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Title: The Passion Of The Christ

Release Year: 2004

Review Dates: February 14, 2004 & March 6, 2004

Rating: R (For Violence)

Running time: 127 minutes

Box Office Gross: $609,490,164

Recommendation: Great film, great message.

Site Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

"The Passion of the Christ"

For months there has been controversy around Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ," which hits theatres February 25, 2004. I haven't seen the film and I want to be fair to the Jewish Community and Mel (Dude, send me a copy, I promise I won't put it on Kazaa or try to sell it on Ebay - I'm just joking).

I applaud him for making a movie about Jesus. However, in Hollywood he was guaranteed opposition on that alone. However, I want to be fair to the Jewish community because I support them and Israel. I want Jewish people to be portrayed in the best possible light. Therefore, I want to see the film first to know if it truly is anti-Semitic. If it stuck to the Bible, or the storyline as they say in the industry, it should not be anti-Semitic. After all, the Bible was written by Jewish people and has been a great blessing to me and countless others. More importantly, our Savior, Christ, is also Jewish.

Mel's film is actually a success before it's even been released. The movie is totally in the mainstream, in the secular media. It's not an obscure art house film relegated to a few theatres. Therefore, it's gotten a lot of people talking about Jesus.

I've been a Christian for many years. I've read the Bible many times (since I was 15 I've had about 5 copies of the Bible, 4 of which fell to pieces because I read it so much trying to memorize scriptures from it and had to get new ones). I've also studied Jewish culture, and in as much as God has taught me through the Bible and experiences, going through the checkout isle in the supermarket and catching a glimpse of a still from the movie of the crucifixion, that is featured on the cover of this week's Newsweek magazine, left me gobsmacked. My mouth was literally open (and it takes a lot to stun me). Looking at the brutal pics from the movie shocked me and reminded me of just what He went through on our behalf. 

The pictures are so striking. The realism is amazing. It's the most stunning depiction of the crucifixion I've ever seen. Even the trailers and imagery featured on the film's web site are stunning (click on the highlighted link to the right http://www.thepassionofthechrist.com )

I kept reading where critics said how realistic the film is and now I understand why they wrote that. So, for the above-mentioned reasons, the film is a success.  

 

 (Photo Credit: Philippe Antonello)

One of my favorite preachers John Hagee joked that the Lord needs a PR firm to remind people of the things He has given them (life, trees, plants, animals) and I sometimes think so as well. I'm not being irreverent, neither was John, but some people in mainstream Hollywood and the press need to be taken to task each time they cross the line, which they so often do, with projects that mock Christianity and slander Christians.

God gave us life; He is the Creator, yet liberal Hollywood tries to paint another picture of Him. They include blasphemous references to Him in television shows and films (i.e. taking His name in vain. Every time you write God's name then the word d*m behind it into a script, you are taking his name in vain and it is a sin). Perverse projects from people like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Dan Brown who decide to rewrite history in an attempt to make Him a lustful fornicator (you wish). If someone wrote slanderous projects about them, they'd be infuriated and would sue. So, how is it okay to write slanderous projects about Christ? Because He won't sue you? Oh, He could do a lot worse than sue you. 

Just because you would do something unethical doesn't mean He would. Too often people use their carnality and try to apply it to God and you just can't do that. You need to change your ways and become a better person then you will begin to understand Him more.

It stands to reason, if you think adultery is good, if you think sleeping around is good, if you think stealing people's money is good, you are not going to understand the virtues of doing the right thing and the benefits of it. What, you think because you do these things everybody else must be like that as well? No, that's not true. 

I do not agree with Anti-Semitism. I think racism/discrimination against any ethnic group is wrong. Even as much as many extremist Muslims believe Jewish people and Christians should be killed, I do not harbor any ill will or hatred toward them. After all, they are God's creations as well and we are to love our fellow man, regardless of how misled they are.

