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Pop Culture From A Spiritual Point of View

February 26, 2004
Greetings from David Bruce, Web Master

This page was last updated February 26, 2004

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By Mike Furches

Mel Gibson's film did $20 million at the box office on opening day. Hollywood Reporter reports: "Passion... opened in an ultrawide 3,006 theaters and about 4,643 screens Wednesday, grossing an estimated $15 million-$20 million. The theater count alone is an unprecedented and remarkable achievement.." Daily Variety reports: "And on the first day, "The Passion of the Christ" became a blockbuster."

So what does this mean? According to Hollywood Producer Ralph Winter it may change how Hollywood movies are made.


By Ralph Winter and Mark Joseph

Ralph Winter is the producer of X-Men I & II, The Planet of the Apes, and Hangman's Curse. Mark Joseph is the author of the forthcoming The Passion of Mel Gibson: The Story Behind the Most Controversial Film In Hollywood History.

(This article first appeared in National Review, and is republished by permission. Please visit: http://www.nationalreview.com/)

We are hearing anecdotal evidence from around the country that a massive audience is developing for The Passion of the Christ consisting of, in some cases, traditionalist Christians who have not been to a theater in decades.

In the suburbs of Seattle, Washington, an 85-year old retired aerospace worker who rarely attends movies and whose last foray to the Cineplex was to watch the Omega Code five years ago is ready for a return visit.

In Dallas, a 78-year-old social worker who last visited a movie theater in 1985 is also eagerly anticipating her return to her local theater.

And in the suburbs of St. Louis a 70-year-old teacher who has never never been inside of a movie theater is making her plans to attend her first movie ever Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Why? Because for the first time in history and in a manner and scale only hinted at by films like The Omega Code and Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, a film has finally emerged that has five key ingredients: Star power, mainstream credibility, controversy, wide simultaneous release and deep resonance with traditionalist Christians.

When the dust settles after March 1, many of the rules of the filmmaking business may need revisions. For the first time, the industry will realize the profits that have been forfeited over the years by creating films that were out of sync with the interests of the citizens of the red states. In a post-Passion world, whoever figures out as Gibson apparently has, how to consistently tell stories that appeal to the heartland will be the beneficiary of the wellspring of affection Gibson's film has generated among people traditionally hostile to Hollywood.

Some felt that the 1988 film The Last Temptation Of Christ taught the filmmaking community that controversial and divisive topics shouldn't be addressed by filmmakers, but the opposite appears to be true. As the response to Gibson's film is proving, controversy alone sells a certain number of tickets, but the nature of the controversy and the quality of the film itself is crucial to widespread success. Scorsese's film was so deeply offensive to the values of the heartland that one Christian leader tried to buy the print so he could destroy it. Gibson's is so widely lauded by the same groups that it may be difficult to buy a ticket opening week.

The film business will continue with or without the evangelical Christian audience that will be coming out in massive numbers this week, but if the desire is for profits, this constituency which makes up roughly 40 percent of the U.S. population is ignored at the film business's own peril.

While early box-office estimates have predicted a $30 million opening, these surveys are misleading for they focus on traditional filmgoers. What the surveyors have missed is a massive tidal wave of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians and traditionalist Catholics, some of whom don't ordinarily attend films. It is quite possible that rather than a $30 million opening that is forecasted, we may instead be looking at a five-day opening weekend north of $70 million.

This would of course be uncharted territory and an opening of the magnitude that we are seeing may fundamentally reshape the nature of the movie business when the final numbers come in. When and if that happens, the rush will be on to find out how to keep this audience coming back.

Copyright © 2004 National Review. All Rights Reserved

By Mike Furches
Web sitewww.furches.org


Mike is the Senior Pastor at United at the Cross Community Church in Wichita Kansas. United at the Cross is a church made up of individuals not often accepted in other churches. The church consists of former gang members, drug addicts, prostitutes and others. Mike also speaks nationally on various topics and is a freelance writer. To learn more about Mike and his ministry link onto www.furches.org. In the arts Mike has worked with top music artists such as Steppenwolf, Marshall Tucker Band, Kansas and has an active interest in film. Mike is pictured with his music band "Route 66."

