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Passion proves the point for local pastors

“The Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson’s anticipated film depicting the 12 final hours in the life of Jesus Christ, opened in theaters Wednesday. Many people in Demopolis were not able to see the film until the weekend because they had to travel out of town to see it.

The motion picture already has grossed $117,538,465.00.

Gibson’s film is controversial because some Jewish leaders have called it anti-Semitic, blaming the Jewish people for the death of Christ.

“I don’t see that the film portrays the Jewish people as in any way being responsible for his death,” said Dr. Rex Kent, pastor of First Baptist Church in Demopolis.

The violence, the torturing and crucifixion of Christ, is also said to be graphic.

“I don’t think it is any more violent than some of the films that have been done by Hollywood and been acclaimed … as being good movies,” said the Rev. Tommy Carr of First Presbyterian Church in Demopolis. Gibson wanted to be realistic, he said.

The torture or scourging scenes are the most graphic, Kent said, but “over all you didn’t see all the blows that were being delivered.”

“In real life a crucifixion was a whole lot worst than portrayed in that film,” he said. “It was not overdone.”

Added Carr, “As graphic and vivid as the violence is, it really does not do justice to suffering of Christ. It’s one thing to suffer as a human being; it’s another to suffer as God. The spiritual suffering was much greater than the physical suffering — even though the physical suffering was horrendous.

“It’s difficult for us to imagine God being separated,” Carr said. “Yet that’s what the Bible tells us. Jesus said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’ Here is God the son feeling the presence of God the father slipping away from him. I don’t think we can comprehend that.”

The actors did an incredible job, Carr said, but they could not touch the depth of Jesus’ suffering.

“I believe it was very near to scripture,” Carr said. However, he said the movie includes scenes depicted Satan that are not found in scripture. Filmmakers, he added, must be allowed some dramatic license.

“I don’t have a problem with the depiction of Satan at various places,” Carr said. “You could assume that he was present.”

Neither Carr nor Kent could understand a scene where Satan holds a demon-like child.

However, Carr said, “I didn’t think he (Gibson) went overboard.”

Carr said he didn’t think viewers had to know scripture well to appreciate Gibson’s film. Both pastors remarked at how quiet the audience was during the film. At the end of the film, “I never heard a theater so quiet,” Carr said.

First Baptist Church took 95 people, many of them teen-agers, to see the film Sunday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. The teen-agers really didn’t say a whole lot, Kent said.

“No one said a word; there were no popcorn bags being rattled. It was a bunch of teen-agers, and they were silent. Teen-agers are never quiet. It had to do with the power and intensity of the movie and the way it communicated the story,” Kent said.

Said Carr, “Even if this had not been the Son of God — had this been a mere human being enduring the suffering … it would have had very much the same affect. To see a human being suffer as he (Jesus) suffered I think we feel that very deeply … I think there would have been that sense of awe and respect.”

Do modern audiences need a shock to the senses about the sacrifice Christ made? “In many respects, the church has forgotten the suffering of Christ,” Carr said. “We put so much emphasis on the blessings that Christ will bring to us. We don’t put enough emphasis on what it cost for him to bring those blessings.”

Said Kent, “Here was a man who was dying in the place of others. For Christians it will make them sit down and seriously reflect on the sacrifice made for them.”