Following the publication of an article in the 2/26 edition of the Tennessean that described the responses of a panel of local religious leaders to The Passion of the Christ, Dean Blevins, one of the panel and the J. B. Elizer Associate Professor of Christian Ministry, provided the following expanded response to the movie:
"Many Nazarenes and evangelicals will have to realize that there are aspects of the movie they cannot fully endorse, that there are real limitations to consider. This kind of qualification is true with any film, and particularly so with a movie that seems to mirror Mel Gibson's own spiritual journey so closely. These factors cause the movie to have some 'blind spots' that might create problems for evangelicals both in conversations in their churches and with other people of faith. For instance,
* There are scenes that come from an ancient devotional practice called "The Stations of the Cross" that include extra-biblical information with which we are not familiar.
* The picture could have been more intentional in including people of color and the diverse ethnic community around Jerusalem in those days.
* While not blatantly anti-Semitic, the portrayal of Pilot and Caiaphas is slanted, and some of the real issues the Sanhedrin faced in light of Roman power are ignored.
"Following the advice of Franklin Graham, we will have to be clear that we do not endorse any anti-Semitism as a result of the movie.
"The power of the movie (and the Gospel) is not the violence. It is the love of God in the midst of that violence. If we are not careful we can miss that in this movie.
"This movie requires a lot of study and careful conversation. We may possess 'the rest of the story' (the Bible), but we need real, sincere, discipleship to make sure our portrayal of the Good News is accurate to its own claims. Mel Gibson's movie shows us both the power of the gospel and our place in it, but it does so in a way that reveals that we all have presuppositions that need to be carefully thought out in the life of the church. This movie is going to be a tough movie for some evangelical churches who do not like to dwell upon pain and suffering, those that prefer 'positive, feel good' messages. Gibson may help evangelicals recover a real understanding of Good Friday, which we need if Easter is going to have significant meaning in our lives. " (2/26/04)