The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

‘Passion’ continues to create hot debate

Two Methodists, a Catholic, a Jew, a film critic and awomen’s pastor were seated in one room to discuss theirdifferent views, but they all seem to agree on one thing: ThePassion of the Christ is simply one man’sinterpretation.

Held in Wesley Hall at Highland Park United Methodist Church andsponsored by Cornerstone Speaker’s Initiative, a six-personpanel discussed the fact and fiction of Mel Gibson’scontroversial film Tuesday.

The speakers included William B. Lawrence, dean of the PerkinsSchool of Theology; Mark A. Chancey, an assistant professor ofreligion at SMU; Rabbi David Stern of the Temple Emanu-El; channeleight film critic Gary Cogill; Mark Goodwin, associate professor oftheology at the University of Dallas; and Sue Edwards, advisor towomen students at Dallas Theological Seminary and pastor to womenat Irving Bible Church. The Rev. Steve Matthew moderated theevening’s events.

The panelists’ varying backgrounds and views provided thelarge audience with six differing individual perspectives on thefilm, including its violence and anti-Semitic implications.

To begin the discussion, each panelist was allotted a muchexceeded 5-minute time slot to express their respectiveopinions.

According to William Lawrence, the first panelist, the film wassuccessful commercially, but artistically, historically,evangically and theologically, the film failed.

The Passion was a commercial success because ofGibson’s own money and marketing talents,” Lawrencesaid. “However, art succeeds only if it manages to draw meinto the space it creates — that is, to take me into thatworld. But I found myself as more of a passive observer than anengaged participant.”

Gary Cogill, who clarified his stance on filmmakers early in theevening, thought differently.

“I will defend filmmakers all night. If you don’tlike the movie, go make your own. The movie is not a documentary.We didn’t have cameras there. It’s purely MelGibson’s interpretation of the final 12 hours of the life ofJesus,” said Cogill.

Cogill added, however, that it was the most violent R-ratedmovie he’d ever seen.

“I recently read an article by Roger Ebert,” saidCogill. “He’s right. If the movie weren’t aboutJesus, it would undoubtedly be rated NC-17.”

Sue Edwards introduced her perspective in regards to thefilm’s violence.

“Image art is the most powerful medium. If you want tomake a statement with far-reaching impact, you go through the eyes.Initially, the violence surprised me. But then I thought,‘Why is there such a protest — the goriness is nothingnew to our society,” said Edwards.

Edwards also said that she believed the movie’s sense offorgiveness was overwhelming in relation to Jesus’willingness to sacrifice himself.

Agreeing with William Lawrence’s view of the film’scommercial success, Mark Goodwin added that he believed themovie’s brutality served a greater purpose than simple shockvalue.

“The movie was released on Ash Wednesday so Gibsonobviously knew what he was doing,” Goodwin said. “Thefilm was excessively violent because it needed to be. It wasviolence with a purpose, and I connected with this aspect of themovie. Jesus’ blood is sacred because life is in the blood,and unless that blood was shed there would be no atonement —no forgiveness of sin.”

Adding to the discussion of the film’s sadistictendencies, David Stern, the only Jewish panelist, shed light onthe movie’s anti-Semitic implications.

“Gibson’s interpretation of the Jesus’ lasthours is harrowing, pornographic violence. This film moved mebecause this violence exists not only in the film, it is among ourrepertoire of human behavior,” said Stern.

“However, Gibson did not distribute the blame forJesus’ death evenly. He portrayed the Jews as conniving,bloodthirsty killers,” Stern said. “We can’tpresume any anti-Semitic intent on Gibson’s behalf, butintent is irrelevant. When Jesus is scourged, Gibson makes sure toshow the Rabbis looking on with a devil floating amongthem.”

Stern also said that although the American public may be able tohandle such a portrayal of the Jewish population, he fears”the film has the power to fan the flames of anti-Semitismwhen it reaches Europe.”

Stern concluded with his recommendations of how to handle thedifferent emotions moviegoers feel.

“People of different faiths who see this movie need totalk about it. They must share concern and understanding of eachindividual’s emotional convictions. Above all, listen. Keepthe lines of communication and trust open. We need all the visionand trust we can get,” Stern said.

Mark Chancey, the final panelist, added his thoughts and how heagreed or disagreed with the other panelists’perspectives.

“This depiction is Mel Gibson’s version. As theother panelists stated, it’s not a documentary,”Chancey said. “However, it’s very difficult todistinguish truth from fiction, historically. For instance, whenJesus is thrown off a bridge and is dangling helplessly beforeJudas — that is Gibson. It’s no where in theBible.”

Chancey continued by discussing Gibson’s manipulation ofthe Jewish characters.

“I believe the treatment of Jews in the film isunfortunate and irresponsible. Pontius Pilate becomes humanized andis portrayed as an honest Christian man wrestling with the issues.Gibson included everything that could portray him as positive whileonly the villains in the movie are wearing things implying modernJudaism. For example, all the Rabbis are seen wearing blackringlets in their hair,” Chancey said.

Chancey finished his statements saying that we don’t havethe option to ignore the historical and factual inaccuracies of thefilm.

Following the opening statements, the panelists fielded numerousquestions from the audience.

More to Discover