They're doing a Passion Cafe at our church, the Saturday evening before Easter. People bring friends, they have a social hour, coffee and whatever, and then they all watch The Passion. Many people are surprised when I tell them I have not seen The Passion. I'm just not a big movie-goer anymore, and especially when there's a climate of cultural coercion in the air. I do admire Gibson for bringing it off, and I'm glad he made a lot of money doing it. A friend of mine who calls himself "Judeo-Buddhist" says it's both sado-masochistic and anti-Semitic. I kind of doubt both charges, but again, I have not seen it. Why? Well, partly because of the violence, and partly because I was reacting against the absurd praise of the movie as something so momentous, so culture-changing, as to be just short of the second coming itself. One year out, the evidence thus far is not with them.
Another response to the film that troubled me: people were saying, no doubt sincerely, that the movie made them appreciate at last what a high price Jesus paid for our sins. That's all good, but it also points out to us, I think, the glaring lack of Cross-centered preaching in our Evangelical churches. How can it be that a New Testament people, as we say we are, could have so under-valued the Cross for so long? Why do we need a movie to make it real for us, when someone like Martin Luther certainly did not (to name but one among millions of pre-video era Christians for whom the Cross was nevertheless all in all). I had hoped that the film might induce more Cross-talk in our churches, and I think perhaps it did, for a little while. But now it's my impression that we've settled back into the old pattern, showing more the influence of the Joel Osteen approach than the Mel Gibson. Anyway, I haven't ruled out seeing the film on DVD someday, especially if I can get the new edited version. Someday I'll be culture-current at last. Maybe even emergent!
For more on The Passion "one year out," see two informative posts at markdroberts.com (here and here).
Finally, it seems as good a time as any to drop in a quote from John Stott's wonderful book, The Cross of Christ.
The doctrine of substitution affirms not only a fact (God in Christ substituted himself for us) but its necessity (there was no other way by which God's holy love could be satisfied and rebellious human beings could be saved). Therefore, as we stand before the cross, we begin to get a clear view both of God and ourselves, especially in relation to each other. Instead of inflicting upon us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured it in our place. Hell is the only alternative. This is the 'scandal,' the stumbling-block, of the cross. For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin and guilt or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely, we say, there must be something we can do, or at least contribute, in order to make amends? If not, we often give the impression that we would rather suffer our own punishment than the humiliation of seeing God through Christ bear it in our place.