Monday, March 08, 2004

My Experience In Seeing "The Passion of the Christ"

8:15 p.m. Sunday 3/7/2004 - This should be an interesting set of blog entries. "Set," you say? "What do you mean by 'set?'" At this moment, I am sitting on the floor of a Cinemark Theater in Pflugerville, Texas, several miles from where I live in North Austin, waiting 90 minutes to see a 9:40 p.m. showing of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." I had come at 6:30 p.m. to see the 7:00 p.m. showing, but both the 6:30 and 7:00 showings had already SOLD OUT. I drove to another relatively nearby movie theater to see it there instead but it was not even showing I drove back to the Cinemark and bought my ticket 2.5 hours in advance. I'd heard the ticket counter person tell someone else to arrive an hour to an
hour and half early because there's always a big line to get in. So, I went home to tell my wife, Angel, so she wouldn't be shocked that I'd be gone so late.

I have never seen a movie sell out tickets for multiple showings on multiple screens nearly two weeks after it's debut! And these are not churches buying up whole blocks of seats for their memberships -- these were all just curious everyday people like me...

I suppose Mel Gibson should thank the media for all the buzz they created with their unabashed intolerance of this subject matter: the very real arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ -- but that should not overshadow His very real resurrection from the dead and victory for those who believe in the saving power of His Name. Now, in all fairness, I have not seen the movie yet. I just got back from the concession stand where a small drink and a small package of Sweet Tarts cost me $5.00 (why am I not surprised?).

I'm the fourth person in line, though; I wanted to get a good seat. Angel suggested I bring a book or something to read. When I told her I didn't really have any books I wanted to read, she suggested I write a personal log entry. I thought that was an intriguing idea -- and then I realized as I pulled into the theater parking lot that I could blog about my first impressions of the movie after seeing it, thus making this a multi-part blog entry.

That's cool. I'm hoping this will make for more interesting reading.

8:47 p.m. - This is incredible. I'm watching the group of people who just got out of an earlier showing of "The Passion." Almost all of the women are crying or teary-eyed (some men, too) and EVERYONE is somber. Incredible!

About 8:55 p.m. - This showing I'm about to see is obviously about to sell out, too. Two rows out of three are filled with people waiting to see this film. I have seen people of all ages and all nations, some interracial couples and multiracial individuals (including children). I've heard at least three languages being spoken (English, Spanish and either Chinese or Vietnamese) while people are passing the time. I understand why people might bring their newborns (although I don't think that's any better than bringing any child under 12) but there are several young children here and I feel sorry for those children; they should not be subjected to the kind of violence they will see in this movie.

About 9:00 p.m. - There are now three rows of people in line for the movie.

About 9:05 p.m. - I now have a choice seat in the middle of the theater. Here's hoping my pen lasts...

9:40 p.m. - The theater is almost packed and still filling up. Cell phones are everywhere. The movie is about to start.

11:59 p.m. - I'm in my van, the movie is over. This is a good movie, a powerful movie but it does have some flaws. It's cinematography is wonderful, it's a beautifully filmed movie and well-directed by Gibson. I even appreciated the way its flashbacks were handled, they were tasteful and well-timed. I think the multiple languages with English subtitles was a stroke of pure genius, it works well in underscoring the differences in the cultures in Israel at the time. The acting was appropriate and skillful. As a whole, it does well in bringing the scriptures to the audience and making the audience see and feel their meaning.

Unfortunately, there are many "embellishments" to the scriptures that stray from the original scriptures as well as some distinctly Catholic symbolism. For example, while I loved when Jesus was onscreen, by 3/4 of the way into the movie, I was tired of seeing Mary, mother of Jesus. I did not think Jesus should share screen time with His mother; the movie was about Him and His passion (suffering). There were parts where Mary was very appropriately used, such as when Christ addressed her as "Mother, behold your son" and looked to one of His disciples and said "Behold your mother." Again, when the movie portrayed the scriptures, it excelled masterfully. Gibson succeeds in making us feel Christ's sufferings -- until Gibson abandons scripture to create new torments for Jesus. This and the overt Catholic symbolism distracted from an otherwise incredible movie.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that Mel Gibson is devoutly Catholic. I am not anti-Catholic, just as this movie is not anti-semetic. I am simply pointing out that Gibson's symbolic embellishments do not add to the movie, they work against its very premise and disrupt the flow.

Now there were embellishments that added to the movie. Gibson's use of Satan was, for the most part, quite intriguing throughout the film, as was his use of the supporting cast of Jesus' disciples and those whose lives Jesus influenced.

Again, when the movie did portray the scriptures, it excelled masterfully. To his credit, Gibson even used the scriptures which answer the question "Who killed Jesus?" This was in two parts. First, when Pontius Pilate is questioning Jesus...

John 18: 10 - 11 KJV (King James Version -- I don't know which translation of the Bible the movie used)
Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above...

and in a flashback to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says

St. John 10: 11 KJV
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

St. John 10: 18 KJV
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

Overall "grade" for the movie? I'll give it an "A" for effort. Would I endorse this movie? Yes, I would but with 2 cautions:

1. Do not, under ANY circumstances, take children under age 12.

2. As my wife recommended to me, be prayerful before you see this movie and read the scriptures for yourself.

They can be found in:

St. Matthew 26: 18 - 75

St. Matthew 27

St. Matthew 28

as well as

St. John 18 and

St. John 19

Thanks for reading this! Please feel free to leave your comments.

Best Wishes,

Monday, March 01, 2004

Just Checking In...

I apologize that I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks. I've been pretty ill off and on since Thanksgiving 2003. I only found out last week that my immediate family has a history of lactose intolerance (being unable to digest milk and dairy products).

If you want to learn about lactose intolerance, the National Institutes of Health has a great webpage on it at

It's taken a lot of prayer and faith to constantly lean on the Lord when I've felt my worst (and just when I've felt pretty bad). I mean, it's not like I've just had a little bit of an upset stomach or some unpleasant gas as a result of dairy products. It's been an everyday struggle to keep weight on! I've lost about 20 pounds (that I had no desire to lose) since last November.

Some friends of mine from church were kind enough to do some research on my symptoms and suggested some changes in the foods I'm eating. I've already had to make changes in what I eat in order to avoid dairy products, so I'm going to make these changes at the same time.

According to my friends, this will be a "semi-vegetarian" approach: some meats like chicken or pork (and to drain the fats off of those) but no red meats, more vegetables and, like I said, no dairy products. I already have been using wheat bread for over 20 years, so no switch there. I'll also have to cut out carbonated drinks (such as sodas) and (Agh!) caffeine. The aim is to help me keep weight on and improve my overall health.

I want to make sure to add that my wife has been wonderfully supportive of me throughout this whole ordeal.

I'll keep you updated.

Best Wishes,