Monday, February 23, 2004

The Passion of The Christ directed by Mel Gibson -- Controversial, YES. Impactful, certainly.

I was recently interviewed by Peter Smith, Courier Journal reporter, about Mel Gibson's new movie being unleashed this Wednesday, February 25th. I appreciate his final article. We're taking over 730 people from our community to see this movie on opening nite. I'm passionate about what Jesus has done for me and how my life is different and I can't wait to allow other people to begin that journey with me. I believe that this movie has the potential to allow us to have conversations that really matter about things that matter most.
My hat's off to Mel Gibson for having the courage to put this together. There are those in the media now scoffing at him because it appears that the movie could be a blockbuster and he stands to make some serious money. Funny that when he needed financial backers in Hollywood none of them would step up to help back the movie because they saw it as a big time loser. The Jesus story has always been controversial and this just forces the discussion. A discussion that most of us try to steer clear of. It's been said that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

I'm hopeful that this movie will galvanize good people to become more active and more bold and at the same time more compassionate and Christlike in the marketplace, in politics, at work -- in our world.
Here's Peter's article from the Friday, February 20th Courier Journal

'Passion' evokes both religious fervor, concern of Jews
Movie about Jesus Christ's final hours has Christians seizing rare evangelical opportunity in realm of pop culture

The Courier-Journal
Some see an unprecedented evangelistic opportunity. Others see a dangerous flirtation with anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Opinions vary so widely, it seems that not one but two movies will premiere on Ash Wednesday when Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" begins its run.
Some ministers, such as the Rev. Jeff Fuson of Louisville, see an opportunity to spread the Christian message with the film, which shows Jesus Christ being sent to a torturous crucifixion that believers say took away the sins of humanity.
Crestwood Baptist Church, where Fuson is youth minister, has rented two theaters at Tinseltown USA cinema for nearly 500 members and their guests to see the film. "It may be the best one outreach opportunity that I've had in 18 years of working with kids," Fuson said. For children raised on "a steady diet of movies, it's a language they're used to."
The movie has become a popular-culture phenomenon for many evangelical Christian churches:
· Many pastors from Louisville and elsewhere have attended pre-release screenings and see the film as a way to urge non-Christians to believe.
· Two dozen Kentuckiana churches and hundreds nationwide have rented theaters for screenings and are distributing movie-related brochures and materials.
· Southeast Christian Church, Kentucky's largest congregation, has organized an entire sermon series on questions raised by the movie.
· Springdale Community Church has planned a discussion series along with a theater rental.
· Clifton Baptist Church will reimburse costs for any member who sees the movie with a non-Christian friend and discusses it over coffee afterward.
The arrival of the movie also marks the arrival of religious controversy, however. Jewish and some Christian leaders are worried that the film could stoke anti-Semitism, even unintentionally. Although they have some concerns about the American response, they are more worried about reaction in foreign countries where hostility to Jews is rising.
Such groups fear that the movie, rooted in the medieval tradition of passion plays, might revive centuries-old stereotypes of Jews as conspiratorial "Christ killers," manipulating the ruling Romans into killing the Christian savior.
Such groups will be having their own discussions, such as a Jewish-Christian dialogue tentatively scheduled for March 9 by the interfaith Cathedral Heritage Foundation.
"I know, having taught Christian history, that most Christians don't know parts of their history, and they don't know why Jews and Christians will see two different films," said Roy Fuller, an interfaith activist who teaches religion at Indiana University Southeast. "They do not understand why Jews will react so strongly to this film."
The movie's messages
Local Jewish leaders are reserving comment on the film until they see its final version next week, though they hope the fallout will not affect the improving relations between American Christians and Jews.
"Historically, as far as passion plays go, it's a mixed record for us ... especially in Europe," said Peter Anik, community relations director for the Jewish Community Federation of Louisville. "Oftentimes they would lead to violent actions from those who had seen them."
Many Protestant evangelical churches say they're sensitive to those concerns but see a very different message in the film. Pastors, many of whom have viewed screenings, are embracing an opportunity to urge viewers to believe in Jesus Christ, even though that message comes via a source they usually deplore: pop culture.
"I've been awfully critical of things that have come out of the entertainment industry, so when something comes along that's positive, I think we should support it," said the Rev. Dave Eichenberger, minister of discipleship at Hikes Point Christian Church, which has paid for an unusual pre-release showing at the Showcase Cinemas Stonybrook on Tuesday with Fern Creek Christian Church. Many adults and teens will be attending and are being urged to bring friends.
To publicize the movie, Gibson has teamed with evangelicals who support a $4 billion Christian retail industry through their churches and alternative media and marketing networks.
National evangelistic organizations are supplying churches with brochures, posters, postcards, door hangers and other materials promoting the film, with room for churches to stamp their names and addresses. One brochure distributed by the Hikes Point church asks, in large type on a blood-red background, "The Passion of the Christ: True or False?" Gibson has shown screenings to clergy, including one in Illinois attended by 5,000 ministers, several from Louisville.
Moviegoers lined up
About 12 local churches have booked showings at the Great Escape cinemas in New Albany, Ind., with more "calling us every day," said Steve Menschell, vice president of operations for the New Albany-based chain."I don't think anybody in the industry has seen anything like this before," he said.
Churches and individuals have booked eight showings at Tinseltown's cinema in Louisville, which plans public showings on three screens, said Terrell Falk, vice president of marketing and communications for Cinemark USA, which owns the Tinseltown theater chain.Two groups have booked private showings at Showcase Cinemas in Louisville, said spokeswoman Jennifer Hanson of the parent company National Amusements.
All three theater chains also report bookings elsewhere in Kentucky.
Catholic groups also are taking an interest, though they are less aggressive about evangelizing via the movie or booking private showings.
WLCR, a local Catholic radio station, will be promoting the film, said general manager Vince Heuser.
"There's a tendency these days to turn worship into entertainment, that if we're not laughing and having a good time, that we're not getting anything out of it," said Heuser. "I think we forget that suffering is an integral part of Christianity."
Adult groups with the Cathedral of the Assumption and Holy Spirit Church plan group outings to the movie.
Anti-Semitic questions
Although Catholic leaders say the film has devotional potential, they also have taken pains in recent decades to renounce the anti-Semitic history of passion plays. The Vatican and American bishops have repeatedly stressed that Jews should not be depicted as collectively killing Christ.
"I don't think anyone can read the Gospel accounts and deny that some Jewish people had a role (in the crucifixion), but certainly not the Jewish people as a nation or as a race," said the Rev. Bill Hammer, director of the Archdiocese of Louisville's Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Relations. "It's false to lay any blame on them."
Some individual Jewish commentators have written in support of Gibson's project, but many Jewish organizations have voiced concerns. For instance, Abraham Foxman of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League said Jews could suffer "unintended consequences" from the film.
Gibson insists that the movie shows that Jesus willingly accepted his death on behalf of all of sinful humanity.
Protestant ministers such as the Rev. Fred Johnson, associate minister at St. Paul's Missionary Baptist Church, tend to agree.
"Certainly Jesus was a Jew, his disciples were Jews, so it's definitely not an attack on Jews," said Johnson, whose church is encouraging members to see the movie. "We all, in some regards, are guilty if we've sinned."
Southeast Christian, which has more than 20,000 members, has arranged a sermon series leading up to Easter, addressing questions that viewers of the movie likely will be discussing, said the Rev. Dave Stone, the church's preaching associate. "We want to answer the questions that they have," he said.
On the Web
Go to to express your opinions on "The Passion of the Christ" and find links to the movie's Web site and other related sites.

p.s. You may want to grab some cool resources here:


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