Skip to comments.The Passion of the Christ: One Year Later
Posted on 02/26/2005 9:04:56 AM PST by sionnsar
Today The Passion of the Christ is one year old. I thought I'd reflect a bit on the film and its impact, as well as on the forthcoming "recut" version (tomorrow).
Last February was a busy time for me because of the pending February 25th release of Mel Gibson's controversial film. I had written a review for Worship Leader magazines January-February issue, which ended up being distributed by the hundreds of thousands. On my website I posted a long, detailed review of the movie which brought more than 18,000 visitors in February, a record for my two-month old site. Since then another 18,000 people have visited the webpage that contains my Passion review.
A year ago I also found myself in e-mail dialogue with persons from across the religious spectrum: Catholics, evangelical Christians, atheists, Jews, and others. I also did a series of radio interviews in advance of the movies release. (If a radio show wasnt big enough to get the heavy hitters, like Mel Gibson, Jim Caviezel, or Abraham Foxman, they were willing to let me pinch hit.)
As you may recall, many Jewish leaders had condemned The Passion of the Christ as anti-Semitic, claiming that it was dangerous to Jews. Some even predicted mass violence against Jews from moviegoers. I had gone on record as saying that the vast, vast majority of people who saw The Passion of the Christ would not even think to blame Jews today for the death of Jesus. In fact, I had argued that this film had the potential to improve Jewish-Christian relations if Jews and Christians grasped the opportunity presented to them.
Many Christians were ecstatic about the evangelistic potential of the movie. One popular PR slogan touted the film as The greatest evangelistic opportunity in 2000 years. Many churches rented out whole theatres so that church members might bring unsaved friends to the film. I felt less enthusiastic than many Christians about the evangelistic possibilities afforded by The Passion of the Christ. After all, the movie did not even try to tell the full story of the good news of Jesus, and I feared its extreme violence might actually put off some people who werent already familiar with the story of Christs death. I did think the film could serve as pre-evangelism, a great conversation starter.
As February 25th, 2005 rolled around, many questions swirled in my mind and in the media: Would The Passion of the Christ lead to violence against Jews? Would the film lead instead (or also) to thousands of Christian conversions? What would be the real impact of the films release? Would people see the film in large numbers? Or would it be a box office bomb?
Exactly one year ago today my wife and I saw The Passion of the Christ. It was early in the day on Ash Wednesday and we wanted to avoid the crowds. The theatre in which we saw the movie was about half full. The audience was mixed in many ways, though I didnt see any children under 12 present as the movie began.
Seeing this movie was one of the oddest movie-going experiences of my life for a number of reasons. For one thing, there were no previews before the movie started, no trailers full of bathroom humor and earsplitting car chases; just a silent dark screen and then the movie. Even though I had seen an advance screening of the film, I found myself utterly entranced, utterly on-edge for the entire two hours and seven minutes of the movie. When the movie ended, my wife and I sat in silence for a long time, joined by most others in the theatre. Finally the silence was interrupted by the voice of a three-year-old child several rows behind me proclaiming, No more movie! No more movie! Had I not been dumbstruck by the awesomeness of Gods grace at that moment, I would have shot the parents of that little girl the worlds meanest look. I still cant imagine what they were thinking. Nevertheless, for me personally, seeing The Passion of the Christ was a profound experience of worship, worship directed not at Mel Gibson or Jim Caviezel by the way, but at the One who had suffered to terribly in dying for my sin.
In the days following the films release I watched the news stories closely to see whether the predictors of gloom or the predictors of glory would be right. The popularity of The Passion of the Christ exceeded almost everybodys expectations. It turned out to be a behemoth at the box office, grossing $370 million in the U.S.A. and $611 million overall in 2004. If the ticket price averaged $8.00 in the U.S., this means that 46 million people saw the film. And I dont think you can chalk that up to junior high boys going to the film again and again. Later in the year the sales and rentals of the video or DVD amounted to $245 million more. All of this certainly amounted to a kind of vindication for Mel Gibson, at least on the popularity and financial success front.
The dreaded anti-Jewish response to The Passion of the Christ didnt materialize. I remember reading a couple of reports of anti-Jewish slurs being hurled at Jews in a couple of places. This was inexcusable, of course. But all of the dire warnings proved to be unwarranted. In fact, in many cases The Passion of the Christ advanced the cause of Jewish-Christian relations. I, for one, learned more than I had ever known before about anti-Semitism, and wrote a couple blog posts on the subject (1, 2). Furthermore, the Jewish and Community Research found that people who saw The Passion of the Christ were actually less likely to blame Jews in general for killing Christ.
Tomorrow Ill continue this discussion of The Passion of the Christ, reflecting on its evangelistic impact and on the new version of the film that is soon to hit theatres. Ill put up what may be the worlds only transcript of Mel Gibsons own description of the new version of the film that hes about to release. Stay tuned . . .
Thank you for posting this! Good Find *BUMP*!
Our church is hosting the movie tonight -- with a discussion group to follow in one week.
Good morning Sionnsar! Nice to see you, and a BUMP for our gracious Lord as well :)
Morning, Libertina! Good to see you too. Pray for LibreOuMort; she's come down with the crud that's going around.
The two of you seem to have end to end crud for a year now. Wonder if she is more susceptable than most, or is in a place where she is in greater contact? Anyway, give her my best - I look forward to seeing you both again soon.
One opinion was said ," That Mel Gibson had awakened a sleeping giant" in making this movie..but I believe it more to be this: That for too many years God His Son, Jesus,and anything of Mary, His Holy mother, have been,shut quietly away from the minds and thoughts of Millions of people,by the media, the Churches themselves and the schools world wide.The only reason the Jews made such a big protest, is they did not want "GOD" being brought back to the people.
Also the milloins touched by this film, the sufferings Jesus endured for EACH Person! Out of Love for Each of us.The CRUCIFIX, and thoughts of Jesus' sufferings and that of His Holy Mother....WHy...to open Heavens gates which were closed,by the disobedence of Adam and Eve.Many hold those things far in their lives,many more have never known-and Mel Gibson the actors of the film,showed it all to the BEST of their knowledge !
Great film, from my Jewish outlook.