There is new movie made by a devout conservative Catholic. He is a Mad Max kind of man to recognize the Lethal Weapon he had available to him in film. He was truly one Brave Heart of a guy to go after his Passion. We should have seen the Signs early on, because While We Were Yet Soldiers, he was a true Patriot. We didn't see a Chicken Run, instead he recognized that there was a Payback, one that even Pocahontas had accepted. The Ransom that was paid was something What Women Want, even women like his mother, but not just women, all men, even The Man Without A Face. This is No Conspiracy Theory, it's better even than The Million Dollar Hotel, we might want to stay at on our vacation. Yes, Mel Gibson is a Maverick, who is telling us a story that will keep us Forever Young, especially if we decide to follow the example that Jesus gave us in visiting The River. While following Christ may cause us to go through at least A Year of Living Dangerously, once we become a part of The Attack Force, we'll experience The Chain Reaction, of no Punishment and of that the Fact that Jesus might have just as well said, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. But just as sure as the battle Jesus won was more important and bloodier than even the battle fought at Gallipoli, The Bounty paid for our sins, will make us happier than a Bird on a Wire, a Tequila Sunrise, or even a trip on a Air America flight. You see, the trip we are taking is something even The Singing Detective down at The Chili Con Carne Club would sing about for day and night

I just returned from viewing The Passion of the Christ here in Wichita, Kansas. I think that is important to mention because after spending last week in the Los Angeles and Hollywood California areas, I have come to realize that those of us in the Heartland often see things a little differently.

I purchased my tickets some time ago and had planned on going to an early viewing just to have a critical eye of the movie. I was going to put on my lil ol critic hat and not be to effected. After all, I was going back that evening with 8 family members and friends whom I had purchased tickets for. I would conduct a few interviews before the movie and try to focus on different components than other critics. I didn't want to focus on the Anti Semitic aspects, there has been enough written about that and certainly far more to come. I am a believer that all people were responsible for the death of Jesus, it was the sins of the world that put him on the cross. The last thing I want is to get into an argument about that. Personally, when someone wants to try and place the blame of Jesus death on a specific group of people they are showing their ignorance of God's Word and Jesus own words. It also shows that they don't have a belief that he is God, so from the very outset their argument is flawed and nothing else matters. Isaiah some 700 years before the death of Jesus would prophesy about Jesus. It was those prophesies that were fulfilled in his life, death and resurrection. Isaiah 53: 4-6 shows that God was willing to offer up his Son for our sins.

He suffered and endured great pain for us, but we thought his sufferings was punishment from God. He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well.

These very words are the words that open The Passion of The Christ, but I knew I was in for something different even before the movie started. I waited to talk to patrons coming into the theater to get their opinions of the movie, what were their expectations? What did they want to get out of the movie? I was surprised at the large number of individuals who did not want to talk, many were just plain rude, was this the attitude that the church was going to carry on? Would they blow this opportunity by their unwillingness to love and speak with a long haired hippie type in the same way that they had blown the reach out opportunities to the hippies of the 70's who had come to know Christ through "The Jesus Movement?" It certainly seemed that way. I was pleased though that one person seemed to present a perspective that many Christians have at least expressed in media form.

Mike - Why are you seeing the movie and what do you hope to get out of it?

Burt Snyder - I think it takes a movie to do this because our society now is so entertainment driven it's just a step closer to where they're more comfortable at. You've got a lot of people who will go see a movie that won't open a Bible. People are curious about this and it's a medium that they're more familiar with.

Mike - What do you expect from the movie?

Burt Snyder - I expect a true representation of the Gospel and I think that we have candy coated it to long of what Jesus went through was just incredible. I think that for Christians and non believers alike its going to open a lot of peoples eyes as to what he went through.

Mike - As far as your hopes, what do you hope are the end results of the movie?

Burt Snyder - I think we have already seen it. The main line media has picked up on it. It is interesting how much God, Jesus, religion, suffering, and sacrifice are discussed in the mainstream world, everybody is talking. I think that is just a positive thing. It's peeking peoples interest in what they are hoping to see.

After arriving at my seat, I was amazed at the large number of pastor's, church groups, and others in the theater. The theater, The Warren, had increased the number of screens and all showings were sold-out. I happened to see a friend of mine that I work out with at the gym and we started talking. After a while I said, "I guess it's time to get ready for all of the commercials and previews." It wasn't 15 seconds before a recorded voice comes over the intercom. The voice tells the story of Jesus and that the movie is a representation of the life of Christ as presented in the Gospels. It also includes the bogus Paul Harvey comment which I notice but I was amazed that the theater multiplex was showing reverence and respect by not showing any previews and giving a detailed explanation as to who Christ was and the effort behind the movie. At that point, I was reminded that the hand of God still reaches down and touches people.

