First of two columns discussing the film “The Passion of the Christ”.
Dear Mr. George Plagenz,
I read your March 31 column entitled “‘The Passion’ is for those lacking imagination.” Let me begin by saying I agree with your premise. As a member of the Church of Christ, I have always refrained from the display of statuary, images of Christ, crucifixes, and other such representations of biblical persons and things. I have been a Christian since I was 14 years old, and have studied the bible regularly. I believed and obeyed the gospel, without the aid of images other than those in my mind.
I read about the suffering and death of Christ. In an effort to better understand the extent of His sacrifice, I read historical accounts of the severity of scourging and crucifixion. I listened to accounts of the medical aspects of His death. Through all of that, I believed I had as complete an understanding as possible of all of the facts surrounding that most important event in history.
The idea of seeing such an event portrayed on a movie screen filled me with a mixture of curiosity and misgiving. Like you, I waited weeks before going, spending that time reading everything I could find, every review, every critique. I read letters from evangelicals who condemned the film, calling it “the Catholic movie.” I read of the alleged anti-Semitism, the “gratuitous violence,” and the lack of attention paid to the rest of the gospel story.
Those people must have seen a different version than the one playing in Chattanooga, Tenn. Even though we waited three weeks after the film opened, our show was sold out when we arrived. We were fortunate to find a minister who had some no-shows from his church, so we bought tickets from him. When we made it inside, we found a seat for my wife; otherwise, it appears the movie was oversold. I sat in the floor at the back of the theater.
From the moment the movie started, I was utterly fascinated. I couldn’t look away. I wept as Christ was scourged, first with reeds, then with the flagrum. The movie I was watching proved one need not be Jewish or Roman to be guilty of Christ’s blood. The film I saw showed no gratuitous violence, only the historically accurate account of the greatest sacrifice ever offered.
The Bible tells of the faith of Abraham and Noah. I have read of the suffering of Job. The Bible describes King David’s desire to serve God, Solomon’s wisdom, and Jeremiah’s grief. I have read the amazing words of the apostle John, and of the tireless labor of the apostle Paul. And during my 29 years as a Christian, I have known many people who had the strength, faith, patience and love shown by these great examples. But everyone isn’t a Noah or Paul. I have also known some who were like Thomas.
When Thomas heard of the resurrection of Christ, he simply could not believe the Lord had indeed risen from the dead. “Unless I see the nail prints, and touch them,” he said, “and touch His side, I will not believe.”
But instead of callously condemning Thomas, Christ lovingly offered him His hands, to show him the holes left by the nails. He took Thomas’ hand, and placed it upon His spear-pierced side. He did not turn Thomas away, but said, “Stop doubting and believe.”
I pray every day for a stronger faith. And sometimes as I do, the words of Christ are in my mind, as He spoke to the father of the boy who was possessed by a demon. Christ said “If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.” And the boy’s father said, with tears flowing down his face, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
I am not proud of the fact that a film strengthened my resolve to honor the Lord’s sacrifice as much as I am able. But neither am I ashamed. I hope that some day my faith will be as Abraham’s, my zeal as was David’s, and my service as Paul’s. Until then, I’ll just keep praying, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Moreover, I have yet to find a single passage of scripture that condemns one for lacking imagination.
Mike North is a professional land surveyor, amateur historian and former member of the Walker County school board. Send comments to him at Mike@myhumbleopinion.net. To read his past columns or contact him by Internet, visit www.myhumbleopinion.net