The epigraph in the rough cut of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion is from Isaiah 53:5, “Surely he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed.”
Before this film was introduced, David and I, along with 100-or-so others, sat in a darkened theatre, with Mel Gibson and his producer in the row behind us, watching a rough-cut showing of this film about the last twelve hours in the life of Christ. This was part of the marketing plan, engaging the support of pastors, church leaders, and directors of religious not-for-profits. As we now know, it worked brilliantly, pushing the box-office take of a decidedly religious film into the multimillion-dollar bracket.
The Legionnaires of Jesus Christ, a conservative Roman Catholic order of priests—all young, friendly and manly—shared our row, passing a box of Milk Duds from the Catholic side to the Protestant side as we waited for the rough-cut version to start—sort of a pre-movie, non-sacramental breaking of the bread! Gibson said a few words, explained what a rough cut was, we signed confidentiality agreements, then sat in stunned silence as the film progressed, thinking eventually, I cannot bear to watch any more, then thinking, If Christ endured this, I can stay in a theatre for two hours and keep vigil over His sufferings.
After the movie, Gibson was asked, “Why this film? Why make this one?” His answer was a clear testimony of “having been a self-centered pig” and of having, over the period of twelve years, gone deeper and deeper into the meaning of the Cross. In the following years, Gibson has had a series of well-publicized disasters—an arrest for drunk driving and a drunken slur against Jews that Hollywood pundits delighted publicizing (take that and that for making a box-office hit about the passion of Christ!). Then there was the multimillion divorce from his wife of decades who had fathered his many children and probably was long-suffering about his self-centered pig antics. Now, he is romancing another entertainer who is pregnant with his child. I do not know what is happening in Mel Gibson’s life, but I do know with certainty that God is not done working in his heart and soul. So I leave all that in God’s capable hands.
I do have this bedrock conviction that for all of us in the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago—folks fromChristianity Today magazine and Moody radio, the Legionnaires as well as Cardinal George of Chicago, David and myself, as well as the Hollywood star, would gladly give our lives for the truth of The Passion, Christ’s sacrificial atonement for our sins.
I remember that for weeks after that showing, I was God-struck. I couldn’t go to prayer without these images flooding my mind—I was at the foot of the Cross. Tearful repentance and incredible devotion poured forth in me for the Lord who died for me.
Ken Gire quotes an ancient Chinese proverb, “One may judge of a king by the state of dancing during his reign.” However, I’m not sure it is the King’s fault that my devotional dance has been so haphazard, so without passion. I think my view of the Cross has been blurred by a sterilized, antiseptic, Protestantized understanding. C. S. Lewis once remarked, “Isn’t it interesting that the cross began to be used as jewelry only after there were no people alive with any memories of crucifixions?” Gibson’s goal as director of this film was to show the reality of crucifixion to a generation who no longer understands what it means.
He certainly did that for one woman who spent some months dancing the dance of the God-struck. Perhaps, despite the many failings of its human creator, I need to look at it again.
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
Figuring out the science behind blogging, particularly Christian blogging (is there such a thing?). Keywords and search-engine-ranking reports. Link-building using multiple social networks. Internet branding. What a new world this all is!—but rather exciting. The democratization of the writer’s voice, unfiltered unfortunately for many who are near-idiotic in expressing their unconsidered opinions, but also an outlet for those many who yearn to connect, to communicate, to develop their own thinking using the medium of words and technology.
Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains
In Open Heart, Open Home (more than 500,000 copies in print) award-winning Karen Mains steps far beyond how-to-entertain you hints to explore the deeper concepts of Christian hospitality the biblical way to use your home and an open heart to care for others like God wants us to. Countless pastors have recommended this classic resource as the meaningful example of how the Holy Spirit ministers to and through us to make other people feel truly welcome and deeply wanted.
Open Heart, Open Home is available for purchase through Sunday Solutions, the Webstore of Mainstay Ministries.