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
“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.”