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Mel Gibson's Film: Don't Judge the Book by the Movie!

I have purposefully delayed commenting on the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ although many of my friends have asked me about it. I am now ready to respond after talking with many and reading scores of websites and newspaper/magazine articles. This should not to be perceived as an attack upon many of my preacher/friends who applaud the movie. Their motives are not in question but their judgment is.

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I have purposefully delayed commenting on the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ although many of my friends have asked me about it. I am now ready to respond after talking with many and reading scores of websites and newspaper/magazine articles. This should not to be perceived as an attack upon many of my preacher/friends who applaud the movie. Their motives are not in question but their judgment is.

No, I did not view the film (but I did read the Book!) because I don’t go to movies, and maybe that is a good starting place. Should committed Christians attend modern movies? Good people will disagree, and I can live with that. However, I must live with myself. I was saved as a teen and my life changed immediately; however, movies were a major part of my life. Therefore, I went to a downtown theater in Huntington, WV to see a swashbuckling film starring John Payne. Something about pirates, ships, etc. However, I left soon after the movie started because of overwhelming conviction that I was in the wrong place as a Christian.

Admittedly, that experience does not make a good case that all movies are wrong for everyone else. However, it was good enough for me, and I have not been to a movie since. But following are what I think are good reasons not to attend movies—any movies. Later I will deal in depth with Gibson’s film:

*I have very little interest in attending movies. I find real life so much more exciting. Or a good history, philosophy, or Christian book. Or dinner with good friends. Or better yet, a walk with my wife.

*I am a fanatic about wasting time, and feel that movies are usually a waste of time. Here I must add that Christians are not forbidden to have some entertainment, but few are judicious in their decisions.

*I am too tight to spend the money to attend a movie. I understand that the admission is no longer a dime for two features, a cartoon, and an exciting serial!  I understand they no longer have the serials where the good guy always got killed at the end—almost. Then next week we discovered how he escaped. 

*I don’t want to support the Hollywood crowd by purchasing a ticket.

*I find it incredible that Christians—no, just decent people—will sit there and absorb vulgarities, violence, and vileness without protest. Same for television.

*I refuse to put something in front of my eyes that could take my eyes off Christ. My, that sounds so spiritual, but I will let it stand.

   
All right, that’s sufficient. You get the point that I think movies are wicked and a waste of time and money. Yes, I know that it is a losing battle and most Christians, even dedicated Christians go to selected movies. However, I don’t have to win the battle or the argument, but I do have to answer for myself.
   
Would “Christian” movies make any difference in this discussion? I don’t think so.  Aiden Wilson Tozer  (who died in 1963) discussed  Christian movies more than 40 years ago: “Let the movie advocates quote just one verse, from any book of the Bible, in any translation, to justify its use. This they cannot do. The best they can do is to appeal to the world’s psychology or repeat brightly that ‘modern times call for modern methods.’ But the Scriptures—quote from them one verse to authorize movie acting as an instrument of the Holy Ghost….”
   
Tozer wrote: “One thing may bother some earnest souls: why so many good people approve the religious movie. The list of those who are enthusiastic about it includes many who cannot be written off as borderline Christians. If it is an evil, why have not these denounced it?
   
“The answer is lack of spiritual discernment. Many who are turning to the movie are the same who have, by direct teaching or by neglect, discredited the work of the Holy Spirit. They have apologized for the Spirit and so hedged Him in by their unbelief that it has amounted to an out-and-out repudiation. Now we are paying the price for our folly. The light has gone out and good men are forced to stumble around in the darkness of the human intellect.”  (A. W. Tozer, Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, “The Menace of the Religious Movie.”)
   
One more statement from Tozer that is one of the most prescient I have ever read: “In order to produce a religious movie someone must, for the time, disguise his individuality and simulate that of another. His actions must be judged fraudulent, and those who watch them with approval share in the fraud. To pretend to pray, to simulate godly sorrow, to play at worship before the camera for effect–how utterly shocking to the reverent heart! How can Christians who approve this gross pretense ever understand the value of sincerity as taught by our Lord? What will be the end of a generation of Christians fed on such a diet of deception disguised as the faith of our fathers?” (Ibid.)
   