There were a couple of girls sitting next to me, apparently in their late teens, just talking and being girls. I begin to wonder, "Do they have any idea what they are in for? What is their relationship with Christ like? Do they realize the seriousness of the subject matter they are about to see as they are eating their popcorn and drinking their drink?" It wasn't but a few minutes into the movie when Jesus symbolically crushes the head of Satan that these girls loose their popcorn and their demeanor changes.

There are a number of things I could comment on, and for those who read my reviews you know that I always try to comment on the technical aspects of movies. My comment here is that The Passion is technically brilliant. From the location to the handling of dialog, I have seen fewer movies that compare. The use of flash backs through the film uses a difficult concept better than any movie I have ever seen. It allows us to think of what Jesus is thinking and see things in the way that we have possibly never seen them. A warning here is that I was frankly amazed at the scriptures and scenarios that were used in the film. It could not have been more evangelistic or more loving from the perspective of Christ. I cannot fathom any Christian group being offended by the material that is used. While there are a few elaborations, those do not take away from any aspect of the story and frankly add to the points of Christ love for humanity.

There were several components of the film that touched me. To be reminded of the love of Christ for humanity clearly comes across in this movie. I, as Billy Graham, and others have expressed, feel as if I have seen the Gospel of Jesus for the first time. Frankly, after viewing the movie, I was in tears for hours dealing with this reflection. I had attempted to be a critic and reporter and could not allow that to happen. I actually had worship band practice before going back for a showing later that night and the focus was on the Cross and the Blood of Christ. I could not keep composed during our practice time. This movie will do that to you.

Another area touched on that I had never put much thought into was the relationship between Jesus and his mother. I mention this because I know that some Protestants have issues with Catholics on this issue and vise a versa. I really appreciated the position that the movie took. For the first time I think I realized that Jesus had a mother and that she was special. While it is the blood of Jesus that saves, he was still a man who had a mother, a mother who was there with him until the end. This helped me understand the human sides of Jesus in a way like never before and it was frankly a way that I will be forever grateful.

The story is brutal you know that by now. I actually had to turn away several times but forced myself to watch. I forced myself to watch because I believe that my Savior actually went through that and more for me. My desire was to leave the theater with a new passion for Jesus. He had certainly shown his passion for me. Are there aspects of the story left out? You bet there are, we are left in many situations to fill in the blanks and let the pictures tell the story. When Jesus looks at the feet of a Roman Soldier who is flogging him, what does he think of? How does that translate to the lives of individuals who call themselves followers of Christ?

How did the movie effect the audience? Well, the girls sitting next to me at the end of the movie have their face in their hands, elbows on their knees crying over the reality of what Jesus did for them. They left their 3/4ths full pop corn and soft drink behind that they never did finish from the opening scenes. They were not unusual from the rest of the audience.

I thought it important to see if people had changed after seeing the movie so I decided to ask a few people outside some questions.

Mike - What are your comments after seeing the Passion?

Steve Sanderson - A very spiritual moving movie that shows the passion that Jesus Christ had for all of us.

Michelle Melrose - From here after I just agree with what Billy Graham said, anytime that you mention the Christ, the cross, the crucifixion Easter, these images will be burned, burned into my thinking and into my mental vision. That's a good thing.

Mike - What is your hope that comes out of the movie?

Michelle Melrose - That people will be open to exploring the possibility that Jesus is the Christ and their mortality, and their after life that they will be open to asking the Christ to prove yourself to me. That they would know it.

Jim Tittle - I saw the movie this morning and I think that overall that what it has done for me is that a, it has given me a greater reverence and respect for what Jesus did. I was reminded this morning that it does say in Isaiah that he was beaten beyond recognition. That is not quite what was in the movie but I think that it lines up very well with scripture. That he was beaten beyond recognition, and that has given me a greater reverence of what he has done for me as well.

Mike - What do you hope that those who don't accept Christ will get from the movie?

