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Why Religious Movies Get People Riled Up

Please note – This is a reprint of an article from another site that is scheduled to shut down soon. Some minor grammatical and factual changes were made.

Religious-themed movies (or at least some of them) tend to get people riled up because they concern one of those “don’t touch!” topics. Religion and politics have a tendency to hit peoples’ sore spots like nothing else can. Regardless of whether you consider yourself a person of faith or an atheist/agnostic/secular humanist, you can’t really take a neutral approach when it comes to religion.

Also, religious-themed movies are told from a certain perspective, which may mean a perspective that’s controversial, not “politically correct”, or has elements and themes that conflict with one’s theology. A movie that were to depict Jesus as a gay man or married man, for instance, would be controversial for all but the most liberal of Christians. Some might expect Biblical events to be re-told in a way that’s more sensitive to other religions but not in keeping with a strict interpretation of the Scriptural account. Movies that depict Mary in a very prominent role might anger some Protestants, while Catholics might be offended by depiction of the early Church as a more evangelical group.

The Passion was very controversial. The violence when Jesus was scourged was much more graphic than most movies typically are. However, it wasn’t the violence that attracted the controversy so much as the film maker’s beliefs and some of the themes in the movie. Actor and director Mel Gibson is known for being a devout Catholic. However, his practice of Catholicism is a conservative variation that rejects the reforms of Vatican II and is not in communion with the Vatican. Among the reforms of Vatican II were a more conciliatory stance toward the Jewish people. There were concerns that Gibson’s particular form of Catholicism might influence how Jews were portrayed in the movie. “The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich”, based on the visions of a German nun who died in 1824, was used as an additional source for some of the movie’s plot. “The Dolorous Passion” has been criticized as being anti-Semitic. While I didn’t find the movie to be anti-Semitic, I believe there is a real danger of uninformed Christians becoming anti-Semitic when they don’t realize that the Bible doesn’t hold the Jewish people as a whole responsible for the death of Jesus.

The Da Vinci Code also sparked controversy. In it, the Church supposedly covered up the fact that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, Mary was chosen to be the leader of the new Church, and the Catholic Church under Emperor Constantine altered the Scriptures for political reasons. The Da Vinci Code is fiction, based on ideas that have been proven to be false by historians. However, many people believe that the ideas behind the Da Vinci Code are historical fact. A large number of people have been raised outside of the Christian faith and have no background experience to help them discern valid Church history from pure fiction. Others are disillusioned with “organized religion”, and gladly embrace conspiracy theories that turn Christian belief upside down. People that fail to make distinctions can end up spreading misinformation about Christianity. It’s a good story, but should be accepted as what it is-a movie, not a Church history lesson.

Hopefully, this helps explain the controversy behind some religious movies.


August 10, 2014 - Posted by | Christian Living |

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