I've heard Bible scholars like John Hagee say that they believe God picked the Jewish people as His chosen people because they were the fewest in number on the earth at the time. The reasoning being that He chose the people who were the fewest in number to show His might in that He can accomplish anything regardless of the circumstances and that He did. Because of God's blessing the Jewish people have reached the forefront of so many areas of life.

Jewish people wrote the Bible. All the prophets are Jewish. Some of the greatest scientific contributions to the world came from Jewish people.

Albert Einstein - The theory of relativity. Johann Philipp Reis - made the first prototype for the telephone. If it weren't for this dude, we'd still be using homing pigeons to send messages. Have you seen the amount of poop that comes out of a pigeon? Not cute! Just ask anyone who lives in a city with a large pigeon to human ratio.

Charles Ginsburg - Invented the hologram. Hey, if it weren't for this man there would be no trekies (Star Trek). The Rothschild's - yup, this banking family can buy enough bling bling to outfit every rapper in the industry.

I've seen shows where Jewish people joked about not being good at sports, but that's not true. There is an Israeli soccer league filled with talented athletes.

Pete Sampras (tennis) and David Beckham (soccer) are two of the most known athletes in the world…and are part Jewish.

Speaking of Beckham, fellow soccer player Maradona recently stated Beckham is too pretty to play football (He said "Beckham is a good player, but is not a world-wide star, for that he misses too many qualities. It's also a shame that he's English. Furthermore, I think Beckham is no real soccer player. He's so busy with his appearance, he's so handsome, he looks like a woman!"). Don't hate, Maradonna. Beckham is a very good soccer player. I admit, at first I too was hurt that Beckham has better highlights than I do, but I've slowly learned to accept that. I'm kidding.

Jewish people have ascended to some of the highest attainable positions and honors in society. To deny their contributions and to be anti-Semitic is wrong.

I've never understood anti-Semitism. Where did it come from? Being black I was accustomed to hearing about racism against black people, but as a kid, to me, Jewish people were white and are white and I didn't understand why other white people would discriminate against them. Then as I got older and learned about Jewish culture I can say…I still don't understand anti-Semitism.

Some racists don't like black people because we look different from them. I don't agree with it, but for argument's sake, lets say I understand the basis of that stupidity, as people often fear the unknown (though I don't agree with it). 

However, I know Jewish people who look totally Anglo-Saxon in that they have blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin. 

One of my former co-workers is Jewish. He has blonde hair and is very fair. Many supremacists hold that up as the Anglo Saxon ideal (and blue eyes). Yet, because he is Jewish he experienced anti-Semitic attitudes from certain ignorant people. In theory, he looks very Anglo Saxon and I thought isn't that what demented people like Hitler thought made people better than others.

How can one claim superiority based on something they had nothing to do with, the race they were born.

I've heard white people make comments about being special in God's sight because he made them white and I've heard black people say that they are special and better because God made them black, hence both thinking they are superior. Well, you both can't be right so to all of you I say, shut up, already.

The Bible says God is no respecter of persons. Do you know what that means? Of course you don't otherwise you wouldn't think and say stupid things like the above written paragraph, now would you. It means your race, ethnicity, job and status do not influence God. He looks at your faith (in Him) and your actions in how you treat others.

I've got news for you, you can be black and ugly and you can be white and ugly...but not based on how you look, based on what's in your heart.

I'll give you an example. How many of you have been attracted to a good looking person, then their unethical, questionable deeds just totally turned you off to the point that you aren't attracted to them any more and you ask yourself, why was I attracted to that person?

But regardless of all you people thinking you are cuter, the important thing to remember is that I'm cuter than all of you, black and white (I'm kidding).

Hollywood and the media are generally liberal. That's not a reference to Jewish people, as Hollywood and the media are comprised of decision-making executives of several ethnic backgrounds. What I'm referring to is collectively liberal in beliefs and views.

Hollywood is very decadent. It's the most indulgent institution on the face of this earth. Rappers like to brag about being rich, but they are poor in comparison to many Hollywood executives.

