this film?
I have yet to hear a straight answer from Gibson on his "motive(s)" for making
the film! To portray it as it really was...I do not buy. There are a few unscriptural
or out-of-sequence pieces that worked well on the screen, but may not have been
true to what we have come to know to be true through scripture or tradition.
Apart from "God calling him to make the movie" I have not heard why - what drove
him to make certain editorial choices? A number of people I have spoken with
felt "manipulated" into responding to Christ's suffering, rather than freely invited.
I really struggle with the idea of being "coerced," "manipulated" or "guilted"
into faith. Because he suffered such a horrible death...I must believe, or because
he sacrificed so much for me I must sacrifice more for him. Let's look into our
motives and purpose before responding. My strongest spiritual gift (to date)
that I have been given is faith. And maybe that's why I feel uneasy when it is
so forcibly impressed on me through this movie. I honestly believe that someone
should not have to watch this movie...and be left to scream "enough - OK I believe
- turn it off!" Sounds like a cry from a torture chamber. We are all freely
invited to receive Christ into our lives and free to accept him. Otherwise, it
is no different that watching the starving children on TV, the evangelist breaking
down with mascara running down her cheeks, or the offer of free steak knives with
every pledge. To be a follower or believer in Jesus - it must be free. Jesus
has done MANY other things expressing his great love - in addition to his suffering
on the cross. His goal was not to suffer on the cross - so that we might believe,
but rather through his suffering, death and resurrection be brought to the fullness
of life in/with/through him.
An artist has his ability to take a film whatever way he wishes. In some senses,
this may not be much different than Godspell, The Last Temptation of Christ or
Jesus of Montreal. In each one of this artistic films about Christ - they take
licenses to prove a point. Gibson's was made to show the extreme sacrifice and
suffering of Jesus in his last days. However, as with the other films I list
here...there are certain things which are unbalanced, untrue, unsupported through scripture - they are "what
if's" or "visions of the director" brought to life. None of these movies are
suitable to be a complete teaching tool, catechetical work, or foundation for
a bible study. We can do much better than that.
When it comes to youth and youth ministry. I am very cautious about what I use
as a tool for discussion and images used to influence - since many of them are
so impressionable and easily influenced. If I am to place an image that may last
a lifetime in their minds...I want to make sure that it is real and true. I am
not convinced that the "way" it happened was as Gibson portrayed it. We cannot
deny Jesus was beaten before his death...but none of us were there...and we can
only take historical extrapolations to create some images...but they are extrapolations! I
can think of some movies like "The Ten Commandments" - I know a number of people
whose scriptural images are now set to conform with the movie...rather than the
other way around. Moses looked like Charleston Hesston and the plagues were as
they saw it on TV. Rather, let God himself place the image in our minds through
prayerful reflection on the scriptures. The Holy Spirit can/will do a much better
job than any movie! I am worried that this might be the case with the Passion
of the Christ also.
My bottom line - when it comes to movies like this I will not show them to minors
- even with parental consent. It is up to their parents to show them the film
and discuss it if that is their wish as the primary educators and instructors
of their children. I would be willing to discuss it with them (parents and/or
youth), but not lead a screening of the film myself. It is more appropriate for
young adults and college students (and older) who already have a foundation and
have read the scriptures prior to seeing the film. They have formed images in
their mind and have a frame of reference before receiving the challenge of alternate
images. I also see a danger: it would be a real shame for people to accuse (one
Christian to another) that they have to believe this film (insisting it was the
way it was - reality) in order to be a Christian. I am not obligated to believe
everything about this film in order to be a Christian, nor by denying anything
in the film am I denying Christ! I challenge the movie and it's artistic interpretation,
not the truths of the Gospel. Let us be careful of being a martyr for Gibson's
movie, rather than for Christ himself!
As a Youth Minister, I would rather be living as a witness and testimony to Jesus
- his life, passion, death and resurrection - by example. More young people have
come to believe in Jesus and his saving truth through incarnational/relational
ministry than through a movie. Our positive role modeling goes a long way - farther
than this movie will ever go. A wise man in the field of youth ministry - Frank
Mercadante - says in his book "Positively Dangerous" that we can attract people to God primarily by: 1) Loving God, 2) Loving our
Neighbour, 3) Being Authentic, 4) Being a Person of Integrity, 5) Being on Call
24/7 for service as the Holy Spirit works in/through our life. Rather than get
further bent out of shape about this movie and all its baggage...I now rededicate
myself to being a full-disciple of Jesus in my ministry and personal life. May
God use me to spread his message of truth about God to all those I meet - believers
or non-believers alike.
Your brother in Christ,
Warren Dungen, Director
Diocesan Youth Ministries / Diocese of Prince Albert
I have not seen it. I am aware of the suffering of Jesus, perhaps not to
the depth this movie portrays, but as much as I feel like I should handle.
With personal suffering in my life, no more than anyone else though, the
intensity of this movie, I think, would leave me too upset. Not everyone
has the mental stability to handle this. My family also suggested I not see
Betty Crestwood, Kentucky.
I've got to say that this film moved me tremendously! I have been raised in a
Christian home and I still felt like I was just understanding what Jesus really
did for us. I don't remember anything else that has had more effect on my personal
commitment to Christ than what this movie showed me. It gave me a more complete
understanding of the weight of our sin did to Him. Thank you Jesus for dying for