Note that Tozer was speaking of “Christian” movies. He was saying that Christian movies would still be wrong if a movie contained absolutely no error!  He felt much stronger about Hollywood movies! I often heard him preach at his Chicago church when I was a college student. He made an incredible impact on Christians especially relating to the Christian life.  He was a man who never owned a car and was content with a place to sleep, food to eat, and his books. Even when he became a “big time” preacher, he was never a big time preacher! He would be aghast at what is accepted by Christians as the normal Christian life: our attitudes, habits, dress, loose talk, tattoos, body piercing, entertainments, etc. However, what is most important is what Christ thinks of where we are today!
   
As we examine Gibson’s film let us do so honestly, fairly, and in the spirit of the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Then if I am wrong, I expect to be corrected by fellow-Christians who are not simply interested in winning an argument but in helping me come to a fair, honest, and Scriptural position. If I am right in my assessment then I assume my critics will make whatever decision they need to make. Either way, it will be between God and the individuals involved.
    
I think most people will agree that just because Gibson’s movie deals with an awesome  subject, does not make it acceptable. It is amazing that evangelical and fundamental Christians defend The Passion because “it has much truth in it.” We are told, “Yes, there are many Biblical mistakes in it but it does contain a lot of truth. Besides many people have made decisions for Christ after viewing it.”  But those same people were critical of other Jesus movies such as the “Last Temptation of Christ.” Wasn’t there any truth in them?
   
Moreover, even if the “decisions for Christ” are genuine conversions, that does not justify supporting the movie. After all, if that is justified, then the many Bible-believers who refused to support Billy Graham Crusades must apologize to him because there is no question that many people trusted Christ in his crusades. At least Graham seems to be a decent person; his preaching is usually tolerable; but his association with unbelieving preachers is indefensible as it has been since the early 50s. He has also espoused incredible positions especially in the last ten years.
   
Of course, Gibson had a right to make the film and in fact, I like the fact that he threw the Hollywood crowd into derision. He took a high risk with his own money and has been richly rewarded. All right, that is free enterprise. He could have lost millions of dollars of personal funds. Furthermore, I am pleased when people think more about spiritual things and read the Bible as happened after viewing the film. But those arguments are not sufficient to justify Christians going to the film.
   
Many Jewish leaders and others hated The Passion with a passion (I just had to say that) and they have been very critical because anti-Semitism might result from the film. However, surely, if there has been little anti-Semitism with 325,000 U.S. “Protestant” churches preaching the Bible, there should be no fear from one movie. Besides, I would remind them that the film is about the death of Christ not about the “Collective Guilt of the Jews.” In addition, honest, informed people know that while our sins put Christ on the Cross, it was the Jewish leaders who demanded that Rome put Him to death. However, I’m not supposed to say that. Something else I am not supposed to say: I am convinced that many Jewish spokesmen are not so concerned about anti-Semitism. They are more desirous of screaming anti-Christian diatribes and defaming, denigrating, and denying the Word of God! There, I’ve said it since no one else will.
   
It is also interesting that those critical Jewish leaders did not oppose “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and other anti-Jesus films. Could it be that those Jewish leaders are concerned that Gibson attempted to portray an historic and Biblical Christ? May I suggest that most of those Jewish leaders are hypocrites? What’s that? “Jewish leaders can’t be hypocrites?” Strange, it seems only Christians can be hypocrites!
   
Along the same line, why has no one opposed so many holocaust movies since they could cause an outbreak of anti-German persecution? Isn’t that strange and inconsistent? Shouldn’t we be concerned about Germans as well as Jews? If not, why not?
   
Many of Gibson’s critics have tried to censor him and forced him to change the film.  However, those same critics have been the first to demand complete “artistic freedom” for themselves and others when their productions depicted a cross in urine, nudity, etc. It seems tolerance is demanded when vile, vicious, and vindictive “art” is in question but censorship is demanded when the art is decent, Biblical, wholesome, etc. In Hollywood a man can survive easier if he is found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy than be accused of being a conservative Christian!
   
