Passion Stirs the Emotions

Sep 172003
Authors: Chris Hess

A purse filled with gold coins flies through the air. A snake slithers across the ground. Whips flail against the sky. A crowd roars with approval. A trail of blood leads up a hill. A dark, hooded figure mingles among the onlookers. A hammer pounds on a nail. A mangled man hangs on a cross. Straining to breathe, he yells, “Eloi, eloi (My God, My God).”

I sit, staring at my computer screen, tears welling up in my eyes.

This is the emotional preview for “The Passion,” the movie that is causing controversy seven months before it is to be released.

The film, which was written and directed by Mel Gibson, chronicles the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus Christ. Gibson plans on Easter as the release date for the movie, but not everyone is okay with this film seeing the light of day.

After screening an early version of the film with Mel Gibson, the Anti-Defamation League’s national headquarters began to voice concern.

The ADL, whose mission is to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment to all people alike, argues that the film is theologically and historically irresponsible in regards to the crucifixion.

“We are concerned about the historical inaccuracies and the depiction of the Jewish people as the central force behind the crucifixion, implying that they bear full responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ,” said Evan Zucherman, Associate Director of the Mountain States Regional Office of the ADL. “We fear that the representation of a blood-thirsty crowd will lead to violence against Jews.”

Zucherman also commented that she sees no benefits to the film being released, and that a disparaging representation of Jews does not help anybody.

“This is not regional, it’s not racial, and there is no locality. This affects all of us,” said Zucherman

Bob Smithouser, editor of “Plugged In,” a family entertainment magazine agreed with ADL’s comments.

“It does affect all of us. Every man put Jesus on the cross, we are all guilty,” he said. “There is nothing vindictive about the portrayal of the Jews in the film. That’s how it happened, anything else would be revisionist.”

Smithouser attended a private screening of a rough cut of the film with Gibson and other employees of “Plugged In.” He had to look at the film from not just a Christian point of view, but a critic’s point of view as well.

“The violence is disturbing in the right way and historically, the film is very accurate. Mel stood up in front of the room and asked for feedback, looking genuinely anxious. There were a few minor errors, but they were pointed out,” Smithouser said, adding that there are no stars in the film, because Gibson did not want anything to be distracting from the message of the movie.

According to Smithouser, the film also includes a personification of Satan that is present at every key moment leading up to the crucifixion. Smithouser said that this debunks the ADL’s claims of anti-Semitism.

“There are a lot of people who want to treat this just as an historical event and leave it in the physical realm with no spirituality attached to it,” Smithouser said. “But, I think that this film has the potential to have people leaving the theater viewing Jesus not as a victim, but a victor. This could be a tremendous evangelistic tool.”

Passion stirs the emotions, and this case is no exception. Weigh the arguments and decide for yourself whether or not you will support the movie.

Check out the preview at:

ADL site:

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