Mar 302004
Authors: Jesse McLain

From bobble head dolls to Jesus jewelry, religion and marketing

have found their ultimate niche through recent media frenzy.

Lately millions of moviegoers have witnessed the combination of

religion and entertainment, an element Rabbi Daniel Alter, of East

Denver Orthodox Synagogue, believes is critical to make today’s

audiences pay attention to religion.

“It’s hard for people to stay awake, especially in today’s day

and age when Hollywood is trying so hard to market everything to

some group,” Alter said. “In general I don’t believe that is a bad


With the recent blockbuster release of Mel Gibson’s, “The

Passion of the Christ” bringing religion to the frontlines of the

news, different religious organizations are debating just what

effect this film has had on entertainment and how they feel about

the attention.

“In general I am definitely in support of anything that leads to

people becoming more religious,” Alter said. “As a Jew I have

guarded concern about anti-Semitism from this film. I believe

strongly that one religion should not be telling another religion

what to do.”

Both Alter and Greg Osterhout, member and office assistant at

Foothills Unitarian Church, agree that the media’s recent focus on

religion is positive in that it spawns conversation but Osterhout

shares Alter’s concerns about the possibility of “The Passion”

limiting the scope of the discussion about religion.

“Most criticism within our church is geared toward the hype over

the film itself, so much credit is given to the film as an

important work not just another way to tell a story,” Osterhout

said. “We’re very much a free speech organization. Our concerns are

more with the potential damage that could come as a result.”

The Unitarian Church, in Osterhout’s words, takes key concepts

from some of the most highly respected philosophers in history,

including but not limited to Jesus, Buddha and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Osterhout says members have a wide variety of belief systems

including Christian, atheists, pagan and Buddhist. Osterhout says

they focus on acceptance of all beliefs and particular criticism of


“Our particular church has always dug its heals in a little bit

more to the fundamentalist views of our society,” Osterhout said.

“A lot of people have grown up with a certain tradition via their

parents. Since we are a liberal religion it often appeals to

college students in a liberal time in their lives.”

Reza Zadeh, young adult college pastor at Timberline Church,

conducted a preaching series over “The Passion” and is grateful for

the attention that it has spawned in regards to the media and

religion in general.

“I’m enjoying this talk about Jesus all over the place, I’ve

seen a surge in people’s Christianity,” Zadeh said. “Anytime you

make a movie about Jesus everyone thinks something, whether bad or


Zadeh, who was born a Muslim, is thankful just for the ability

to form his own opinions.

“I was born into a culture where you can’t express your

opinion,” Zadeh said. “I think it’s great that people have that

right here, no matter what their opinion is.”

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