I have read many scores of reviews of the film and almost all of them refer to the violence, and while that is a valid criticism, those same people have not been critical of most films where heads are severed, limbs are ripped off, etc. Why is Passion violence condemned and all other violence condoned? Ah, sweet consistency.
   
While criticism by those who object to the violence is inconsistent there is legitimate concern with the excessive violence depicted by Gibson. If Gibson desired an emotional response to the violence, that’s what he got. However, if Christ had been beaten as per the film, He would not have lived to die on the cross! The Bible does not dwell on the scourging and physical sufferings of Christ (as the Catholic Church does) but upon Him becoming the sin payment for mankind.
   
Dr. Doug Stauffer said: “It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:1) and this movie through the things SEEN does not fuel faith; it feeds the flesh through the emotions and in many cases inoculates people from ever hearing the truth of the gospel which the movie does not present.” (Dr. Doug Stauffer,  Mel Gibson’s Passion: a Biblical Analysis of the Movie.)
   
He is right on target! Does the indulgence in the physical suffering of Christ produce salvation? Does it matter that He was beaten 50 times, 100 times or 1000 times? Might people not be too involved in the bloodshed, pain, suffering, hatred, anger, etc., and miss the fact that Christ died to provide the sin-payment for all mankind who would repent and place faith in Him?
   
One reviewer wrote: “It’s as if Gibson is measuring God’s love by the amount of blood he shows on the screen.” (Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Daily News, Feb. 23, 2004.)
   
Fox News said: “We have no idea why Christ is so reviled by the Jews, what he’s done to earn their anger, or what he’s done to earn Gibson’s respect. From the moment the film begins, Jesus is simply a target for unbridled, unrestrained bloodlust. Yes, we get to see the nails driven through him, blood spurting in every direction, skin being torn in the process. Is there anything that’s learned by witnessing this enactment? I wish I could say there was, but there isn’t. IT’S SIMPLE BRUTALITY, WITH A HARD ROCK MUSIC TRACK PLAYING IN THE BACKGROUND.” (Fox News, Feb. 25, 2004.)
   
And here is the New York Times’ Frank Rich, ten days after the Ash Wednesday opening: “With its laborious build up to its orgasmic spurtings of blood and other bodily fluids, Mr. Gibson’s film is constructed like nothing so much as a porn movie, replete with slo-mo climaxes and pounding music for the money shots. Of all the ‘Passion’ critics, no one has nailed its artistic vision more precisely than Christopher Hitchens, who … called it a homoerotic ‘exercise in lurid masochism’ for those who ‘like seeing handsome young men stripped and flayed alive over a long period of time.’ ” (Frank Rich, New York Times, March 7, 2004.)
   
Columnist William Safire rails that The Passion is the “bloodiest, most brutal example of sustained sadism ever presented on the screen … reveling in savagery to provoke outrage and cast blame.” (New York Times, March 1, 2004.)

   
A professional critic wrote: “The film is the most violent I have ever seen. It will probably be the most violent you have ever seen.”  (Roger Ebert, The Passion of the Christ or Jesus Chainsaw Massacre,  Chicago Sun Times.  Feb. 24, 2004.)
   
“This Passion has more power and gore than power and glory, more blood and guts than blood and redemption.”  (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune, Feb. 24, 2004.) Instead of being the “Greatest Story Ever Told,” it seems to be the “Goriest Story Ever Told.” And in light of the massive box office receipts, maybe the “Goriest Story Ever Sold.” 
   
 “After being an entertainment writer for nearly 14 years and a movie fan for much longer, I can say without hesitation that The Passion of the Christ is the most violent film I have ever seen.” (“Violence Is Not For Kids,” The Hawaii Channel.)
   
Many Christian leaders have quickly and excitedly given their Zeal of Approval with two thumbs up to the Gibson film, but I give him a bloody thumb down for many reasons. I don’t question the defenders’ motives, but the film’s method and message are perverted. The rock music background was written by John Debney, who also wrote the rock music for the blasphemous movie Bruce the Almighty. I thought dedicated Christians were critical of rock music.
   
