Ministers hope movie will mean renewed passion for Christ

Published 6:44 am Thursday, February 26, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Wednesday's highly-anticipated release of Mel Gibson's new film "The Passion of the Christ" has caused significant interest among Niles Christian leaders.
Kevin Greenlee, minister at First Church of Christ in Niles, was able to see an advanced screening of the movie last month in Chicago. The viewing was attended by more than 5,000 religious leaders and Gibson was even there to talk to the group.
Greenlee said Gibson wanted to make the film for a long time, because he felt all of the other films about Jesus were not done well.
The film has already created media hype and some religious leaders think it could create a new-found passion for Jesus.
Pastor Collin Seitz of the Community Evangelical Free Church in Niles plans to see the film and hopes it will cause "profound spiritual reflection and a renewed appreciation for what Jesus went through."
The Rev. Carl Bassett of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Niles also plans to see the movie and agrees it could make people more aware of what Christ went through.
Greenlee said the film stays relatively close to scripture with a little poetic license taken by Gibson.
He sees the film as a possible educational tool and said he plans on purchasing the DVD, when it is released, and having a showing at his church.
He thinks the film is very effective, but said it is too intense and too realistic for children to see.
Film critic Roger Ebert has called the film the most violent he has ever seen.
He said whenever it got to the point when he thought he would have to look away, the film would switch scenes.
Though the film may be extremely graphic, it was pointed out by many that crucifixion is a horrific way to die.
Seitz agrees the crucifixion was terrible and said the extreme violence is causing him to have mixed emotions about seeing the film.
The First Church of Christ bought 110 tickets for a showing on Wednesday night at Movies 14 in Mishawaka. The church is giving the tickets away for free to members of the church who agree to take a guest who does not attend church.
Greenlee thinks the film will leave viewers with lots of questions.
Seitz encourages anyone who has questions to visit a church to seek answers.
Seitz encourages people to see the film with an open mind and an open heart.
There has also been concern that the film could cause anti-Semitism for those who blame the Jews for Jesus' death.
Seitz and the other pastors made it clear that Christians believe the Jesus died for all of our sins and that no one group is to blame.
The local Christian leaders hope the film does not foster any anti-Semitic feelings, but just causes people to reflect on their own faith.