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The Passion in "Pop" Culture
Joe Wright

Editor's Note:  Joe Wright, of Las Cruces, NM, sent in the following article when Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, was first being played in movie theaters.

About that same time, I wrote an article for the local paper where I normally pen a weekly sports report on the local high school.  The editor (with whom I have a good relationship), refused to run the article.  I had taken issue (mildly) with aspects of the film, and as she felt it was a good evangelistic tool, she was unwilling to print my criticism.

This is an example of the dangerous attitudes which brother Wright mentions in his short article.  I commend it to you.

It is easily arguable that popular culture has designed the attitudes within our nation concerning a myriad of issues from eating habits to races for the highest offices in the land.  We live in a time where an endorsement from a shoe company will get you stardom, and having your name or image associated with a soft drink can propel you to a position of status and wealth only very few will ever know.  You know, I know, and "they" know all such is meaningless and empty on the whole, but it is "good for business."  Regardless, we have a habit of allowing ourselves to slip into the fantasies prescribed for us by the money and fame motivated forms of media in our nation almost without question.  Now, as it has gotten closer to the heart, we must stop, meditate, and pray that we are not led into an empty popular culture.

What I am speaking about is the movie, The Passion of the Christ, which has now positioned itself firmly into the nation's consciousness by the agency of popular culture.  I am not saying this is not a great movie.  It most likely will be hailed as one of the best ever, but it is just a movie.  The medium of the silver screen has for decades been the source of many a design within popular culture and a definer of the status quo.  When I was in High School during the eighties, there was hardly a young person around who did not dress like characters they had seen in a movie of the time.  Why not?  The department stores were filled with the clothes portrayed in those movies and the music of the time supported the themes as well.  The problem?  A great many young people and probably many others began to identify themselves with one fictional character or more and lived their lives according to a fantasy philosophy of some sort portrayed by that fictional character, setting, and situation.  Ask any parents of the time; it was a problem then, it is a problem now.

However, many might say, this movie is about the Christ!  If many decide to identify with it, what possible harm could come from that?  Is not identifying with the Christ exactly what we want (Philippians 2:5-12)?  Again, I am not saying this movie is like those others mentioned.  From the time Charlton Heston played Moses until now, Hollywood has been, for the most part, tasteful and careful with movies dedicated to biblical events.  My point is, how many people, on some level, believed that Charlton Heston was Moses?  No, the claim was never made openly and if you mentioned it, as I am now, many would respond that such was an insult to their intelligence.  The fact is, the role altered Charlton Heston's life forever, did it not?  He achieved a fame that probably would have never been achievable otherwise.  No, he was not Moses, but he played Moses.  Whether we admit it or not, such really meant something to most of the public at that time.  Charlton Heston is not in a condition of salvation though, is he?  He has not believed, confessed, repented, and been baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins and been added to the saved in the family of God has he?  Where then, in the case of Charlton Heston, did many allow their faith to lead them?  Was he awed because of his righteousness, or because of his celebrity established within the realm of popular culture?

We can make the same mistake with the Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ, and we must be more careful.  I am not saying don't go to the movie, and I am not saying do not enjoy an enjoyable film.  All I am saying is that we as individual members of the church and followers of God through Jesus Christ should keep our perspective sharp and our faith wholly rooted within the word of God and the faith, love and awe that it alone can supply to our hearts and minds (James 1:17-21).  Getting "caught up" in a movie is a fun experience, and even a very recreationally positive experience in many cases.  My fear is that before long, many will claim that this Gibson movie somehow transformed their life, gave them greater faith or supplied them with a greater understanding of Jesus and his life than they had ever before considered.  Brethren, let us not be named here.  This is just a movie, and like all movies it gives a moving but incomplete view of the Christ, his life, his attitude and teaching and his horrible suffering and death.  For the complete view, and the complete appreciation and building of faith thereby, we must consider the inspired word alone, and allow the words delivered by just men through the Holy Spirit to feed our imaginations, transform our lives, give us greater faith, and truly understand the Christ (Colossians 2:18-3:3).  The actor, though talented and served by modern make-up techniques and cinematography, can never compare with, and should never be compared to what our real and true Lord and Savior did for us.  Enjoy the movie, just do not allow it to cheapen the word or steal it from our hearts and minds-not even a bit.

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