What made Gibson use reported porn stars to portray the parts of Mary Magdalene, Satan and Pilate’s wife?  And the “star” Jim Caviezel, a dedicated Roman Catholic, is not so clean either.  “Jesus” was a little known actor who played in Ride with the Devil. He admitted that he cursed one of the actors who hit him with the whip accidentally. He also confessed to having obscenities wanting to come out of his mouth.  I’ve been saved since I was a teen and have never had that desire.
Gibson cast a bunch of lowlifes to portray some of the main characters in his film. If he is so concerned about decency, then why promote such people? “Paul commands, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
   
Dr. Doug Stauffer wrote: “Reportedly, there are…hardcore Italian pornographic stars cast in major roles of this so-called Christian movie. They include Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene, Rosalinda Celentano as Satan, and Claudia Genini as the wife of Pontius Pilate. Monica Bellucci, the actress who plays Mary Magdalene in The Passion, posed for the ‘2001 GQ Italia Totally Nude’ calendar. She has also portrayed leading roles in violent, sexually explicit and perverted films.
   
“The French film, Irreversible, which Monica Bellucci (aka Mary Magdalene) plays a leading role, features total male and female nudity with violent and filthy perverted sex scenes including homosexual S&M acts.”
    
Stauffer goes on to quote Scoop News Agency as saying, “… the film delivers a stomach-churning opening punch set in ‘Rectum,’ a sado-masochist gay club.” (Dr. Doug Stauffer,  Mel Gibson’s Passion: a Biblical Analysis of the Movie.)
   
Then Monica performs in a 10 minute perverted-sex, graphic and violent sodomy rape scene. The sleaze provoked veteran movie critic of 25 years, Jack Mathews of The New York Post, to write: “You may feel debased… I won’t be surprised if an audience member somewhere leaves his seat in the midst of the rape scene and tries to get at the projectionist.”
    
According to Scoop News, “The movie, Irreversible, premiered at last years Cannes Film Festival. Irreversible proved so shocking that 250 people walked out, some needing medical attention….Fire wardens had to administer oxygen to 20 people (at the Cannes Festival) who fainted during the film—which includes a 10-minute depiction of sodomy [of Monica Bellucci], and also contains graphic scenes of rape and murder.” Real wholesome, no?
    
Rosita Celentano portrays Satan in The Passion and has starred in Diary of a Porn Star.
    
Maia Morgenstern who plays the virgin Mary in The Passion starred in The Whitman Boys, a death film containing prostitution, animal sacrifices, violence, and nudity.
   
G Dennis Palmu, who researched most of The Passion cast, stated: “By my count, out of a total of 66 adult actors and actresses in The Passion of the Christ, 33 have appeared in movies with graphic sex, pornography, violence, horror or a combination of some or all of these four elements. What is the statistical probability that this ‘just happened’ by chance?” Why would a Christian choose such lowlifes to be part of a “Christian” movie?
   
Gibson is a very confused man as his interview with Peter Boyer revealed:  “I told Gibson that I am a Protestant, and asked whether his pre-Vatican II world view disqualified me from eternal salvation. He paused. ‘There is no salvation for those outside the Church,’ he said. ‘I believe it.’ He explained, ‘Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.’ ” (Peter Boyer, “The Jesus War,” The New Yorker, Sept. 15. 2003). Of course that has been the official Roman Catholic teaching for hundreds of years until Vatican II, and many of us believe it is still their position, especially the Jesuits.
   
The above means that Gibson thinks all the “Protestants” who praised the movie and defended him are all going to hell! Sorry about that, but that is exactly what he said.  However, the actor wimped out in his Primetime Live interview with Diane Sawyer on February 25. On that program, he professed to believe that eventually everyone was going to “make it” to heaven even Muslims and other unbelievers! Sawyer questioned Gibson about whether Jews, Muslims, and Protestants would be refused heaven to which Gibson replied, “That’s not the case at all–absolutely not. It is possible for people who are not even Christian to get into the kingdom of heaven but it is an ‘easier ride’ for Roman Catholics!” It seems Gibson does not know what he believes, but he believes it with a passion.
   
