‘The Passion of the Christ’ opens here Wednesday

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 23, 2004

Area pastors say anticipation is building as the new Mel Gibsonmovie “The Passion of the Christ” prepares to open Wednesday inBrookhaven and across the country.

Two pastors, the Rev. Adrian Fairchild of Pleasant Hill BaptistChurch and the Rev. David Moree of Topisaw Baptist Church, saw themovie a few weeks ago during a conference in Jacksonville, Fla.They said the film is very powerful, dynamic and is what theybelieve to be an accurate portrayal of Christ’s last hours.

“It’s a very good movie, and I’d encourage people to see it,”Moree said.

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Fairchild said the film begins in the Garden of Gethsemane andfollows Jesus through his trial, scourging and crucifixion. Headded there are some flashback sequences to show some earlierevents.

“Of all the depictions I’ve seen, it is the most moving,”Fairchild said. “It was deeply moving with the depictions of thephysical and emotional suffering of Christ.”

Instead of teaching as some other films have done, “The Passion”is more like a documentary, Fairchild said.

“It does not interpret. It just shows the events,” Fairchildsaid.

Randall Smith, manager of the Westbrook Cinema 4, said “ThePassion” will be shown four times a day, at 1:45 p.m., 4 p.m., 7p.m. and 9:45 p.m., beginning Wednesday. The theater will followthat schedule at least through Sunday.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Smith said.

Through advanced ticket sales, Smith said the Wednesday 7 p.m.showing was already sold out. Ticket sales were also strong forseveral other show times. He was unable to release more specificticket sales information.

Smith mentioned an apparent misconception that “The Passion”would only be in Brookhaven for a week. He said that was not thecase.

“I expect it to run at least three weeks,” Smith said. “That maytake some of the rush off.”

The language used in the film is Aramaic and Latin with Englishsubtitles. Fairchild said that did not take away from the film.

“That really wasn’t a hindrance,” he said.

The Rev. Bendon Ginn, of Easthaven Baptist Church, said he isplanning to see “The Passion” Tuesday during an advanced screeningin Columbia.

“Our membership is very excited about it,” Ginn said.

Ginn said the film, which opens on Ash Wednesday, is a way tocelebrate Easter and will provide opportunities for outreach. Hesaid church members are being encouraged to invite a guest whenthey go to see it.

Several other pastors said they and their congregations are alsomaking plans to see the film.

“I think it’s getting a lot of positive anticipation,”said theRev. Greg Warnock of First Baptist Church.

The Rev. Robert Oates, of Faith Presbyterian Church, agreed.

“I think folks are looking forward to seeing the movie and to bereminded of the great cost it took God to secure salvation for Hispeople,” Oates said.

The Rev. Tom Hollowell, of First United Methodist Church, saidhe had not heard much discussion about the movie among hiscongregation. He has followed some of the media attention aroundthe film and saw Gibson’s interview with Diane Sawyer.

“I thought Mel Gibson answered the questions very accurately,and I think think did a very good job,” said Hollowell, adding thathe plans to see the movie, although maybe not this week.

Gibson, a popular actor, is the movie’s director, producer andco-writer. He does not act in the movie.

Father Pat Noonan, of Saint Francis of Assisi Church, said hehas read a few previews about the movie. He said the nationalassembly of bishops was expected to release a statement about themovie this week.

“The Passion” has stirred controversy among some people acrossthe country who think it may be anti-Semitic. They are concernedthat it may portray Jewish people as being responsible for Christ’sdeath.

Part of the controversy involves a “blood libel” from Matthew27:25 in which Jewish high priest and Jesus’ main prosecutorCaiaphas says, “His blood be on us, and on our children.”

Some advanced screenings of the movie have included the line andsome have not. Fairchild said the version he saw did not it.

Noonan said Jesus was in conflict only with a small group ofpriests and pharisees. He said blaming the Jewish people would be”erroneous and unjust.”

“The whole of humanity are the ones who put Jesus to deathbecause of our sins,” Noonan said.

Others agreed.

“I feel like we all had a part in the crucifixion,” Ginnsaid.

Fairchild said Jesus willingly gave his life for the world.

“Jesus’ life wasn’t taken. It was given,” Fairchild said.

“The Passion” has also generated some attention for its level ofviolence and brutality in depicting Christ’s suffering. Fairchildsaid there is about 30 to 40 minutes of soldiers scourgingJesus.

“I had to turn my head at one point,” said Fairchild, recallinghis spiritual and visual reaction to the scenes.

Fairchild said he would not hesitate in allowing a teenager tosee the R-rated film. However, he and several other pastors advisedparental caution regarding children 12 and under.

“Parents may want to go see it and then decide whether or notthey want to take their children,” Moree said.