Jim Tittle - I would hope and think that one thing they would take, see or hopefully recognize is that Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a religion. It's not a religion, Christianity is an absolute reality. That people would believe that Jesus Christ really did bleed, that he really was crucified. That the result of somebody accepting that by faith, there is a absolute reality of faith in somebody's heart, that ones consciousness would recognize that is what makes Christianity not a religion. It gives the reality of Christianity of his forgiveness and unconditional love to the human race. I would hope that people would realize something like that.

Mike - Can you give me some of your thoughts on the film and something about the project you are working with here at the theater?

Bob Beckler - My name is Bob Beckler and I am the Associate Pastor of Central Community Church here in Wichita. I just got done seeing the film and one of the things that I want to do right now is I want to go and I just want to reflect. It was nothing that I thought it was going to be, it was a lot more. A lot of people say that it is very graphic, I'm thankful that it was and I don't even think that what I saw is the extent of what Christ really did for me. I found myself at times getting a little angry through the film and every time I did, the man who played Jesus responded to somebody in love. The message there that I got from that is that God has called us to live together and to love each other. That means that we may not agree on the same things, maybe some of us live different lifestyles but God has called us to love each other.

At our church we have been preparing for this and one of the things that has happened is that God has been sending people to us that are living alternative lifestyles, that are addicted to drugs, pornography, and so I feel like this is an opportunity to really be the church. Church is not for saints its for all people. So we are taking very seriously what we believe God is doing through this film. Whether it's going to reach new believers or move the believers out of the pews and into the playing field, that's what we are praying for. I look at this as a very exciting time. What we are doing here is that we are providing tents for people to just come someplace and be by themselves. If they want to pray, reflect, or if they have questions about what they just saw. We've kind of taken on the attitude that we don't want to be pushy but we want to be available. What we are looking at is that we are being Christ to the people as they come out of the theater. So we take that very seriously. We want to be there with a smile, a hug or just keep our distance or to keep away and let them know that we are praying for them. We are looking forward to what God is going to do. A lot of times people say if we're not sure if we see God at work but with what we're seeing in the nation right now, we're seeing God walk with thundering footsteps. It is a privilege to be involved in this work. I think this movie is going to have a bigger effect on this country than people ever thought. Especially with the marriage thing

Mike - What is your hope for the church and what Christians will walk away with?

Bob Beckler - First of all I hope Christians walk away, with once again a renewed enthusiasm of what Christ has done for them. You know we tell them that God loves you, he died on a cross for you, but when you begin to see firsthand about what he actually went through it brings on a whole other meaning.

The first thing is that it's going to renew my own relationship with Jesus Christ. The second thing is that it is going to help me to look at what Christ did. He looked at those people who were killing him and he forgave them. The other thing that I remember is that as I saw the nails going into his hands I was responsible for that just like everybody else was.

(end of interview)

I would encourage every Christian to see this film. I do believe that there are age limitations involved due to its graphic nature. My son 14, had a difficult time and he is a national champion wrestler, one tough kid. It was worth it though. Our family was not ready to discuss the movie at its conclusion. This is even with preparation, we read for example the Isaiah 53 passage and spoke about what it meant prior to going to the movie along with other Scriptures that looked at the sacrifice and offering of Christ. We all needed to be alone in our thoughts and reflect on the love that Jesus had shown us.

I have obviously had some editorial comment here and will add my last two cents worth. It is imperative that the church use this movie not so much for evangelism, but for a renewal of their own relationship with Jesus Christ. Believe me, you will never see anything that will bring you closer to the ultimate understanding of the love that Jesus had for us as this movie. I couldn't believe it. I had just finished reading a novel by a wonderful writer named Ted Dekker called A Man Called Blessed. In the novel we are reminded that God exists in the hearts of those that follow Jesus, now, not in the Ark of the Covenant. I was reminded of this and of the fact that God still comes down and touches people. I have no better explanation of my attitude towards Christ, family, and enemies now than the fact that while seeing this movie, God reached down and touched me. I believe he will do that for others as well. I guess the question comes then, for followers of Jesus and those who reject him, are you willing to take that chance?

On a scale of 1 - 10, I must say I have never been touched or moved more by a movie, a new number one of all time for me, a grateful 10


Links to Hollywood Jesus Passion pages
Trailers, Photos
About this Film w/Links
Spiritual Connections

God bless you.
David Bruce
Web Master, Hollywood Jesus.

PS To chat directly to me, e-mail: Private 2 David

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