The most likely effect of the Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is likely to be more religious based productions, reports Time magazine (March 22).
Earning $250 million in just three weeks, The Passion has already convinced “Hollywood moguls [to comb] though the scriptures for other projects with religious themes.” A long-shelved TV movie Judas was released in early March and film versions of the best-seller Da Vinci Code and the Chronicles of Narnia are also in the works. Perhaps the most controversial is likely to be the upcoming film, Daughter of God, a religious thriller about a female messiah.
Although much of the public debate has focused on the anti-Semitic undercurrents in the film, such imagery has not reached most viewers, according to a recent survey. In a survey conducted by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research of 1003 adults about the film, 83 percent said it did not make them blame contemporary Jews for Christ’s death; only two percent said the film made them more likely to hold today’s Jews responsible; and nine percent said the film makes them less likely to do so.
A more informal survey conducted mainly among evangelicals on the Internet yielded similar results. A survey by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews of 2,500 persons online showed that only 1.7 percent of respondents blamed Jews for Jesus’ death; 84 percent blamed mankind, and eight percent blamed other groups.
While American evangelicals have championed The Passion, the release of the film set off a markedly different response among American fundamentalists. The fundamentalist newspaper Sword of the Lord (Feb. 27) condemns the movie for crossing the line on two issues that still roil much of the fundamentalist community: It was directed by a Roman Catholic and encourages attendance and support for Hollywood productions.
While movie-going and association with Catholics are non-issues for many evangelicals, these traditional taboos, along with the movie’s “distortion of scriptural facts,”(including the depiction of Jesus as having long hair) was enough to make the newspaper advise fundamentalists away from viewing the movie.
Another longtime fundamentalist criticism is that evangelicals, such as Billy Graham and Robert Schuller, are compromising sound doctrine as they use the movie as a vehicle for drawing “big crowds” to their ministries.
(Sword of the Lord, 214 Bridge Ave., P.O. Box 1099, Murfreesboro, TN 37133)