Chuck Colson
Imagine for a moment that an Oscar-winning director, such as Steven Spielberg or Roman Polanski, announces that his next project will be an historical drama.

Now imagine that groups representing the people depicted in the film are demanding to see the script to see if it meets with their approval. There’s no way that any responsible director would give in to those demands. And, in refusing, he’d have the whole-hearted support of what often is called "the creative community" and the First Amendment watchdogs.

The exception, of course, is if the history in question is the passion of our Lord, in which case creative freedom is expected to take a back seat to the demands of political correctness.

That’s what is happening with Mel Gibson’s upcoming film The Passion. The Passion tells the story of the twelve hours surrounding the Crucifixion. While The Passion is only the latest in a series of films about Jesus, it stands out for two reasons: First, it is unsparing and unsentimental. In Gibson’s opinion, previous cinematic efforts had failed to capture the enormity of Jesus’ suffering on our behalf.

In The Passion, the audience will see the full horror of those twelve hours onscreen. Stills from the film show actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus, covered in blood. Caviezel, like Gibson a devout Catholic, believes that the honest depiction of Jesus’ agony will serve to draw many "to the truth."

The second way that The Passion stands out is that it is entirely in Aramaic and Latin—no subtitles. Gibson is counting on the visuals and the audience’s basic familiarity with the story to allow him to go for the maximum in "realism" and "authenticity."

This quest for fidelity has made some people nervous. Even without seeing the film, some Jewish and Catholic leaders have accused Gibson’s film of fomenting "religious animosity" and even anti-Semitism. They worried that the film might blame "the Jews" for the death of Jesus. And they requested that a panel of scholars be allowed to review the script before the film’s release.

Gibson’s defenders include Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. He wrote that he found it "puzzling and disturbing that anyone would feel licensed to attack a film of sincere faith before it has even been released." He reminded Gibson’s liberal critics that when The Last Temptation of Christ—an attack on the historic Jesus—came out, "movie critics piously lectured Catholics to be open-minded and tolerant. Surely that advice should apply equally for everyone."

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was the Chief Counsel for Richard Nixon and served time in prison for Watergate-related charges. In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
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