Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Jesus gives The Passion two thumbs up

It's not only Catholics that are going gaga over Mel Gibson's new movie The Passion of Jesus Christ. Charismatic protestants are saying extraordinary things about the movie too.

"Prophet" Rick Joyner, who has at least seen an early edit of the film, writes:

"....The acting, directing, and overall quality of the movie is excellent, but there is more to it than that. There is an anointing on it. Even before I saw it, I knew it had the power to begin changing Christianity. I know this may sound like a wild exaggeration, but I believe it to be true....."

Agape Press's reporter dubs the movie "The Greatest Story Ever Told":

"As the movie ended and the screen went black, the audience was collectively dumbstruck at the realization that what they had watched was more than just a good story portrayed by a cast of good actors. It was much more profound than that. It was, in truth, nothing less than each viewer's personal encounter with the terrible consequence of sin - and not someone else's sin, but his or her very own."

Well, fair enough. But now thanks to heavenly visions by "prophets", we have Jesus Christ himself endorsing the movie. It's not named in the item I cite below, but what other movie to be featured in theatres soon features the death of Christ?

Bill Yount predicts mass healings and theophanies at performances of the film:

"In the Spirit, I sensed the same angels who could have been called to rescue Jesus at His crucifixion were now being given permission to attend it.. in theaters!....

I saw angels of healing descending upon theaters to minister to people's spirit, soul and body. As the flesh was being ripped out of Jesus' back, confirmation would come to many that "by His stripes we were being healed!"....

....I saw the heavens open over theaters and dreams and visions were being poured out without measure that would change lives, families and generations forever!

Sleep would escape many, being replaced by visitations of conviction, angels and Jesus Himself appearing to confirm His resurrection....."

There are several things that trouble me about the early Christian reaction to Mel Gibson's film.

I should begin by stating that as a Christian I hope that The Passion will have a powerful witness about Jesus. I know well that film can be a powerful thing. Christians hoping for the best can point to at least two historical examples of a film doing some good for the church. Missionaries used mainstream silent films that dealt with the life and death of Christ well into the 1940s in some non-English speaking parts of the world. The usefulness of the Jesus film is also well known.

The message of the Gospel is very powerful and any well made film about the subject should touch the heart. All Christians should hope that The Passion does this well. But, what if it does not?

It seems to me that Mel Gibson intended to make very much a personal statement of what Christ's death means to him. But, since Mel Gibson is a Hollywood star and can raise and use a Hollywood-sized budget, all sorts of unfair expectations are being raised regarding the public reaction to this film.

The standards regarding the future success and impact of The Passion have been raised far too high. I fear that christians, acting on their aching hopes to have a movie turn "Hollywood" into "HolyWood", are setting up "The Passion" for a nasty fall.

When christians express opinions such as The Passion will "transform Christianity" or cause "miracles" to happen, it puts a lot of pressure on Mel Gibson's film that it doesn't deserve.

Now some christians are being made to feel that they can't view the film objectively, judging it on its strengths and weaknesses, without being disloyal to the hopes expressed above for the film's success. I worry that in some circles, The Passion can't be seen on its own merits as an average or bad film should it prove a cinematic turkey.

Christians have placed false expectations on movies before. I remember The Judas Project, made several years ago. The film, made on a low budget, tried to show what would happen if Christ came for the first time to the earth of today. I recall that a lot of Christians had high hopes for the film as an evangelistic tool due to its premise and the fact that it didn't have a budget of 43 cents as so many christian films do. Well, that movie was worse than most movies I have seen--I have most of Edward D. Wood's films on videotape--and it died a quiet death at the box office.

The Passion should be a good movie, as Mel Gibson is a fine actor and producer. But that is all it should be for now. Christians should hope for great results from the film without predicting them and thereby looking foolish should the film not meet our expectations.

I hope that I am wrong and everything hoped to happen as a result of The Passion's release happens. But, I fear that I am not wrong and many hopes will be dashed. And that would be a shame, because the message of the film is powerful enough to survive any film made on the subject.