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First of all, I would like to make it clear that I have not seen this film. Indeed, it will not be released in this country until the end of March. Although I have received an invitation as a Christian publisher to go and see the film on its release in London, I will not be going. This is not only because this is Lent when I never go to the cinema and I am in any case not a great filmgoer, it is also because in a busy life I am not inclined to spend time and money going up to London in order to see something that is not a priority. However, the film was released at the beginning of Lent in the USA amid great fanfare and controversy. And this is why I am writing now, since readers in the USA have asked me to say something. Since it is impossible to say something about a film that I have not seen, all I can say is a few things about such films and the background to this film in general.

In case my introduction sounds rather negative, I would like to correct the balance. As a traditionalist Roman Catholic in a very pagan milieu, Mr Gibson surely deserves praise and congratulations. I understand that he built a Catholic church in Los Angeles with his own money and that he has financed this present film to the tune of $25,000,000 of his personal fortune. In doing this, he has taken not only the risk of losing his investment, but also the risk of presenting a Christian theme to a world which is largely indifferent or even hostile to Christ. He has shown even more courage, since he has also had to face the wrath of various 'politically correct', anti-Christian lobbies who have tried to censor the Gospels (which is their ultimate aim). He has confronted the wrath of anti-Christians and stood up to them. Unique in the moral vacuum of today's Hollywood with its powerful anti-Christian lobbies, surely Mr Gibson deserves our encouragement. He has dared to do and has done what no-one else has done. As the proverb says: 'It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness'.

On the other hand, there are general facts which must be stated.

Firstly, no film can ever portray Christ. Whatever his genius, no actor can portray the Son of God Incarnate. This is a mystery beyond the power of films, special effects, and everything else in the human repertoire.

Secondly, it has to be said that Mr Gibson's film, like the older Italian films and others on the same theme, has chosen deliberately to concentrate on a few hours in the Passion of Christ. Of course the Cross is a turning-point, a vitally important moment. However, the Redemption was the work of the whole earthly lifetime of Christ, which began at the Annunciation. His suffering began in the womb with the suffering of his mother, it continued at His birth in a cattle-shed, His desperate flight into Egypt, and right through all the years of His life until the Crucifixion. But His earthly life did not end there. Any Life of Christ should spend at least half of its time dwelling on the most amazing event in Christ's life, the Resurrection, and the events which followed it, leading up to the Ascension. A film which shows only the last few hours leading to the Crucifixion and that event itself, is taking the Life of Christ out of its context. Any filmgoer must bear this in mind. The Crucifixion was not an end in itself. It took place so that the Resurrection could take place. Good Friday is not the end or the aim, it is, literally, only the crucial point, on the way to Easter Sunday.

Thirdly, some who have seen this film have criticised it for its sickening violence. Not having seen this film, I can only concede that if this is so, then perhaps Mr Gibson may have bowed here to the sensational and the present cult of violence and aggression in Western society. Or perhaps not. There are people who are fond of sickly-sentimental, wimpish, 'namby-pamby', Francis of Assisi, 'sweet little Jesus' pietism, which is not Christianity. If Mr Gibson's aim was to dethrone such pietism, then he has done well, for if ever there was something sickeningly violent, it was the Crucifixion.

Someone asked me if he should go and see this film. Not having seen it myself and not intending to, I cannot answer this question. Perhaps this film will bring people to the Faith. If it does so and by the grace of God they are converted, we can only thank Mr Gibson for his work as an instrument of God's grace. Perhaps this film will have little effect, other than stirring up the aggression and anti-Christian hatred of politically correct lobbies. I do not know. All I know is that this Lent I have much to do and I am in church whenever I can. Somewhere I cannot help feeling that our place is not in the cinema and we do not need to be there. We do not need to watch a film about the Crucifixion, for the despised Orthodox Christian minority is living a daily crucifixion - and awaiting the resurrection. We have no need of a film about something which in some measure we are already living.

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