While preparing to leave for Ukraine I came across your article Kachuk finds recipe for ministry in Ukraine by Erik Tryggestad. This article was a blessing to read because I am at a similar point in my own life. I am about to leave on a survey trip to see the center that is being built for the orphans that have graduated and are turned out on the streets. This is a wonderful mission opportunity and this trip will help me to make a realistic decision. This August, Lord willing, I could be doing something that I never dreamed of moving to Ukraine and serving as a house parent at the transitional living center in Mariupol.
(See: Kachuk finds recipe for ministry in Ukraine - The Christian Chronicle )
Marianne L. Matchynski
Passion evokes response
(See: Gibson s Passion graphic, realistic - The Christian Chronicle )
I went to see the movie, The passion of the Christ. With all the hype from the media and even within the brotherhood as to its accuracy, I thought this would be a good movie to see and experience.
Within the first few minutes of the movie I was starting to get sick to my stomach. I could not believe that Gibson was portraying that Satan knew what was going to happen at the cross. Telling Jesus that He could not save the people from their sins and then turning into a snake so Jesus could crush the head. There is no way Satan would have known what was going to happen, it was a mystery! Not even the angels knew! Satan is no idiot he would not have used Judas in the way he did if the gospel according to Gibson is correct.
There were so many things in the movie that I thought was a waste of film. For example Jesus invents the modern day kitchen table and Mary telling Him that it will never go over. Showing the flash backs in Marys mind when Jesus falls carrying the cross and how as a child she would run over to help Him. So when He is on His Triumphal Procession Mary has to go and help Him getup so He can continue to carry His cross? Mary is shown receiving the dead body of Jesus. Not the two men who did according to scripture. The list could go on and on.
I saw so many unbiblical ideas or teachings that I stopped counting! If I had gone thinking that this was just a movie without all the hype from articles within the church, I would not have gone with this great expectation. This is a big movie that endorses the teaching of Catholicism. You are overwhelmed with from start to finish.
I would be embarrassed to tell my congregation to go and see it! Now, the movie, the Gospel of John I would not be ashamed to even take Jesus to watch. Even with two mistakes in it.
Joseph Broz, Jr.
I saw this movie on opening day, and I was moved to tears of horror by its portrayal of the scourging and crucifixion of Christ. Without question, Gibsons production adds an emotional impact to the story of the cross. Some media-saturated minds may require such an assault on their senses to provoke contemplation of Christs blood and His sacrifice. Artistically, the film produces some strikingly profound moments, such as the crushing of the snake in the garden as Jesus arose to meet His captors, which typically reach outside the text of Scripture for their content. A beautiful exception to this trend was the depiction of the words of Christ from the cross, one of the moments in the film that clearly adorned, rather than replaced, the truth and power of the gospel text.
Had this been a portrayal faithful to the gospel story, enhanced with needed extra elements to make the medium work, it might have been a powerful tool. But that is not what Gibson has produced. The distortions and untruths in the film overwhelm the good it also contains.
The Passion commits a number of biblical errors, introduces superstition and non-biblical stories as if they came from the four gospels, and removes some biblical events and sayings from their contexts to place them in settings that alter their meanings. Gibson over-amplifies the physical horrors of the scourging and cross of Christ, while almost ignoring the spiritual meaning of the events. The film portrays the Jews as too uniformly bloodthirsty, characterizes Pilate as too thoughtful, turns the Roman rank-and-file soldiers into crazed sadists, and minimizes the purpose of Christs death in favor of a minute examination of the means by which it was accomplished.
In this film we see a beatific and thoroughly Catholic Mary (Jesus mother) as if she were in the know about what was happening and why. In a powerful scene, found in no gospel, she kisses the feet of the crucified Christ, letting His blood flow across her lips. She then cradles the body of Jesus after He is taken from the cross, looking every bit the sorrowful but serene co-redemptrix of old Roman tradition. The gospels Mary has no such role. At the cross she is seeing her son for the first time recorded since she left Him to be with His brothers when they rejected Him in Mark 3. She joins the newly redeemed fellowship, with others who needed the cleansing blood of Christ, in Acts 1.
Gibson generously supplements the gospel accounts with visions from a German mystic named Anne Catherine Emmerich. According to Emmerich, Satan was in the garden tempting Jesus, saying that the redemption of men is too great a burden for one man. Jesus is driven over a bridge while chained by his arrestors. The Sanhedrin paid the peasant Jews to fill Pilates courtyard and cry for Jesus crucifixion. The conversation between an effeminate Herod and a stoic Jesus is expanded with many details. Pilates wife Claudia gave linen cloths to Jesus mother and Mary of Magdala after the scourging, which they used to mop up the sacred blood defiled by the Roman stones on which it was spilled. When the side of Jesus body was pierced by a spear, the man who wielded the spear was covered in a sustained shower of the blood and water that came forth, to his great joy. All of these events, echoes from the mind of an obsessed stigmatic nun, are indistinguishable in the movie from the gospel texts.
