Evangelicals aid Gibson's Christ film
With only a few weeks to go before the release of Mel Gibson’s controversial and much-criticised film, The Passion of Christ, an evangelical Christian network has come to his aid. Churches have bought tens of thousands of tickets for the film’s opening run and intend to use it as a recruiting tool.
In Texas, members of a Baptist mega-church have hired a 20-screen multiplex so that 6 000 people will be able to watch the premiere on April 25. Other churches have rented cinemas and cancelled their services to ensure that the film is widely seen.
The Passion of Christ has come under attack from Jewish leaders in the United States, who claim it will fan anti-Semitism in the way it presents the role of Jews in the death of Christ.
Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, who has seen an early version of the film, said he was “horrified” by its portrayal of Jews.
The Anti-Defamation League has also attacked the movie, and Gibson, the director, has been asked to add a statement to the end of the film intended to discourage anti-Semitism.
The film attracted further attention this month when its promoters suggested that the pope had given it his blessing, saying it showed events ‘as they were”. But this claim was denied by the Vatican.
The $25-million film’s distributors have so far mainly shown it to evangelical Christian groups. It is due to open on about 2 000 screens across the US, a significant number for a non-English language film (its script is Latin and Aramaic).
Jacob Bonnemas (26) has, with his father, paid $42 000 for 6 000 tickets to the film for the 22 000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
“This is a life-altering movie, and I think that when Hollywood sees people coming to this movie in this volume ... they will see a gigantic marketplace looking for real meaning in life,” he told the Los Angeles Times last month. The evangelical Outreach marketing organisation has described the film as “perhaps the best outreach opportunity in 2 000 years”.
The movie has focused attention on Gibson’s own membership of a small anti-reformist sect that has distanced itself from the modern Catholic Church. He has built a church for the sect in Malibu. —