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Farmer Bill Dies in House. > Criticism > The Pressures of the Christ (02-19-04)
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The Pressures of the Christ
prompted by Chasing 12
01.29.04-New Orleans, LA

MODERATOR’S NOTE: Why has there been so much pressure to see or not to see “The Passion of The Christ” before it was even released? Without having first-hand observations upon which to base judgements, other motivations must be causing the rush towards sides that we are presently witnessing. In some cases, there are people at which fault can be tied.
The following email was sent throughout the world a few weeks ago. It was purported to have been written by radio legend, Paul Harvey:

Date: Monday, February 09, 2004 12:17 AM
Subj: Fw: A “must read” to the end - The Passion

The majority of the media are complaining about this movie. Now Paul Harvey tells “The rest of the story” and David Limbaugh praises Gibson. Most people would wait and see a movie before giving the reviews that have been issued by the reporters trying to tell all of us what to believe.

Paul Harvey’s words: I really did not know what to expect. I was thrilled to have been invited to a private viewing of Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion,” but I had also read all the cautious articles and spin. I grew up in a Jewish town and owe much of my own faith journey to the influence. I have a life long, deeply held aversion to anything that might even indirectly encourage any form of anti-Semitic thought, language or actions.

I arrived at the private viewing for “The Passion”, held in Washington DC and greeted some familiar faces. The environment was typically Washingtonian, with people greeting you with a smile but seeming to look beyond you, having an agenda beyond the words. The film was very briefly introduced, without fanfare, and then the room darkened. From the gripping opening scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, to the very human and tender portrayal of the earthly ministry of Jesus, through the betrayal, the arrest, the scourging, the way of the cross, the encounter with the thieves, the surrender on the Cross, until the final scene in the empty tomb, this was not simply a movie; it was an encounter, unlike anything I have ever experienced.

In addition to being a masterpiece of film-making and an artistic triumph, “The Passion” evoked more deep reflection, sorrow and emotional reaction within me than anything since my wedding, my ordination or the birth of my children. Frankly, I will never be the same. When the film concluded, this “invitation only” gathering of “movers and shakers” in Washington, DC were shaking indeed, but this time from sobbing. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the place. The crowd that had been glad- handing before the film was now eerily silent. No one could speak because words were woefully inadequate. We had experienced a kind of art that is a rarity in life, the kind that makes heaven touch earth.

One scene in the film has now been forever etched in my mind. A brutalized, wounded Jesus was soon to fall again under the weight of the cross. His mother had made her way along the Via Della Rosa. As she ran to him, she flashed back to a memory of Jesus as a child, falling in the dirt road outside of their home. Just as she reached to protect him from the fall, she was now reaching to touch his wounded adult face. Jesus looked at her with intensely probing and passionately loving eyes (and at all of us through the screen) and said “Behold I make all things new.” These are words taken from the last Book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation. Suddenly, the purpose of the pain was so clear and the wounds, that earlier in the film had been so difficult to see in His face, His back, indeed all over His body, became intensely beautiful. They had been borne voluntarily for love.

At the end of the film, after we had all had a chance to recover, a question and answer period ensued. The unanimous praise for the film, from a rather diverse crowd, was as astounding as the compliments were effusive. The questions included the one question that seems to follow this film, even though it has not yet even been released. “Why is this film considered by some to be “anti-Semitic?” Frankly, having now experienced (you do not “view” this film) “the Passion” it is a question that is impossible to answer. A law professor whom I admire sat in front of me. He raised his hand and responded “After watching this film, I do not understand how anyone can insinuate that it even remotely presents that the Jews killed Jesus. It doesn’t.” He continued “It made me realize that my sins killed Jesus” I agree. There is not a scintilla of anti-Semitism to be found anywhere in this powerful film. If there were, I would be among the first to decry it. It faithfully tells the Gospel story in a dramatically beautiful, sensitive and profoundly engaging way.

