BIG SCREEN JESUS
By Paul Proctor
February 23, 2004
Many Christians have been in an uproar of late over the removal of the Ten Commandments from many of our nation's public places. Eluding to the idea that we may no longer be worthy of them, I concluded a recent article of mine entitled, The Ten Commandments Controversy, with the following statement:
"If the church doesn't really care what God demands, why should anyone else? And if His commandments aren't written on our hearts, why bother having them chiseled in stone?"
There seems to be a sustained willingness among many Christians, even in our current moral decline, to have those Commandments on hand in one form or another but little or no desire to actually keep them. For example, the second of those Commandments has something vitally important to say that the church at large appears to be ignoring for what can only be described as opportunistic reasons.
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." – Exodus 20:4
In spite of this clear directive from the Lord Himself forbidding any reproduction of the Divine, there is a frenzied rush underway by the 21st century church to, not just celebrate, but also promote Mel Gibson's brutal extravaganza called, The Passion Of The Christ. What's fascinating to me is that so few Christians are willing or even able to judge this effort from a biblically discerned perspective, choosing instead to run frantically alongside the hyperbolic herd to the Next Big Thing just because it is being called biblical – when, in fact, it is an R-rated film of unrelenting bloodshed, torture and trauma contrived by human imagination that people, including children, will be dealing with for years.
Did the writers of the New Testament somehow forget to include all the horrific details of that day in the life of our Savior or might Mr. Gibson be adding to what God has written in His Word simply for shock value? If it were necessary that we see and hear such extreme gore and suffering to appreciate His sacrifice, don't you think the Lord would have included it in the scriptures? Or, was it an oversight on His part? Just what are we being sold here? This is not the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. This is the Gospel of Mel, and he wasn't even there to see it! Shall we believe his extrabiblical account over the other four simply because his is much more disturbing?
In his interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Gibson said, "I wanted it to be shocking, And I also wanted it to be extreme. I wanted it to push the viewer over the edge… so that they see the enormity... of that sacrifice...."
You see, what Mel wanted is in on the screen. What God wanted is in your bible. And, there is a distinct difference.
I mentioned to a friend over the phone a couple of weeks ago that one of the unfortunate results of this film may well be people closing their eyes to pray unwittingly to the ingrained image of an actor hired to play God long after the movie has had its run. Traumatic events leave lasting impressions on the hearts and minds of onlookers that can psychologically scar them for the rest of their lives. Just ask anyone who has witnessed some horrendous event. They live with reoccurring images that may never go away.
Only today I saw a quote by Billy Graham, addressing the impact viewing the film has had on him, saying, "Every time I preach or speak about the Cross, the things I saw on the screen will be on my heart and mind." How could that not include the bloody face of James Caviezel?
Even before the film's opening, fans are reportedly bowing down before the actor who portrays the Christ – a man who claims to have been confronted by a stranger long before the audition, who told him "You'll be playing Jesus", as if receiving such a message meant that it was God's will. But why would the Lord contradict His own Second Commandment? He wouldn't. Add to that Caviezel’s claim that he is the same age Jesus was when He was crucified (33) and that he shares Jesus' initials (JC) – like that gives his "calling" added credibility. Apparently no one has informed Mr. Caviezel that "Christ" is not Jesus' last name.
As if John 14:6 didn't exist, Mr. Gibson has gone from saying in one interview that only Catholics can be saved to saying in another interview that one doesn't even have to be a Christian to get into Heaven! How is anyone supposed to ascertain the truth of the Gospel from a movie when its scripturally confused screenwriter/producer/director apparently doesn't even know himself?
"Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female…" – Deuteronomy 4:15-16
As this verse so clearly points out, manufacturing any and all likenesses for use in worship or praise is corruption – period – whether it is for evangelistic purposes or not. As I have said countless times before, "The end never justifies the means." But that idealistic notion doesn’t play well in the seeker-sensitive, purpose driven pulpits of America whose methodology is, "whatever works". Taking pragmatic detours around God's commands, even for a good cause, is nothing short of sin. Unfortunately, many no longer know or even care to remember God's Word, much less believe it or obey it but instead choose to believe in an experience – something this motion picture is sure to provide.
Gibson rationalized the film's usefulness to the church saying he hoped that those who saw the movie would want to read the book (bible). Mr. Gibson doesn't seem to understand that today's literately lazy go to see movies so they don't HAVE to read books. And I’m quite sure that with this horribly embellished rendition of the "gospel", it will be no different.
The fact is, Christians are being bombarded like never before with countless distractions and deceptions of all kinds – anything to keep them away from the actual Word of God – from corrupt translations to Christian novels to Christian self-help books to Christian movies to Christian concerts to Christian CDs to Christian "ministries", programs, activities and psychotherapy – anything that will free us from having to sit down and read what God has to say to a lost and dying world. One can almost hear the church cry from within their new state-of-the-art entertainment venues. "Give us music! Give us drama! Give us movies! Give us laughter and tears! More bread and circus!!!"
"To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?" – Isaiah 46:5
Well, it seems Mr. Gibson has likened the Lord to a strikingly handsome James Caviezel, in spite of the fact that Isaiah 53:2 says:
"…He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him."
Still, his is the image that will forever remain in the psyche of captivated viewers worldwide when they think of Jesus Christ and close their eyes to pray in His name. What they will see in their mind’s eye will be a lie – an idol – yes, a false Christ. And whatever that actor says or does, from that day forward, good or evil, on or off the screen, will subtly affect each moviegoer’s overall view of God, whether they want it to or not. That’s why stereotyped actors have such a difficult time making themselves believable in any other role. The audience has psychologically and emotionally bonded with that actor's fixed image and persona rendering them unacceptable as anyone else.
"Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." – Acts 17:29
Even in the New Testament, after Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection we are warned yet again not to confuse any man-made image with God. But, there's no persuading today's short-sighted church who will soon rally around Gibson's Christ, clamoring for their own DVD copy of The Passion to show on their church’s own big screen for all to see; jaded souls who'd rather experience an exciting lie than "worship in spirit and in truth."
"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man…" – Romans 1:22-23
Am I going to see the movie? Don’t need to… I've got the book and it doesn’t cost a thing to read it. Besides, I'll take the simple Word of God over the compelling images of men any day because I know His Word is true. I just can't say the same for Mel's Passion.
A lot of folks may walk the aisles to receive Christ after seeing this movie. But, all things considered, one has to wonder what Christ they will be following, the Living Word of God or Big Screen Jesus.
"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." – Psalms 119:11
© 2004 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved
Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for NewsWithViews.com, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
"This is not the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. This is the Gospel of Mel, and he wasn't even there to see it! Shall we believe his extrabiblical account over the other four simply because his is much more disturbing?"