Gibson reaches back into medieval superstitions to portray Satans demons as children, who become devilish imps while tormenting Judas into hanging himself. According to the gospels, Satan entered Judas to commit the crime. The guilt came from the knowledge of his sin, and his suicide was an act of his own unrepentant despair.
The movie uses cinematic techniques to amplify the sufferings of Christ, giving the watcher an intense point of view that no one who was present at the events, save for Jesus himself, could have had. None of the New Testament writers focus on the carnage in anything resembling the intensity that this film requires, although much is made in the epistles of His sufferings for our sins.
The movie, by contrast, focuses on the bloody brutality to the exclusion of almost everything else. Emmerich held as an article of faith that the physical sufferings of Christ must have exceeded any other suffering, indeed, they must have been sufficient through the value of the pain alone to comprehend and expiate all of the sins ever committed.
Perhaps this accounts for the films almost unremitting savagery. In this it has a clear connection to the medieval seeking of the stigmata, in which the wounds of Christ are reproduced in the minds (and sometimes the bodies) of those who are devoted to acquiring them. Participation in violent passion plays, self-flagellation, and even self-crucifixion were among the means employed in this pursuit.
In Scripture, to be crucified with Christ means to leave a sinful life behind and, as need requires, to suffer for Him, but not to reproduce his wounds. Jesus wounds were his alone. No one may make the sacrifice that He did, no one may add to the cleansing power of His blood, and no one will ever know, from any experience on this side of heaven, what it cost Him to go to the cross. If the film intends, as I suspect, to create fresh if unwitting devotees of the stigmata, then, in my judgment, it brings us perilously near the brink of denying the sufficiency of His cross to save.
The story of the cross does not require such overstatement, and is distorted by it. Many have died brutally, some perhaps more so, but what distinguishes the death of Christ is its purpose: the righteous for the unrighteous. The details of His death overwhelm the meaning of His sacrifice in this film.
This is not a movie for children.
Christians who know the Scriptures will not be harmed by seeing it, unless they have weak hearts or fragile minds that are easily broken by sustained brutality. They might even receive something of an education, unneeded by subjects of first century Rome, about what was meant by a scourging and a cross. But they will receive other things as well, some of which are needed by no one.
The Passion is being widely embraced in Christendom as a great evangelistic tool. It certainly contains some truth. It is evocative, sometimes lovely, and occasionally brilliant. But it is not the gospel of Christ, nor even a small unstained slice of it.
The Passion is the gospel according to Gibson, complete with many of the unusual and unorthodox teachings of his own religious background. This is not the gospel I want unbelievers to see. They might well either turn away in revulsion, or be led unwittingly to believe a brutal distortion of the greatest story ever told.
I like the Book better.
Warning about McKean
I was very disappointed in the amount of coverage you gave to this man in the last edition. My family and I had spent 16 years in his destructive cult as have many other of your readers. Before being lured into that movement of man we were members of the traditional church of Christ, for 18 years. We are now back home in a traditional church and thank God for it. In talking with one of our elders, Frank Buck, I was encouraged to write this note. It is my conviction that if you are going to give that much coverage to a man that has caused so much division and hurt that you should print the other side of the story.
(For more information, search The Chronicle online at www.christianchronicle.org (ICOC and/or Kip McKean)
Paul J. Sheridan
This is my first time to respond to the Chronicle. I read with interest an article entitled, A case for balancing worship music praise and song rehearsing theology. I believe that the authors did a good job in presenting their case.
My only concern is that somehow we have developed such a thing as praise songs period. First, I thought all songs sung to God in worship were songs of praise. Second, if we have not been praising God until recently, what were all those Christians in the past doing? Third, does God really distinguish between praise songs and other songs? The term praise songs is nothing more than a distinction made by man that has caused much division in our brotherhood. A similar distinction that began this issue among us was when we had youth songs and corporate worship songs.
The Lord has told us to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs from the heart in adoration of Him. (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19). These songs are to teach and admonish. This being the case, they need to harmonize with the teachings of Scripture. Any song that meets these guidelines can be sung by all. New songs that are forthcoming need to be accepted by the elderly. The old songs of yesteryear do not need to be rejected by the young.