Everyone knows that Gibson is a traditional Roman Catholic and has a missionary zeal that puts most Bible-believing Christians to shame! He is not ashamed to tell anyone what he believes. (Even if he is all mixed up or changes his mind depending on the circumstances.) He was at rock bottom and came out of suicidal depression and made his film in appreciation for his deliverance. His film is an evangelizing tool for the Roman Catholic Church! In fact, the Roman Catholic magazine Inside the Vatican chose Mel Gibson as its “Man of the Year” for 2003. That’s a good example of quid pro quo!  That’s Latin for “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
   
The official guide to the film declares: “Yet, for all the sophisticated evangelization strategies, the irony is that our Protestant brothers and  sisters cannot adequately speak to many of the issues and questions the film evokes because the film is so distinctly Marian, so obviously Eucharistic, so quintessentially Catholic——as is the New Testament itself….But can their theology adequately or honestly mine such cinematic gems as the Last Supper flashbacks?…And without an understanding of Mary as our model in true Christian faith, one cannot begin to understand her significant role in the film. Only a solid understanding of the Catholic Faith can help us grasp these essential elements that figure so prominently in both the Scriptural record and the apostolic (Catholic) Tradition. The film quite accurately links the sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the Mass. In doing so, it faithfully depicts biblical and Catholic teaching.” (A Guide to the Passion, Ascension Press and Catholic Exchange, p. 31.)  They are saying that non-Catholics are dumb as a box of rocks!
   
Gibson, a traditional Roman Catholic, identifies the Mass with Christ’s sacrifice. He said, “The goal of the movie is to shake modern audiences by brashly juxtaposing the sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the altar [the Holy Eucharist]—which is the same thing.” (“The passion of Mel Gibson” by Terry Mattingly, Scripps Howard News Service, Jan. 21, 2004.)
   
 Dr. Doug Stauffer notes: “Gibson flashes in scenes from the Lord’s Supper while Jesus is hanging on the cross. He does this to connect the Catholic’s false teaching of the ‘Holy Eucharist’ changing into the actual blood and body of Jesus Christ (called tran-substantiation). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting picked up on the subtle Catholic propaganda. ‘The juxtaposition of the wounded and bleeding body of Christ on the cross with scenes of the Last Supper compellingly underscores how the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ.’ ”
    
Stauffer continues: “What does the Conference of Catholic Bishops mean? Five times during the crucifixion scene, the viewer is taken back to the Last Supper. Each time the scenes are produced in such a way as to create close parallels and subliminal attachments between Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the Catholic Eucharist. The subliminal associations are not generally picked up by the conscious mind, but our subconscious minds easily make the connection designed into the film by the producers. Hollywood knows this and frequently uses it convey more than we realize.” (Dr. Doug Stauffer,  Mel Gibson’s Passion: a Biblical Analysis of the Movie.)
    
The Roman Catholic teaching that each time a mass is done, Christ dies again is the epitome of heresy, and how any Bible-believing Christian can countenance it is incredible. The official Roman Catholic catechism is very clear: “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice….In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner.”  (The Catholic Catechism website, Article 3, “The Sacrament of the Eucharist,”  #1367.)
   
Read the official Roman Catholic position: “The Mass continues the Sacrifice of the Cross. Each time the Mass is offered, the Sacrifice of Christ is repeated. A new sacrifice is not offered, but by divine power, one and the same sacrifice is repeated. ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until He comes (1 Cor 11:26).’ In the Mass, Christ continues to offer Himself to the Father as He did on the Cross. And in the Mass, the Father continues to accept His Son’s gift as He did in the Resurrection and the Ascension.”  (Emphasis added.) (The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Catholic Book Publishing, p. 171.) I consider it close to blasphemy for even punching in the above statement. How can any Christian support, defend, or countenance such a teaching?

Copyright 2006, Don Boys, Ph.D.

(You have read almost one third of this report on The Passion. To order the complete report send $5.00 to P.O. Box 944, Ringgold, GA  30736.)

Tags: roman catholics