Hollywood doesn't want to hear about morality or decency. They are used to getting what they want, when they want it, regardless of cost, inconvenience to others or who gets hurt in the process. They don't live in the real world. They live in a world where champagne, luxury cars, expensive vacations, infidelity and unethical business decisions are the standard.

They don't want to be faced with accountability or responsibility, which is what the Bible is about. You can always tell the word of God is the truth based on people's reactions to it. Nothing on this earth could provoke the reactions the Bible does. The Bible is often referred to as a two edged sword, which comes from the scripture in Hebrews 4:12-16. The word of God dissects and accurately explains human nature, thoughts, motives, intentions and their consequences. 

Christianity is not fading away, as much as Hollywood would like it to. It existed before Hollywood was even a thought. It has survived the test of time and will continue to do so. There are verses in the Bible where God guarantees it.

Hollywood paints the picture they want that supports and promotes their indulgent and often immoral lifestyle and agenda as the standard, however inaccurate that portrait maybe.

However, the dictionary states that America has 263,000,000 people and of that number 220,920,000 (84%) believe in Jesus (Protestant 56% and Roman Catholic 28%). 

Thomas Jefferson and the fellow founding fathers (say that five times fast) were Christians. The constitution and their writings are filled with references to the Lord and the Bible.

In modern terms, Jesus is the most celebrated, worshipped and famous person in history. He has touched more lives than any other person.

As much as there are some who are trying to remove God from society, for example, by petitioning to have the phrase "One Nation Under God" removed from the Pledge Of Allegiance, you cannot remove God from people's hearts and this nation was founded on Him.

A man's faith is apart of him. That foundation and knowledge of God will always be there. God was here before you were born and will always exist. Not to mention, God, much like your wife during an argument, will always have the first and last word and will always win.

To remove Christianity from America would mean removing its very roots and foundation. What happens to something when you remove its roots or foundation? Remove the foundation from a house and it will collapse. Remove the roots from a plant and it will wither and die.

To remove God and His impact would mean rewriting not just American history, but world history as well and to do so would make you a liar. It wouldn't stand, as people know the truth and for centuries have preserved it and passed it on even when told not to. Not to mention there is a scripture that reads, "I watch over My Word to perform it" (Jeremiah 1:12). That means He will make sure the Bible happens as He says it will. Besides, how are you gonna tell the Owner of the world to get out.

God gave each of us a soul and a conscience and in that is a reality of knowing who He is, which is why atheists so often fight against God. There's something in them telling them He exists, hence them spending so much time and expelling so much energy trying in vain to disprove His existence. I don't believe in the boogie monster and you don't see me yapping away about the boogie monster's non-existence all the time, as it's a non-issue. With atheists, God is a constant issue. So, why go on so much about Someone you allegedly don't believe exists...unless you actually do believe. Wouldn't it be easier to just believe in Him.

The Bible shows that even the animals know who God is. Hey, you just can't buy that kind of publicity.

Just think, an atheist's intelligence level is below that of an animal. Just a little joke, but isn't it ironic when an atheist trips, panics or is suddenly frightened and says "Oh my G-d!"

In closing, the focus of the film is Jesus and He is Jewish and that to me is the ultimate compliment to any group of people…to know that the Lord was born into their lineage. I'm truly sorry that this film has hurt Jewish people, as it has sparked so much dialogue about Christ. I pray that there will be reconciliation between all parties involved. 


March 6, 2004

"Oh Come All Ye Faithful"

…And that the church did. I recently saw the movie the Passion Of The Christ. The church has really supported this film and the box office receipts show it. It brought in $125 million in its first five days of release, which is pretty impressive for any film, let alone a subtitled one.

 

 Photo Credit: Philippe Antonello

Anti-Semitism 

In all fairness I did not find the film anti-Semitic. It's a chillingly realistic recreation of Christ's crucifixion. Gibson and crew did a very good job. It was almost like being there witnessing it firsthand.

