Saturday, February 14, 2004
Two weeks ago, Dr. Kevin King, pastor of Anchor Way Baptist Church, sat in an auditorium in Jacksonville, Fla., with 2,000 other pastors for a special showing of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
He signed a waiver before taking his seat that promised he would not discuss the details of the movie before it is released in theaters Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday. He could only discuss the way he felt while watching.
"It was powerful," he said. "That's a word you'll hear a lot about this movie."
The movie tells the story of "The Passion," the 12-hour journey taken by Jesus Christ from the Garden of Gethsemane where prayers to "have this cup taken from my lips" to his final hours on the cross are depicted. The story has been told again and again on stage and in movies, but the latest retelling stirred controversy in the secular world and hope in the Christian world from the first day of filming.
Gibson filmed the movie in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, with English subtitles. After a few minutes of watching, King said he didn't notice the subtitles anymore, just the brutality of Jesus Christ's last hours.
The movie ended, the credits rolled, the lights went up and 2,000 pastors sat in complete silence. Finally, someone started singing the hymn, "What a friend we have in Jesus," and everyone joined in.
"My wife and I sat there for quite a while," King said. When they had finally digested the movie enough to stand and leave the theater, they joined a Baptist pastor from Alabama to talk about what they had just seen.
"Billy Graham said that Mel Gibson did in two hours what he hadn't been able to do in all his years of ministry," King said.
It is a sentiment shared by several ministers who have seen the movie, which will be shown for four weeks at the Chief Plaza Theater, as a way to spread the message of their faith to a wide audience.
On the night of Feb. 7, 30 people from churches of every denomination met at Euzoa Bible Church to listen to a live satellite feed of an interview with Mel Gibson at Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, Calif. Gibson showed short clips of the movie to his satellite audience. He explained why he made the movie and how Christians could use it most effectively to spread their message.
The Christian community in Steamboat Springs plans to have a presence at the first five 7 p.m. showings of the film. They will have a table with pamphlets answering questions about the movie and free copies of the New Testament. There also will be coupons for free coffee and an open invitation to anyone who wants to come to Yampa Blue to discuss what they just saw.
From all reports, Gibson's version of "The Passion" is graphic and brutal. Viewers see the nails driven into his hands and feet. They see Jesus being disfigured by beatings. Gibson's version of the crucifixion story leaves no blood or pain to the imagination. It is rated R and not recommended for children younger than 12, even if they are accompanied by a parent.
"It's very real," Euzoa Pastor Rob Ryg said. "I usually wouldn't promote an R-rated movie in our church, but the Bible would be X-rated if it was made into a movie in its entirety. Sin is an ugly thing."
Members of the Euzoa Bible Church ordered a private showing for their congregation at the Chief Plaza Theater at 9 a.m. Feb. 28. Ryg said they would consider ordering another one if there is enough interest. Chief Plaza Theater management expects enough demand for the movie to have scheduled four weeks of showing, including extra matinees on the first five days of its release.
"I think as Christians, we need to go and see this movie and for unbelievers this is an opportunity for them to see a very real portrayal of what we believe," Ryg said. "I hope that those people would seek to learn more about it."
Ryg said that he and other Christians have been discussing how they can make this movie resonate longer than the four weeks it is on the screen.
"This movie will have people talking about something they don't usually talk a lot about," Ryg said. "Maybe they will be talking about it at work instead of what happened at the Super Bowl. That's a huge thing for this type of material."
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