Going straight to the Cross

Update on FMag

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Considering "The Passion of the Christ"

A review of some spiritual issues surrounding the film by J. Randal Matheny, editor

The great hulabaloo in the U.S. now is the February 25 release of Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ." Most of us have read articles and reviews over the past months. Religious people have rallied to the film's defense in light of unfair criticisms, and properly so, I supppose. It is touted as an exceptional opportunity to strengthen faith and evangelize the lost. Gibson himself has suggested the latter purpose.

I will go see the film when it comes to Brazil. I will probably recommend it to others, if it's as good as they say it is. But I might add a word of caution to the wave of enthusiasm that has washed over most people in American Christendom.

First, it is a movie. Let us never forget that. As accurate as it may be, as sacred as its subject is, it is still a movie. As good as the director's motives are, and I have no reason to question them, he still is using the techniques of acting, directing, producing, and distributing "The Passion of the Christ" that all other good movies use. As such, there are liberties with the story. There are "holes" that must be filled in, dialogue supplied, perspectives assumed that go beyond what is written in Scripture. Though these may not contradict the Word, they do interpret it in a certain direction.

Second, taking this thought a bit further, the director will show his religious bias, even as the title indicates. In spite of consultations with religious and biblical experts, his worldview will show through. Linda Chaves, of CNSNews.com, wrote:

"Gibson's film is an intensely Catholic account of the Passion. Indeed most of the scenes depicting Christ's journey along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Golgotha seem inspired by the Catholic devotional ritual the 'Stations of the Cross,' which dates back to the 14th century. A scene in the film depicting Jesus' encounter with Veronica, who wipes his face and is left with Christ's image on her veil, is part of Catholic tradition, for example, and may be totally unfamiliar to non-Catholic viewers."

Third, the medium is the message, or so wrote Marshall McLuhan in his 1964 book, Understand Media: The Extensions of Man. Though one can overdraw the case, the medium chosen by God to communicate the gospel is the spoken and written word, not powerful images which provoke, above all, emotional responses. The emotional responses God wants are based upon mental comprehension of truth, as can be seen in Acts 2:37. A movie cannot sustain the emotional reactions, so some people will return to see it repeatedly. All this is to say that a film is not God's means of communicating the Good News and will fall short of the needed process for one's perception of and proper response to the message. "The Passion of the Christ," as good as it may be, replaces the written word with the image.

Fourth, from the reviews and descriptions, the movie apparently plays to modern religious tendencies for maximum emotional impact that bypasses the mental processes. Consciously or no, it may well reinforce the individualistic, personal religion that makes little difference in the way one lives, as surveys show is the case in the U.S. today. One takes away from the film one's own impressions and conclusions.

Fifth, the movie is incomplete. The gospel means showing people the way to respond appropriately to Christ and receive the merciful salvation he gives. Perhaps we cannot fault it greatly for this, but it may also feed the general view that it matters not how one responds to the Gospel story, just so you make some response. Some will try to "tack on" in public viewings and small group discussions how people should accept the gospel, but it's possible the movie may shortcircuit those attempts. Time will tell.

The movie has had a positive effect of focusing attention on Jesus and what he suffered. Unfortunately, it has been greatly politicized, and many people will attend -- and they have so stated -- as a way of showing support to the "conservative" Mel Gibson against liberal efforts to supress it.

Gibson and company have done an excellent job of working the denominations to gain support for the film. Conservative groups praise it with few restrictions. Articles by my own brethren have tended toward support, though some are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

These concerns expressed above have briefly mentioned not only questions directly concerned with the film, but larger cultural and religious issues as well that could possibly injure the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

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Update on FMag

Forthright Magazine continues, more dynamic than ever! We have groups created for FMag on Facebook and the Churches of Christ Network. Announcement blog is up and going on Preachers Files. Email lists about FMag and FPress are available both on Yahoo and GoogleGroups. And, to top it all off, we're twittering for both on Twitter.com.
by randal @ 1/20/09, 11:55 AM

How to Make Sure That Your Judgment Is Flawless

by Don Ruhl Read the Bible in a Year This evening read John 5:24--47 How to Make Sure That Your Judgment Is Flawless Yes, it is popular to say that we are not supposed to judge, but the truth is we all make judgments about many things daily. Otherwise, we would never succeed in life. The real question is what is our guide for judging. Why can we not simply follow the example of our Master and Lord? He said, 30 "I can of Myself ... more ...
by diane amberg @ 5/18/05, 5:08 AM

Do You Ever Feel Like Just a Name?

by Don Ruhl Read the Bible in a Year This morning read First Chronicles 1--3 Do You Ever Feel Like Just a Name? Think on the manner, in which the Book of First Chronicles begins, 1 Adam, Seth, Enosh (1 Chr. 1:1). In this way begins the longest genealogy in the Bible. The names continue to the end of the ninth chapter! Were these just names? Adam; who is he? You know there is more in the Bible than the mere mention of his name in ... more ...
by diane amberg @ 5/18/05, 5:05 AM
by Don Ruhl Read the Bible in a Year This evening read John 5:1--23 Jesus healed a man. Praise God! However, Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. Uh oh. Some people were ready to kill Jesus for this perceived violation of the Sabbath Law. 16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath (Joh. 5:16). Jesus did a good thing. Yet, people criticized Him severely for it. And they were not people ... more ...
by diane amberg @ 5/18/05, 5:03 AM

They Were His Servants

by Don Ruhl Read the Bible in a Year This morning read Second Kings 24 and 25 They Were His Servants As the writer of Second Kings explains whom the Lord sent against Judah, the writer said that this was 2 ...according to the word of the LORD which He had spoken by His servants the prophets (2 Kin. 24:2). Those great men we have honored for centuries were nothing more than servants of the Lord God. What does that make us? Do you do something ... more ...
by diane amberg @ 5/18/05, 5:01 AM
by Don Ruhl Read the Bible in a Year This evening read John 4:30--54 The disciples went into a town to buy food while Jesus remained out of the town. There He engaged a woman in conversation. When the disciples returned, here is what happened, 31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." 32 But He said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know" (Joh. 4:31, 32). As you read the Gospel According to John, watch ... more ...
by diane amberg @ 5/18/05, 4:59 AM

Having a Tender Heart

by Don Ruhl Read the Bible in a Year This morning read Second Kings 22 and 23 Having a Tender Heart When Josiah heard the word of God for the first time, he tore his clothes, knowing of the wrath that was upon Jerusalem for the idolatry of his forefathers. Therefore, he sent messengers to a prophetess to inquire of the Lord. He did have a message for Josiah. God said through the prophetess, 19 "...because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before ... more ...
by diane amberg @ 5/18/05, 4:56 AM
June 2024
last updated: 8/25/12, 10:32 AM online for 8087 Days

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