Our focus in worship needs to be upon the God of heaven. We have turned worship upon man far too much. In the church, we need to promote unity and not division. Terms such as youth songs, praise songs, and contemporary worship are not promoting unity. Let us all as the church sing scriptural songs and worship the same God in heaven with one mind and one spirit.
(See: Balancing worship music - The Christian Chronicle )
Victor M. Eskew
We compliment you on the excellent article in the February issue of the Chronicle entitled, A Case for Balancing Worship Music--Praise and Songs Rehearsing Theology by Kevin and Candace Moore. This stimulating, challenging and articulate set of ideas has focused on some problems and possible solutions for the Lord's body in today's world. We are confident that your publication can make more significant contributions like this in the future.
Pat and Bill Wallis
I wish to comment on the Book Review in last month's issue refuting the notion of 'God and Country.' My heart was broken for the many Christian men and women in uniform, who may have read this article, as well as for any Christian who has been forced to violently defend himself or his loved ones. Also, I take issue with this line of reasoning because it doesn't fully explain the ramifications of such a stand and attempts to lay blame at the door of patriotism. I think the allure, for some, is not 'the allure of the sword', as the writer suggests, but the allure of pacifism. Such suggestions should not be made without full disclosure and an open mind and heart to avoid legalism and intolerance among Christians. So, here goes.
The reviewer and the author suggest ('The reason Christians do not go to war...') that one cannot be a soldier and a Christian. He, in effect, advocates letting others sacrifice and spill their blood to keep him safe. Either that, or he is saying that it doesn't matter what kind of government is in charge. Perhaps he feels that it is all in God's hands and He doesn't need any help from him to order world events, which is true. So why not wash one's hands of such unsavory business as war? But suppose, although He doesn't need our help, He expects it. For example, to provide us with food, He doesn't need us to do anything, but, nonetheless, He has told us that we must cultivate the soil and work hard (by the sweat of our brow...) to have it yield food that we need to survive. He expects us to do our part. By not confronting evil where we (or our nation) find it in the world, we (or our nation) become an enabler for evil to spread. Would the author just as soon see the millions of Christians in America living under tyrannical rule (say, Muslim) just so they could practice radical discipleship? Do you think anyone could openly preach Christ in such a situation? How does the Good News help those who never get to hear it? Suppose every Christian took the author's advice and disavowed their responsibilities to this country. I don't think the author has followed this line of thinking to its inevitable end. Then, again, perhaps he has. However, in all fairness, no one can maintain his moral authority on this subject and continue to accept the benefits of American citizenship, if he is not willing to defend his country when called upon. I submit, also, that the children of Israel followed God's laws, yet had a sense of national pride, too. True discipleship will be seen in changing the hearts and minds of our enemies, once they have laid down their weapons. The conflicts in our world now, could, in time, offer an unprecedented opportunity for spreading the Gospel.
I believe everything happens for a reason and God is in control at all times. I also have the suspicion that, because God has richly blessed this nation, He will expect much from us, in the way of charity to other nations, in their times of need. How do we accomplish this, if we Christians have nothing to do with our government? No, we should not blindly follow our political leaders, but we would do well to remember that those leaders hold and wield power only because God allows it. Historically, leaders (self-anointed or otherwise) who horrifically abuse power, do not escape God's justice forever. Consider the pharaoh of Exodus, or Hitler, or, more recently, Saddam Hussein; mass murders and oppressors all. And all were humbled without mercy. We know how God handled Pharaoh. Could the United States have been used as his instrument in dealing with the others?
One does not, as the author insists, have to worship one's country in order to love it, any more than one would worship the family one loves or neglect to defend it, when threatened. Tens of thousands of Christians in the U.S. took up arms in WWII. I do not think, as the author seems to imply, that such a thing was a worldly, unjust endeavor just because they swore an oath to defend their country and were compelled in most cases to take enemy lives. The spread of the Gospel to all nations on earth could not have occurred in the decades following WWII, if these Christians hadn't been willing to do what they did. Can you not see God's hand in that outcome?
Look at the incredible blossoming of the Church in formerly Communist-held provinces. Decades of battles, both hot and cold, contributed to plowing these fertile soils. Souls have been won for God which would not have been; moreover, they would not have had the chance to hear the Word, much less obey it. It is not much different today, except in one respect. Currently, we can choose not to defend and serve in the US military. Those people giving us freedom of speech, religion, etc., are volunteers. Many are also Christians.
