Art that Transcends

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that has everybody talking even before it opens. Of course, it's not surprising when it's the latest Lord of the Rings movie or a new installment of Star Wars and tickets sell by the thousands beforehand. People know these stories and characters, and they can't wait to see them on screen. But who would have expected a movie about Jesus Christ to cause the same kind of excitement? Yet that's exactly what happened with Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which opened on Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The media has concentrated on whether or not the film is anti-Semitic -- that's an issue I've discussed before and you can read my answer on our website. Emphatically, the answer is no. But much of the media would grasp at anything to discourage people from seeing this film. And the reason is obvious. Audiences, including some of the BreakPoint staff, report being almost overwhelmed. The director, cast, and crew saw this as a story that deserved their very best, and they created nothing less than a great work of art. The result has been that Christians and non-Christians alike feel drawn to the film. Internet film critic Harry Knowles, who showed the film to a group of "mainly agnostic" movie lovers, told the Washington Post that it "blew the audience away." Knowles continued, "We're not a Bible-thumping community. I'm as liberal as can be. And I think I understand the message [of suffering and forgiveness] better than they do" -- referring to the conservatives. Well, I'm not sure of that. But Knowles's comments raise an important point. Here at BreakPoint, we're always saying, Christians need to engage the popular culture to bring a Christian voice to arenas where it desperately needs to be heard. This film is a chance for people to see that, contrary to popular belief, Christian art doesn't have to be dull or amateurish. In the past, Christians have created some of the most vibrant and inspiring art ever made, and this film follows in that tradition. It is an excellent production, bringing new meaning to the Christian belief that Jesus took our place on the cross. And in the film you realize what a horrible place it was; what a great salvation we have; and what a huge debt of love we owe. To help you prepare, we've written a short study guide to The Passion of the Christ. If you plan to see the movie, please visit our website ( before you go, to learn what to expect and to pick up some talking points and discussion questions for you and your friends. Also some warnings: The film is so realistic it may be more than some people can handle, especially young children. Of course, this isn't gratuitous or provocative violence; it's simply what happened. The best art brings out our deepest emotions and forces us to confront ourselves and the world around us. This film owes a great deal to Mel Gibson's own meditations on the last hours of Christ's life. His work can aid us in confronting the truth about God, ourselves, and the world. And this is happening to moviegoers of all beliefs and backgrounds. Opportunities like this don't come around very often. If you haven't been yet, take a friend to the film or talk to your neighbors who have seen it. Make sure they understand the message of the movie, and then explain what to do once that message is understood. For further reading and information: Read our viewer's guide to The Passion of the Christ -- a great resource for churches, as well. Visit the official website for The Passion of the Christ. Learn more about how you and your church can support this film. Also visit the student site. Caryle Murphy and William Booth, "'Passion' Is Already Generating a Faithful Following," Washington Post, 17 February 2004. Sharon Waxman, "New Film May Harm Gibson's Career," New York Times, 26 February 2004. (Free registration required.) Kenneth L. Woodward, "Do You Recognize This Jesus?New York Times, 25 February 2004. (Free registration required.) Ramesh Ponnuru, "A Movie and Its Message," National Review, 8 March 2004. David Klinghoffer, "Mel Gibson's 'The Passion' follows the Scripture," Albany Democrat-Herald (from the Los Angeles Times), 25 February 2004. Thomas Hibbs, "Unparalleled Passion," National Review Online, 25 February 2004. Rabbi Daniel Lapin, "The Dividers," National Review Online, 25 February 2004. Joel Rosenberg, "Koppel Tackles The Passion," National Review Online, 24 February 2004. Michael Medved, "Gibson's right to his 'Passion'," Christian Science Monitor, 2 February 2004.
  1. Jeffrey MacDonald, "'Passion' rekindles debate over meaning of the crucifixion," Christian Science Monitor, 25 February 2004.
Andrew Coffin, "Graphic by design," World, 28 February 2004. Yvonne Gomez Nelson, "The Latest Temptation of Christians," Christianity Today, 24 February 2004. CT Online has many more articles on the film and issues surrounding it. Read first reviews compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet of Christianity Today. Liz Szabo, "A 'Passion' Long Deferred," USA Today, 18 February 2004. "Two thumbs up for 'The Passion'," Chicago Sun-Times, 22 February 2004. Peggy Noonan, "'It Is as It Was,'Wall Street Journal, 17 December 2003. Denis Haack, "The Passion of the Christ," The Ransom Fellowship. Steven Garber, "The Word Made Flesh," BreakPoint Online, 25 February 2004. Archbishop Charles Chaput, "World, Work and Family: The Role of Women in Building a Culture of Life," Zenit, 23 October 2003 (a discussion of women and The Passion of the Christ). Raymond Arroyo, "The Greatest Story, Newly Told," Wall Street Journal, 7 March 2003. See the "Worldview for Parents" page, "Why Did Jesus Die?" See the BreakPoint commentaries: "Who Killed Jesus?: Setting the Record Straight"; "Believe It Or Not"; and "A Passion for Getting It Right: The Power of the Image." Janet Maslin, "A Movie's Power over Attitudes and Action," New York Times, 22 February 2004. (Free registration required.) Kim Campbell, "Movies and the Message," Christian Science Monitor, 20 February 2004.


Chuck Colson


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