Jewish and Roman people were against and in support of Christ. However, I blame neither for His death. No sensible person could.

I understand that the Jewish community is concerned about a possible backlash and there's not much I can say to help assuage that, as the film used actual Bible text and events. Caiaphas went after Christ with a fury that was unwarranted. However, the film also showed Jewish people who were on Christ's side as well. So, in that, it was balanced.

You also have to bear in mind, Jesus is Jewish. It would be really nonsensical for anyone to be anti-Semitic, angry and hateful towards the Jewish people for assisting in Christ's crucifixion. Sensible people won't vilify a race of people whose Savior they worship. This film wouldn’t make someone anti-Semitic because of Christ’s crucifixion. Why would an anti-Semite be angry that Jesus was crucified, as Jesus is Jewish as well. Think about that.

However, if you are tempted to feel that way for some odd reason, please bear that fact in mind. I repeat, Jesus is Jewish. You can't go attacking His people (or anyone else for that matter). 

The film is an historical account of what happened. We can't change history, only learn from it. And God does offer forgiveness.

I do understand the Jewish community’s apprehension and anxiety, especially after the suffering and persecution they endured during the Holocaust. As I wrote recently, I don't understand the roots of anti-Semitism, so it would make a person cautious and vigilant in protecting their name due to the historical events that transpired. Therefore, I'm not going to say they are overreacting or being overly sensitive. History has taught the Jewish people to do just that.

It's also very similar with black people, as you often don't know when something is racially motivated, due to historical events (slavery) and some still harboring racist views.

Throughout history different races and countries have had to bear the consequences of their sins. Yes, there is forgiveness from God if asked, but the earthly consequences do not disappear, which is a concept many people don’t grasp.

Germans have borne the shame of the Holocaust. White people have borne the shame of slavery. While many people have forgiven and reconciled, those events are apart of history that will not be removed from the history books to reflect the current climate of reconciliation.   

Figuratively speaking, we all have some cross to bear.

World history has left many bloodstains on the face of this earth. Many atrocities have been committed; the extent most couldn't bear to know. The crucifixion was definitely one of them.

Speaking of bloodstains, did you know that God can see a victim's blood on the earth well after they've died, hence the scripture and now commonly used phrase, "Their blood cries out." Amazing!

Sensationalism

“Titanic” is the top grossing film in history thus far, yet it didn't inspire the type of media or public reaction the “Passion of the Christ” has.

After seeing the film I thought the controversy surrounding it was unwarranted and undeserved. I can understand the Jewish Community's concerns prior to seeing it, however, some critics who didn't share those concerns made it out to be totally inaccurate, inflammatory and second rate...and that's before they even saw the film. It was none of those things. Once you see the movie, you will realize what I mean.

America is largely Christian, however Hollywood is not, as there is an absence of morality there, therefore the spin you receive on many things will reflect that.

As much as people would like to say Gibson did this, I beg to differ. He's not had this type of controversy before and no one would court that type of press. He is being ostracized, and in Hollywood, where executives are often very vindictive, people are too busy kissing up to risk that, because that old, “You’ll never work in this town again” phrase will reverberate.

I understood the Jewish community’s concerns, but some members of the press, who really didn't share those concerns, used it to their advantage to produce sensationalized stories pitting people against each other. 

Jesus had and still does have a profound impact on the world, to attempt to change or suppress that would mean undoing history and no one on earth can do that.

How else would you explain the reaction to this film. People can often sense the truth when presented with it, but sometimes don't want to accept it, due to feelings of self-consciousness and condemnation, but as Christ said "I did not come into the world to condemn the world. I came into the world to save it." Therefore, some of you are missing the point. He's not trying to condemn you. He's trying to get you to become a better person by changing your ways.

Marketing

Some have complained that Gibson should not have marketed film related items such as books. What? Christians aren’t allowed to READ now? You do know that we actually READ the Bible, so READING is not unfamiliar territory to us.

