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Passion of the Christ

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Definition:   The movie (2004) directed by ultraconservative Catholic Mel Gibson starring James Caviezel as Jesus. Based on the both biblical and extra-biblical writings, the movie depicts the final days, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Pope John Paul II, after seeing the film, is reported to have exclaimed “It is as it was.” The controversial movie received mixed reviews, with critics warning of stereotypical portrayal of Jews and of extremely graphic images of Jesus’ torture and death. Critic Roger Ebert (who gave the movie four stars) claimed “This is the most violent film I have ever seen.” Filmed in Latin, Hebrew and ancient Aramaic (with subtitles), it is the highest grossing non-English language film ever. Amazingly, the assistant director of the film was struck by lightning twice during filming. In 2006, Mel Gibson was arrested for DUI by a Jewish police officer. During his arrest, Gibson exclaimed: “F***** Jews… Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Later, a remorseful Gibson apologized for his comments. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, Gibson rationalized that the comments may have been the result of unfair allegations that his movie was anti-Semitic and the ongoing war in Lebanon at the time of his arrest.

Discussion:  The film was overwhelmingly popular among evangelicals. This is quite curious, as the film is overtly Catholic in its imagery of the Eucharist, the extra-biblical Stations of the Cross, and the importance of Mary in salvation. The film included material from German stigmatic nun Anne Catherine Emmerich, who allegedly received interior locutions from God that she recorded in her book The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The evangelical response to the film is a reflection of ignorance of Catholic (not to mention biblical) teaching and the pragmatism of New Evangelicalism.

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