Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 23, 2004

Locals anticipate opening of 'Passion of the Christ' movie

By Lynda Jensen

Curiosity is causing many area pastors to make plans for buying movie tickets to "The Passion of the Christ," a film directed and produced by actor Mel Gibson.

The movie is a graphic depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. By many accounts, is the movie is very accurate, both historically and Biblically.

"Passion," in this case, is derived from the Greek word "pathos," meaning suffering.

The film opens Wednesday, Feb. 25 ­ Ash Wednesday ­ nationwide, and is widely anticipated with many people planning to see it as part of a group outing.

"We definitely plan to go," commented Pastor Derek Forseth of Blessed Hope Church of Howard Lake.

In fact, a group of about 40 to 50 people from the congregation will be there opening night Wednesday even if they end up standing outside with no room for admission, Forseth said.

The Buffalo Cinema theater reported large numbers of advanced tickets being been sold there, and expects it to be a popular film.

Century 7 in Hutchinson has had nearly every denomination of church group contact the theater about its showing there, commented manager Erv Asmus.

There will probably be a lot of groups attending it, he said.

The film features the native languages used at the time, which means it uses English subtitles throughout, Asmus said. It also is rated R for its graphic nature, he said.

"It's supposed to be like you were there," Asmus said. "It's pretty realistic."

'R for reality'

"It's rated R for reality. It's real," Forseth said. He was able to obtain a movie preview and was impressed with what he saw.

During a preliminary showing at the church, "everyone just stopped," Forseth said. Those chatting in groups grew quiet, and had to be asked to sit down so that others could see," he said. More than half were openly crying after a time, he said.

A member of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Montrose was among those being able to see a preliminary copy of the movie.

"The review was very positive," commented Pastor Robert Hellmann of St. Paul's, although he noted that he had not seen the movie himself yet.

"There were a couple of minor things (the reviewer noted), but most people wouldn't notice," he said. Hellmann noted the film was not for children.

"It will be powerful and emotional," predicted Pastor Bill Baldwin of Prairie Community Church of Lester Prairie.

"Part of me wants to avoid seeing it," Baldwin said, adding this was probably human nature. "But I will submit myself to my sadness."

If the movie leads people to understand better and internalize their faith, this would be a good thing, commented Father Paul Wolf of Holy Trinity in Winsted.

"Part of me wants to avoid seeing it," Baldwin said, adding this was probably human nature. "But I will submit myself to my sadness."

Gibson's effort to be accurate is also well noted.

Apparently, the scourging scene is particularly disturbing because of its realistic filming.

Jesus was whipped 39 times with whips that had nine tails on them, tipped with bits of metal, noted Father Robert Mraz of Holy Family Catholic Church in Silver Lake.

The metal-tipped whip was designed to tear the flesh away from the body, he noted.

In that time period, some people did not survive scourging when they were condemned to this process, Mraz said.

The actor playing Jesus had a half-inch board strapped to his back, and one of the other actors playing a Roman soldier missed it, Forseth said.

The one miss was devastating to the actor, Forseth reported. There's a scar on the actor's back now, he said.

The preview seen by Blessed Hope parishioners contains a segment with former atheist Lee Strobel, who has written two books, "Case for Christ," and "Case for Faith."

Interestingly enough, even filming of the movie has caused non-Christians to look twice.

"More than a dozen people came to faith on the set," Forseth noted.

"I think it's got people talking about Christ again," Forseth said.

Overlooking the hoopla

Some things about the film are causing a media uproar, although many pastors did not give credit to the hubbub.

"People are getting uptight for nothing," commented Pastor Leland Bendix of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, north of Howard Lake.

So many other films have more violence without purpose, Bendix pointed out.

When most films come out ­ and there should be an outcry ­ people hold their tongues, Forseth observed. However, when there is a film that is legitimate, based on true events, he is amazed at the criticism.

If the film had been a spoof on Christ, then Christians would be expected to be silent even though it would be insulting God, Bendix said. "They'd say 'Oh, that's artistic expression,'" Bendix said.

Others have wondered if there will be a Jewish backlash to the film.

"I hope that isn't the intent," Father Wolf said.

"Who has supported Jews over the years?" Bendix asked. "Christians have supported Jews."


www.passionofthechrist.com (official movie site)




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