With every other blockbuster Hollywood release, you go through the drive through at fast food restaurants and they give you cups with some ghastly, ghoulish character’s face plastered all over it (You don’t so much mind the normal advertising, but some you do).

Gratuitous Violence

Critics wrote of gratuitous violence in the film, but it really happened as the movie portrayed it. There's nothing non-violent about being beaten, flogged and crucified. The movie illustrated just how terrible it is.

I admit, the violence in the film was definitely unsettling, as I spent 1/4th of the film staring at the wall and covering my ears during the scenes where Christ was beaten, tortured and then crucified. I glanced at the screen momentarily, but overall, I didn't watch a lot of those scenes. I didn't do that out of disrespect, but watching it and knowing it really happened centuries ago was too much for me, and many others in the theatre. 

However, I understand the director's purpose for including it in the film. It was to show exactly what He went through on our behalf for our redemption. Anyone who doubts people need redemption, just watch the movie. It's a startlingly sad account of human nature.

The most graphic scene in my opinion was the scourging He endured with a cat of nine tails. I've heard sermons about this before and try as the preacher did to describe it, viewing (as much of it as I could bear) really brought that scripture to life for me. The special efx team did a great job. It looked completely realistic.

However, I must say, for an industry that puts out truckloads of violent films, I don't understand why some took exception to the barbarism in the film. After all, there are films in release that are gorier. Besides, didn’t Gibson give the audience what most big studios say crowds want, violence? Why are people so squeamish all of a sudden. I think it's because it actually happened and to an innocent Person, that made it all the more unbearable to view.

Human Nature

Human nature isn't exclusive to any one race. It runs through all. However, the ones who believe and change their ways can escape that human nature (the Bible refers to it as "Old Nature" meaning you've changed those old ways once you turn from wrongdoing).

Given the choice between an innocent man who sparked controversy based on what He said and did that got to their consciences, and a murderer, the crowd chose the murderer.

People feared Herod, a characterless individual and so called leader (who was sporting way too much eyeliner for his own good – sorry, I wanted to laugh during that scene) too occupied with himself to care about anyone else, yet didn't fear Christ who has the power of life and death of the body and eternal soul in His hands, because he wasn't rich in the earthly sense of the word. To put it in modern terms, He wasn't bling blinging, so they disregarded Him. What an oversight that was. Ironically, the Bible says of Him:

The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein (PSALM 24:1). 

For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills (PSALM 50:10).

'The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me (LEVITICUS 25:23).

'The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the Lord of hosts" (HAGGAI 2:8)

For "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness." (1 CORINTHIANS 10:26)

(Bible verses listed above researched and compiled by believers.org)

So, as evidenced by those Bible verses, God owns everything and that includes all the bling bling. Therefore, He truly was the richest Man on earth at that time; they just didn't know it (Bill Gates, eat your heart out). 

Though He was not esteemed by certain people at the time, He is God and history records Him as such, while it now remembers Herod, who many feared at the time, as a hedonistic villain. Barabas, who was chosen over Christ, is now remembered in the most vile terms. It's quite ironic how tables turn - talk about embarrassingly picking the wrong horse (Another reason people shouldn't gamble).

It was a prime example of how people go by appearances and not by character. They go by fame and not what is really important in a person. Many of you don't esteem people unless they have a name (a famous name) and are dripping in diamonds they can barely afford. Never mind the person could be one of the most unethical, immoral people you'd ever want to know, who could ruin your life, but because they have a name, that makes them okay? That makes them esteemable? No. People should have more character than to be so shallow. 

People rejected the Son of God for someone who couldn’t walk a mile in His shoes. Someone who didn't have the wisdom, intelligence, benevolence or the compassion He does.

It must have grieved Him to be rejected in such a manner by His own creations, the work of His hands. Some people can't take being rejected by people they like, imagine being rejected by people You love and created. It's a bit unfathomable, the closest comparison, though mildly, would be a child rejecting a parent. The physical wounds He suffered probably did not compare to the emotional ones caused by that rejection.