I get the uncomfortable feeling that the reviewer's endorsement of this author's work, is an endorsement of his veiled political agenda that envisions a weakened America, unwilling to take on terrorism, and humbly, out of necessity, accepting the dictates of other nations. He may not really want to see this happen, but if every Christian follows the author's advice, that is the ultimate conclusion. No more America as we know it. A call to pacifism, is a call to surrender one's country. Now, consider what could happen next. Perhaps another ideology takes control and maybe being in active military service is no longer a choice. Maybe being a Christian becomes illegal. Only someone enjoying a land of peace, prosperity, and lack of oppression could write: 'Christians refuse to fight wars because...the kingdom of God has come, in which war is banished, in which it's possible to order our lives according to the justice and peace of God.' Let's be intellectually honest, here. God has not banished wars because he has not banished evil from the earth. That is still to come. He does, however, give us tools with which to fight evil. Nations cannot respond to evil in the same ways individuals can. Can more people hear, believe, repent, be baptized, and be saved with a country like ours as the world's linchpin, or with some other?
To be fair to the reviewer (and the author), there are some zealots who have a hard time distinguishing between God and Country. They have a hard time seeing the bigger picture. However, I do not think this characterizes most Christians in America. What the author should call for, instead of universal pacifism, is for each Christian to follow his conscience. God is able to read hearts and accept the believer who must be pacifist and another whose faith leads him to a different occupation. Both are needed to reach fruit that is ripening in different times and places. Soldiers today do so much more than respond to the sporadic need to 'protect and defend' through violent means. They can be a powerful force for good. They do this in many ways, but specifically, by opening the door to the mission field. They may even be playing the role God intended, as He is slow to judgment and 'desires that none should perish', from not having time to respond nor from a lack of having been taught. Please do not be quick to judge the soldier's heart. Jesus, himself, said that He found the greatest faith, in or out of Israel, within the heart of a Roman centurion.
(See: Terrifying book refutes God/country connection - The Christian Chronicle )
I have not been a Christian for long and some things just do not make sense. Any clarification would be greatly appreciated. Matt 23:23-24 reads 'Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill, and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel'.
It seems to me that justice has a higher priority than tithes. But which topic is the focus of more sermons?
In Romans13:1 Paul says'... there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God'.
In John 19:10-11 Pilate admits that he has authority to free Jesus, or to crucify him. Jesus says that this authority comes from the Father and that the one who 'handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin'. If there is a greater sin there must also be a lesser sin. Since Christ is talking to Pilate, I believe the lesser sin is Pilate's, because he did not use his God given authority to stop an injustice. He clearly knew Jesus was innocent, but refused to act.
My problem is this. We know a great injustice occurs every day. Yet we rarely talk about it. The victims are still in the womb and are as innocent as Christ. We have the authority, in this country, to stop this injustice. Instead we allow it to continue. We sin just as Pilate sinned when we vote for politicians who we know will vote to continue this killing. Some may say that they vote this way because the issue on their heart is helping the poor. But Matt23-23 tells us that justice is more important.
I have heard some say that this issue divides the church. A drive through the neighborhood should open our eyes that the CHURCH is already divided, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Assy of God, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, etc. This seems like a city, adding more fortifications to the walls, strengthening the gates. But the enemy is already inside. We should use this issue to bring the CHURCH together. How many women are suffering the guilt of having had an abortion? In their guilt they attempt to hide the past deep inside. They think that we are only here to judge them. Shouldn't we be more active in reaching out to them? If we fly God's banner of forgiveness as high as we can, how many could be saved?
I have heard of a church (I think in Poland) which was close to the railroad tracks. During the Nazi takeover, they could hear the cries of the Jews. They responded by singing louder so that they could not hear the cries. I doubt that God found the songs pleasing. Today we don't sing louder, we study harder. We study so hard that we find less important differences and divide over them. Then we say we can't discuss justice because it might cause division. Is God more concerned with instrumental music than babies being killed? I doubt it.
San Antonio Texas
Thank you for your insightful article on the reasons behind 'The Passion of the Christ's' success. I wholeheartedly agree with your assertion regarding the film's 'quality' and believe there is an inescapable lesson to be learned by congregations' insisting on a misguided, postmodern approach to attracting and retaining youth.
In this age of 'X-treme' programs and 'camp song' praising, quality has taken a beating on Sunday mornings. When will our leaders learn that youth, indeed people, are attracted and retained by quality -- quality in study, quality in preaching, and indeed, quality in music? New and different is not necessarily better. There is a reason the works of Michelangelo, da Vinci, Bach and Beethoven have endured through the ages. They were God-inspired masterworks which transcended man's commonness.
Just look at today's record business. Prefabricated boy bands and the painted on sexuality of girl singers are being usurped by the truthfulness of singer/songwriters like Norah Jones.
I too have never had a desire read Christian fiction or see a 'Christian' movie, for the very same reasons mentioned by your Nashville friend. However, I will go see 'The Passion,' I will be moved by the Pieta, and I will receive the Holy Spirit every time I sing 'How Great Thou Art.'
