The mass unveiling of Mel Gibson's cinematic vision of "The Passion of the Christ" on 2,000 screens -- a massive debut for a foreign-language film with subtitles -- has the entertainment elite a bit frightened. After all, how many decades have elapsed since Hollywood has been in any way associated with Christian orthodoxy?
The one who is not frightened is Gibson. He is a man who has made his own brave and generous sacrifice, putting tens of millions of dollars and his own film career on the line for a daring and controversial cultural event. He is a man who can sit in front of Diane Sawyer as she looks like she's sucking on a lemon and honestly proclaim his humble Christian beliefs, to be a "fool for Christ" before the world. He has dared to make a film that focuses only on the last hours of Jesus, leaving the gentle preachings and healings that some like to imply are the whole of the New Testament behind, honing in just on the cruel and yet necessary crucifixion of the Christ.
For many months, media outlets have promoted controversy over this film, suggesting it might be anti-Semitic, and even if it isn't anti-Semitic in intention, it could have an anti-Semitic effect. One might argue all this controversy has been good for the film, but that doesn't mean the entertainment press has been fair or accurate in its coverage of it. Our cultural elites are worried not about how the film is "anti," but how the film is "pro." They know how this film has the potential to light a fire under traditional Christianity in America and around the world.
They are worried because millions of Americans are enthusiastic. As the media boomlet picks up this growing phenomenon, it seems to overflow with secular alienation and dread that some might be using this film to evangelize, that the filmmakers are "marketing Jesus." To the bad-taste specialists that dominate our culture, there is no dirtier word than "proselytize." That, to them, is a very "divisive" act. To the secularists, it is offensive to believe that one creed, one faith is absolutely correct, and therefore the others must be in error.
But why is it not offensive to suggest, as Hollywood so often suggests, that all religions are basically fairy tales for creepy, superstitious people who need the "crutch" of faith to deal with the natural world? And why it is not offensive for Hollywood to serve the country as a sort of 24-hour Temptation Channel for exotic sex, filthy language and pornographic violence? The entertainment factories are proselytizers -- for the lowest in human behavior. They are evangelists -- for empty sensationalism.