The Passion: A wake-up call for evangelicals

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So Hollywood is stunned at “The Passion’s” Box office success another reminder of what really matters, “follow the money.”

The smarter in Hollywood are trying to position Mel’s work in the artistic freedom category so we read the press release from Katzenberg and Spielberg in which they say, “Neither one of us has seen the movie yet, and as such, we have not yet formed an opinion, but we respect Mel Gibson’s rights as an artist to express his views,” it said. “After all, this is America.” Still, Gibson warned Caviezel that he better think twice about accepting the role because, “you may never work in Hollywood again” after appearing in this film.

I am begging evangelicals to think self-critically about some important issues raised by “The Passion.”

First, on the artistic front it took two devout Catholics to create this work. Their theology allows them to immerse themselves in culture rather than dividing faith and culture. Evangelicals tend to think of faith and culture as two separate entities to be bridged. This is an artificial divide, a residue of separatist fundamentalism.

Second, evangelicals still think art in exploitative ways. That is why for so many the value of “The Passion” is in the of “evangelistic” opportunities it represents. This reveals the “word over image” bias of evangelicalism. It grew out of our Reformation heritage, which not only liberated laity to read the word, but also and unnecessarily rid itself of the symbols of Catholicism.

Ultimately the living Christ is to be encountered, embraced and embodied, not read about, talked about and sold propositionally. “The Passion” will be followed by the worst kind of evangelistic reductionism. I fear the tracts, overly simplistic and formulaic presentations of the “gospel” will ring hollow and will cheapen the deep personal encounter of Christ facilitated by “The Passions” aesthetically and spiritually authentic vision.

Look. Jesus got beaten to a bloody pulp and then crucified and said if you want to be my disciple you must take up a cross and follow me. This is not about praying a simple sinners prayer or raising your hand to indicate you want to “become a Christian.” Jesus never called anyone to be a Christian” he only called disciples.

Following Jesus is about offering your life as a living sacrifice. I honestly believe evangelicals have lost the gospel’s severity. It is probable that “The Passion” is needed by evangelicals more than the “seekers” they invite to attend with them. Tell me what you think and if you plan on attending read five things you need to know before seeing “The Passion.”

Remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.”

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