Those who are alleging otherwise have either not seen the film or have another agenda behind their protestations. This is not a “Christian” film, in the sense that it will appeal only to those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a deeply human, beautiful story that will deeply touch all men and women. It is a profound work of art. Yes, its producer is a Catholic Christian and thankfully has remained faithful to the Gospel text; if that is no longer acceptable behavior than we are all in trouble. History demands that we remain faithful to the story and Christians have a right to tell it. After all, we believe that it is the greatest story ever told and that its message is for all men and women. The greatest right is the right to hear the truth.

We would all be well advised to remember that the Gospel narratives to which “The Passion” is so faithful were written by Jewish men who followed a Jewish Rabbi whose life and teaching have forever changed the history of the world. The problem is not the message but those who have distorted it and used it for hate rather than love. The solution is not to censor the message, but rather to promote the kind of gift of love that is Mel Gibson’s filmmaking masterpiece, “The Passion.”

It should be seen by as many people as possible. I intend to do everything I can to make sure that is the case. I am passionate about “The Passion.” You will be as well. Don’t miss it!

There are a few things that especially struck me as out of place with the preceeding email. First of which was the general tone–for those of you who are aware of Mr. Harvey’s work, it did not sound like Paul Harvey’s writing.

Secondly, Mr. Harvey does his radio program from two places: Chicago and his home in Arizona. He is in his mid eighties, and it might seem like a rather large leap to expect Mr. Harvey to travel to Washington, DC just to catch a movie. So I took it upon myself to do some checking…

Date: Monday, February 09, 2004 2:55 PM
Subj: RE: An email I got…

This was NOT written by Paul Harvey — it is floating around the network attributed to him but it was actually written by a Deacon Keith Fournier. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify. THE PAUL HARVEY PEOPLE

She’s right…check out this Passionate About the PassionSo who did this and why? Ripping off Paul Harvey’s name is especially troubling, becuase one might actually expect Mr. Harvey to be sympathetic to a movie of this nature? Why did they have to lie and who did it? Isn’t lying indeed sin? How about when one uses it to encourage people towards the faith?

We are now pointed in the direction of Mr. Chasing 12

From: Chasing12
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2004 2:34 PM
Subject: Re: FW: the big controversy

Hey Tomarken,

I’ve been following the hollywood “drama” surrounding this movie for a long time, so maybe I can help clear up any questions you might have.

Firstly, the forward supposedly written by Paul Harvey, of course, isn’t…It can be found in its original form here

So yes, the question must be asked, “Who did this and why?”

Well, the “conflict” of sorts goes back years. For years and years and years fanatical christians have been condemning the Hollywood community of being “anti-christian.” They site movies like “The Last Temptation of Christ” and other like movies of holding harsh views or gross-misrepresentations of the “church.”

And more recently under the rein of Bill Donahue, the Catholic League, is really the main source of the current problems. He seems to be simply a monger trying to stifle the creative liscense that should accompany any art, whether is be music, tv, or radio. He has led protests/boycotts against almost every major studio in the US. He especially likes boycotting Mikey Eisner and Disney, [Ironically PAUL HARVEY's, and Tomarken Moderator of Letter's, current employer] parent company.

I came to know of Bill Donahue in 1999 because of Kevin Smith’s movie “Dogma.” It was a Miramax film, which obviously falls under Disney’s jurisdiction, and he made a very public campaign of boycotting the film. Kevin Smith got death threats in the mail and eventually Miramax decided to let go of the film…So how did it get released, well good ol’ Miramax heads, Bob and Harvey Weinstein bought the film from Miramax, their company, and sold it to Lions Gate Films, which is not under anyone’s corporate parenthood. Now let it known that all of this Donoahue nonsense had been based on a script of the movie…No one had seen the film at all.

So guess what happens after Disney/Miramax let go of the film…You got it…Bill Donahue never said another word on the movie. There were no “real” boycotts, and if they were they were people who had been done by Donahue and his “politcal machine.”

