Magazine article The Christian Century

Gibson's Passion Gets an Evangelical Blessing. (News)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Gibson's Passion Gets an Evangelical Blessing. (News)

Article excerpt

After threatening to sue a group of Catholic and Jewish scholars who said his self-financed film The Passion could revive anti-Semitic slurs, actor-director Mel Gibson took his movie depicting Jesus' last hours to America's evangelical capital in hopes of a kinder reception. He got it.

"I was very impressed," said Don Hodel, president of Focus on the Family ministries based in Colorado Springs. "The movie is historically and theologically accurate." About 800 evangelical pastors and leaders saw the screening June 26 at the city's New Life Church where Ted Haggard is senior pastor. He is also the new president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"It conveys, more accurately than any other film, who Jesus was," said Haggard, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. English subtitles appeared on the screen; the actors speak only in Aramaic and Latin.

Gibson, star of such films as Lethal Weapon, Braveheart and, more recently, Signs (in which he played an Episcopal priest), reportedly spent $25 million to make the unusual film starring little-known James Caviezel as Christ. Projecting a March release, Gibson's Icon Productions still has no distributor, but Hollywood insiders say that finding a major studio should be no problem for the high-profile star.

Addressing the clergy attending a leadership conference, Gibson told them he felt his career was leading him in this direction. "The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film, and I was just directing traffic," he said. "I hope the film has the power to evangelize."

The movie has attracted controversy partly because Gibson has been an adherent of traditionalist Catholicism, which uses a pre-Second Vatican Council Tridentine Latin rite for the mass. Co-writer of the script, Gibson said he relied on the New Testament and the writings of two nuns, Mary of Agreda, a 17th-century aristocrat, and Anne Catherine Emmerich, an early 19th-century stigmatic.

Working with an early script of The Passion, a nine-member group of Catholic and Jewish scholars produced an 18-page report warning that parts of the film would revive charges that Jews collectively were "Christ killers." For some 35 years, the emphasis in Catholic teaching and in mainline Protestant churches has been on the decisive role of the Roman rulers and unruly crowds in the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion. …

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