Social Studies Lacking without Religion

Article excerpt


Our home-schooling group took the opportunity to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" last week, avoiding the long lines of the weekends and evenings.

We prepared by reading a section of the Gospel about Jesus' vigil in the garden of Gethsemane and His arrest, trials and Crucifixion. We discussed what might have happened if anyone had stood by Him. We spoke about the thief on His right hand who defended Him, even as He was dying.

My older daughters knew that seeing the film would be an emotionally painful experience, but both decided to join the group. My husband was off from work that day, so he also came.

Because the movie uses the languages of that time and place, Latin and Aramaic, most of the dialogue was subtitled. It was good to hear Latin used as an actual spoken language, rather than as the stilted language of theology, science or law. The home-schoolers noticed and were inspired by this.

While the film depicts an event of great spiritual importance, it is equally about the history of that time. We can see the belief among the religious leaders that Jesus would bring down a Roman massacre upon them and the dilemma of Pontius Pilate, caught between the demand of the crowd for "no king but Caesar" and his own sense of Jesus' innocence.

In public discussions, the two controversial aspects of the film were its violence and the possibility of its igniting anti-Semitic feelings.

In our group were some children who love violent films, including horror movies. They had no problems with the "Lord of the Rings" films or with the gratuitous violence of countless car-chase movies. Interestingly, they had the hardest time with the depiction of the scourging, beatings and harsh treatment of Jesus. They were almost angry at the movie afterward, vowing they would never see it again and complaining that it was not like the sanitized, ethereal versions they had seen in the past.

In contrast, those who avoid violent movies also were moved by these scenes, but more by the image of Satan manipulating the people who were committing the violence. They felt the message was similar to that of any Holocaust movie: When people become instruments of hatred, they do unthinkable things. …