See, for Donahue and the Catholic League, they simply use their “religion” as a barganing chip. It’s about as far from the true purpose of any religion as you can get. He’s made very public attacks on such large companies for the same reasons time and time again, and the people who listen to his dribble, are apparently in such a vulnerable place that they believe it. It’s really sad when you think about it.

So how does this relate to “the Passion,” Gibson’s flick?…Well, it seems that it’s almost the backlash of years of the christian far-right nagging on Hollywood. Now you have the christain right saying that Jewish extremists, most of which haven’t seen the movie, are doing the exact same thing that Donoahue’s been doing for years. If it’s true it’s very hypocritical.

Mel started shopping the movie around Hollywood for a distributor two years ago. No one in Hollywood would bite. I mean you can’t really blame them. Picture Mel walking in and never mentioning it’s about Jesus and simply saying, “I want to make a movie where everyone speaks in two dead languages without subtitles.” I mean it’s almost absurd to make a movie in a language that only few can read, let alone speak. So on those grounds alone it’s understandable that no one wanted to release the movie.

So what happened then? Mel found a small company to distribute the film along with his Icon Productions…NetMarket Films…and the interesting thing is that a great deal of people think that NewMarket is a christian distribution company, which they’re not. They just bought a film at Sundance which was thought to never have a chance of being released because of it’s contents, being pedophilia and incest. But no, the same company that is releasing the Passion has it’s hands on it.

I mean it’s almost sad that people just can’t make movies and that the audience can’t just make up their own minds. The Anti-defamation league (not sure if that’s the proper label) has been very public about the movie as well. I believe they are an organization founded on the elimination of anti-semitic behavior and content in media. They have publicly stated on several occasions that the movie should be edited or released because of its portrayal of jews. Of course initially none of them had seen the movie and like with Dogma this was all based on a script, a script in aramaic and latin. Okay, so now Mel Gibson has been holding private screenings all over this country and others. He has basically said, “Look I don’t think this film is anti-semitic. I am not anti-semitic and I would never want my film to be seen as such.” He thought this would be enough but it wasn’t, still he has been under tremendous pressure to alter his film in some way. So what he has basically done is stop trying to convince the people who are lobbying against him, and simply convince everyone else that it’s a good movie. And he figures the best way to go about this is to show it to hundreds of religious leaders from all religions. He even took a copy to the Vatican and the pope watched it. I found that at least humorous. So now what you have are some of the far-right christians that have been given the opportunity to see it, coming out and letting the people that will listen to them that it’s not anti-semitic, since that seems to be the great “debate” within the industry.

And then you have people like me…I’m a christian, but my lobbying for the movie isn’t from a religious stand point, I mean I was announcing on the radio 5 years ago that people should go see Dogma no matter what they heard about it, and that was hailed as very anti-christian. I just want people to be able to make movies about whatever story they see fit, and that it gets to see the light of day.

And I think Mel thinks the same way, so he took his film to Austin, TX, the uber-liberal, slacker-town of texas and showed it at a festival called Butt-Numb-a-thon 5. It’s organized by Harry Knowles, the founder of and it’s a 24-hour festival, where you basically sit and watch 12 movies. The Passion was the last film on the list, no one knew it was going to be playing except the organizers, etc. And from my experience with the site it’s a very anti-religion site in general, most of the readers of the site are atheists, agnostics or are members of another religion, but just aren’t practicing. Which I thought was a pretty interesting audience to show the film to. But it was very well received by almost everyone in the audience, many of which posted their personal reviews of the film on the above website. It was good to hear people talk about the movie as a movie, not as religious propaganda, like the nonsense that surrounds it on both sides. In any case, if you’re interested pop over to that site and check it out.

Okay, I think that’s all. I truly hate all the drama surrounding movie releases these days. Hope all is well in [tomarken land] and let me know if you’ve heard from the MJ camp. Hit me back

Chasing 12

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