“The Passion” and Hollywood – Something To Think About …

I have seen quite a few stories about how the Christian community is “outraged” or “feeling snubbed” by Hollywood that Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ did not get a film nomination for best picture this year. As a matter of fact, many people have started web sites such as Passion for Fairness to call for a boycott of — get this, Hollywood AND the Oscars.

I found this quote in an article on beliefnet.com:

I don’t know how exactly you prove discrimination based on religion or the Christian faith exactly except to say that it’s well known that the Hollywood community has been anti-Christian for many years. Mel Gibson, even with all this star power, could not find anyone to help him pay to produce the movie. Here you have the greatest story of all time, one of the most influential people in history — that is Jesus Christ — with Mel Gibson involved, and he has to do it out of his own pocketbook.

Or how about this one?

Hollywood is so repulsed by people of faith it can’t even bring itself to consider a powerful, provocative film about the most influential person in the history of mankind.

Even better, how about this one, from a recent CNN article:

Hollywood has spoken. ‘Don’t mess with us,’ is what they’re saying. ‘Don’t mess with us because we will not consider your talent if you do anything that is Christian,’ is the message that’s coming out.

Here’s the thing that is really interesting to me. Hollywood and others have done a lot with the story. Lets look at some of the renditions of the story that have come out over the years:

  • The Robe (1953) – The story of a tribune during the time of Christ that is in charge of the group that is to crucify him. After the crucifixion, he wins the robe Jesus was wearing in a dice game if I remember correctly. The movie chronicles his eventual conversion to Christianity. This is now a classic.
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) – Based on the story of the life of Christ and also in “Classic” status.
  • Jesus of Nazareth (1977) – Also now a classic, this was a TV mini series about the life of Christ. Now since this was made for TV, it may not count in some peoples minds but it was still a big deal none the less.

As mentioned in each of the descriptions, these movies are considered by both Hollywood and everyone I know as “classics”. A very high designation for a film in any right.

And these are only a sampling of movies based on the life of Christ. We also have movies like The Ten Commandments – (1956) which are based on old testament doctrine.

So it seems to me that Hollywood is more than willing to “consider talent if you do anything that is Christian”.

I would also like to point out that all of these movies are built around the writers interpretation of the story. Anyone who has talked to more than one person about the meaning of a particular bible passage knows that the meaning can change drastically depending on who you are talking to. So the main thing to keep in mind in all of this is that each of the artistic pieces listed above were based on the writers interpretation and received very high marks from both Hollywood and the Christian community. Lets also keep in mind that The Passion of the Christ was also based on Mel Gibsons interpretation of the events and do not necessarily reflect reality, because I don’t think he was there at the time and as I’ve said earlier, the Christian community is rife with different interpretations of the events (even the four gospels IN the bible have different perspectives).

Now lets look at other movies that Hollywood and others have put together, also based on the artists interpretation of the subject matter that caused some interesting reactions in the Christian community.

Anyone remember a movie called The Last Temptation of Christ? While The Passion of the Christ highlighted the physical torture that Jesus went through during the last 12 hours of his life, The Last Temptation of Christ attempted to focus more on the possible mental and emotional aspects of Jesus, and the temptation that he could live as a normal man and not go through the crucifixion. In other words, it tried to address the possible human aspects of Jesus as he went through this ordeal.

I thought it was a very good movie, and a good interpretation or “what if” scenario on the story that, at least from an artistic perspective, was worth telling. However, most of the Christian community did not feel that it was a “proper” story to tell, and spent a lot of time protesting the movie rather than judging it for what it was: an artistic interpretation of another perspective on a really good story.

And by the way, many of these people protested, rediculously enough, without having seen the film.

How about The Exorcist, which at the very least could be interpreted as a story about the overall triumph of God over Satan. This movie was protested as being anti-christian, even though the actual hero in the movie was a Catholic Priest who saved a young girl from the clutches of Satan. This story was actually written by its author, if I remember correctly, in conjunction with a Catholic Priest in order to keep the level of authenticity up.

The funniest thing to me recently has been the backlash against the book The Da Vinci Code (which, by the way, I haven’t read due to the amount of hype around it). The amount of unrest this book has caused, and the volume of material that has been written to disprove it is just amazing to me, because its a novel.

Its a work of fiction based, from what I have read and seen in documentaries, on ideas presented in The Gnostic Gospels, texts that offer a different view on Christianity that were “denounced as heretical by the early church”. Even with this basis though, its only a work of fiction and should be nothing to get up in arms about.

So to me, it doesn’t seem that there is any “discrimination” towards the Christian faith at all in Hollywood. We have movies that have been highly acclaimed in the history of movies that have been based on biblical “truth”. It does seem to me however, that every time someone tries to take a different look at the story, people get up in arms about it.

So here is the bottom line for me. The Christian community would like the “secular” community to be more tolerant of their beliefs. I think that’s fair. However, it is a lot easier to be tolerated if you exhibit tolerance yourself first. It’s a basic leadership principle. One that even Jesus himself used.

What did Jesus do? He modelled the behavior he wanted to instill in others. Was he intolerant? Not that I can recollect from my reading. Did he become angry with people who did not share his beliefs? No (I won’t count the “throwing the money changers out of the temple” incident — since that was the only time I can recollect that he actually showed anger, and one could argue it was warranted). He convinced them his beliefs were true by living them, not by forcing himself on anyone. He made people believe by the way he behaved in every day life. He didn’t discriminate.

He taught through how he lived his life.

I think that’s the coolest part of the story. The sad part of this whole thing for me is that I’m not a Christian — and I think I actually get the point more than many Christians I’ve met.

What is highly unfortunate for those Christians claiming “discrimination” is that from the outside looking in, the Christian community is viewed as one of the most discriminatory of all communities, whether the issue be rock and roll, gay marriage, or a womans right to choose. These are three of many issues to which the christian community insists on forcing its views on the rest of society.

It seem to me that in order to be able to blame others for discrimination, you must be willing to not engage in it yourself. That’s the big challenge.

It reminds me of another quote from JC: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

Pretty smart guy.

And just for the record, in all the versions of the story I do not remember reading that he actually picked up a rock. Do you?

3 thoughts on ““The Passion” and Hollywood – Something To Think About …

  1. I seem to remember that the religious community was up in arms about the release of this movie in the first place and find it extremely interesting that the same folks are now all up in arms because the film didn’t get any Oscar nominations. To me, this is yet another example of religious propaganda aimed at creating press for themselves, but that’s just my 2 cents.

  2. Mel Gibson got screwed out of his Oscar nominationand I’m pretty mad about that. I guess the passage “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” fits. I saw the movie at the theatre and I did not move from my seat and enjoyed it, I was actually crying when the movie was over, it touched me that much. The Hollywood left needs to get a life and realize that they made a BIG mistake.

  3. I disagree with you. While I do think that “The Passion” was a good movie, and it was probably much better than “The Aviator” (which I haven’t seen because I think it looks stupid), your use of the terms “got screwed out of his Oscar Nomination” and “Hollywood Left” pretty much imply that you think the movie should get a nomination based on subject matter only, which is not the case, and the whole point of the original posting.

    Perhaps the “Non-Hollywood right” needs to “get a life” and begin to understand that just because everyone doesn’t believe the same thing they do doesn’t mean that everyone else is against them. Fact is, the academy has different criteria for a good movie than whether it is based on the bible or not.

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