The Passion of the Christ
By Al Berrios (contact Al Berrios)

I went to check out this Passion movie on Friday. As expected, the theatre was packed. It was a massive theatre down on 42nd and 8th. The line started at 5 for a 6:15 showing. Viewers were orderly. Yes, the movie was gory in the extreme, but I believe it was a necessary gory. At the end, there were many who were sobbing, but everyone clapped. It was a masterpiece that had all the ingredients of past masterpieces. Well done, Mr. Gibson.

Why did this odd movie perform so well? You're probably attributing it to Mel Gibson's "innovative" grassroots church marketing. But before you go and recruit deckons and alter boys for your next campaign, remember the following:

1. This movie was released during a time of religious questioning in our society. Catholic priests have let us down. Awareness of Islam has increased, unfortunately, due to terrorism. And the hot-button political topic today is defining the meaning of marriage, which arguably crosses the line between church and state. Clearly, a movie about religion was going to attract major attention in this environment from a larger percentage of the population than usual.

2. The story of that last day of Jesus isn't a new one. It's one of the oldest known. Viewers didn't come to be surprised, they came to have their beliefs reaffirmed. Familiarity is one of the major components to our influence model and it's clearly an active component to the success of this movie.

3. Critics believed that any movie filmed in two dead languages (Aramaic and Latin) with English subtitles couldn't attract a large enough crowd. But perhaps these critics don't watch too many subtitled movies to know that "Passion" was brilliant in its simple, plain English, broken into the shortest of sentences. The movie was so powerful, not every word required a subtitle, and yet, there was nothing left unanswered. Remember, EVERYONE knows this story, so the imagery alone was enough. The subtitles were merely extra. And because they didn't attempt to translate complex nuances in the language, just tell you what you already know, it was really no problem. Even my mom, who speaks and reads English, but who's more comfortable in her first language, Spanish, told me whether a scene was directly from the Bible or not. (She's read that book a lot more times than me.)

When your product or service touches upon societal events, encompasses familiarity with something already known to your target audience, and keeps it simple so everyone can understand it, then you have a winning combination that will work. Church marketing just made sense in this case, but please don't go thinking that just because church people clean that you can violate the last place we have left on Earth without advertising with coupons for your cleaning products included in their hymn books.

In my opinion this movie was important to those of us who have gotten our toes stubbed on the furniture and subsequently proceeded to curse our furniture. It was important for those of us who have gotten really painful papercuts and have felt as though our entire hand was out of commission. If you believe you've suffered a lot, and feel this world cuts you no breaks, you need to watch this movie.

Never before have I felt like such a spoiled, sissy-fied, lazy, good-for-nothing member of my generation. After seeing how Jesus suffered before he was killed, I REALLY can't complain. And honestly, neither can you. Jesus, as religious as this may sound, was a real role model. Not only did he go through the worse punishments imaginable, he took them all like a man. The most amazing thing is that he KNEW what was going to happen to him, and could have easily not let it happen to him. But he had a point to make. He was a man of principle. And through his action, he hoped to change the world. I'm not a religious person, but I think I finally understand why the rest of the world loves him so much.

This movie may not drive me to church (though I'm sure it will drive many on it's way to making several hundred million bucks around the world; $117 million as of this writing) but I realize that whenever I feel like my life's going nowhere or something hurts me, I just have to remember Jesus to find the strength and courage to move on. (Note: If you're not a believer in Jesus, then find your strength in whoever your role model is, because I'm sure they suffered equally on their way to becoming your role model, too.)

Another opinion... Was this movie anti-semetic? It's about as politically incorrect as your average show on TV, folks. Certain words used to describe the Jewish people weren't meant as an insult, but merely to be as accurate as possible to the sentiments of those who governed the Jewish people during that time. If you're mature, you'd understand that.

I do believe that this movie makes more real how the Jewish people treated Jesus, also a Jew. Sure, it's one thing to read it in the Bible, but to actually see how much they hated Jesus, especially since the audience knows who he is, may re-inforce anti-semetic beliefs in people.

It's no secret that Jewish people have cultural differences unique amongst themselves. Often, these cultural differences may be interpreted as offensive and hurtful to non-Jewish people. But that doesn't mean that your culture is free of offensive and hurtful nuances as well. The challenge, or better yet, the reward as a mature member of our society, is in overcoming these differences, to discover successful relationships with each other.

Hating lost us one messiah. Don't let the hate lose us another.


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