Resolving the Passion Brouhaha

Here's an idea. Anyone that wants to see The Passion has to place their hand on a stack of Bibles and recite the Apostle's Creed from memory. Then they'll let you in. If not, then sorry, it's not for you.

Like the majority of people writing about The Passion, I've not seen the film. (I did get an invitation today for a special media preview--sans Mel--on Monday) But I've seen the special DVD interviews from The Passion Outreach and read enough to know this is film for insiders, not outsiders.

The Passion, as far as I can tell, is not really a movie, at least not a movie as entertainment. It's a cinematic Stations of the Cross.

Newsweek and Diane Sawyer are asking the wrong question. I don't think Mel Gibson, or the people he's show the film to, care who killed Jesus. They care about who he died for--and it was pretty clear on Dateline last night, that Gibson believes Jesus died for him.

Jesus Christ "was beaten for our iniquities," Gibson said. "He was wounded for our transgressions and by his wounds we are healed. That's the point of the film. It's not about pointing the fingers."

"It's about faith, hope, love and forgiveness," he said. "It is reality for me. … I believe that. I have to … for my own sake … so I can hope, so I can live."

That's why he's been showing this film at Willow Creek and to pastors and Jesuits--and not to religion writers.

He's shown it to audiences that share his beliefs because they'll get his film. When they see Jesus being beaten, they'll think of Isaiah 53 (as Gibson did on Dateline)--"he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed." When the see Jesus crucified, they'll think of 1 Timothy 2--"he gave his life as a ransom for many." When they see Jesus suffer and die, they'll think, "he did it for me" and as the film ends, they'll sit in "stunned silence."

And, as one of my co-workers did, they'll come back and tell everyone they know what a life-changing experience the film was and urge them to go and see it.

Now the Apostle's Creed Test isn't foolproof. Martin Marty would pass, and The Passion's not for him.

Frederica Mathewes-Green
would as well, and she's thinks Mel got it wrong.

But at least they get what the Passion is all about.

I suppose it's like this. If you're watching television and you see a story about a fatal car crash, you think to yourself, that's awful, and then you move to the score of the Bulls game (or Cubs or Red Sox or Patriots). If you are sitting watching the news, and learn that it's your neighbor, or your child, or your grandchild that's been killed, it's a cataclysm. It's the end of the world and you are shaken to the core.

So if Jesus is like that for you--if he is Savior and Friend, Lord and Master for you--then you are ready to see the Passion. If not, do you really want to see someone "beat to death for 2 hours," as a friend who saw the film put it. Probably not.


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