Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

The following is taken from a Fox Nation documentary called, The Passion of the Christ – The Controversy.  The film, The Passion of the Christ, debuted in 2004, and it is still making waves … and history.

'The Passion of the Christ: The Controversy' on Fox Nation

“Mel Gibson’s epic movie, The Passion of the Christ, is considered one of the most controversial films of all time.  It takes viewers through pivotal events of Christianity:  the trial, condemnation, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

“The movie faced harsh criticism for scenes of brutal violence, and many accused it of perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes.  But others considered it a masterpiece and a must see for all believers.

“Now, nearly 20 years later, The Passion of the Christ is still both deeply important to Christians and a topic of fierce debate among viewers.

“The film made its much-anticipated debut on Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2004.  Hollywood had long concluded that there were not big profits to be made making movies on religious themes.  The film seemed doomed from the start.  Very few in Hollywood believed in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.  But his very personal and spiritual project was a huge success.  It turns out it sold a lot of tickets!  ($611 million world-wide, after being made on a modest $30 million budget.)

“Movies on religious topics had never really been treated that well in Hollywood, but Mel ended up with something we had never seen before – a religious movie that had all of the intensity and the violence of the modern studios and filmmakers.

“Many people remember seeing the film as too violent.  One person said, ‘I don’t know anyone who could sit through that and not feel some emotion.’

“Many people that watched the film said they cried or screamed, and sometimes they had to turn away because it was very graphic.  One person testified, ‘When you’re watching it, it’s sickening.  It’s very emotionally difficult.  This has to be the bloodiest movie that I’ve ever seen.’

“Actor Jim Caviezel (Jesus in the film), who suffered sickness, a dislocated shoulder while on the Cross, and a lightning strike during the grueling filming said, ‘The film is an artistic work that will affect everyone who sees it, regardless of their faith.  I believe this film can be great for all Jews, or Muslims, or anyone in America … in the world!  It is not just a religious film.’  Caviezel said the uproar ‘…comes as no surprise.  If we did the story right, then we should have controversy.  Not much has changed in 2000 years.’

“The Passion of the Christ is controversial to this day, which is a testament to it.  Gibson said, ‘I mean, the controversy didn’t emanate for me.  It came from people who were against it.  I worked very diligently to help this film find its audience, and a big part of that process was advanced screenings and conversations … to explain the movie to people who might otherwise be put off by its violence and its rawness.’

“One Catholic bishop said, ‘I was invited to go to a screening, and my reaction was that the violence was overwhelming.  In filmmaking you have to understand what the audience can bear, and it seems to me that artistically, they hadn’t taken that into consideration.  The focus on the bloodshed contributes to the idea that, ‘Wow this was some gift that Jesus gave to mankind,’ or ‘this thing has all the components of being a snuff film.’

“A man that was interviewed as he left the theater said, ‘It brought me to tears.  People will leave the theater just stunned.  I was really feel moved to silence, and I feel that I would like to go and stay quiet for time and just allow the film to sink in.’

“One woman said, ‘Gibson put his finger on something – that there were millions of people out there like me who were open to watching the gospel according to Mel.  I think there is an awakening across our country.  There are more Bible studies going on in churches and homes.  People need to be more aware about Christ.’

“The US conference of Catholic Bishops warned that The Passion of the Christ ‘… is for adults only.  No one under thirteen should attend Mel’s version [of the Cross] … it is darker, it is too violent and disturbing.’ 

“Whether The Passion of the Christ will provide ‘spiritual uplift’ or will provide emotional exhaustion … that is pretty much up for you to decide.”


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