The Church needs to learn what Hollywood discovered this past weekend. By focusing on the stereotype of vacuous teens, an infinitely greater audience is being missed and lost.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
In the history of the movie industry no film has stirred the antagonism and opposition that Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of Christ' has. The hostility has come from several sources. It is most interesting to see just who it is that is so vehemently opposed to it and to understand why.
The most vocal and determined opponents have been leaders of the Jewish community. Their Anti-Defamation League and numerous rabbis have taken their opposition to the media and pressed to block the issuance of the film. In their attempt to stop Gibson they used their most powerful and effective weapon. They accused him of 'Anti-Semitism,' the cardinal sin of Postmodern America. They also branded the message of his film as anti-Semitic and implied that it would resurrect persecution of Jews like that of the Nazis. Lesser men would have caved in to this pressure, but Gibson was undeterred.
The pressure on Gibson is better understood when one understands the role and influence of Jewish people in the movie industry. They hold key leadership positions in the industry and their money enables them to have a major voice in deciding which scripts are made into movies. All the major studios turned Gibson down. Interestingly, Hollywood does not object to making movies about Jesus, but only a certain kind are allowed to come forth. Movies such as 'Jesus Christ, Superstar,' 'Godspell,' 'The Last Temptation of Christ' and other similar titles have been issued on a regular basis. Most of them depict Jesus as a buffoon, or as a sinful human. Even the more serious of them have taken great liberties with the Bible's historical record. But Gibson's movie they were determined to block. The fact is they do not want the actual story of Christ's rejection and death told. They are determined to erase from history the unflattering facts of their ancestors' role in his arrest, his abuse, his illegal trial and their insistence for his death. They don't want the public to know the story of the Jewish messiah, rejected by most of his own people, who is the Savior of all people of every race. I hasten to say that we should not blame contemporary Jews for what their ancestors did 2,000 years ago. Never should we persecute in any way, a person because he or she is Jewish.
The second group that have worked unceasingly to block the film are those of our society who subscribe to the religion of secularism. They don't believe in God, Jesus, salvation, Christianity, the Bible or any thing relating thereto. Neither do they want others to believe. Usually we call these folks Humanists. To them man is the highest power in the universe. He is his own god and there is no need or room for any other, specifically, no room for Jesus and his religion. This element exercise powerful control over our television broadcast media, our movie industry, most of our major newspapers and magazines. Many of them hold powerful positions in government and the courts of our nation. Our public educational system is firmly in their hands as are most of our institutions of higher learning. Jesus, the Bible, the church and his followers stand in their way as they seek total dominance in American life.
Spokesmen for these two groups are already on record as saying that Gibson's acting career is finished; that he will never be given another starring role or director's job. I suspect that if they thought they could do it, they would use the power of the courts to forbid the picture and penalize the man who produced it.
Paul wrote that 'the word of the cross (that's what Gibson's movie is all about) is to them that perish foolishness' (I Cor. 1:18). Those clamoring against this movie are like some in Paul's day, 'enemies of the cross of Christ' (Phil. 3:18). They are people who 'crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame' (Heb. 6:6). They not only hate, they fear the Son of God and his kingdom. The Bible tells us that Christ will smite the nations and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty and all who make war against him shall be broken and destroyed (Rev. 19:11-19). David asked, 'Why do the heathen rage and the peoples meditate a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against Jehovah, and against his anointed...' ( Ps. 2:1-2). Like their counterparts two millennia ago, they would silence his voice. They do not understand that the creature cannot silence his Creator!
Sun City West, Arizona
The Cross is about what words can never express. But lamely let me offer a few. We al find ourselves in this story somewhere. Most of us as Peter, or Pilate. Pilate wanted to be kind to Jesus, but that was not his first priority, so he could be manipulated to be the one to make it all happen. Whether Im the Good guy Pilate, or one of the Bad guys I stand condemned.
My redemption is that I neednt remain of them that killed Him. But the only other choice is to be of Him that was killed by them. What He did was open the door to my prison the bars of which I see at my feet. Is the grave a dead end or not?
Two men looked through prison bars.
One saw mud, the other stars.
This deed cries out for revenge, for justice. But I am set free to follow Christ through the open door and leave the Justice to God. I dont have to be god. Nor do I have to apologize to the Jews for atrocities done in His name any more than they need to apologize for those who blow up school children, that call themselves The party of God. Because Jesus said My kingdom is not of this world else would my servants fight. (John 18:36).
God has so constituted this event that somebody is condemned. If I dont accept that Christ was justly condemned,