Passionate for "The Passion"?
Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is a cinematic hit, to the surprise of entertainment experts who were doubtful of its popular appeal. Perhaps it is the controversy surrounding the film that has given it such a boost at the box office, but Gibson's personally financed project is turning out to be a financial bonanza due to the box office and the merchandizing that is accompanying the release of the movie.
Fueling the controversy is the claim made by critics that the film is anti-Semitic. Some fear that the film's claim that the Jews in Palestine 2000 years ago were primarily responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus will lead to reprisals against Jewish people today. Many objected to the text of Matthew, where the Jews answered Pilate by saying, "His blood be on us, and our children" (27:25).
A perusal of newspaper headlines in the weeks following the release of the film reveal that the concerns about violence have gone unrealized. For this we can all be grateful.
The concerns, however, indicate the fragile nature of relations between different ethnic groups. Defenders of the movie claim that the film remains true to the Bible message, and relates what Bible believers believe to be true history. Critics, and presumably a significant percentage of Jewish people, fear that any such portrayal of Jews as antagonists contributes to the anti-Semitism which has caused them so much suffering in the past.
Putting the movie aside, a larger question presents itself. How can different ethnic and cultural groups co-exist in harmony in modern day America? It seems that the answer, though not easy, is found by recognizing each individual's personal responsibility in relating to others.
Simply put, we need to practice the golden rule, and grow a thick skin. We need to be careful to remain sensitive to those of different ethnic groups. Racial slurs and other inappropriate comments and attitudes should remain unexpressed. Simply, we should be kind, and treat others the way we want to be treated. It is important we do this in private, as well as public. Remember, the children hear us, and assimilate our attitudes, whether appropriate or repugnant.
Just as important is not to take every slight or perceived antagonism personally. Such temperance is not characteristic of our society, which sometimes seems to be lacking in the maturity and dignity that characterized previous generations. Longsuffering, an ability to stoically bear the mistreatment of others, is truly in short supply.
Back to the movie. I haven't seen it, and do not plan to go. As a Bible believer, I have what I believe to be the inspired account of Jesus' crucifixion, and it is sufficient for me and my family. My faith is not dependant upon Hollywood (a fact for which we can all be grateful!). I have a vivid enough imagination to picture the suffering of my Lord, and do not need my senses assaulted by special effect wizardry. Besides, it seems to me the physical suffering, (the primary focus of the movie) is secondary to the spiritual. The key, according to the apostle Peter, is the fact that Christ "bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).
It is only a movie. But, perhaps the discourse it has triggered will be helpful as we seek to live together in harmony in this "one nation, under God."