As He was being crucified, He prayed to God to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” That is the picture of grace, compassion and forgiveness. 

Seeing the story retold so effectively leaves you in awe of Christ, in that He bore terrible suffering and still forgave.

Other notable scenes include the opening scene where He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and blood poured from His face and the scenes with Jesus and Mary.

Warning Signs

One of the things the movie really illustrated was human nature in not paying attention to warning signs (I'm not referring to signs and wonders people can fake). People often choose to believe what they want, even if it is not the truth. One of the things that really stood out during the film is the warning signs that showed He is who He said He is, but, as with human nature, people prefer what suits their purposes, even when the truth is staring them in the face.

One warning sign was Christ healing people (performing miracles)...and they didn't have CGI back then, people (Computer Generated Images). Efx companies couldn't pull that one off with every computer in the warehouse.

Another warning sign was He predicted events and they happened as He said. One of the Bible's distinctions from other text is that by God’s grace, it actually foretells the future. Not psychics, not fortune telling, which are sins, but through prophecy. 

There is a difference. Whereas psychos, um, I mean psychics and fortunetellers are charlatans seeking to mislead people and enrich themselves, the Bible is free and filled with benevolence. It predicts the future as a guide and warning to people and that is one of its distinctions from all other books. You can't guess with the type of accuracy history has proved the Bible contains. Today, by God’s grace there are Christians with the ability to see the future as well.

When God does that, it is to help people. In the Old Testament of the Bible, Joseph was a prophet who could see the future through dreams God gave him. God did that for a reason. It was to save them from a coming famine, as Joseph was able to stockpile supplies in advance that helped to sustain them through that time. God spoke to Daniel through prophetic dreams as well, which were crucial to history. God warned Mary and Joseph in a dream to leave where they were, as Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus. It’s quite amazing and ironic when people plan evil against others and God reveals it to the person in a dream to protect them. 

The movie included a scene that’s from the Bible, where Claudia, the wife of Pilate had a troubling dream about Christ before the crucifixion, then told her husband, “Have nothing to do with this Man." More proof that He was no ordinary Man. Her husband sought to set Christ free, but the method he chose to try to accomplish that and stay in good graces with the people, thereby avoiding an uprising, opened the door to Him being crucified at Caiaphas' request. However, He died to expiate our sins.      

Awards 

The film deserves Oscars. While, Hollywood is against the film, hopefully they will do the right thing and award it. Gibson did a great job directing. I'm often skeptical of actors who become directors, much like I’m skeptical of singers who become actors, because in both instances, with many, it's a vanity job that they feel will give them credibility, even though they lack the skills to do the job. However, Gibson did do an excellent job (and has been directing for a while, though I've not watched Braveheart, for which he won an Oscar). The film is very artistic and the small touches that were added throughout the picture really helped to create a great movie. It definitely qualifies as an epic.

The film had a lot of great acting as well. Jim Caviezel did a phenomenal job playing the lead role and when you think about all he had to do for the job and the range of emotions he had to display, he deserves an Oscar. You actually forget its Caviezel and think about Christ. I think that's the trademark of great biopic acting… when you make the audience forget you as the actor and think about the subject of the biography. Maia Morgenstern was also very convincing in the role of Mary. She did a great job.

The film definitely has great casting. I mean, even the extras were good and you know you've got great acting in your film when even the extras are good.

I hope the industry will not rob them of those honors, because it truly is a remarkable film. And I’m not just saying that as a Christian.

In closing, many people, myself included, left the theatre stunned and somber, almost grieving for what He endured. It is definitely a great film. By God's grace, it will help change you. It forces you to look at yourself, your deeds, your sins and the direction of your life. He changed His followers’ lives and continues to do so today. When you read the Bible, it inspires you to become a better person. It's not to condemn you, but to give you hope. That’s the message, forgiveness.

* This review was taken from a Sound Off Column article.


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