Read Instructions before Viewing Passion

(Three posts today--a new record)

If you go see The Passion and are a Christian or Jew, you might want to read Dennis Prager's column, Mel Gibson's Two Movies on his website or at Beliefnet.com.

"When watching The Passion," he writes, "Jews and Christians are watching two entirely different films."

"For two hours, Christians watch their Savior tortured and killed. For the same two hours, Jews watch Jews arrange the killing and torture of the Christians' Savior."

Prager's got some good insights on the different ways Christians and Jews might see the film, and how they can avoid being divided by it.

And for my Christian friends who can't figure out what all this Anti-Semitism fuss is all about, some parting words from that father of the Reformation, Martin Luther and his work, The Jews and Their Lies.

"I shall give you my sincere advice," wrote Luther. "First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians . . . "

"Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God. Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them."

Justification by faith, Luther got. It's loving thy neighbor--and even thy enemies--that Luther forgot, to the Church's eternal shame. Father forgive us, for we know not what we do.


Some Non-Passion Stories

There's an entertaining and informative story about the gender inclusive TNIV and other new Bible translations in Friday's LA Times. Who knew, for example, that Bible translators start out at $5 an hour and make it all the way to $20 an hour, if they work for the International Bible Society. TNIV opponents still don't like it.

The best line in the article goes to David Scholler of Fuller Seminary , a former seminary professor of mine at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. (I was there for a very short period of time.)

He really doesn't like the new The English Standard (ESV).

"It's already a 'dinosaur,' because it avoids the gender-inclusive language, he said.

"The Gospel is for both men and women," he added.
"We believe both men and women can be redeemed in Christ, can serve Christ in the church. And that's an important part of the Gospel."

Meanwhile, Alan Jacobs of Wheaton College is a big fan of the ESV, but admits it probably won't catch on.

Finally, a feel good story about Tethloach Tut, or "King Tut" as his teammates call him. Born in Sudan, he and his family fled on foot to Ethiopia and then to Kenya. He's now a 6-8 high school senior and basketball star at Crawford High School in San Diego, and is being recruited by several colleges. Here's an excerpt:

His goals are to use education to either become a doctor or a teacher and return to the Sudan. He already helps tutor Crawford students who need a little extra help in the classroom.

Tut says the Southeastern part of Sudan is primarily farmland but also is rich in natural resources such as oil and gold.

Channeled properly, he says it could be a prosperous country but points out that internal struggles instead have made it a dangerous place to live.

"I'll have to take the same road back, through Kenya and Ethiopia," said Tut, sadly. "I want to help. It's very bad there now, a lot of atrocities. Maybe I can make a difference.


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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