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The Passion, Evangelicals and Mary

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Though I began to read about Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ last year I had no interest in reporting on it until a couple of months ago when I saw the movie's ecumenical potential. As I began to see how evangelicals were supporting this very Roman Catholic movie, a movie that portrays Mary in a blasphemous manner with supernatural powers and as participating in and assisting in Christ's suffering, I knew that this was going to be much more than another Hollywood movie about “Jesus.” This was going to be an ecumenical happening after the fashion of Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusades, Key '73, and Promise Keepers.

Mel Gibson is a Roman Catholic who follows the Council of Trent brand of Catholicism and who does not believe there is salvation for believers outside of Rome (even, by his own testimony, for his own Episcopalian wife). He has testified plainly that he made this movie to express his Catholic faith. He has admitted that the movie is based not only on the Bible but also on the visions of Catholic mystics and on his own feelings of how things might have happened.

He has been very upfront about all of this. In fact, when Protestants and Baptists began lining up with the most enthusiastic, uncritical support for his movie, no one was more surprised than Mel Gibson.

In an interview with Christianity Today in February, soon before the release of The Passion of the Christ , Gibson admitted that his movie is “so Marian.” He than made an observation that should make give fundamentalists tremendous pause:

“I've been actually amazed at the way I would say the evangelical audience has--hands down--responded to this film more than any other Christian group” (Mel Gibson, reported by David Neff, “Mel, Mary, and Mothers,” Christianity Today online, Feb. 20, 2004).

In the many pre-screenings of the movie for various evangelical crowds, such as for Bill Hybels Willow Creek Community Church, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church and other large Southern Baptist churches, and for James Dobson's Focus on the Family, Gibson has noticed: “THE WAY THE FILM DISPLAYS [MARY] HAS BEEN KIND OF AN EYE OPENER FOR EVANGELICALS who don't usually look at that aspect. They understand the reality of a mother and a son.”

David Neff, editor of Christianity Today , has observed the same thing. He testifies that GIBSON'S MOVIE IS HELPING EVANGELICALS SEE MARY IN A NEW LIGHT. He says: “After both of The Passion screenings I attended, the Protestant women talked about identifying with Mary as a mother who was watching her child suffer. From whatever point in his spirituality Gibson's treatment of Mary is springing, it is touching deeply the maternal impulse in his viewers.”

The Bible does not give Mary any role in Christ's suffering, yet Rome says that Mary did have a role and that to comprehend it we must understand how a mother would look upon Jesus' suffering. They say it is not wrong to meditate upon what Mary must have felt and what her role must have been. This is a great error, and it is so sad to see women deluded in this manner by a powerful, emotion-touching portrayal of Catholic dogma. The Scripture does not tell us to delve into such things. There is no doubt that Mary was hurt deeply by what she witnessed. But what Mary felt has nothing to do with Christ's suffering. That is a naturalistic approach to the gospel story, which is precisely what we see in Rome's doctrine of Mary. Women have no biblical authority to insert their motherly feelings into the gospel story.

I received an e-mail from a reader on March 10, 2004, with the following observation about the movie:

“Whatever you or I may think of this movie it has achieved at least one thing. After visiting several message boards where the movie is being discussed I have found that THE PASSION IS BEING VERY INSTRUMENTAL IN BRINGING CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS TO BE MORE ECUMENICALLY UNITED.”

I am convinced that ecumenism will be the movie's greatest legacy, regardless of what evangelistic opportunity arises in its context. It is going to be a great encouragement to the Roman Catholic Church and to ecumenical endeavors everywhere. This is very sad!!! for Christianity for Catholicism is NOT true Christianity and Mary has no part in our salvation and was a sinner like all others born or man since the fall, who also had to look to Christ for her own salvation. Mary is NOT a co-mediatrix or mediator, only Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant.

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