A Passion for Getting It Right

Chuck Colson
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Posted: Jul 15, 2003 12:00 AM
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."

The archbishop is right, but "tolerance," you see, is no longer a two-way street. It’s a weapon to intimidate certain groups. And, as Gibson has learned, the list of groups definitely includes devout Christians. A film that unapologetically says that there is such a thing as Truth and that His name is Jesus Christ violates all the taboos our culture has embraced.

This opposition makes Gibson’s commitment to making this film all the more admirable. He knows that there’s something more important than the support of the "creative community"—and that is doing justice to the price paid for our salvation.


For further reading and information:

Mark Gauvreau Judge, "Christ in Majesty," BreakPoint Online, 6 June 2003.

"Faith Guided Mel Gibson through ‘Passion,’" Miami Herald, 29 June 2003.

Jane Lampman, "Capturing the Passion," Christian Science Monitor, 10 July 2003.

Raymond Arroyo, "The Greatest Story, Newly Told," Wall Street Journal, 7 March 2003.

David Limbaugh, "Mel Gibson’s passion for ‘The Passion,’" Townhall.com, 9 July 2003.

Richard Corliss and Jeff Israely, "The Passion of Mel Gibson," Time, 27 January 2003. (Archived article; costs $2.50 to retrieve.)

Holly McClure, "A very violent ‘passion,’" New York Daily News, 26 January 2003.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, "Mel Gibson, ‘The Passion,’ and critics who can’t wait," Denver Catholic Register, 28 May 2003.

"With a brave heart and pure soul," Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 2003.

Julia Duin, "Mel Gibson looks right for movie on Jesus," Washington Times, 7 July 2003.

Kamon Simpson, "Mel Gibson brings movie to city’s church leaders," The Gazette (Colorado Springs).

Holly McClure, "Mel Gibson’s Passion," Crosswalk.com.

Read an interview with Mel Gibson on The Passion here.

Visit this unofficial website for The Passion to view pictures of the production and read other news items.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 030611, "‘The Last Acceptable Prejudice’: Princeton’s Double Standard."

Anne Morse, "Art Attack," Boundless, 10 July 2003.

Gary North, "Finding Nemo and My Moment of Truth," LewRockwell.com, 9 July 2003.

See the Wilberforce Forum’s Recommended Films List.